• Sona Chaturvedi

Midnight for American Democracy

Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP. Police in riot gear stand guard in front of the United States Capitol building.

“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” -- John Adams, Founding Father and Second President of the United States. The above quote may be pessimistic, but it highlights an inconvenient truth. Most societies lucky enough to have experienced democracy end up taking it for granted. There are always those who are willing to kill it through the sheer forces of ignorance, greed and a never-ending lust for power. Throughout history, many civilizations have thrived but met a forceful demise. Will America take this path? Some would argue yes. Others say never. Several are unwilling to judge the situation. And then we have a percentage of Americans who actually don’t believe in democracy at all and think it’s not the best way of governing. The fact that the last group exists came as quite a shock to many of us when Donald Trump took office. Many started to realize that we were not all trying to achieve the common goal of perfecting our shared Republic. Plenty of Americans want to live in our racist past. We were astonished at the number of people that still carried with them the battle scars of the Civil War. The country began to unravel in just the first year of Trump’s presidency. But it is false to say that no one saw it coming. As author Sarah Kendzior writes in her New York Times bestselling book Hiding in Plain Sight: “What they mean is that they consider the people who saw it coming to be no one. The category of ‘no one’ includes the people smeared by Trump in his propaganda: immigrants, Black Americans, Muslim Americans, Native Americans, Latino Americans, LGBT Americans, disabled Americans, and others long maligned and marginalized -- groups for whom legally sanctioned American autocracy was not an unfathomable horror, but a personal backstory.” This is always the case with marginalized groups. To fearmonger and provide scapegoats is an easy excuse for those who willingly follow blatant lies out of convenience, ignorance and the stubbornness of holding on to a past when they were in power and never questioned. Most authoritarianism works by creating a sense of an us vs. them mindset. From Hitler to Stalin to Mussolini, they all used techniques to sow division amongst the population and pit groups against each other. It’s tempting to dismiss the right’s ludicrous never-ending culture war, however, we shouldn’t. These diabolical tactics fuel division and are meant to sow discord into any sense of a shared community. It’s important to remember that you can still vote in an autocracy. Your vote just doesn’t count. This is why voter suppression is so important to the GOP. They want to decide who holds the power, not the citizens they are trying to divide. Alfred McCoy and other historians claim America will no longer be anything but an authoritarian state in roughly 10-15 years. Others predict 2025 if Trump or someone with the same malicious intent wins the 2024 presidential election.

Joy Reid of MSNBC made a chilling prediction about the future of America and what the right-wing could achieve with ultimate control. This includes banning books, ending freedom of choice, restricting religion, controlling education and using other mechanisms to maintain their influence in our daily lives. When we discuss and hope for deals that include “reaching across the aisle,” which in fairness Joe Biden did manage to do with the infrastructure bill, we are holding on to the false notion that we are working together. Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. One party is trying to destroy our representative form of government, and the other is trying to save it. Can American democracy survive? Perhaps, if politicians are pushed hard enough by voters and progressive candidates are given a well-deserved and louder voice. In order for that to happen, there needs to be an end to infighting, an overhaul of government, including term limits, and accountability for those who seek to undermine our institutions. This will require introspection. How far are we willing to push our party? How many of us are ready to run for office and sacrifice what is safe? And what will we give up to ensure our children and our grandchildren grow up in a more inclusive America than we did? If there isn’t a radical shift immediately, the U.S. will suffer the same fate as many collapsed empires. Democracy isn’t promised to anyone. It takes work to protect it. If we don’t, who will? We either fight for it or become another sad footnote in history.