On Jan. 6, while Donald Trump was stoking the rioters who tried to stage a rebellion at Capitol Hill, he told them: “We are fighting hard. And if you do not fight hard, you will no longer have a country.” Just five months later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell boldly opposed a bipartisan independent commission to investigate what happened during the rebellion and its causes. This is another clear new indication, to me, that America has ceased to be a country but rather a democracy.
In fact, I don’t think Trump meant the country would end. Rather, the president who supported white nationalism was telling his supporters, the vast majority of whom are white, that there is a danger to white supremacy in a white country that celebrates the culture and heritage of whites at the expense of excluding others. How can a section of the population lose its numerical majority due to the increase in the number of other ethnic groups, especially with the increase in the numbers of Hispanics and Asians, to maintain control in a democracy? The answer is for this group to abandon basic democratic principles, narrowly redefine democracy, and exclude more people from participation, while granting more power to others.
The Republicans’ objection to an independent commission looking into the rebellion that targeted the headquarters of Congress on the day it was scheduled to confirm the results of the presidential election is extraordinary in many places. The Republicans refused to defend democracy in front of a crowd that came to blow it. But it’s not just the Republicans in Congress who are abandoning democracy, it’s happening across the country. The latest set of voter suppression bills provides another example. Republicans do not want to appeal to the current electorate, but rather to shrink that audience until it becomes more palatable to them.
Perhaps one of the more insidious features is measures in a Texas bill that would make it easier for states to annul the results of an election. As the Houston Chronicle put it, the bill reduces the task of proving fraud from “clear and convincing evidence” to “the majority of evidence.” A related measure “allows a judge to annul an election if the total of ballot papers found to be fraudulent exceeds the winning margin.” The newspaper added: “In such cases, the judge can declare the elections null and void without trying to determine the way in which individual voters voted.”
At the start of the process, Republicans try to limit the number and type of people who can vote. At the end of the process, they try to give themselves the option to nullify these votes. The other part of restricting participants is preventing more people – especially those from outside Europe – from entering the country and acquiring citizenship. One of the biggest obstacles to comprehensive immigration reform has always been the Republicans’ dread of more Hispanics getting citizenship, because two-thirds of them vote for Democrats and against Republicans.
That is why the Trump administration is even restricting legal immigration, capping the entry of refugees and dispensing with what is known as the lottery visa. Then there is the impact on elections that the ultra-rich and the overwhelmingly white are allowed in this country, especially since the 2010 judicial endorsement that does not stop the wealthy and corporations from spending on elections. A recent report by Echo Wan (a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that aims to reduce the impact of money on elections) found that “only 12 large donors, including at least eight billionaires, contributed a total of $3.4 billion to political groups and federal candidates.” Between January 2009 and December 2020.” These donations “mean that 12 large donors and their spouses (a total of 19 individuals) gave $1 out of every $13 spent on federal policy” during this period.
America was not established from the beginning as a true democracy. Only wealthy white men were allowed to choose the leaders of this country at first, and the Founding Fathers did not think too far from this goal, I think. But with the passage of time, we expanded the right to vote, and approached the example of democracy. These moves have always met with stiff resistance. Sometimes it is reverted. An example of this is the way the “Jim Crow laws” were used in the post-Civil War post-Reconstruction era to crush the right of blacks to vote.
We are entering a new era of massive restrictions and belief in white supremacy and the political influence of rich whites. Republicans are trying to keep power by curtailing democracy. They want to restore their “country” and return to an era in which whites had complete control over power and industry, and to paint images corresponding to this. Most Republican senators did not vote on the independent commission because their electors were implementers of the rebellion. The participants in the rebellion did not want to completely destroy democracy, but rather wanted to redefine it to be a system in which their votes would have more and more decisive weight. Those involved in the insurgency want the same thing as the Republican Party that protects them.
* American journalist
Published by special arrangement with The New York Times.
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