Republican politicians gerrymandering, trying to suppress Democratic voters, and using similar legalistic manoeuvres, or the alarmingly large segment of Trump’s base that believes the election was stolen from him, and anything that disagrees with what he says is fake news?
Between the two, I’d say the latter because the latter is what lays the foundation for a broad spectrum of anti-democratic behavior.
Gerrymandering is a both-sides issue; at the moment it heavily benefits the GOP but it’s not like Democratic politicians engaged in severe gerrymandering would be better for democracy.
As for the rest, the massive and irrational cult of personality currently driving the GOP is the biggest threat, in that it allows for the rest of the stuff to happen without consequence and drives away the few sensible Republicans still trying to restore a measure of order and sense to the party. Politicians who are not just not held to account but actively rewarded for anti-democratic (or outright illegal) behavior will continue to escalate and escalate if not stopped. And given that the GOP have enough numbers and enough support to undermine the institutions designed as checks and balances against such behaviors, American democracy is very much under strain.
I agree, voter suppression can be overcome with diligence.
But as some Northern Ireland terrorist famously told the Royal Family, you have to get it perfect every single time to win – we just have to get lucky once to win. Lies leading to terrorism is far more dangerous.
As someone replied to me in another thread, if numerous election officials (many of them Republicans) and judges and other government officials (apparently including the entire civilian military senior staff if claims are correct- which I am sure they are) had not done their jobs well and true and professionally despite wishing for a different outcome, democracy would have ended in 2020.
The former president and crazies like Wendy Rogers in Arizona are still trying to “win” the recent election cycle by any means necessary and most elected Republicans are quietly giving little or no push back. In a very real way we are living in a nation of domestic terrorism.
(Brings pluralism into a whole new realm- a little more than half the country abides in law and order with respect for peaceful transfer of power. The almost other half lives in a world of despotism, domestic terror, and ideology [very regressive ideology at that] over mutual respect. Since that slim minority will NEVER change ideologies we are in a place where it will just be a matter of which lasts longer; Democracy and freedom, or terrorism.
I think a more fundamental problem, of which the political issues described are but a symptom, is that a significant portion of Americans are fundamentally stupid assholes. And while there are stupid assholes on both the left and the right, the advantage Republicans have is that they make it policy. Basically by selling Americans they have the “freedom” to ignore science, be racist, wave guns around “responsibly”, and “make as much money as they like” without regard for social or economic consequences. and ultimately it causes people to vote against their own interests.
The law of averages implies there must be a similar number of stupid assholes in all countries, and at all times in history, so that can hardly be the main explanation for America’s current problems.
People as a whole are stupid assholes. But one side of the political spectrum has learned how to weaponize them, heavily aided by a foreign power intent on destroying democracy in America.
The UK is going through the same process, as are several other Western democracies. It’s not going well.
There are basically two ways of looking at it:
The latter point you mentioned is part of an undercurrent that has always existed in America that some people are second class citizens and shouldn’t get to be part of our society and our democracy. It’s been the way various groups have maintained support for antidemocratic movements like this.
The other way is that that undercurrent is not new and we don’t always have institutions that are so terrible at responding to it. The unique thing about the present moment is that there has been a degrading of our institutions that started years before Trump, and Trump (and his movement) are more of an exposure of our rotten system than an isolated phenomenon.
This is a false dichotomy. The lies about election fraud are fueling the calls to put in voter restriction laws and are being used as an excuse for it. They aren’t separate issues.
Gerrymandering on the other hand is a separate issue. While it is a scheme to influence voting patterns and part of a greater election strategy alongside restrictive voter laws, it’s something done more quietly. Politicians don’t stand on a podium to talk about changing the shape of districts. It’s not a full-blown effort to end democracy, it’s manipulating loopholes.
It can be explained by hypothesizing that in the past, the stupid assholes were likely evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Now the Republicans are catering to the stupid assholes, while around the same time (some) Democrats began calling them deplorables, so the Republicans began attracting a larger share of that group, until we ended up where we are currently.
ETA: The biggest danger is that True Believers in all the Trump BS begin winning elected office, especially those offices that are in charge of counting and certifying the vote.
Gerrymandering is shitty but doesn’t leave me up at night worrying about the future of our democracy, mainly because it is old hat. Trump’s cult just assuming reality isn’t real and that they can substitute their own reality for it, and that reality includes a belief that any rule by Democrats is constitutionally invalid, is essentially a fascist worldview totally incompatibility with democracy.
I will say more than Trump what I think is fueling a lot of this is we have entered an era of “new sectionalism” In the run up to the Civil War sectionalism broke down along state lines and lead to a Civil War. The new sectionalism isn’t really between states, but between cities and rural areas. Urban lifestyle, mores, and political preferences are totally opposite to those of rural people. This is actually a relatively new development, most political coalitions going back 200+ years involved alliances that straddled the urban/rural divide, those alliances largely collapsed from the period 2000-2020 and left rural America as basically deeply opposed to the politics of urban America almost on a perfect point by point basis. The design of our constitution makes it tremendously difficult to resolve sectionalism of this type because of how it apportions power based on geography.
I think perhaps you are really on to something here, but on the other hand we have a system that has proven to be pretty durable and we have had politicians who shot each other in duels! I am not going to be able to explain this as well I wish I could, but I will give examples and perhaps someone smarter than me can make the case for me in a succinct and erudite manner.
In the 1980’s when Michael J. Fox made it cool to be a Reagan loving Republican, and the Soviet Union was losing power, we were told our system was better because we embraced human nature. We won the Cold War because Capitalism rewarded hard work and no one was a mere cog in a state sponsored industry. (Those people had very different bosses than I had but that is a separate matter.) But the greed that Alex P. Keaton and Gordon Gekko promoted only made America flashy for a decade or so and led to disaster in a thousand and one ways.
My ex-wife was employed by Disney during Michael Eisner’s tenure as CEO. He was constantly being accused of manipulating markets and making shady deals. (He was also duped by his best friend and he cost us a small fortune when we had a sell order in for Stock Options worth a pretty penny and then Pearl Harbor came out and the stock price tanked! Yes, I am still bitter!!)
Business was a free for all, Charles Keating was buying politicians left (but mostly) right, and as Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) taught me in The Newsroom, in 1999 Bill Clinton signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Politics was rather tame by today’s standards, but deregulation under Reagan and this banking deregulation caused a serious shift in our culture (which politics did not reflect immediately).
Without doubt some blame can be shifted to the development of the internet, texts, (and eventually) Twitter – but the thing is, we as a country lost sight of any long term goals. Businesses no longer made hundred year or even fifty year plans, those that did were thought “quaint” and old school. Business became beholden to the quarterly report. Every employee in America who owned any retirement or Capital Sharing interest could suddenly look up their company every damn day!! Nobody cared about long term forecasts or capital investments-- they wanted to know why their retirement stock holdings went down seventy-eight dollars since YESTERDAY dammit!!! Before they received an annual or at most a quarterly report that was half a pound of paper and nearly incomprehensible if you did not have a business degree. No one ever opened the thing unless they were on the verge of retirement; they had no idea what the stock price was unless they heard it around the water cooler or looked it up in the paper. But now they had a daily report on what their company and its stock was doing.
No CEO who wanted to last in the job dared to let profits or earnings or market share fall! (More than twenty years later I still resent Michael Eisner for example.) In business, decisions were based solely on how they would affect the next quarterly report. Bush V Gore taught us to care about the next election cycle exclusively! Or you could still be interested in the next Presidential election, but you were damn well going to vote in the midterms too! Nobody was thinking about where the party was heading or what issues would come up in the next decade. Well, perhaps a few policy wonks cared, but no real politician- they only cared about margin of victory or loss.
A historian could fill in other blanks, but this focus on the next event was a disaster. We eventually became so short-sighted that a semi-literate reality show host could enthrall the entire world with less than 140 characters. I assumed some wonk somewhere in a basement at the White House, the Capitol, or the Pentagon was still doing long range thinking and planning, but now I am sure I was wrong about that. The entire world is about the next news cycle and if the story is about hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths of citizens – or a water-skiing squirrel, that is the only focus for that day. Do you remember when there was a two day news cycle because Obama wore a brown suit?
I think the systems are time tested and capable-- but I am absolutely certain they are being attacked as they never have been. As everyone points out when I get panic attacks over the fragility of our system – it held and General Milley was prepared for the worst. But because of cowardly elected Republicans-- there will be additional tries to overthrow the government. There is one going on right now, but they are relying on Wendy Rogers and Donald Trump so it is not likely to get much traction. Unfortunately, it is likely to stir up the crazies and someone may get hurt as a result of this misuse of the system.
I suggest we do not lower the system to match the recent shit-heal and his capabilities for evil. I suggest we only nominate those who are worthy of the office in the first place. (But seventy-five million voters made that option impossible.)
How can we retain our institutions AND have decent candidates??
I never dreamt all the post apocalyptic books and movies about zombies were really about Republican voters but it sure fits. The only difference is that zombies love brains and Republicans fear them.
(Hope this wasn’t TOO off topic- I really needed to get that off my chest I guess.)
In response to the OP: I’d say the latter because the former can only go so far. Gerrymandering has probably already hit its maximum use (I’m sure there are mathematicians who crunch the numbers to calculate the min and max of it all), having a voter ID makes little difference and the Republicans have already maxed things out.
The rural urban divide has been around since the nation’s founding. It was the core of the Federalist v. Democratic Republicans. In my home state of PA, the state constitution limited the number of legislative seats that any one county could have. Of course, this applied only to Philadelphia and Allegheny. In NJ, the state senate had two senators from each county. All these provisions went out with the one man/one vote decision.
Really it’s the synergy between the two that’s the real danger. There have always been people who wanted to manipulate the system in order to win elections, and there have always been those who rail against the system when “their guy” loses, claiming it had to have been rigged. What’s different now is that each of these groups has figured out how to weaponize the other to advance both their misguided causes.
This is not actually very accurate. The very early era when the Federalists were an identified faction, they mostly represented a coalition built around a certain style of national governance and specific national leaders like Washington (who was represented by the Federalist faction in elections and in Congress, but who was strictly non-Partisan.) The faction largely collapsed after the election of 1800, but in so much as it maps to a more modern political party it wasn’t a party of the “cities”, something like 90% of the country was rural in that era so such a party would not have been viable at all. Instead the Federalists were a coalition of New Yorkers and New Englanders with interests tied up in shipping and early industry, and Mid Atlantic and Southerners who had a desire to see a beefed up Federal government. After Jefferson took over and mostly ushered in a 28 year period of one party rule, the various factions that existed within that party didn’t really map to “urban” vs “rural”, they tended more toward sectionality: Western faction with guys like Henry Clay, Southern faction with guys like Calhoun, and then some ideologues like the Old Republicans (see John Randolph) who were primarily concerned with specific ideological ideas like weakening the Federal government.
When the fracture became more prominent and the Whig Party emerged, that party still had significant non-urban elements, and was contesting elections in both the North and South (the big differentiator between the Whigs and its successor party the GOP is the Whigs took no explicit stance on slavery, which allowed it to at least run candidates in the South.) Henry Clay who was an early Whig leader represented Western frontier interests for much of his career, and was no Eastern urbanite.
The Democrats did have a strong majority among the lower classes in both farming and in industry, which gave them a general majority in the country for the entire time the Whigs existed–but there wasn’t really a true urban/rural divide, the Democrats generally got votes from the lower class in both areas, Whigs tended to get more support from the middle class and professionals, bankers, wealth commercial interests, and large planters vs small yeoman farmers. Particularly in the North where there were many large farmers who were not slaveholders.
There have always been differing political preferences based on being rural or being urban, but there has never before been a scenario where in a two party system in our country one party almost is completely absent from the cities and the other is almost completely absent from rural America. For most of the 20th century the Democrats were extremely strong in many parts of the country’s rural communities, there’s a reason Minnesota’s Democratic party is called the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party.
I mostly agree, but the rurals have always tried to maneuver to prevent the urbans from dominating.
Gerrymandering has been around for a long time, and for most of its history it has been used in much the same way that it is today. So not a good thing, but not an existential threat either.
The Trump base is a much bigger problem IMO. Mostly because Trump, the GOP and the entire right-side of the political spectrum have painted what is essentially a political disagreement as an existential culture war between themselves and their political opponents. Democrats/liberals are the enemy and their policies are hazardous, short-sighted, stupid, and damaging to the country and our way of life, or so the Right says.
No longer is it a difference of opinion that can be worked around or compromised on. It’s a fight to the death, and behaviors and actions that are absolutely not kosher when it’s just a political disagreement becomes acceptable in the context of a knock down, drag out fight for the country and their way of life, including patently anti-democratic behaviors, blatant discrimination, etc… Couple that with the fearmongering and scare tactics they engage in to do this, and you end up with scared people who are afraid that their way of life will be irreparably changed for the worse, even if they’re not listening to the more conspiracy-theory versions of the propaganda.
That’s why it’s far more dangerous than gerrymandering; they’ve changed it from something mostly civilized to something much more feral, and self-propagandized themselves as being in a corner and needing to fight back.
My mother is an example of this. She went from being diehard anti-Trump in 2016 - and I mean, outspokenly anti-Trump, chatting up complete strangers in public about her opposition to Trump - to… voting for Trump last November. Why? Because, in her words, “If Biden wins, you can forget about being allowed to go to church again.” It became perceived as a survival issue for her.
That being said, though, I think some of the liberal rhetoric is the reason conservatives perceive themselves as cornered and fighting for their political survival - because such words have been said by liberals. There was considerable liberal talk - even prior to 2016 - about how a rising demographic wave was poised to sweep the GOP into irrelevancy, how the old conservatives were going to die out, how religion in America was steadily on the decline and atheism on the rise, how the Republican Party was a dinosaur-ic party, how societies and cultures only become more and more progressive over time, how “the arc of history always bends towards justice” (meaning liberalism,) and how Republicans had only managed to win the popular vote once since 1988.
With all that talk, you could hardly be surprised when right-wingers behave as if they’re fighting against extinction. Because, in a certain sense, they really are.
But very little of that has to do with a way of life. The decline of a political party only equates to a threat to a way of life if the party consciously paints itself as being its sole defenders, regardless of the actual threat posed by the other party.
Take your mom. To get from “atheism being on the rise” to “If Biden wins, you can forget about being allowed to go to church again,” you have to have been indoctrinated into believing the GOP is the only party that respects the right to practice Christianity. And that indoctrination requires twisting everything from the Hobby Lobby case to Starbucks cups into not just a war on Christianity, but a war on Christianity led exclusively by Democrats.
TLDR: Liberal talk about demographic trends was never a direct threat to anyone’s way of life. Republicans have manufactured that threat.