From Other Sources (#31). News For And About Amherst. A Special Focus On Democracy After The Insurrection

This column offers links to selected articles that might be of interest to Amherst readers. I am starting to favor in these postings, with a few exceptions, material that is not hiding behind a paywall. Hence, I have reduced my postings from sources like the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, which are doing some great reporting but which make their articles inaccessible without a subscription. But on occasion, an article seems too important to not mention and in such cases I will post it, and leave it for the reader to decide whether to pay for access. If YOU have read something that is germane to what I’ve been posting in this feature, please share the link in the comments section below.

Featured Subject
This week, we once again will focus on a single issue. With so much of the nation’s attention turned toward the impeachment trial and its detailed recounting of Trump’s violent insurrection aimed at overturning the election and keeping him in power, and with a majority of Republicans poised to endorse Trump’s efforts, it is useful for us to consider what the future holds for the American Republic. Plenty of folks have been writing about the future of American democracy in the last week. Here’s a selection that’s worth looking at

The Attempted Coup And American Democracy
The Insurrection Was Put Down. The GOP Plan For Minority Rule Marches On by Ari Berman (March/April 2021). In 2018, Democrats swept every statewide race in Wisconsin, ending nearly a decade of Republican rule. “The voters spoke,” Democrat Tony Evers said after defeating incumbent Gov. Scott Walker. “A change is coming, Wisconsin!” Not so fast. A month later, the GOP-controlled legislature convened an unprecedented lame-duck session to strip the incoming governor of key administrative and appointment powers and shorten the early voting period to dampen future Democratic turnout. Though their opponents had won more votes, Republicans believed only they were entitled to exercise power. “If you took Madison and Milwaukee out of the state election formula,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said of the state’s two largest and most Democratic cities, home to 850,000 people, “we would have a clear majority.” In fact, they still did. Even though Democrats won 54 percent of votes cast for the state Assembly, Republican control of the last redistricting process in 2011 allowed the GOP to keep almost two-thirds of seats. The legislature set to work nullifying Evers’ agenda. Republicans refused to confirm members of his Cabinet and cut his budget for priorities like health care, schools, and roads. They thwarted his efforts to fight COVID-19, persuading the courts to block his stay-at-home order and his attempt to push back the state’s presidential primary. (Mother Jones)

America’s Second Worst Scenario: How Close Did America Come To A Successful Coup? by Barton Gellman (1/16/21). The next time an insurgent mob arrives to sack the Capitol, if one happens to try between now and Inauguration Day, mere strength of numbers will not overwhelm the defenses. In the 10 days since the January 6 assault on Congress, the Secret Service has overseen the establishment of an instant “green zone,” fortified by eight-foot steel barriers and patrolled by some 20,000 National Guardsmen. Those are real bullets in the magazines of their Army-issued M-4 assault rifles, not at all the standard gear for maintaining civic order. A healthy democracy does not need a division-size force to safeguard the incoming president in its capital. Generals and admirals in a thriving republic do not have to enjoin the troops against “violence, sedition and insurrection” or reaffirm that “there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.” A nation secure in the peaceful transfer of power does not require 10 former defense secretaries to remind their successor that he is “bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration.”This is a moment of historic fragility in America. We are a long way yet from a second civil war, but there is no precedent for our fractured consensus about who holds legitimate power. (The Atlantic)

Our Democracy Faced A Near Death Experience. Here’s How To Revive It by Stacey Abrams (2/7/21). The violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, coupled with ongoing threats to election officials, election workers and lawmakers at all levels, represent unprecedented attacks on the foundations of our democracy. Certainly, President Donald Trump and others in his party who inspired the attacks must be held accountable through all available means. But accountability alone will not be nearly enough.Only meaningful reforms can undo the damage done — and establish a government that is truly representative of the people. The next real test of our democracy comes now. Make no mistake: Democracy may have survived this year, but President Biden and Vice President Harris were elected despite, not thanks to, weakened electoral systems. Together with the Democratic Congress, they now have the opportunity to implement reforms that reaffirm our nation’s promises that our country represents and works for everyone. We as Democrats must act before it is too late. ( Washington Post)

The Only Way To Save Democracy Now by Richard Hasen (1/11/21). The events of the past week have left many in this country reeling and worried seriously for the fate of democratic governance in the United States. In one of the most destructive acts in American political history, President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday exhorted his supporters, some armed, to march to the Capitol as Congress began the formal task of counting Electoral College votes to confirm the election of his opponent, Joe Biden. Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, leading to a bloody rampage and the death of a Capitol Hill police officer and four others. Members of Congress, staff, and journalists rightly feared for their lives from this domestic terrorism, as gangs of masked Trump supporters swarmed the House and Senate chambers carrying zip-tie handcuffs intended for our nation’s leadership. The Senate chamber was desecrated, as was the office of the speaker of the House. Trump supporters smeared feces in the halls of Congress. National Guard troops were delayed as reinforcements, reportedly because the president refused to authorize them, increasing the terror and damage. And after order was restored following this unprecedented assault on the seat of American governance, eight Republican senators and 139 Republican members of Congress still voted to sustain bogus objections to the Electoral College votes from Pennsylvania and Arizona. The Trump-based objections were based upon false claims of voter fraud and election irregularities. All of this occurred in the aftermath of the Georgia Senate elections, in which voters elected a Black preacher and a Jewish son of immigrants in runoff elections on Tuesday, flipping control of the Senate to Democrats—and after which Georgia Republicans plotted ways to make voting more difficult in future elections. (Slate)

The Republican Party Is Radicalizing Against Democracy by Chris Hayes (2/8/21). The Republican Party is radicalizing against democracy. This is the central political fact of our moment. Instead of organizing its coalition around shared policy goals, the GOP has chosen to emphasize hatred and fear of its political opponents, who—they warn—will destroy their supporters and the country. Those Manichaean stakes are used to justify every effort to retain power, and make keeping power the GOP’s highest purpose. We are living with a deadly example of just how far those efforts can go, and things are likely to get worse. (The Atlantic)

Is Democracy In Danger? Some GOP Members Didn’t Accept Biden’s Win. What Happens When An Anti-democatic Faction Rocks A Democracy? by Rachel Beatty Riedl and Kenneth Roberts (1/27/21). Republican leaders’ response to the armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and other recent events suggested that some are unwilling to accept the legitimacy of free and fair elections. Trump’s incitement of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists, Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-Mo.) salute to the armed mob and the unwillingness of over 100 GOP House members to certify the election results are a problem not just for the Republican Party but for U.S. democracy more broadly. What happens when a major democratic party has a significant anti-democracy faction? Here’s what we can learn from elsewhere in the world. Our research inAfrica and Latin America suggests that democratic regimes often have authoritarian parties, or party factions that are anti-democratic, like the one in today’s GOP. Authoritarian parties or factions might try to undermine democratic institutions and procedures, or just violate democratic norms in order to concentrate power and evade checks and balances in pursuit of their goals. (Washington Post)

How Long Can Democracy Survive QAnon And Its Allies? by Thomas B Edsall (2/10/21). Has a bloc of voters emerged that is not only alien to the American system of governance but toxic to it? “The central weakness of our political system now is the Republican Party,” Daniel Ziblatt, a political scientist at Harvard, said in an interview with Vox on Jan. 13, a week after the storming of the Capitol. “The American Republican Party looks like a European far-right party,” Ziblatt continued. “But the big difference between the U.S. and a lot of these European countries is that the U.S. only has two parties and one of them is like a European far-right party. If the G.O.P. only controlled 20 percent of the legislature, like you see in a lot of European countries, this would be far less problematic — but they basically control half of it.”A central question, then, is how distant from the rest of the American electorate the voters who align themselves with the radical wing of the Republican Party are. (New York Times)

In America’s Uncivil War, Republicans Are The Aggressors by Perry Bacon Jr. (2/8/21). In his inaugural address, President Biden described America as in the midst of an “uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.” His invocation of a civil war and the American Civil War was provocative. It was also accurate. There is no formal definition of an uncivil war, but America is increasingly split between members of two political parties that hate each other. In the same speech, Biden warned of the dangers of “a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism.” This too was accurate. Biden was delivering his address exactly two weeks after a group of supporters of then-President Trump, riled up by his false claims about voter fraud, stormed the Capitol to try to overturn the results of a free and fair election, an act of political extremism and domestic terrorism carried out by at least some people who believe in white supremacy. (FiveThirtyEight)

American Fascism Isn’t Going Away. A Conversation With Yale’s Jason Stanley by Sean Illing (1/29/21). Fascism is often regarded as an ideology or a regime type. Stanley says it’s a way of doing politics, a way of seizing power that feeds on a very particular style of propaganda. That may sound like an academic distinction, but it’s not. For Stanley, if we only think of fascism as a type of government or a coherent set of beliefs, then we’re likely to recognize it after it has already transformed our political system. The goal, he says, is to catch fascism “before it becomes a regime.” (Vox)

Ten Steps To Save American Democracy by Robert Reich (no date). Here are 10 steps to save American Democracy: Number 1: Make voter registration automatic for all eligible voters, using information they’ve already provided the Department of Motor Vehicles or another government agency. This has already been implemented in several states, including Oregon, and it works.  In 2014, over 1 in 5 Americans were eligible to vote but did not register. Automatic registration would automatically change this.  Number 2: Pass a new Voting Rights Act, setting uniform national voting standards and preventing states from engaging in any form of voter suppression, such as voter ID laws, the purging of voter rolls, and inaccessible and inadequate polling places…. (robertreich.org)

Republicans Advance More Than 100 New Bills That Will Make It Harder To Vote by Jane C. Timm (2/5/21). State Republicans have in recent weeks advanced a spate of proposals that would restrict access to the ballot box, a move voting rights experts warned was coming after President Joe Biden’s win. State lawmakers are considering more than 100 laws that would make it harder to vote, according to an analysis conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. This number represents almost triple the number of similarly restrictive bills under consideration this time last year, according to the analysis. These bills, in the works in 28 states, primarily seek to limit mail-in voting access, add voter ID requirements and make it harder to get on or stay on the voter rolls, according to the Brennan Center. There are nearly 2,000 bills moving through state legislatures aimed at addressing election-related issues overall, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. (NBC News)

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