Democracy on a Knife Edge

For a civil society to exist, there has to be agreement on some facts.

There can be no democracy without a civil society.

So here are a number of facts.

Joe Biden was elected as President on November 3rd, 2020 – there was no steal.

Without the government and other institutions that provide structure to society, there can be no facts – only magical thinking, myth, and self-delusion.

The underlying economic grievances that drove many in the white working class into the arms of Donald Trump and conspiratorial movements (like QAnon) must be addressed to preserve our democracy.

The events of January 6th, 2021 continue to shock as there are daily revelations of what occurred, as well as what might have occurred (it could have been much, much worse).

The role of Donald Trump in inciting the insurrection will be further investigated. He has already been impeached now a second time – a first for a President; and his is the first impeachment of a President for leading an insurrection to overthrow the government of the United States.

The timing and nature of a Senate trial remain to be resolved. Given this is the US Senate, nothing is certain.

Unless he is pardoned, he will face criminal charges for his various violations of Federal law. We can be thankful that no pardon will protect him and his criminal family from state and local prosecutions.

He will likely escape prosecution – unless there is a tribunal beyond the grave – for his malfeasance and neglect of the coronavirus. And that is maddening.

But it seems to me he has committed his greatest damage to democracy and civil society by delegitimizing the role of government and all its functions.

What is deeply troubling is that his stated critique of the economic inequalities that created so many of society’s “deplorables” was valid, as I’ve written about in the past. If he had actually believed in any of the words he was saying; if had been anything more than the grifter he was and is, he might have addressed the legitimate concerns of millions of voters.

But he did not, and the failure of the Democratic Party to acknowledge those grievances, let alone address them over the last 30 years, means that Trump will continue to be seen as the avatar of grievances for millions.

Consider, that polling after the violence of last Wednesday show that a majority (over 70%) of self-identified Republicans continue to support Donald Trump and do not believe Joe Biden to be the legitimately elected President. By rough estimate, this means at least 50 million US citizens do not believe in an actual fact or the need to move on for the good of the country.

Joe Biden has promised to unify the country.

But his words and history suggest that his will be an attempt to go back to some imagined better days before Trump. His Cabinet nominees are the usual suspects of neoliberals and political hacks, with a few outstanding choices (the Justice Department nominees and COVID response team come to mind).

Unless the present circumstances remake Joe Biden and reshape his political philosophies, democracy will continue to struggle. We must hope, whatever his record indicates, that he becomes a great President.

And what of the 74 million who voted for him in 2020?

Not all his supporters are racist, but many, if not most, have internalized some aspects of his creed. Combine those with the white supremacists, Dominionism believers, QAnon crazies, and all the others and what results is an insurrection that threaten this current form of government for the foreseeable future – and that is why our democracy is not guaranteed to endure.

I mentioned above that facts are important. So here are a few more facts.

Biden voters, non-voters, and Trump voters all love their children.

Biden voters, non-voters, and Trump voters are all entitled to believe, or not believe, what any politician is saying.

Biden voters, non-voters, and Trump voters all share this same land and are not going away.

Trump was an inevitable consequence of a failed economic model that was abetted by a media system that rewards spectacle and irrelevance, and is based on what brings in the most advertising income.

Recall 2016, when even left-leaning networks like MSNBC pushed aside Democratic candidates who were speaking to televise Trump’s speeches, and as a result gave him free advertising worth billions of dollars; once he was elected they took the “resistance” position and their ratings continued to soar.

Add to that FOX, where as Matt Taibbi observed in a comment about all media, they figured out what their audience wanted and gave it to them: unquestioned and fawning coverage of Trump.

Is it any wonder that Americans are susceptible to demagogues, with opinion and cant labelled as facts? Those without hope can gradually become radicalized to extremes.

I have long maintained that the economic injustice in this country underlies the majority of our problems. All the others – except for climate change – are secondary. The current political system – based on two corrupt political parties – has led us to this point.

It’s worth considering what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was recorded as saying: “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

We must find a way across this deadly ground or we all perish.

Author: Tom

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