Three Voices on the Current Crisis

First, Greg Sargent of The Washington Post summarizes the danger we face. Then, what President Biden could be doing about it. Finally, a look at America from an outsider’s perspective:

Right now, much of the [Republican Party] has decided that an effort by its own leader, D____ T____, to overthrow U.S. democracy through corrupt pressure on many government actors, and then through mob violence, doesn’t require a national response.

Many Republicans are vying for positions of control over our election machinery for the all-but-openly declared purpose of subverting future losses. Republicans calling on the GOP to stand down from this madness, and who resisted the last coup effort, face primaries and censure.

And Republicans are entrenching voter suppression everywhere. They are justifying all this by feeding GOP voters lies about the integrity of our election system, inviting them to tell themselves antidemocratic tactics — or even subverting election losses — are their appropriate recourse.

We could be protecting the system from these threats. But we are not.

Next, Brett Edkins of Talking Points Memo on what President Biden needs to do:

If President Biden wants to lead on strengthening democracies around the world, and restore America’s credibility and soft power globally, he must do more to get our house in order. He can begin by leveraging his 36 years of Senate experience and the enormous influence he wields as the President of the United States to push for change here at home and deliver on his campaign promise to “defend democracy” and “guarantee that every American’s vote is protected.” 

President Biden must publicly call on the Senate to end the outdated filibuster that has allowed Senate Republicans to block legislation that the vast majority of Americans supportfrom establishing an independent January 6th Commission to passing critical voting rights legislation. The White House teased that the President would soon outline his stance on “fundamentally altering” the filibuster, but the issue has taken a backseat to other legislative pursuits. This is a missed opportunity.

The President of the United States has the largest soapbox on the planet, and President Biden has unique credibility to push recalcitrant Senate Democrats to reform the filibuster and restore the Senate to a genuinely deliberative body capable of passing legislation by majority vote (though it goes without saying, there are a couple of Democrats in particular who are hamstringing not just filibuster-nixing efforts but also much of his legislative agenda, too). Then, Senate Democrats would be able to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the D.C. Statehood Act to ensure that every eligible citizen can access the ballot box. 

President Biden should also rally Congress behind the Protecting Our Democracy Act (PODA), which includes provisions that have garnered bipartisan support in the past. This legislation would restore our constitutional checks and balances to ensure that no future president, regardless of party, is able to undermine our democracy by abusing the power of their office. PODA is expected to clear the House of Representatives this week, but its path through the Senate is uncertain. Surely, the endorsement of the President of the United States would highlight the critical importance of its passage into law. [Someone at the White House would like to hear from you.]

Finally, Fahrad Manjoo of The New York Times on “The Year America Lost Its Democracy”:

The foreign-policy journalist Joshua Keating used to write a series for Slate called “If It Happened There,” in which he reported on political and cultural developments in the United States in the tone of an American foreign correspondent sending dispatches from a nation on the other side of the globe.

Keating’s series was partly a joke about Western paternalism. But by illuminating the terrifying fragility of our own glass house, the trope also offered Americans the powerful gift of perspective. For instance, see how Keating’s headline on the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — “Death of Hard-Line Jurist Throws Regime Into Chaos” — neatly underlined the quaint capriciousness of a political system in which one unelected judge’s sudden demise can call into question fundamental rights across the land.

As an immigrant to the United States from one of the world’s long-troubled regions, I’ve found myself thinking of Keating’s series quite a lot this year. Adopting an outsider’s point of view has helped to clarify the terrible stakes of the political game now playing out across the country — and has filled me with a sense of deep despair and foreboding.

Because if the assaults on democracy that occurred in America in 2021 had happened in another country, academics, diplomats and activists from around the world would be tearing their hair out over the nation’s apparent unraveling. If you were a reporter summing up this American moment for readers back home in Mumbai, Johannesburg or Jakarta, you’d have to ask whether the country is on the brink: A decade from now, will the world say that 2021 was the year the United States squandered its democracy?

If that sounds hyperbolic, consider the year’s many lowlights. Begin, of course, on Jan. 6: Followers of Ousted President Storm National Legislature.” Then, when Republicans in Congress turned against an independent inquiry into the Capitol attack and punished the few in their party who supported it: “Bowing to Former Strongman, Opposition Blocks Coup Investigation, Expels Dissenters.” Or when, despite turning up no evidence of significant electoral mischief in the 2020 presidential election, Republican-led legislatures in more than a dozen states began pushing new laws to restrict voting rights, including several that put partisan officials in charge of election administration: “Provincial Lawmakers Alter Election Rules to Favor Deposed Premier.”

And then last month, when more than 150 academic scholars of democracy put out a letter urging Congress to pass legislation to protect American elections from partisan takeover. Headline: “Experts Sound Alarm Over Democratic Backsliding in Nuclear-Armed Superpower.” Pull quote: “This is no ordinary moment in the course of our democracy,” the scholars wrote. “It is a moment of great peril and risk.”