Corrupt Republicans threaten our ongoing experiment. Will militias back them up?
The American experiment is rapidly sliding toward utter failure.
Our democracy is under attack by corrupt Republican legislators, members of Congress and party leaders who continue to spread The Big Lie of a stolen presidential election, and people whose white privilege is slipping through their fingers.
Either of these should be profoundly troubling to people who love democracy. The potential for a confluence of the two? Alarms should be blaring.
For a group of more than 100 scholars who have studied the rise and fall of democracies around the world, they are. At the beginning of June, they warned us, the American public, that “government for the people, by the people” will die in the United States of America if we do not take the risks seriously and act immediately.
Specifically, they warned of threats to our system of government by corrupt Republicans who have passed laws that suppress voting and enable elected officials to overturn election results. With their passage, one person – one vote became a thing of the past.
“Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections,” the scholars wrote. “Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.”
The group of New America scholars who signed the statement included Steve Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, Harvard University government professors and authors of “How Democracies Die.” Their book came out in 2018, and even then the professors were warning of Donald Trump’s anti-democratic, authoritarian proclivities and how his followers were trampling norms that keep a democracy intact and healthy.
Trump’s attacks on the free press – which is crucial to a true democracy – and on reality itself have been particularly concerning, primarily because so many U.S. citizens have gone along. And those lies were only part of a broader assault on facts and truth that continued throughout his presidency and is being carried forward by his enablers and followers today.
Just as concerning is the proliferation of militias and paramilitary groups. On the same day news outlets were reporting on the scholars’ warning, National Public Radio aired a story about the rapid expansion of membership in militias and paramilitary groups in the USA.
Many militia members believe they are “patriots” who “…must protect Americans from government tyranny.” However, if recent actions are any indication, many of them have shifted to a point of view that they need to aid the government in its tyranny against citizens, especially citizens who are not white.
We watched as a bunch of them participated in a violent insurrection at our Capitol on January 6th, where they tried to subvert the will of the majority of American voters.
Before that we watched them run to the aid of already over-militarized law enforcement officials in many places, including Portland, Ore., where police and federal agents trampled Americans’ rights, and in Kenosha, Wis., where Kyle Rittenhouse, a self-proclaimed militia member, gunned down three Black Lives Matter protesters.
As that case made abundantly clear, people like Rittenhouse are not interested in protecting U.S. citizens from government overreach or totalitarianism. If they were, the teen would have faced off against law enforcement rather than attacking protesters. On the contrary, he was there to threaten people who had the courage to challenge systemic white supremacy and police brutality.
What people like Rittenhouse really care about is their fragile white privilege slipping away.
Their alignment with subversive elements of government at all levels should make us all nervous, to say the least. It raises serious questions, like:
- How many people like Rittenhouse are out there, waiting to take up arms and aid Republicans in stripping rights and freedoms from fellow U.S. citizens, especially those who don’t happen to look like them?
- As the Republican Party continues its assault on democracy, how many armed militia members will show up to enforce voter suppression and other anti-democratic laws?
- How long before they normalize opening fire on protesters, or even on people who are trying to exercise their right to vote?
- And just how many Republicans will be there egging them on?
This is urgent. We cannot wait to see what happens. Alarms should be blaring. Right now we need to do everything possible to curtail Republican corruption of our nation.
American democracy is an ongoing experiment 245 years in the making. Let it not fail on our watch.