Other voices: Democracy at risk

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Americans know that something is up.

In a recent survey conducted by USA Today and Suffolk University, 86% of Republican respondents and 82% of Democrats said they were worried about the future of America’s democracy.

At this point, in the face of new voter suppression laws and gerrymandering in red states, along with Republican state legislators granting themselves the power to overturn election results, who isn’t worried?

Yet the specifics of Republican concerns aren’t based on those obvious factors, but on outlandish conspiracy theories, like the white supremacist “great replacement” theory that has migrated from the fringes of their party into their mainstream and their zombie belief that Democrats regularly steal elections while brilliantly leaving no fingerprints behind.

This is not to say that Democrats are not problematic in their own ways. But rather than rely on criticism of actual Democratic policies and actions, the right-wing media bubble has for some time now woven fantastical conspiracy theories about fake birth certificates, activist George Soros funding immigrant caravans to “invade” the U.S., space lasers controlled by the Jewish Rothchild family, microchips imbedded in vaccines and a stolen election orchestrated by a variety of international political opponents united to disenfranchise former President Trump. At some point, the mind boggles at the enormity of the project and its unaccountable success. Americans, simply, should be smarter than to swallow all of this baloney.

But this is the result of a decadeslong drumbeat of conservative AM radio and cable TV blather with little opportunity for push-back or fact-check as well as Republican political efforts to delegitimize Democratic governing in any form. It’s a drumbeat that has influenced its intended targets to prepare themselves to accept — and perpetrate — inevitable political violence practiced in their name.

Like the protester in the satirical Netflix film “Don’t Look Up” who does look up and sees the comet that the president says is “fake news,” we keep waiting for reality to kick in, for independent skeptics to apply Occam’s razor and realize that the more likely possibility behind all of this is that they’re being lied to. We keep waiting.

So do government officials, former Trump associates, scholars and historians, who all warn about a continuous Republican scheme to eliminate democracy itself — all in the name of protecting democracy.

Some of these scholars now warn that the 2022 or 2024 elections may be the last we can consider to be legitimate, if we don’t take steps to remedy matters now.

To those who still, after all this time, demand that Biden “prove” he won, the independent count of the votes in every state proves that he won — that’s what elections are for — as is the case in every other election in American history. The burden of proof is on those who claim otherwise — a task at which they’ve consistently failed in recounts, in biased audits and in courts. “I can’t believe Joe Biden won” is not a valid argument.

Yet the Big Lie persists.

It’s like the biggest temper tantrum in American history. It will not make our nation great; it makes our nation petty.

And endangered.

We know that conscientious, rational Republicans exist in large numbers. We often see them at work in local politics and in local charitable organizations, striving for the best solutions for our communities. We see them operating successful businesses in beneficial and even generous ways. They call and razz us and we’re glad to hear from them.

We also know that a significant contingency of conservative officials, pundits and scholars have turned against the irrational populism that Trump and his allies are manipulating for political gain.

Many of them are speaking up, like Rep. Liz Cheney, who recently tweeted, “The Republican Party has to make a choice. We can either be loyal to our Constitution or loyal to Donald Trump, but we cannot be both.”

We’ve reached the stage at which we need all hands on deck. If democracy is to survive in America — if America is to remain the America we’ve all known and loved for all of our lives — rational Republicans will have to reject the extremist politics that have consumed so much of their party, fed by a media juggernaut that lives for money, ratings and clicks rather than to inform and enlighten. They’ll have to urge and educate their friends to look up and see the comet.

We need rational conservatives to help steer our course into a shared, peaceful, prosperous future. It won’t be found in anything with the name “Trump.”

Look up.

— Greensboro News & Record