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USA: Calling Trump ’Just a Warm-Up Act,’ Professor Warns of Democratic Collapse in US

800+ Faith Leaders Tell Biden, Dems Voting Rights Must Be ’Number One Priority’ in 2022

Tuesday 4 January 2022, by siawi3

Source: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/01/03/calling-trump-just-warm-act-professor-warns-democratic-collapse-us

Then-President Donald Trump greeted a crowd of his supporters on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.(Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)


Calling Trump ’Just a Warm-Up Act,’ Professor Warns of Democratic Collapse in US

“By 2030, if not sooner, the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship,” writes a longtime scholar of violent conflict.

Jake Johnson

January 3, 2022

In a matter of years, the United States’ deeply flawed and increasingly fragile democratic system could collapse under the weight of a long-running reactionary onslaught and be replaced by a right-wing dictatorship—one for which former President Donald Trump was “just a warm-up act.”

“Willingness to publicly endorse the Big Lie has become a litmus test of Republican loyalty to Mr. Trump.”

Such was the stark warning that Thomas Homer-Dixon, executive director of the Cascade Institute at Royal Roads University and a scholar of violent conflict, delivered in an exhaustive op-ed published in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.

Homer-Dixon, the former head of a center on peace and conflict studies at the University of Toronto, warned that the “political and social landscape” of the U.S.—a profoundly unequal and ideologically polarized nation that also happens to be “armed to the teeth”—is “flashing with warning signals.”

“By 2025,” he wrote. “American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence. By 2030, if not sooner, the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship.”

Arguing that prominent reactionary figures such as the late right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh and Trump—who awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020—“are as much symptoms” of U.S. political dysfunction as its causes, Homer-Dixon contended that the nation’s present crises have their roots in myriad historical phenomena:

Some can be traced to the country’s founding—to an abiding distrust in government baked into the country’s political culture during the Revolution, to slavery, to the political compromise of the Electoral College that slavery spawned, to the overrepresentation of rural voting power in the Senate, and to the failure of Reconstruction after the Civil War.

“But successful polities around the world,” he continued, “have overcome flaws just as fundamental.”

So why is U.S. democracy particularly vulnerable to full-scale collapse in the near future?

Homer-Dixon argued that “what seems to have pushed the United States to the brink of losing its democracy today is a multiplication effect between its underlying flaws and recent shifts in the society’s ’material’ characteristics.”

“These shifts include stagnating middle-class incomes, chronic economic insecurity, and rising inequality as the country’s economy—transformed by technological change and globalization—has transitioned from muscle power, heavy industry, and manufacturing as the main sources of its wealth to idea power, information technology, symbolic production, and finance,” he wrote. “America’s economic, racial and social gaps have helped cause ideological polarization between the political right and left, and the worsening polarization has paralyzed government while aggravating the gaps.”

Eager and well-positioned to exploit such divisions are Trump and his Republican loyalists, many of whom have endorsed the so-called “Big Lie” that Trump won the 2020 presidential election but had it stolen from him by the Democratic Party.

That falsehood—which helped fuel the January 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection and, according to one new survey, is embraced by two-thirds of GOP voters—is “potent anti-democratic poison,” Homer-Dixon wrote.

“Willingness to publicly endorse the Big Lie has become a litmus test of Republican loyalty to Mr. Trump,” he observed. “This isn’t just an ideological move to promote Republican solidarity against Democrats. It puts its adherents one step away from the psychological dynamic of extreme dehumanization that has led to some of the worst violence in human history. And it has refashioned—into a moral crusade against evil—Republican efforts to gerrymander Congressional districts into pretzel-like shapes, to restrict voting rights, and to take control of state-level electoral apparatuses.”

As The Guardian reported Sunday, “Allies of Donald Trump and others who have spread baseless conspiracy theories about the election have launched campaigns” for key positions—from governor to secretary of state—that have significant influence over the post-election certification process.

“Republicans who have embraced lies about the election are also running for secretary of state offices in Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada,” the outlet noted. “Overlooked for years, there is now a broader awareness of the enormous power these secretaries of state wield over how elections are run and ballots are counted. That power was on unprecedented display in 2020, when secretaries of state made decisions about things like how to establish ballot drop boxes and whether to automatically send out mail-in ballot applications to voters.”

“Secretaries of state wield enormous unilateral power and, if they were elected, election deniers could do extensive damage in future elections,” The Guardian added.

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While his worst-case predictions are dire, Homer-Dixon made clear that he’s far from the only scholar who feels U.S. democracy is teetering on the verge of total failure.

“This past November, more than 150 professors of politics, government, political economy, and international relations appealed to Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, which would protect the integrity of U.S. elections but is now stalled in the Senate,” he noted. “This is a moment of ’great peril and risk,’ they wrote. ’Time is ticking away, and midnight is approaching.’”

Homer-Dixon also consulted experts who offered a range of possible outcomes—“none benign”—should Trump return to power in 2024:

They cited particular countries and political regimes to illustrate where he might take the U.S.: Viktor Orban’s Hungary, with its coercive legal apparatus of “illiberal democracy”; Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil, with its chronic social distemper and administrative dysfunction; or Vladimir Putin’s Russia, with its harsh one-man hyper-nationalist autocracy. All agreed that under a second Trump administration, liberalism will be marginalized and right-wing Christian groups super-empowered, while violence by vigilante, paramilitary groups will rise sharply.

Homer-Dixon went on to invoke “another political regime, a historical one, that may portend an even more dire future for the U.S.: the Weimar Republic.”

“If Mr. Trump is re-elected, the economic and political risks to our country will be innumerable.”

“As I read a history of the doomed republic this past summer, I tallied no fewer than five unnerving parallels with the current U.S. situation,” he wrote, including that “in both cases, a charismatic leader was able to unify right-wing extremists around a political program to seize the state.”

Another potential parallel between Weimar and the U.S. could be “democratic collapse followed by the consolidation of dictatorship.”

“Mr. Trump may be just a warm-up act—someone ideal to bring about the first stage, but not the second,” Homer-Dixon wrote. “Returning to office, he’ll be the wrecking ball that demolishes democracy, but the process will produce a political and social shambles. Still, through targeted harassment and dismissal, he’ll be able to thin the ranks of his movement’s opponents within the state... Then the stage will be set for a more managerially competent ruler, after Mr. Trump, to bring order to the chaos he’s created.”

In October, Steve Bannon, former White House advisor to Trump, openly told audiences that GOP “shock troops” should be deployed inside the federal apparatus as soon as the next Republican president takes office in order to “reconfigure the government” from within.

Anticipating critics who might view his analysis of the state of U.S. democracy as alarmist, Homer-Dixon cautioned that “we mustn’t dismiss these possibilities just because they seem ludicrous or too horrible to imagine.”

“In 2014,” he pointed out, “the suggestion that Donald Trump would become president would also have struck nearly everyone as absurd. But today we live in a world where the absurd regularly becomes real and the horrible commonplace.”

As a Canadian, Homer-Dixon focused his call-to-action on his home country’s government, which he urged to “convene a standing, non-partisan Parliamentary committee” to prepare for the possibility of a democratic collapse to the south, an outcome that could have major implications for Canada.

“We need to start by fully recognizing the magnitude of the danger,” he warns. “If Mr. Trump is re-elected, even under the more-optimistic scenarios the economic and political risks to our country will be innumerable.”

In the U.S., advocacy groups are imploring Democrats currently in control of the U.S. Congress to do everything in their power—including taking a sledgehammer to entrenched Senate rules—to protect voting rights and democratic institutions from state-level Republicans, who are moving aggressively to restrict ballot access and “hijack elections” ahead of the pivotal 2022 midterms.

“End the filibuster,” the advocacy group Fix Our Senate urged Democrats in a recent tweet. “Pass voting rights legislation. Save our democracy.”

°°°

Source: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/12/23/800-faith-leaders-tell-biden-dems-voting-rights-must-be-number-one-priority-2022

Photo: Prominent African-American faith leaders—among them some of the over 800 signatories to a letter urging President Joe Biden and Congress to pass voting rights legislation—pray with members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus at the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 2021. (Photo: Cheriss May/Getty Images)

800+ Faith Leaders Tell Biden, Dems Voting Rights Must Be ’Number One Priority’ in 2022

“We cannot be clearer: You must act now to protect every American’s freedom to vote without interference and with confidence that their ballot will be counted and honored.”

Brett Wilkins

December 23, 2021

Citing “extraordinary challenges” to American democracy in 2021, over 800 faith leaders on Wednesday urged President Joe Biden and the U.S. Senate to make passage of comprehensive voting rights legislation their “number one priority” for the coming year.

“It’s time to stop lamenting the state of our democracy and take action to address it.”

In a letter to Biden and senators, the faith leaders said that events such as the deadly January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a right-wing mob and the “over 30 anti-voting bills pushed through state legislatures” this year in a Republican bid to silence marginalized communities underscore the need for “prompt, substantive federal action.”

“During the Civil Rights era, prominent leaders were driven by their faith to fight for equality,” the authors wrote. “This is why we continue the push for voting rights today—our faith teaches us that each one of us deserves dignity and freedom.”

“We cannot be clearer: You must act now to protect every American’s freedom to vote without interference and with confidence that their ballot will be counted and honored,” the clergy members implored. “Passing comprehensive voting rights legislation must be the number one priority of the administration and Congress.”

“Nothing—including the filibuster—should stand in the way of passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, both of which have already passed the House and await Senate action and leadership,” they added.

In a Wednesday interview with ABC News, Biden expressed a willingness to do “whatever it takes” to secure passage of voting rights legislation, including modifying the filibuster—a position that has evolved from his opposition to the policy earlier this year.

“Change the Senate rules to accommodate major pieces of legislation without requiring 60 votes,” the president said. “The only thing standing between getting voting rights legislation passed and not getting it passed is the filibuster. I support making an exception on voting rights for the filibuster.”

The faith leaders vowed to “continue to sound the alarm” until the two voting rights bills are passed.

“On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, we will accompany Martin Luther King III, Andrea King, Yolanda Renee King, and voting rights advocates across the country to honor Dr. King’s legacy by calling for Congress and the president to restore and expand access to the ballot for all voters,” they wrote in the letter. “It’s time to stop lamenting the state of our democracy and take action to address it.”

“As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so valiantly said in his Give Us The Ballot address, ’the denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition.’”

“As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so valiantly said in his Give Us the Ballot address, ’The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition,’” the faith leaders said. “That is why this Martin Luther King Day, we will not accept empty promises. Congress must serve the nation and future generations by immediately passing voting rights legislation.”

The letter was organized by faith groups and institutions including the African American Christian Clergy Coalition, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Faithful Democracy, Faith in Public Life, National Council of Jewish Women, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, People for the American Way, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, T’ruah, and the Washington National Cathedral.

“Leaders from all faiths, including Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, joined my father on the Selma to Montgomery march to call for voting rights because they understood that this cause is transcendent, regardless of denomination,” Martin Luther King III, chairman of the Drum Major Institute, said in a statement.

“The faith community is coming together again on MLK Day in 2022 to call on Congress and the president to ensure they protect our right to vote,” he added. “There is no time to waste.”

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, scholar in residence at the National Council of Jewish Women, noted that “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said that we are all caught in an ’inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.’”

“In our democracy, the right to determine and shape our own futures is tied up in our right to cast a vote and have that vote counted,” she added. “It’s why the work to protect our freedom to vote is sacred and—in the face of tyranny and racism and fear—must be redoubled.”