In recent months and weeks, a repeated theme among Democrats and the mainstream media is the threat to democracy they claim President Donald Trump represents.
“Trump Represents A Bigger Threat Than Ever to U.S. Democracy” – John Cassidy, The New Yorker
Stelter: The threat to democracy we all should have seen coming” – Brian Stelter, CNN Business
“The future of our democracy is at stake” – Bernie Sanders
“Biden labeled Mr. Trump as an existential threat to decency, America’s standing in the world, and democracy” – CBS News
“Sadly, because of the Republican Senate’s betrayal of the Constitution, the President remains an ongoing threat to American democracy” – Nancy Pelosi
“This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win” – Barack Obama
“Our democracy is deeply imperiled” – Michael Waldman, Brennan Center for Justice
“Trump Could Still Break Democracy’s Biggest Norm” – Peter Nicholas, “The Atlantic”
Now, you may agree with this assessment. I regard it as a lot of political hooey, but that’s just my opinion. Most of the rhetoric about Trump being a threat to democracy is based on the charge that Russia is hoping he’ll beat Biden in November and is willing to do whatever it can to make that happen, and the fantasy that Trump will refuse to leave the White House if he loses. I suppose embracing the idea of Trump being a threat to democracy is mostly tied to how legitimate one regards those claims.
But, consider some real threats to our democracy.
Amy Brooks, law professor at Georgetown University and co-founder of the Transition Integrity Project, wrote the following in an op-ed published by The Washington Post:
“We wanted to know: What’s the worse thing that could happen to our country during the presidential election? President Trump has broken countless norms and ignored countless laws during his time in office, and while my colleagues and I at the Transition Integrity Project didn’t want to lie awake at night contemplating the ways the American experiment could fail, we realized that identifying the most serious risks to our democracy might be the best way to avert a November disaster. So we built a series of war games, sought out some of the most accomplished Republicans, Democrats, civil servants, media experts, pollsters and strategists around, and asked them to imagine what they’d do in a range of election transition scenarios. A landslide victory for Joe Biden resulted in a relatively ordered transfer of power. Every other scenario we looked at involved street-level violence and political crisis.”
Shadi Hamid is a contributing editor at “The Atlantic” and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. In an article in “The Atlantic” entitled “The Democrats May Not Be Able to Concede” Hamid wrote:
“As someone who has argued against catastrophism … I find myself worried about only one scenario: that Trump will win reelection and Democrats and others on the left will be unwilling, even unable, to accept the result. A loss by Joe Biden under these circumstances is the worst case not because Trump will destroy America (he can’t), but because it is the outcome most likely to undermine faith in democracy, resulting in more of the social unrest and street battles that cities including Portland, Oregon, and Seattle have seen in recent months. For this reason, strictly law-and-order Republicans who have responded in dismay to scenes of rioting and looting have an interest in Biden winning – even if they could never bring themselves to vote for him.”
Did you get that? The message is clear: if you don’t want continued street violence, rioting, looting and political murder in cities across the United States, you had better hope for a clear Biden victory (and help us make that happen)!
In an interview with WGN radio in Chicago, Attorney General William Barr said that the recent violence in American cities was “another disconcerting development” and that “increasingly the message of the Democrats appears to be ‘Biden or no peace.’”
All of this has only been exacerbated by the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Trump’s intention to name her replacement prior to the November 3 election. It is surprising the number of people who would otherwise be regarded by most as civil and reasonable calling for violence if Trump is successful in placing a justice on the SCOTUS prior to the election, and being willing to put their names to such calls for violence.
“If they even TRY to replace RBG we burn the entire f*****g thing down.” – Reza Aslan, religious scholar and former CNN host.
“We’re shutting this country down if Trump and McConnell try to ram through an appointment before the election.” – Beau Willimon, screenwriter, producer of House of Cards, and president of the Writers Guild of America, East.
“If McConnell jams someone through, which he will, there will be riots.” – Laura Bassett, political journalist for GQ and the Washington Post.
“F**k no. Burn it all down.” – Aaron Gouveia, author on toxic masculinity.
Emmett Macfarlane, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada even felt obliged to contribute to the calls for violence in the United States, writing, “Burn Congress down before letting Trump try to appoint anyone to SCOTUS.”
So, who is the real threat to democracy here? Trump, because Democrats claim that Russia wants him to win and that he’ll refuse to exit the White House if he loses, or those in the media, academia, and entertainment industry threatening violence if Biden loses or if Trump and the Republican Senate fulfill their Constitutional prerogative of nominating and confirming a Supreme Court Justice, not to mention the thousands actually committing violence by rioting, looting and murdering in American cities and the mayors and governors who tolerate it and refuse to clamp down on it?
I have read a lot of American history, including presidential history and biographies. There have been many contentious elections in our past: 1800, 1824, 1860, 1912, 1960, 2000 and, of course, 2016 (the seemingly never-ending campaign! Ugh!). I do not recall any past election, however, where voices from the mainstream of one or the other party were calling for violence as a legitimate response to the possibility of their candidate losing, or of a sitting president acting on his Constitutional prerogative. Even during the campaign of 1860, the legislatures of the southern slave states did not promise a violent response to the election of Abraham Lincoln, but threatened to secede from the Union and acted on that threat. It was only after the United States responded with military power to the Confederacy’s attempt to usurp federal forts and property that the Confederacy responded with bombing Fort Sumter.
Yes, there have always been extremists. Nevertheless, these are dangerous waters we tread. Already, there are forces who believe they have the right and the power to seize control of blocks of city streets, to riot, loot, destroy property, threaten lives and even murder with impunity. Formerly reasonable voices have adopted aggressive, uncompromising tones and language. Perhaps, rather than respond with measured words and meaningful dialogue, they have felt empowered by Trump’s own inflammatory rhetoric to imitate his brand. Trump has certainly lowered the bar for political discourse. Even still, demands for and threats of violence in the face of political defeat by those most would never have identified as extremists is truly a new thing.
If there are any cooler heads among Democrats, they must speak out now and put an end to this vitriol. This cannot stand.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.