Our democracy is burning. Is our republic dead?

Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia says that when people lose faith in our election process, our democratic republic is already dead
The riot that shut down the Capitol on Jan. 6th by those who lied by claiming the presidential election was a fraud. (AP Photo)

A disturbing, thought-provoking column by Michael Paul Williams in the Richmond Times-Dispatch quotes a University of Virginia for Politics survey that finds eight out of ten voters who voted for either Joe Biden or Donald Trump for president last year believe their opponent presents “a clear and present danger to American democracy.”

At least 40% of Trump voters want a president with no checks or balances so he or she could take unilateral action “do destroy the radical and immoral currents in or society today,” the online survey found.

Williams writes:

A falsehood-fed fire is engulfing American democracy, where more than half of Trump voters  — and 4 out of 10 Biden voters — support secession from the union. 

According to their survey, 52% of the respondents who voted for Donald Trump and 41% of those who voted for Joe Biden at least somewhat agree with the idea of states seceding from the union. One in four Trump voters strongly agreed. 

“I was surprised that such a large percentage on both sides want the other side to secede,” said Larry Sabato, founder and director of the Center for Politics. “That’s beyond stunning. It’s threatening.”

“You’re not gonna have secession like you did in 1861,” Sabato assured me, pointing out that every state, red or blue, has pockets of the other hue. “Are you going to build a fence around them, or build a wall?”

Some see the lean towards such drastic feelings as both historical and unavoidable.

Northeastern University Professor Lisa Felan Barrett told National Public Radio last month:

If you look throughout the course of history, and you see times when people have veered towards authoritarian or totalitarian lines of thinking, that’s been in times when there’s some big withdrawals being made from people’s body budgets. And the two most expensive things your brain can do is move your body and deal with uncertainty and chaotic circumstances

Sabato told Williams:

You’re talking to a guy from Charlottesville, with the Neo-Nazis marching in front of my home during that city’s August 2017 rally of white supremacists, he said. He called Jan. 6 “probably the dress rehearsal for what’s to come.”

“Of course, this common ground has been poisoned by the big lie of a stolen election, a fallacy most Republicans profess to believe in,” Williams adds. “Others are just playing along.”

Sabato adds:

This is their way of taunting the left and making it impossible for Biden and the Democrats to govern, but they’re also destroying our system. Because once people lose faith in the honesty of the election process, it is over. The republic is dead.

The death of our republic is driven by the unruly, rude, and abusive actions of recent who have disrupted the public comment sections of governmental groups like school boards, town councils, and boards supervisors.

We see the decay here in Floyd County when a wannabe, illegal militia gathers and marches in our county, ignoring Virginia law and the Commonwealth’s Constitution that says only or governor can form a citizen’s militia and he, alone, can command it.

Floyd County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Branscom refuses to recognize the group as a militia. “It is, at best, a gun club,” he adds. A dangerous one. It is not recognized or called up upon by our county government or sheriff’s department, nor should it be.

Williams offers a chilling conclusion:

We can’t stave off this disaster for democracy if we refuse to acknowledge how undemocratic this nation has been from the git-go. What we’re witnessing is not so much a radical departure from the norm as a return to form. If there’s little-to-no accountability for the attempted takedown of U.S. democracy, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out what’s next. 

This nation was built not on common ground, but on a foundation of inequality. A home that’s truth-resistant will never be flame-resistant.

Our thanks to Michael Paul Williams for his timely, pointed and needed observations about what is happening to the country we love. The Richmond Times-Dispatch is owned by Lee Enterprises, which also owns The Floyd Press, The Roanoke Times, and other papers in Virginia and elsewhere.

© 2004-2021 Blue Ridge Muse

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