Is the US Still a Democracy?

Is the US Still a Democracy?

Robert A. Levine

When does a democracy cease to be? Have we reached that point yet or are we getting close? The essence of a democratic system is the opportunity for every citizen to be able to choose who his or her representatives will be in the local, state and federal governments. This prerogative is being taken away from many citizens in various states, particularly those with a reddish hue. Republican state legislatures are tightening voter laws in every way they can, making it more difficult for people to cast ballots.

Gerrymandering has long been a problem, but is only getting worse as partisanship increases. Congressional and state legislative districts are being drawn by state legislatures to give the party in power, usually the Republicans, to win a disproportionate number of seats in relation to the votes it receives. The Republicans in North Carolina received a very minimal majority vote in eth 2022 elections, but gained a supermajority in the state legislature due to gerrymandering. Similarly, a new Congressional map drawn by the new legislature is projected to add three GOP Congressional seats to the current delegation. This blatant political gerrymandering of districts was upheld by the North Carolina Supreme Court which has a five to two Republican majority. Other states are or have proceeded with the same type of mechanisms to aid them in winning the state legislatures and additional Congressional seats though the process is obviously unfair and undemocratic. And the state courts for the most part are upholding these political maneuvers.

But that is not all that Republican controlled states are doing. Some have eliminated voting by mail because that makes it easier to vote and more people are likely to vote. The legislatures have also cut down on the number of voting days and hours and have curtailed the number of drop boxes for mail-in ballots where they are still allowed. In fact the number of these drop boxes makes it necessary for residents to often travel great distances to place their ballots in drop boxes which are frequently overstuffed. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott issued an order limiting drop boxes to one per county. This means that Houston, with almost five million residents has only one box where all its citizens can deposit their votes. Houston just happens to be a city dominated by minorities who would tend to vote Democratic.

Other ways Republicans are making it more difficult for minorities to vote is by asking for specific IDs that out of state students and minorities may not have. These may include state driver’s licenses which poor people who do not own cars and students from out of state may not have. They are also scrutinizing voter IDs for any slight discrepancies which will enable them to invalidate the voter.

Republican states are also trying to limit the power of the people by changing the rules on referenda. They have seen that the majority of people in many red states favor abortion and perhaps are against other issues that conservatives want to enact. Thus, the state legislatures in some states are requiring a super-majority instead of a simple majority for a referendum issue to pass and in some cases the state legislatures are able to overturn the results of the referendum. Who cares about the voice of the people? The GOP feels the people in their states will not care about the changes and will not do anything about them.

Instead of trying to make it easier for citizens to vote and have a say in policy, red state legislators are making it more difficult, trying to eliminate many of whom they consider voters who lean Democratic. Unfortunately, the state court systems in most Republican controlled states and the Supreme Court are dominated by Republicans and do whatever they can to limit the power of Democratic voters. There is no consideration of democracy, merely winning at all costs, even if it means doing things that are underhanded and unfair. A one party nation would suit these Republicans fine. Who needs elections in the first place?

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The Line Between Nationalism and Facsism

The Line Between Nationalism and Fascism

                                                Robert A. Levine  10-5-22

Right-wing nationalism and tribalism is a growing threat to democracies globally, with the boundary between nationalism and fascism often unclear. A number of supposed democracies are nationalist states verging on fascism. In many of these nations, nationalists were elected by popular vote and the nationalist leaders subsequently transformed the governments into fascistic polities under the control of a supreme leader. Included among these nations are Turkey led by Recep Erdogan, Hungary controlled by Victor Orban and India dominated by Narendra Modi. In addition, however, newly elected right-wing nationalist parties and leaders place Italy and Sweden at risk. Iran may perhaps also be considered a religious fascistic state.

Nationalist rule gives members of a particular ethnic, tribal, racial or religious group a preferred status in a state, conferring a lesser status among other individuals. Blood and soil are the defining characteristics of nationalistic groups. In other words, they are people who share the same blood as other members of the clan and perhaps have shed their blood in defense of the nation. They and their ancestors tilled the same soil and lived in the same land through the ages. However, this is often a myth as there is often mixing of the genes of different groups and ethnic communities are generally not pure blooded.

As nationalistic precepts gain in strength, a nation tends to become more fascistic and authoritarian, usually directed by a single man and the political party he controls. People who do not belong to the select ethnic group may not have the same privileges or prerogatives as those who are considered to have the same national origin and usually belief in the same religion. Fascists relegate outsiders to second class citizenship. In some fascist states, members of different ethnic groups were expelled or killed by the ruling ethnic group as was seen in Nazi Germany.

Immigrants are looked down upon by members of the ruling party and the nationalistic or fascistic state. In fact, many of these nations try or actually exclude immigrants or asylum seekers, especially if they are of a different race or religion. They do not wish to dilute the purity of their ethnic group or their nation. Nationalists and fascists often act in ways that are against their economic interests by not permitting immigrants into their countries when unemployment is low and many industries need more workers.

In the United States, right-wing political groups and Christian nationalists are against immigration even though workers are badly needed. Virtually all advanced nations have low birth rates and are not replacing their populations, making immigrants vital to care for and support the aged and take jobs that are now going begging. Population declines are present not only in the U.S. and Europe but also in Japan, Korea and China.

The line drawn between nationalism and fascism is not clear cut. Submission to an authoritarian leader who determines those who are acceptable members of a nationalistic society and places all other people beneath them is one way of defining fascism. Fascists tend to distort history to serve their own version of events. Fascism also places nation and race above the individual and subsumes individual rights in favor of the nation and the authoritarian leader. One can see that nationalism and fascism are very close in ideology and actions, and in fact labeling may just be a matter of degree.

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