At the beginning of the presidency of Donald Trump, the Economist Intelligence Unit calatu the United States to a “flawed democracy.” Unfortunately it still belongs here. Far from putting Trumpian distempers in the background, Joe Biden’s victory has deepened them. Trump’s political style has taken on a life independent of him. Even though he retired to a monastery, the Republican party chose his path.
The danger this poses to U.S. democracy is twofold. The first is America’s rules for electing its president. The takeover of what is rightly called the “big lie” over last year’s “stolen elections” should not be underestimated. If there had been any evidence of fraud last November, William Barr, Trump’s ultralight attorney general, would have jumped on top. His justice department found out no evidence of wrongdoing.
Like all myths, stolen elections are immune to evidence. Nor can it be dismissed, as it sometimes is, as purely the result of painful loser syndrome. States governed by the Republic as Arizona and Georgia they are passing laws to take control of their electoral college returns. They are motivated both by what they want to happen in 2024 and by an effort to appease Trump. It is a matter of powers that be looked after by independent electoral officials. Some of these provisions will embarrass Viktor Orban’s Hungary – the original “illiberal democracy”. The model is to deprive Democratic cities like Houston of voting points by making them easier vote in conservative rural areas.
The second danger is the nature of other laws that Republican states are passing, some of which make Trump seem moderate. Texas is on track to eliminate the need for almost anything gun buyer to have a license. The state also voted to limit abortion to six weeks without exception for rape or incest. Texan Republicans have a reputation for being extreme. His son platform calls on the United States to withdraw from the UN and to abolish the Federal Reserve. But the state is also a bell tower where national Republicans often go.
It would be misleading to blame the course of the party solely on Trump’s base. Many of these steps are taken without pressure from below. Some Republican leaders, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have been fishing to succeed Trump in 2024. Others, such as Texas ’Greg Abbott, enact laws that have long been on the rise. I know donor wish list. There was no basic claim in Texas to simplify the acquisition of firearms or vote stronger.
The strategy is to allay the fear of an America under existential threat by foreign influences – Europeanized liberals who want to outnumber many Americans working with imported voters. Trump has long encouraged such paranoia. But he has gained new speed since his defeat. In a recent vote for the Conservative American Enterprise Institute, 56 percent of Republicans supported the use of force to “protect the traditional American way of life.”
Of course, it’s easy to dramatize too much what people tell voters what they can do in real life. Most Americans, including nearly half of Republicans, reject political violence. Biden’s approval rating hasn’t fallen below 50 percent – a ceiling that Trump has never violated. And the system passed a severe stress test between last November’s election and Biden’s inauguration. All this is true. But this account lacks serious changes to the rules governing future elections.
Republicans are not far behind Democrats in the urns, at a time when Biden is making a big splash of vaccines leading to an economic boom. The chances that Democrats will lose one or the other chamber of Congress next year are high. Prior to that, the district boundaries will be redrawn after America’s census review. Most states are controlled by Republicans, so the new charter will largely favor them. If a 2020-style confrontation resurfaces in 2024, the system will be stripped of many of its protections.
Change – good or bad – sometimes depends on the smallest margin. Biden’s presidency would have gone very differently today as his party did not win nearly the next two Georgia Senate secondary elections in January. This gave the Democrats the 50:50 Senate he needed. Since then, Georgia has rewritten its rules to make the outcome much less likely – a move Biden described as “Jim Crow in the 21st century.” Biden was just exaggerating a little. It is too early to remove America from the list of dangers of democracy.