Threats to American Democracy Grow


Threats to the longevity of democracy in the United States continue to grow. Last week’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, who for five decades guaranteed the right to abortion, shone a light on this once revered institution, which steadily loses credibility in the eyes of the American public and adds instability to a system in crisis.

The decision came amid dramatic public hearings by a congressional select committee investigating the violent attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. The hearings present mountains of evidence indicating that former US President Donald Trump was directly involved in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. On the day of the attack, insurgents appear to have taken direct inspiration from Trump, seeking to prevent current President Joe Biden from taking office by blocking the certification of election results by Congress. The chronology and details of the events revealed by the committee bear a strong resemblance to an attempted coup.

The timing of these developments reveals what is so dangerous at this moment in US history: none of them are happening in isolation. All three branches of the US government are now dangerously unstable. It is conceivable that the three-legged stool of the American democratic system of government could break.

The first branch, the executive, is still reeling from Trump’s lies about the 2020 vote. A majority of Republicans continue to believe the false claim that Biden did not win this election, undermining the legitimacy of this presidency. .

Congress, the second branch, is tainted for a number of reasons, but none so alarming as the fact that 147 of its members voted to deny American citizens their choice of president. That’s the number of Republican lawmakers who, just hours after a violent mob swarmed the Capitol on Jan. 6, attempted to overturn the election results by voting against certification of the 2020 election result.

Amidst all this political turmoil, one would expect the courts – the theoretically remote branch of politics – to exert a stabilizing and calming influence. But the opposite is happening.

New rulings from the highest court threw explosives into a raging fire. A majority of the American population opposes his decision on abortion. Similarly, most support stronger gun violence protections, but last week the court’s conservative supermajority struck down a 108-year-old New York law that required a license to carry concealed firearms.

But the problem is not that most people disagree with the decisions. It’s that they don’t trust the court and its motives.

More than six in 10 Americans say they have no confidence in the Supreme Court, and a similar number say they think the court bases its decisions on politics. Only 36% think it bases them on the law. Clearly, the American public bears a growing distrust of the Supreme Court as an institution and a deepening resentment of the enormous power wielded by its small number of unelected justices. . Many also believe that several of the judges were chosen through illegitimate means.

For Democrats, in particular, nothing burns like the memory of how Senator Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, essentially robbed them of a seat in 2016. When former Justice Antonin Scalia died in February of the same year, then-President Barack Obama was still only one year away from office. Nevertheless, McConnell, who was then the Senate Majority Leader, announced that he would block Senate confirmation of Obama’s choice to replace Scalia, saying that “the American people should have a say in the selection of his next judge. Therefore, this position should not be filled until we have a new president. The next president was Trump, who quickly chose conservative Neil Gorsuch for the bench. McConnell’s argument would be exposed as a ruse four years later.

The problem is not that most people disagree with the decisions. It’s that they don’t trust the court and its motives.

Then, in 2018, Trump nominated another conservative, Brett Kavanaugh, to replace incumbent Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh’s nomination seemed doomed when a private citizen, Christine Blasey Ford, came forward accusing him of trying to rape her in the early 1980s. But even that didn’t stop his confirmation. The FBI was given just a week to review the allegations, along with a list from the White House of just four people to interview. Dozens more contacted the FBI to provide evidence, but were never heard from.

Ultimately, the bureau announced that its bogus investigation failed to find corroborating evidence for Ford’s claims. It was reminiscent of Judge Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings in 1991, when he too was charged with sexual misconduct. The Judiciary Committee, headed by the senator at the time. Joe Biden – ending proceedings before corroborating witnesses can appear.

Trump’s third Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, was also chosen under questionable circumstances. She replaced liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September 2020, just weeks before the 2020 election, in which Republicans lost both the presidency and their Senate majority – and with them the ability to control who is appointed to the Supreme Court. To research. The argument used by McConnell to prevent Obama’s choice of liberal justice would have applied much more strongly in this case. Instead, the Republican leader showed no qualms about revealing his hypocrisy and pushed for confirmation at lightning speed.

Each of these maneuvers, all carried out by Republicans, flouted centuries-old democratic traditions. They have produced a Supreme Court that is firmly in the hands of deeply conservative justices whose opinions disagree with the public on important and deeply emotional issues. And now, the revelations from the January 6 committee investigations threaten to further undermine the court’s legitimacy.

Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, previously admitted to attending the so-called “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, which preceded the attack on the US Capitol. However, according to a CNN scoop from mid-June, the select committee now has email correspondence between Ginni Thomas and John Eastman, the lawyer who in 2020 masterminded the plot to replace voters in key states. by Trump supporters. The committee also has text messages between Ginni Thomas and Mark Meadows, who was Trump’s chief of staff during the insurgency and was apparently another central player in the alleged coup attempt.

Ginni Thomas’ involvement in these campaigns calls into question the neutrality of Justice Thomas, who has voted for Trump in numerous Supreme Court cases related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election. doubts of Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court’s credibility suffered a precipitous plunge, adding to the atmosphere of political turmoil that gripped the United States. Whether the country’s nearly 250-year-old democracy will survive the interconnected crises undermining the legitimacy of its most vital institutions remains to be seen.

Frida Ghitis is a global affairs columnist and regular contributor to CNN and The Washington Post. His WPR column appears every Thursday. You can follow her on Twitter at @fridaghitis.


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