On Thursday, Susan Glasser, had a mixed message for her New Yorker readers. The good news is that American democracy isn't dead yet. The bad news... well "yet," told the story. In a savvy statement to Senate Republicans last month, Biden said that "This generation is going to be marked by the competition between democracies and autocracies. The autocrats are betting on democracy not being able to generate the kind of unity needed to make decisions to get in that race. We can’t afford to prove them right. We have to show the world-- and, much more importantly, we have to show ourselves-- that democracy works, that we can come together on the big things. It’s the United States of America, for God’s sake." It fell on purposefully dead ears.
"United," wrote Glasser, "we are not. A month later, prospects for Biden’s ambitious legislative agenda remain uncertain, G.O.P.-controlled state legislatures are passing measures that will make it harder for many Americans to vote, and the White House may be only days away from giving up on bipartisan talks over the infrastructure bill, which have come nowhere close to a deal. Far from embracing Biden’s call for unity, Republicans remain in thrall to the divisive rants and election conspiracy theories of their defeated former President. As a result, Congress is at such a partisan impasse that it cannot even agree on a commission to investigate the January 6th attack by a pro-Trump mob on its own building."
This video clip was recorded 3 years ago, not 3 hours ago:
“Turns out, things are much worse than we expected,” Daniel Ziblatt, one of the How Democracies Die authors, told me this week. He said he had never envisioned a scenario like the one that has played itself out among Republicans on Capitol Hill during the past few months. How could he have? It’s hard to imagine anyone in America, even when How Democracies Die was published, a year into Trump’s term, seriously contemplating an American President who would unleash an insurrection in order to steal an election that he clearly lost-- and then still commanding the support of his party after doing so.
Three years ago, it was still conceivable, if not likely, that Trump and Trumpism could be expunged by an overwhelming result at the ballot box or a clear-cut impeachment and expulsion from public life. But Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky, his co-author, never thought that would happen. Instead, they highlighted a more realistic possibility: that Trump’s electoral defeat would not stop the continued polarization, flouting of political norms, and increased “institutional warfare” in America-- leaving the country a battered “democracy without solid guardrails” that would be “hovering constantly on the brink of crisis.” The crisis, however, turned out to be even more existential than they had predicted; the present is “much more worrisome,” Ziblatt told me. In contemporary Germany, he pointed out, an incitement to violence of the kind deployed by Trump and some of his backers might be enough to get a political party banned. But, in America’s two-party system, you can’t just ban one of the two parties, even if it takes a terrifying detour into anti-democratic extremism.
This is the worrisome essence of the matter. In one alarming survey released this week, nearly thirty per cent of Republicans endorsed the idea that the country is so far “off track” that “American patriots may have to resort to violence” against their political opponents. You don’t need two Harvard professors to tell you that sort of reasoning is just what could lead to the death of a democracy.
Yesterday, HuffPo writer Igor Bobic reported that in an extraordinary gaggle with reporters on Capitol Hill, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) took direct aim at McConnell over his stated rationale for opposing the investigatory panel: that he would rather focus his party’s energy on Biden's misdeeds to gain fodder for the 2022 midterm elections rather than risk alienating former President Trump and his supporters. Murkowski, who is up for reelection next year and has been kicked to the curb by the Alaska Republican Party and is dependent on support from McConnell's superPACs, told the gathered media that "To be making a decision for the short-term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us on Jan. 6, I think we need to look at that critically. Is that really what this is about, one election cycle after another? Or are we going to acknowledge that as a country that is based on these principles of democracy that we hold so dear. And one of those is that we have free and fair elections... I kind of want that to endure beyond just one election cycle. I need to know. I think it’s important for the country that there be an independent evaluation.... If you want to make this an independent commission, then, Leader, this is your opportunity. Pick the right people. I guess now we’ll never know. Isn’t that part of the problem, that we’ll never know? It’ll never be resolved. It’ll always be hanging out there."
In an OpEd for CNN last night, Bernie was far more optimistic than Glasser, Murkowski or Ziblatt. "What happens in Congress in the next few months," wrote Bernie, "will determine the future of our country-- and our planet. In this pivotal moment in American history, Democrats in the US House of Representatives and US Senate, working with the White House, have proposed several pieces of legislation which can strengthen working families, protect the planet and save American democracy from right-wing extremism."
Bernie laid out what he sees as Congress' job for the next few years: creating millions of good paying union jobs by implanting Biden's infrastructure and jobs proposal as well as by "taking the global leadership in combating climate change," cutting childhood poverty, lowering the outrageous cost of prescription drugs and expanding Medicare to finally cover dental, vision and hearing needs, passing universal child care and Pre-K legislation to ensure that every child in America, regardless of income or zip code, gets a good start in life, passing paid family and medical leave so we can join every other wealthy country in making certain that workers can stay home with their sick kids or spend precious time with a new born baby, making public colleges and universities tuition free and substantially lowering student debt, passing progressive tax legislation that finally asks the wealthy and large corporations to begin paying their fair share of taxes and beginning to address the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality, passing universal voting rights, ending outrageous levels of gerrymandering and moving forward on campaign finance reform, passing new criminal justice reform, passing comprehensive immigration reform." And he feels Congress can do it.
[I]f the Democrats in the House and Senate are able to stand together, have the courage to take on powerful special interests and do what so many working families of this country want us to do, we can create an economy that works for all and not just the few, we can help save the planet from the ravages of climate change and we can strengthen American democracy.
These are no small accomplishments. They are transformational.
And because good policy is always good politics, passing a progressive and popular agenda like this would, in my view, guarantee that Democrats not only retain control of the House and Senate but expand their majorities in both bodies next election cycle.
But what happens if Democrats go forward in a different direction? What happens if they spend week after week, month after month "negotiating" with Republicans who have little intention of addressing the serious crises facing the working families of this country? What happens if, after the passage of the vitally important American Rescue Plan-- the Covid-19 rescue package signed into law by President Biden in March-- the momentum stops and we accomplish little or nothing?
Without strong and ongoing accomplishments that improve the lives of working families, there is a strong possibility that Republicans will win the House or the Senate or both bodies next year. The American people want action, not never-ending "negotiations" and obstructionism, and they will not come out and vote for a party that does not deliver.
And if the Republicans do regain control of Congress, we can be sure that the economy will move steadily forward toward a system in which the rich get richer thanks to increased corporate domination. We can be sure that the climate crisis will intensify, diminishing the likelihood of our children and grandchildren living in a healthy and habitable environment. We can be sure that our government will drift away from democracy, as voter suppression, dark money and conspiracy theories continue to dominate our political system.
This is an unprecedented moment in American history. The Democrats in Congress must move forward boldly, protecting the working families of our country and restoring faith in government. Yes, the future of the country is at stake.
And that is why I'm prepared to do everything in my power as Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee to enact a reconciliation bill that reflects the main tenets of President Joe Biden's transformational agenda, an agenda that millions of Americans want and need in these difficult times.
If not now, when?