What is currently happening in the US is something more fundamental, more existential. After four years of Donald Trump and a Republican Party that remains firmly caught in his web of lies, it is nothing less than the entire political system that is at stake. That may sound exaggerated, but it is not.
A true democracy is characterized by the fact that all citizens have the right to vote:
- Regardless of:
- Sexual orientation
But it is precisely this right that is currently being undermined in parts of the US [Legislation was introduced in the Queen’s Speech is being pushed though Parliament the UK]. Republican governments in 14 states have already changed election laws, and several more are set to do so. The goal is to minimize the ability of Blacks and other minorities to influence the outcome of elections and to bolster the Republican Party’s hold on power. This is how the party is trying to secure its future in a country where the white majority will be a thing of the past in a few years’ time.
To this end, boundaries of congressional districts are being redrawn [in the UK, new constituency boundries will be announced on 7 June 2021 with a bias toward the current Tory controlled government], it is being made mandatory to:
- Present proof of identity to vote
- Non-recent signatures are being declared invalid
- Absentee voting is being abolished or made more difficult.
- The state of Texas is even going so far as to prohibit voting on Sunday mornings — the time many Black Americans tend to head for polling stations, combining their democratic rights with their churchgoing.
What’s most dangerous, however, are the legal reforms making it much easier for election commission chairs to simply declare elections invalid. To put this in context: A broad majority of Republicans claim to this day — without any evidence and despite all recounts to the contrary — that Donald Trump actually won the presidential election last November.
All democracies should pay close attention
All democracies around the world should watch the situation in the US [and UK] closely and draw lessons from it:
1. There is no such thing as being a bit anti-democratic. Forging coalitions with anti-democratic persons and parties as a strategy to gain or retain power is a bad idea. The Republicans are discovering they can no longer restrain the populist spirit unleashed by Donald Trump.
2. No one has found an answer to the question of how to break up social media echo chambers. The US is a disturbing example of how quickly facts can be replaced by lies when the latter support people’s own worldview.
3. Politicians’ credibility starts with respect for voters. The presidency of Donald Trump was made possible partly by the arrogance of the liberal political elite, which simply ignored the concerns of many Americans.
4. Democracies can survive only with an independent, critical media that is capable of dialogue and reaching a broad public.
5. And the most important thing of all is educating young people in media literacy and encouraging them to think for themselves. It all starts at school. But that is also where everything can end.