Our Democracy: Fragile and Endangered

Democracy is a fragile thing, depending as it does on the belief of those who have lost an election that the winning party will not change the rules afterward so as to prevent the losing side from ever winning again. That belief is in part why the U.S., up to now, has enjoyed peaceful transitions of power, even after elections as bitterly fought as the 2000 presidential contest. Today, it is endangered.

That fundamental belief is under assault now as never before, with Trump’s disregard of Democratic norms, from refusing to release tax returns to threatening, during the campaign, to jail Clinton if he won.

Trump’s disrespect for the norms of our democracy is not unprecedented. In fact, in recent years, the Republican Party has been infected with a winner-take-all mentality and an unwillingness to cooperate or compromise that has hollowed out those norms. Beginning with the delegitimizing of Obama’s wins, refusing to work with Obama and the Democrats, culminating in the refusal to allow Obama to nominate Garland to the Supreme Court, the Republican Party has undermined the norms of democracy at every turn.

That undermining has damaged the country not just through government shutdowns and the complete refusal of the GOP to participate in ordinary governance. It also is undermining citizens’ belief in government and democracy itself through voter suppression laws, aimed at “fraud,” for which there is no evidence, that prevent citizens from exercising their right to vote, a right on which everything else depends.

Now, in North Carolina, the lame-duck Republican legislature, in a last-minute, secretive special session, is attempting to strip the incoming Democratic governor of the powers that his Republican predecessor (and all his predecessors, of whatever party) always have exercised. Not only is this action meant the negate the will of the North Carolina electorate, who chose the Democrat, but it is a threat to the beliefs that underly a Democratic system because it will render the election of a Democrat meaningless.

I disagree with what a Washington Post reporter and others have concluded — that one’s position on what the North Carolina legislature is doing depends on one’s party affiliation. If you care about democracy, if you don’t want our country to deteriorate into the rule of the strongest, you should join me in calling out and protesting the wholesale dismantling of Democratic norms. They protect all of us, whatever our party, and they are more fragile than we think.

Here’s a link to the Washington Post story:


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