The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
To be blunt, our democracy is in grave danger. Deception, distortion, and outright lies are creating a vulnerability, placing our way of life — our democratic process — in jeopardy. It is imperative we watch the collusion taking place.
As participants in a free republic we must guard our democratic process by keeping our eyes and ears open, and our brains free from indoctrination, wired to intelligently, and rationally, discern the difference between truth and falsehoods. To accomplish this, we must understand the beckoning threat.
Democracy simply defined is a government ruled by its citizens via free, unhampered elections where they select representatives for their county, state and federal offices. In a democracy, the supreme power is vested in its citizens and their best interests. While not infallible, it has fail-safe laws and legal policies to protect its sovereign independence.
Fascism, however, is a complex ideology embracing extreme nationalism, suppression of any opposition, and is overseen by an authoritarian government. Here the “state” takes precedence over individual interests. It dominates, rejects personal freedoms and is led by a dictator. Fascism enfolds itself with exclusivity — biological, cultural and historically; it demands loyalty. Sound familiar?
If we are not vigilant, our liberty, our autonomy could be lost. A CNN poll, recently released in a Washington Post article, cited “68 percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican” believe our democracy “is under attack.”
Despite several election recounts in Arizona, including the Cyber Ninjas fiasco, Biden wholly won the presidential election in 2020. Nevertheless, those taken in by rampant misinformation refuse to believe the election was legitimate. This belief fed and culminated in an insurrection on Jan. 6.
What is frightening is by our next election the current inexperienced, simple fabrications could become far more refined and advanced, making them more successful and harder to expose, difficult to battle, as Matt Masterson, former head of election security for the Department of Homeland Security (2018-2020), expressed in the Sept. 28 Washington Post article, “As Trump hints at a 2024 comeback, democracy advocates fear a ‘worst-case scenario’ for the country” by Ashley Parker.
The same edifying piece quotes Harvard professor and co-author of “How Democracies Die,” Daniel Ziblatt, saying “… democracies often die through legal things at the ballot box that can be both legal and antidemocratic at the same time.” He explains, “Politicians use the letter of the law to subvert the spirit of the law.”
A caveat warns of a potential sinister scheme where an individual with “anti-democratic sensibilities runs and wins” a presidential election — 2024 — and becomes “emboldened and focused on retribution.” By reconstructing both political and electoral systems utilizing legal means they are able to “consolidate power and erode democratic institutions” via court stacking, gerrymandering and encouraging allies to misappropriate the media.
Michael Abramowitz, president of the pro-democracy organization, Freedom House, explains in the Post article while elections do occur, they start from a “very, very stacked deck.” This is happening here. This is happening now.
We must take heed if we are to remain a democratic republic. Already 43 states are attempting approximately 250 new laws that would limit mail, early in-person voting and even Election Day voting; it would limit drop boxes and more. These changes would mainly marginalize minority voters, and possibly result in far-right extremists’ ability to overturn election results.
Forewarned is forearmed. We must protect our democracy by being equipped with useful, edifying, and most importantly, truthful, factual information. We cannot allow ourselves to fall prey to destructive rhetoric. If we do not take seriously what is currently happening in those 43 states, the demise of United States democracy is entirely possible.
Bette R. Immel is a retired journalist living in Sahuarita.