With the impending mid-term elections unfolding tomorrow, I heard the phrase, “[fill in the blank] is threat to democracy” repeatedly over the past weekend. Whether it was former Presidents, current administrative officials, news anchors, online pundits, or simply social media discussions, that phrase was repeated incessantly.
That got me thinking about how democracy could be threatened. My initial thought was losing a war and being under the control of a different form of government – that would definitely undermine democracy, as it could literally no longer exist within our country.
Then I thought words have meaning. Perhaps my idea of what democracy actually is was incorrect. So, I then opened up a browser on my laptop and typed in “define democracy”, with the following definition appearing on my screen:
So, if I apply that definition to what was repeatedly stated all weekend, it becomes “[fill in the blank] is a threat to a system of government by the whole population or all eligible members of a state.”
That led me to think about voter suppression, as the definition seems to be referring to a process as opposed to a thing. In this case, the process of electing officials to represent us by casting a vote in a free and fair election. From research, it seems that historically, African Americans have been the victims of voter suppression and/or intimidation, dating back to the time of Abraham Lincoln.
We all know voter suppression and intimidation are a present part of the process. Although we’ve made strides in avenues of access for voters, suppression still exists. Because it has existed for more than 100 years, I doubt that is what is meant by a threat to democracy in present day.
The definition above clearly points to democracy being tied to eligible members of a state or country governing themselves via the act of electing representatives to govern based upon the will of those selecting the representatives.
So, if we have free elections in the United States, what could they actually be referring to when talking about a dire threat to democracy. Perhaps I need to look specifically at the reasons they feel a threat is imminent.
Looking further into possible forces that lead to a threat, I found that in the 2020 book, “Four Threats: The Recuring Crises if American Democracy”, four distinct situations often occur or are cited as causes of a threat to democracy:
- Political division
- Economic division
- Racial division
- Executive branch exerts too much power
My initial thoughts? We have incredible division politically today…whether it’s defunding the police, closing the open border, the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine or the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, every faction of our society has been split between left and right ideologies. But issues related to ideology have been present in our democracy since the founding fathers put our founding principles in writing.
Economic division is another ongoing issue in the United States. The war between the haves and have-nots has and always will be at play in a capitalist society.
Racial division is again at play as it often is with every election cycle. In this instance, again, it’s a constant rather than imminent threat.
That leaves me with Executive Branch overreach and excess exertion of power. I don’t believe in this election cycle it comes down to one person’s overreach politically. Both parties are guilty of desperately attempting to hold on to power.
Ultimately, what do I believe is the biggest threat to democracy?
It’s you and I not voting.
Let us know your thoughts on today’s post and what you feel regarding the perceived “threat to democracy” by leaving a comment either at the top or bottom of this page. Tomorrow, we return to our regularly scheduled “non-political” content!