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Reckoning with American Democracy’s Enemies Within

Though it has not come as a surprise, the attack on the credibility of the 2020 election by US President Donald Trump and his Republican Party cannot simply by brushed under the rug of history. Once the norms that underpin constitutional democracy have been tossed aside, there is little left to fight for.

WASHINGTON, DC – With Donald Trump and the Republican establishment refusing to accept defeat in the face of a clear election result, democracy in the United States is under unprecedented attack. If Americans had confidence in their democratic institutions, there would be little reason for concern. Trump’s behavior could be dismissed as a temper tantrum, and that of Republican leaders as a cynical exercise in humoring a narcissist adored by their party’s voters.

Yet Trump’s machinations, and GOP leaders’ complicity in them, cannot be dismissed so easily. Deep anxiety is justified, because the political threat stems not from the misbehavior of a single person or his cronies, but from the realization that even a well-established democracy is defenseless against nihilism.

Democracy rests on certain principles that are now under relentless attack in the US. Facts are routinely proclaimed “fake” and supplanted by “alternative facts.” Courts are being mobilized not to consider evidence of wrongdoing, but to obstruct, or to maintain a politically advantageous narrative. Institutional checks and balances have been used to turn Congress into a theater for high-pitched inaction. The judicial appointment process has been blatantly politicized. The most basic principles of constitutional democracy have been abandoned.

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