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Long Reads

American Democracy on the Brink

In just the past few days, the US Supreme Court has handed down a series of rulings favoring corporations over workers, and right-wing extremists over the majority of Americans. With the Court following Donald Trump down the path of racism, misogyny, nativism, and deepening inequality, it would appear that yet another pillar of American democracy has crumbled.

NEW YORK – The center is not holding. After US President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016, millions of Americans and others around the world took solace in the idea that strong institutions and the US Constitution would protect American democracy from his predations. But events over the past few days suggest that America’s institutional shock absorbers are not as robust as advertised. Within the Republican Party, which controls all three branches of the US government, the siren song of tribal politics is drowning out any remaining fidelity to America’s constitutional traditions.

The clearest case of institutional rot can be found in the US Supreme Court. In the space of just a few days, the Court has issued four divisive rulings that appear to have been designed to entrench illiberal Trumpism for years to come. Making matters worse, on Wednesday, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Court’s longstanding swing voter, announced his retirement, paving the way for Trump to appoint another justice who has been hand-selected by the right-wing Federalist Society.

The Court’s rulings this term have all but confirmed the widely held view that it is no longer acting as a wise and impartial adjudicator of the inevitable disputes that arise in any society. Instead, it has become merely another instrument for advancing an extreme right-wing agenda, one that has subjected the United States to minority rule.

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