Dangers for democracy

José López Zamorano | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From the cradle of democracy, in Philadelphia, President Joe Biden found his voice and sent a warning message to Americans and the world: “Donald Trump and the MAGA (Make America Great Again) Republicans represent extremism that threatens the bases of our republic… the MAGA forces are determined to push this country back. Go back to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry the one you love.”

President Biden is right. Those like former President Trump, his MAGA candidates like Kari Lake and Mark Finchmen in Arizona, Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, or Tudor Nixon and Kristina Karamo in Michigan, and many more, are doing terrible damage to the credibility of democratic institutions by propagating the “Big Lie” of electoral fraud in 2020. They are playing with fire.

Because it’s not just about incendiary speeches. Both the Justice Department and the FBI agents who raided Trump’s Mar-A-Lago home have been the target of attacks and death threats. Political violence has no place anywhere. The most unfortunate thing happens when it is propitiated by lies and misinformation.

Just days after Biden’s message, Trump had a chance to reflect on the aftermath of his divisive, polarizing and misleading speech at a campaign rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. But far from taking a responsible position, he repeated the myth that he was stripped of his supposed triumph in 2020, amid cheers from thousands of his supporters.

Worse still, Trump promised — in an informal launch of his candidacy for the 2024 elections — that if he returns to power, he will clamp down on undocumented immigrants, he will reinstate his policy of deporting asylum seekers to Mexico. That is to say: If Trump returns, we will have more of the same.

I insist that Biden is right when he says that if a group of people only believes in the validity of the electoral results when their candidate wins, they represent a real and present danger to democratic institutions. But it is not the only danger to democracy in the United States.

The United States suffers from serious structural problems: communities of color in conditions of poverty and dependency, inequities in access to health and higher education, millions of immigrants living in semi-clandestine circumstances despite being essential workers, more than 100,000 deaths a year from overdoses of drugs, millions of women who are victims of attacks on their reproductive rights.

When the rulers or the parties are unable to manage the legitimate needs and aspirations of the majority, the political system loses meaning and legitimacy. We see it in Latin America and in other parts of the world. And there is no guarantee that it will not happen in modern and rich countries, which are also unfair and unequal.