In the conclusion of a three-part series, the editorial staff of Across The Margin examines exactly what is at stake in the pivotal 2020 United States Presidential Election. This final analysis takes a look at a threat to the country’s very Democracy…
Read What’s At Stake, Part 1 here!
Read What’s At Stake, Part 2 here!
Undoubtedly, the United States 2020 presidential election has risen to become the most important election in modern American history. It is not hyperbole to make this declaration, especially in contemplation of the current state of the country, or upon reflection of the Trump Administration’s three and a half years of blunders, lies, incompetence, and deep-seated corruption. It goes without saying that the current political, societal, and economic climate in the United States finds the country as divided as ever and what is at stake, for the country, and the entire planet, is enormous. In consideration of these divisions, and the fallout from their occurrence, it seems only apropos to take a closer look at several of the key issues in play. To conclude this series, we take a deeper look at the current threat to Democracy in the United States.
For many years now, claims that the Trump Administration was leading the nation toward an authoritarian/fascist state have been scoffed at and mocked. It Can’t Happen Here, many would claim, unwittingly echoing the title of Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 political novel. Yet, in consideration of so many of Trump’s actions as president, and of his biting, purposefully divisive rhetoric laced with fear and aimed at eroding faith in the media and the institutions that embody the U.S. government, one must be weary of the intentions, and aspirations, of the president.
In 1995, Italian philosopher, medievalist, and author Umberto Eco penned a piece for The New York Review of Books entitled “Ur- Fascism.” Eco, who personally experienced Benito Mussolini’s Italy, sought to provide the world with a guidebook for understanding the ideology of Fascism, and signs for noticing when it reared its ugly head. In “Ur-Fascism,” he lays out a listing of fourteen features that distinguish Fascism from other political ideologies. Reviewing this list, and comparing the ideas in it to the ideology and rhetoric surrounding the Trump presidency, is a distressing experience. The numerous parallels manifest as a dire warning of the potential direction of the country under four more years of a Trump Presidency. Eco’s work points to budding fascist regimes harnessing a Cult of Tradition, of exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference, feeding off of a group of people fed up with “ostentatious wealth,” and of the use of “Newspeak,” an ambiguous euphemistic language used chiefly in political propaganda. Trump’s entire political playbook can be found living and breathing within each and every one of Eco’s fourteen thoughtfully considered warning signs.
True Democracy is inviting, welcoming to all. It is a system in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free and fair elections. For weeks now, we have beheld videos and images of lengthy voting lines throughout the country. While it is inspiring that so many people desire to utilize the power of their vote and make their voice heard, this trend is troubling and a sign of voter suppression implemented by a GOP desperate to hold onto power. This voter suppression by the GOP takes many shapes, from restricting voter registration rules to limiting access to polling places, ballot boxes, and early voting options, and the implementation of modern day poll taxes. President Trump has even openly admitted that his recent effort to restrict mail in voting was meant to minimize a form of voting that heavily favors Democratic candidates. Despite the fact his ongoing and repeated claims of fraud involving mail in voting have been proven false time and again, the president continues to loudy pound this drum. It is impossible to look at a strategy to suppress the vote by President Trump and the GOP as anything other than an attempt to steal an election, or to delegitimize it to the extent that it can be won on technicalities or via the courts. The current Republican party’s tactics are wholly anti-democratic and a sign of the lengths the GOP will go to undercut the will of the people and hold on to their tenuous grip on power.
Looking beyond the overt voter suppression we are currently witnessing throughout the country, the ongoing and pervasive governmental corruption from the Trump Administration has become a serious affront to the foundations of our Democracy. This is exemplified by the fact that, with the help of Attorney General William Barr, Trump has shielded allies of his that have been convicted of crimes. This includes President Trump’s former security advisor Michael Flynn (who pleaded guilty in July to lying to the F.B.I.), former aide Roger Stone (who was convicted of obstructing a federal investigation of Mr. Trump’s 2016 election campaign), and a litany of well-connected offenders who have been granted executive clemency. The fact that these jury convicted individuals get a pass from the president signals that as long as politicians and government officials are loyal to Trump, corruption and illegal activity will go unpunished. For 125 years, the Office of the Pardon Attorney has played a role in reviewing all requests for executive clemency and making recommendations to the president. In a break with that tradition, Trump has bypassed this institution, claiming that he is the “chief law enforcement officer of the country.” It is a heavy burden to count the ways in which this self-serving and personal use of the office of the presidency is dangerous for a Democracy.
The insult to our Democracy does not end there. Breaking with convention, and with all of his predecessors before him, President Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power (please take a moment to think about that on its own). Implying that the only victory that should be considered legitimate in this election is his own, and that he will contest the win if the numbers do not come out his way, Trump leads the country into deep and dark authoritarian waters. If Trump loses, and does not concede the presidency through a concession speech, he can, if so inclined, wage a fierce battle to try and steal a win. He can fight this battle through the courts, through the electors that make up the Electoral College, through misinformation, through the Supreme Court, and even through Congress. A full on Constitutional Crisis will be born, one that our Democracy might not be able to survive. History provides few clues as to what would actually happen if Trump were to pursue this route, and what is feared is that the answer may lie beyond the U.S. Constitution, in uncharted waters, or back room deals well removed from the will of the individual citizen’s vote.
The writing on the wall is there. There is no reason we should not take the president at face value. He is, very clearly, poised to attempt to steal the election if he does not win. His fiery rhetoric over the last few months, aggressive legal challenges to voting rules, attempts to control the postal system, and the installation of a newly-minted conservative majority in the Supreme Court days before an election, all hint at his intentions. Yet this is the crux of the matter, what it really all boils down to: True Americans fight for Democracy. They yearn for the will of the people to be heard. They value and respect fair and free elections. That is what America is all about. If Trump wins (or somehow strong arms our institutions into keeping him in power), all of that truth and goodwill built upon by the power of the people are out the window, and we enter a new territory that is entirely frightening. The threat to Democracy poised by four more years of a Trump Administration is here, and entirely real, and should be a major consideration when you step into the voting booth on November 3rd. (It is worth noting that in this article we didn’t touch on the overaggressive and overreaching tactics of ICE, the federal troops sent into cities to aggressively antagonize and shut down protests, and the persistent threats by the president to jail political opponents — all of which stink of the putrid stench of Fascism).
The unfortunate truth is, we have to do better. For the good of all in this country, and the world, it is high time that we elect those that serve to bring us closer together, not divide us further. That we elevate those that support, among other things, healthcare for all, a universal basic income, believe in a future that is free of its dependence on carbon and pursues Green initiatives, seeks to rebuild our infrastructure, and promotes cannabis legalization. In 2020, this isn’t too much to ask, and it is what we should be expecting from our government and our leaders. But for now, Joe Biden is the choice here, and it’s an easy one. Our country’s path to achieving real and necessary change goes through him. While we have no illusion of who Joe Biden is, and what we can expect from him as President, because of the extreme threat posed by another four years of Donald Trump as president, Across The Margin whole-heartedly endorses Joe Biden for President of the United States.