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Fighting for Democracy Over There, and Right Here

In the speech that President Biden delivered last Friday in Warsaw, he spoke about “a battle between democracy and autocracy. Between liberty and repression. Between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force. In this battle we need to be clear-eyed. This battle will not be won in days or months either. We need to steel ourselves for a long fight ahead.”

He said, “Fighting to save their nation and their brave resistance is part of a larger fight for essential democratic principles which unite all free people. The rule of law, fair and free elections, the freedom to speak and write and to assemble. The freedom to worship as one chooses. The freedom of the press. These principles are essential in a free society.”

President Biden spoke at length about Ukraine, and Russia, and about efforts being made by the United States and other countries to help Ukraine. The speech was stirring, it went back into history and then forward again. It was generally very well received by the majority of American news outlets.

But the problem is, he did not, could really not on that occasion, speak of the desperate fight to preserve democracy in America. It is a fight that we could be losing, while Ukranians fight on to preserve their country.

This is not something that I need to hammer away at, we all know this. We know that the Republican Party is trying to turn America into a fascist state. They would never call it that, but that is what it is intended to be.

They are trying to make all abortions illegal, and Texas seems to be looking to institute the death penalty for it. They are trying to ban contraception. In Florida, they are passing a law which allows anybody, presumably a parent, but who knows, who does not like something being said or taught in a school, to lodge a complaint which will presumably result in hearings, the firing of the teachers, and perhaps worse.

How is this much different from what we decry about Russian autocracy, the arrests of people who espouse any opinion contrary to their dictator, the shutting down of news networks, the beating up of protesters who are thrown into jail?

The fact that in our country, the fascists speak with American accents, some of the folksy down-home variety, does not somehow dilute the actions or the effects. This is not posturing by them, this is a deadly serious attempt to end democracy in this country.

Of course, they’ve got all the smooth slogans intended to hide it. They love America! They are all about protecting freedom! But the America they profess to love is mostly symbols: flags and songs, mixed with Fundamentalist Christian prayers and dictates. They want this to be an autocracy where the very rich make and keep all the money; the rest of the people have very little, but they get to impose their religion, their ignorance and prejudice on everyone else.

One doesn’t have to imagine this, or be dramatic in foreshadowing it; you can see it right now in the bills the legislatures are passing in a variety of Red states, and even some other ones. The people keep voting for Republicans to run the states; the people elected pass more repressive and intolerant laws, the governors sign them, the courts uphold them.

We see this happening right now, and it looks like we are going to see both Houses of Congress taken over by Republicans, although it is not certain. If they are, we will see a Republican Party that makes the Gingrich years look tame. This Republican Party bears no resemblance to the one of the 1950’s, 1960’s, or 1970’s. Efforts to wishfully believe that they are something other than the sum of the McCarthys, McConnells, Jordans, Blackburns, Johnsons, Cawthorns, Greenes, and Scotts, are abysmally naive and ignorant.

Without going too much into depth on it, I would suggest that if the Republicans control the House and Senate in 2023, we will see the following: Immediate House hearings aimed against Democrats, including Biden, Pelosi, Schiff, Hillary, everyone on their enemies list. Impeachment of Biden, maybe several times. Impeachment of other Democratic officials.

Refusal to raise the debt ceiling, unless Biden gives in as Obama mostly did before him. No money for anything to improve economic conditions or create jobs. No approval of any judge nominated by Biden. Reductions in many benefits, including the enacting of Rick Scott’s proposal to overturn ACA, cut Medicare and Social Security. Biden could veto it, but they figure they are only two years away from replacing him.; and rather than risk it, what if they can get rid of Biden and Harris, and install the House Speaker as President?

Biden eloquently spoke about the right to vote, but in his own country, Republicans are doing everything they can to take away the right to vote for everybody who is not one of them. And in some states, they have managed to pass laws that let the Republican legislatures which wrote them, overturn the vote totals, and hand the elections to the Republicans. Does Russia do it any worse than that?

We’ve got about six months before voting starts, and the fixed wheel starts spinning to its predetermined result. We were having meetings and actions taken by the 1/6 Committee, but that seems to have stopped, or at least is not covered by the media any longer. Everyone is focused on Ukraine, but the calendar moves ahead.

Was this part of the plan behind the invasion of Ukraine? Perhaps not, but it is not inconceivable. The news that Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, part of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy that Hillary Clinton tried to warn the nation about, but was mocked by the very members of that Conspiracy, worked to overturn the 2020 election, is given the requisite one day of coverage, before the media returns to all-Ukraine coverage, plus inflation worries.

Every economic indicator but inflation is very strong under Biden, but a very recent poll shows that while his favorable numbers have gone up in other areas, only 33% view his handling of the economy favorably. This is ludicrous, but it is testament to a dumbed-down and not very interested populace; and the power of the right-wing media to relentlessly pound away at framing intended to make Biden look bad.

The thing that Biden must do, is to try to push his framing, Democrats’ framing. But to do that, he has to somehow overcome his own, and much of his party’s, reluctance to emphatically call the Republicans what they are, which is the enemies of democracy. Just like the leaders of Russia, and China, and Hungary, and India, and Turkey, and North Korea, and Brazil. They are not the loyal opposition, or decent people who just have different approaches.. They are merciless totalitarians who seek to clamp down to create a society which will have few individual rights, and nothing to protect them.

If you’re going to lose, for heaven’s sake, at least go down shouting the truth to the people. If you can’t see the Republicans for what they are, you are simply denying reality. If you can see it, then you must say it every hour of every day. Maybe it will get through to some people. If you don’t say it now, what will be the use of saying it when we have no political power?

We wish that the struggle were between democracies and autocracies. But what are we? And if we are currently a democracy fighting to keep from becoming an autocracy, must we not identify those people and that party which are trying to destroy our democracy? Soft-pedaling them, or trying to appeal to what we keep hearing are “the better angels of their natures,” will just allow them to proceed with their destruction of our country’s heritage.

While we are trying to save democracy in Ukraine, we are losing it at home. Do we think that while we devote our time to trying to help Ukraine, the Republicans are going to stand down from what they are eagerly looking forward to, the takeover of our country by their band of literally insane fantasists, crooks, plunderers, and Nazis? The battle is right here, even though the images and battlefields may look different.

And if democracy falls here–and it won’t have the kind of tableaux of surrender we have seen in historical wars–it will be virtually as impossible to get it back. And if Trump or DeSantis or Scott or Hawley take over, what help will we be able to give Ukraine, or any other country trying to hold its democracy?

If Trump had won, or been able to subvert the election, Ukraine would have been taken over, and we would be leaving NATO; while our government stole more funds to build more border wall; and the entire civil service was removed and packed with Trump’s loyalists; and the media would find itself controlled, blocked, and arrested, while they finally cried out for help which no one had enough power to give them. That is what is at stake here. We desperately need President Biden to make some speeches and exhortations about that. “Time and tide wait for no one,” is a proverb that goes back at least to the year 1225, and it is as true now as it was then.