The prospects of a post-democratic world
The systemic collapse of American democracy posits the prospects of a post-democratic world – a world in which countries do not have a functioning democratic model to look up to.
Trump supporters near the US Capitol, on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. The protesters stormed the historic building, breaking windows and clashing with police. Trump supporters had gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. [Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images]
The world at large may not have noticed but as I write this article, and in fact ever since the humiliating defeat of Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, the Republican Party has been actively working to dismantle the democratic foundations of the United States by – among other means – systematically limiting people’s voting rights.
The more Americans vote, the more reactionary white Republicans feel threatened by the prospect of full democracy and the more aggressive they become in their efforts to quash the will of the people.
Just two weeks ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell coordinated his Republican colleagues to block the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the US capitol by a mob of Trump supporters determined to overturn the result of the presidential election.
If this attempted coup had happened in any other country, we would have swiftly classified it as what it actually is – a tinpot dictator’s violent attack on the people’s democratic will. In the US, however, the massive machinery of the Republican Party is working at both state and federal levels to push this atrocity under the rug and sustain the delusion of democracy.
The violent end of Trump’s presidency was the last indication, if anyone needed any more indications, that democracy in America is exclusively for white people who believe in white supremacy. If these heavily armed and violent white people cannot have their way, then they will burn down the very foundations of this country’s claim to democracy.
Voter suppression galore
It is in the same vein that the Republicans are now actively engaged in introducing voter suppression bills to prevent significant parts of the population from having a say in their own future. This is nothing but a repeat of the Jim Crow laws that were put in place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to prevent African Americans from exercising their hard-earned voting rights.
As evident in the case of legislation recently introduced in Texas, Republicans are also trying to make it much easier for judges to overturn the results of an election – something Trump and his gang of corrupt lawyers led by the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, tried but failed to do after Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.
The Republicans, in short, are making sure that only white Americans, or more accurately, white supremacist Republicans, get to vote. And, if any others manage to slip through and vote in significant numbers, they want to be able to annul the result.
This is the current condition of the so-called “oldest democracy in the world”.
The racist Republican assault on America’s democratic norms is not limited to voting rights either – it also extends to immigration laws. Republicans across the country are working overtime to make it particularly difficult for Hispanic immigrants to become American citizens because they tend to overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
Of course, Republicans are not the only ones responsible for this sorry state of American democracy. Countless influential politicians, Black and white, Republican and Democrat, have long been buried in the deep pockets of predatory billionaires and cooperations. Barack Obama, America’s first Black president, was one of them. These billionaires and billion-dollar companies appear to respect the democratic will of Americans, as long as they elect candidates who will be loyal and obedient to their power.
The leaders of the Democratic Party, such as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, are positing themselves as the champions of democracy who are seeking to expand and protect the voting rights of all Americans. But their protests are meaningless. The corruption of the Democratic Party is part of the problem here. Yes, they protest against the ransacking of the Capitol by white supremacist thugs on January 6, but they are deadly silent on the fact that long before and long after that fateful day, the US Capitol has been and continues to be attacked by clean-shaven and business suit-attired lobbyists and propagandists. Nobody sees, nobody reports, nobody objects to that regular assault on Capitol Hill, which is integral to American politics on a routine and daily basis.
So the systematic collapse of American democracy started long before white supremacist Republicans embarked on their latest, and perhaps most insidious, attack on the voting rights of Americans.
Nevertheless, the current state of affairs in the US is highly alarming – not only for Americans but all peoples of the world.
The illusion of democracy
One should neither exaggerate nor underestimate the catastrophic consequences of the developments in the US for the world at large.
Many across the globe have long viewed America as the leading model of democratic governance to which they can look for guidance and aspiration. Thus, the systemic collapse of American democracy posits the prospects of a post-democratic world – a world in which countries do not have a functioning democratic model to look up to. What will happen to the struggles for democratic rule across the globe when the “oldest democracy in the world” is falling on its face?
Of course, the US has never really been an ideal democratic model. A country founded on the genocidal slaughter of Indigenous peoples, sustained by the course of murderous African slavery, and endured by the dominant ideology of white supremacy before and after its Civil War and Civil Rights movement can scarce be the model of democratic governance for anyone.
But nevertheless, a fragile democratic aspiration has always struggled for survival at the heart of this republic. Formerly enslaved African Americans fought for and earned voting rights against all odds – with much sacrifice, enduring relentless assault against their very humanity. After decades of unyielding struggle, Black Americans earned the right to vote with the 15th Amendment to the US constitution in 1870.
Yes, the 15th Amendment did theoretically give African Americans the right to vote, but soon the Jim Crow Laws made sure these rights remained fictional rather than effectively implemented. Voter intimidation, murder and mayhem, systematically prevented Black people from going anywhere near the voting booths. Today the descendants of those very racist southerners are doing their best to prevent African Americans and other consistently disenfranchised communities from having a say in their own future.
The world at a loss
The scene in the US is not very hopeful. Even more destructive than Republican efforts to limit voting rights or whitewash the January 6 coup attempt are the conspiracy theories that continue to maintain that the last presidential election was rigged, that Trump is still the real president, and that the current administration is not legitimate. Those who promote these conspiracy theories are not fools. They know what they are doing. They are casting consistent doubt on the legacy and efficacy of the democratic institutions of this country, so their alternative facts become as legitimate as the democratic will of the people who think differently than they do.
It is not accidental that Michael Flynn, a former military officer who is now fully in the service of Donald Trump’s fascistic aspirations, is now on the record proposing a Myanmar-like coup in the US. You cannot be any more blunt as to where this country stands now.
US democracy is crumbling. But do peoples around the world have any other example to look up to in their efforts to achieve democratic governance? Should they turn to hypocritical European democracies, which always appear to be on the verge of transforming into fascist dictatorships? Should they turn to Russia, governed by Putin’s mafia? Should they aspire to the mechanised totalitarianism of China, the systemic thuggery of Brazil, the horrors of Hindu supremacy in India, the fake pantomime of democracy in Syria, Iran or Turkey? Should they look up to the autocratic regimes in much of the Islamic world or the settler-colonialism of Israel built on the broken backs of the Palestinians?
Where exactly is the model for the future of democratic rule in the world?
Today, there is no single partially functioning democracy that could offer the world a model or a blueprint. The very foundations of liberal democracy in European Enlightenment modernity have been taken over by predatory capitalism that is robbing the world blind while preaching “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” to the same world.
Today, the only exemplary models of democratic aspiration in the world are massive social uprisings like the Black Lives Matter and national liberation movements like the one in occupied Palestine.
But neither of these movements can achieve their goals alone – they need each other. The symbiotic relationship that has recently emerged between Black Lives Matter in the US and the liberation struggle in Palestine allows for both movements to correct each other’s course and grow together.
Without active solidarity with Black Lives Matter, the Palestinian national liberation can easily dissolve into the pathetic banalities of Arab politics. Without active solidarity with Palestinians, Black Lives Matter can easily degenerate into yet more parochial identity politics susceptible to the career opportunism of people like Barack and Michelle Obama.
The only prospect of full democracy for all the impoverished and tyrannised, robbed and maligned people around the globe is cross-border solidarity beyond the banalities of specific national cultures and towards a transnational public sphere where each nation is saved by the experiences of the other. Barack Obama and Donald Trump are two sides of the same coin, as Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu are integral to the same circle of despair and deception.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
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