Republicans are assaulting democracy even more now than when Trump was in office: constitutional scholar
This Thursday, January 6, will mark the one-year anniversary of the assault on the U.S. Capitol Building, which violently underscored the MAGA movement’s authoritarian nature and its total contempt for liberal democracy. Laurence Tribe, the Harvard University legal scholar who co-founded the American Constitutional Society, discusses that contempt in an op-ed published by The Guardian this week — and warns that the GOP assault on democracy is even worse now than it was when Trump was in the White House.
“Only free and fair elections in which the loser abides by the result stand between each of us and life at the mercy of a despotic regime — one we had no voice in choosing and one that can freely violate all our rights,” Tribe explains. “So, everything is at stake in the peaceful transfer of power from a government that has lost its people’s confidence to its victorious successor. It was that peaceful transfer that Trump and his minions sought to obstruct and almost succeeded in overthrowing when Joe Biden was elected president.”
Tribe continues, “A year has passed since Trump’s attempted coup and his supporters’ violent storming of the United States Capitol on 6 January 2021, in a nearly successful effort to prevent Congress from certifying Trump’s decisive loss of the election to Biden. Watching the images that day of the seat of U.S. democracy overtaken and defiled, it was impossible not to viscerally feel the grave danger that confronted the republic.”
That “grave danger,” according to Tribe, has only intensified since the 2020 presidential election and the late 2020/early 2021 lame duck period.
“For those of us who have continued to investigate the sources and facets of the assault on constitutional democracy,” the 80-year-old Tribe writes, “a sobering realization has become unavoidable: our country, and the legal and political institutions that prevent it from descending into despotism, are in even greater peril today than they were at the time of last November’s election…. Most terrifyingly, we have learned over the past year that the Republican Party plans to do it again.”
Tribe adds, “Some retired generals are warning that, without decisive action to hold all the wrongdoers to account, we will witness a march to another coup attempt, and one more likely to succeed, if Trump or another demagogue runs and loses. Trump’s Republican Party has all but erased or openly embraced the violence of 6 January. And the party faithful have already set out to use state-level elections and legislative processes to better set the table to steal the 2024 election should that be necessary to their return to power.”
Tribe emphasizes that the modern GOP is laying the groundwork for an authoritarian coup regardless of whether or not Trump runs for president in 2024.
“Even if something should derail another Trump run at the presidency,” Tribe explains, “the means for another coup exist, and the temptation to seize power — this time cementing it more permanently — will surely tantalize a political party that seems openly hostile to the very premises of democracy. Of particular concern to students of fascism — a governing form that almost always comes wrapped in violence — was the violence woven through the rise of Trumpism to the siege of the Capitol, which was, of course, brutally violent.”
Tribe wraps up his op-ed by stressing that Americans who don’t want to live in an authoritarian state will have their work cut out for them in the months ahead.
“When democracy loses its grip as a guiding ideal, despotism fills the void and liberty is lost,” Tribe writes. “This is a battle we must not, cannot, will not lose.”
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