Joe Biden has gone where perhaps even Donald Trump feared treading — implying that any election his party doesn’t win would be illegitimate; more specifically, that November’s congressional elections cannot be considered free and fair (i.e., democratic) unless the Senate abolishes the filibuster to pass an electoral law it prefers.
But the filibuster is still there and the law wasn’t passed, meaning election procedures are still state-determined, and Republican-governed states will continue to conduct elections in ways that Democrats disapprove (and their voters approve) .
Drop boxes won’t be as ubiquitous or early voting days as plentiful as Democrats want and voter identification Democrats oppose and overwhelming majority of public favor will be in many places thanks to our autocracy masquerading as Democracy camouflages.
We are left with a lesson in the dangers of excessive rhetoric and absurd arguments when employed in the service of dubious, improbable ends.
By equating voter laws like those enacted in Georgia with “Jim Crow on steroids” and claiming that the only way to save democracy is for the Senate to pass bills that the Democrats favor and then to imply that upcoming elections would be illegitimate if that had not happened it was unlikely (and is not), Biden and henchmen have now caught themselves in an impasse from which they cannot easily get out.
Given the logic of their demands in the name of democracy, the Democrats have failed miserably in their attempt to save them. With 50 Republican and two Democratic Senators (combining a majority vote on a 100-strong body), what James Madison, Ben Franklin and Co. did in 1787 is now abruptly reversed.
Our system of self-government has produced an outcome that is destroying our system of self-government, at least in the increasingly strange world in which Democrats live.
The elections, scheduled for November, are still expected to take place, but if the Democrats really mean what they say, they will be mostly empty drills, akin to the charades used to be held in “people’s democracies.” In clueless imitation of dictators through the ages, Democrats claim that democracy is being sabotaged by “house enemies” and various subversive elements (which appear to include members of a democratically elected upper chamber of a bicameral legislature who oppose what Biden and his crew advocate ).
In short, there are few things more irresponsible than the President of the United States saying “it matters” when it comes to the legitimacy of our elections, with the implication that what matters is whether (a) you want to pass the bills and/or (b) our side wins or loses the vote count.
More broadly, it also seems odd to focus on voter ID requirements or too few dropboxes when we’ve witnessed the largest transfer of political power to government agencies and unelected public health bureaucrats in our nation’s history.
Whatever one thinks of lockdowns and mandates and vaccination cards as a way to fight a virus (and the suspicion is that historians and scientists will take a pretty keen view of all of that in time), there’s no denying that America is less democratic and free and therefore more is a more authoritarian position today than it was two years ago, and the overwhelming majority of the draconian measures that should have sent civil rights leaders into convulsions did not come from Republican governors, Republican congressmen, or even the great ogre Trump.
The thought arises that when it comes to preserving our system of self-government, we could worry less about less early election days or wannabe insurgents with face paint and buffalo horns and more about technocrats in white lab coats and clipboards; that the greater threat to democracy and freedom may emanate from what has come to be known as “safetyism,” in which a frightened, panicked people end up sacrificing their most cherished rights in pursuit of the illusory goal of absolute safety.
There is, then, something deeply surreal about claims of impending American authoritarianism coming from the same political party that banned Americans from attending church services or the funerals of their loved ones.
Whatever else can be said, it would be fair to say that democracy and freedom have not exactly been at the top of the Democratic Party’s value hierarchy of late, although they now present themselves as staunch defenders of it.
So we are in the third year of a major experiment in which we will determine whether liberties given up to combat a public health threat can eventually be regained in the same form.
We will also find out if those to whom we have given so much power will resist the will to power that has plagued so many human experiences and casually abandon it, or instead seek new crises to justify holding on to what they are acquired.
So maybe, just maybe, maybe, by and large, when it comes to continuing our republic, we have bigger concerns than having to use the last four digits of our social security number when voting.
Bradley R. Gitz, a freelance columnist who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Illinois.