Imagine the predicament of a world without democracy in America

Imagine the predicament of a world without democracy in America

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

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The preservation of electoral democracy requires perpetual vigilance and that when threats are detected they are handled with deterrents sufficient to discourage those who would undermine or overthrow democracy.

As evidenced by the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, DC, United States, threats to democracy can emanate from external or internal factors. Externally initiated regime change is an ever present danger for less powerful states.

It is a well-known and provable fact that the US, and the then Soviet Union, now Russia, have been the instigators of coups, both directly and indirectly, in other countries.

Internal threats to destroy democracy seek to replace elected governments by authoritarian regimes ranging from military dictatorship to fascism or communism. These actions may involve violence or the threat of violence.

One of the most ironic and egregious types of coups is when a person who was democratically elected takes action to remain in political power by unfair, manipulated elections, or not holding elections, or by changing the term limits stipulated in the constitution, or declaring a state of emergency to suspend democracy.

The autocrats who were first elected but stayed in power by bogus elections include Adolf Hitler in Germany, Benito Mussolini in Italy, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier in Haiti, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and Vladimir Putin in Russia.

All one-party political systems are elected dictatorships; for example, Cuba, China, and North Korea.

Deterrents to coups and other use of violence or the threat of violence to undermine electoral democracy vary widely from exile, banishment from political activity, house arrest, prison terms, or even execution. In some cases, these punishments are meted out to large numbers of people. The determining factor in the harshness of punishment and the number of people punished is how many people were killed and injured during the failed coup attempt.

Hopefully, the insurrection, which some have called an attempted coup in the US, is now over and electoral democracy is safe. The most important lesson of these events is that the operation and preservation of electoral democracy require eternal vigilance.

The danger to this is a complacency that believes that “it cannot happen here”, which is the title of a prescient novel published in 1935 by Sinclair Lewis. There are numerous other books on the threat to America's storied democracy, including Timothy Snyder's, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.

The events in Washington, DC, demand that intelligence on domestic terrorism be taken seriously, especially white supremacy in the police and armed forces. Shortcomings in the US constitution and the system of checks and balances need to be addressed forthwith.

Given that five people died, including a police officer, remarkable restraint was shown in handling the invasion of the Capitol. If this had happened in some other countries we would be witnessing far greater bloodshed.

It is not hard to imagine how serious a predicament the world would have been in had we lost democracy in America.


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