Juan Williams: American democracy is in peril

Eighty-six percent of registered Republican voters would “probably” or “definitely” vote for former President Trump in 2024, according to a December poll by Echelon Insights.

What are they voting for — the end of democracy?

Are they so angry at modern America that they are willing to vote for a demagogue who tried to overturn a presidential election?

{mosads}Are they so fed up with the increasing number of Blacks, Latinos and Asians in the country who — along with lots of college-educated Whites — tend to vote for Democrats?

Are they willing to close their eyes and support a candidate with no agenda other than staging political rallies to spew racial division, tar immigrants, and trash Democrats?

As the nation marks one year since Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, the heart of this monstrous anger on the right comes from Trump’s number one lie — the false claim that he won reelection in 2020.

This “Big Lie” has been found to be false by multiple courts, by election audits and even by the Trump Justice Department.

But its persistent power is evident in polls showing GOP support for Trump despite his proven lies. Meanwhile, his media allies downplay the violence committed in his name at the Capitol.

This has created a GOP cult based on kowtowing to Trump’s delusion.

A year after the violence, the political parties remain polarized. There is no honest debate about good government. This is American democracy bleeding out, with no end in sight.

The deepest wound is to America’s founding identity as a nation of laws.

The U.S. is “closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe,” Barbara Walter, a member of a CIA advisory panel called the Political Instability Task Force, writes in a forthcoming book.

Walter, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, predicts that such a war, if it comes, will feature “insurgency, guerrilla warfare, terrorism.”

Walter’s book “How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them” says two factors point to a possible future civil war in America:

First is the erosion of democratic norms — something that often goes hand-in-hand with the rise of an autocrat.

Trump’s well-documented effort to pressure Congress and election officials around the country to overturn the election puts him neatly in this role.

So, too, does his willingness to excuse his followers’ use of violence to break the nation’s political order.

The second factor, Walter recently told CNN, is the rise of power-seekers “using racial, religious or ethnic divisions to try to gain political power.”

The rise of white supremacist groups during Trump’s time in office fits into that category.

In 2017, there was mass disorder caused by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va. In 2018, there was a deadly attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue and a separate case in which a man sent bombs to people he saw as Trump critics. In 2019, 23 people were killed in El Paso by a man who espoused the kind of hatred of immigrants that had been stoked by Trump.

These incidents are like mile markers on the road to Jan. 6.

Immediately after last year’s insurrection, Walter told KPBS that in 2019 the Department of Homeland Security “deemed far right domestic terror as the greatest threat to the United States…I think [Jan. 6] is simply a very clear and obvious continuation of that.”

Walter is not alone in sounding an alarm about possible violence ahead.

Three retired US Army generals in December penned a Washington Post op-ed in which they reflected on Jan. 6 and wrote, “We are chilled to our bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time.”

Meanwhile, Trump is still pumping up the anger that led to last year’s violence.

He has brazenly announced plans to speak about the insurrection on Jan. 6.

“Until then, remember, the insurrection took place on November 3rd,” he said in a Dec. 21 statement, continuing his lie about Election Day 2020. He added that Jan. 6 was a “completely unarmed protest of the rigged election that took place.”

{mossecondads}Trump’s intent is to keep his autocratic ambition alive by stirring more anger against democracy.

“I said loud and clear,” Trump said at a recent event in Orlando. “We won the first time, and the second time we won by even more. And it looks like we might have to think about, very strongly, a third time.”

The best hope to stop Trump from destroying the nation’s political order rests with the congressional panel investigating the events leading up to last January’s insurrection.

So far, they have evidence showing that some Republican members of Congress were in direct contact with Trump and other White House officials as the mob swarmed the Capitol.

The panel is even considering sending evidence of possible criminal conduct by Trump to the Justice Department for action.

The best hope for the preservation of American democracy is for the House panel to pull the covers off all the lies around Jan. 6, including Trump’s lies, and let the world see the truth.

As we near Jan. 6, 2022, America’s political stability as a nation of laws, not autocrats, remains at risk.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Tags Authoritarianism Democracy Donald Trump insurrection jan. 6

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