The day democracy almost died

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The darkest political day of 2021 came early, on only the sixth day of the year. It was the day that democracy almost died. The republic survived but just barely. Democracy isn’t dead yet, but it’s on life support and Republicans seem intent on putting it out of its misery.

It was a bleak day in American history, but at least the palette was colorful. The Trump-supporting insurrectionists wore scarlet red hats while police officers clad in navy blue riot gear defended the sacred temple of American democracy from the angry mob.

History does repeat itself. It was the second time the Capitol was violated by invaders clad in red. British soldiers in bright red coats crashed, trashed, and burnt the building in 1814.

Jan. 6, 2021 was the day right-wing extremists occupied the peoples’ house, ransacked the building and tried to prevent then-Vice President Mike Pence’s certification of the electoral votes that elected Joe Biden president.

The attack began shortly after then-President Donald Trump addressed a crowd assembled on the Ellipse near the White House before it marched to the Capitol. His parting message to them was “fight like hell”. And fight they did. Five people, including a police officer died during or soon after the violent assault — another four police officers who responded to the attack died by suicide in the wake of the attack.

The masthead of the Washington Post reads, “Democracy Dies in Darkness”. But on Jan. 6, democracy suffered a severe wound under the bright lights of the TV cameras. The spotlight on that dark day will soon get even brighter.

A special bipartisan committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is investigating the links between the insurrectionists who breached the Capitol, Trump administration officials and right-wing members of Congress. They may have something to hide since two key Trump allies, his political strategist Steve Bannon (no relation) and his White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, have refused to testify and have been cited for contempt of Congress.

Jan. 6 was the culmination of a desperate bid by Trump and his supporters to maintain power by any means necessary after Biden won the presidency on Nov. 3, 2020.

It’s easy to identify but not justify the source of the desperation that led right-wing extremists to turn to violence. The Republicans are sore losers. The GOP has only won the popular vote once in the last six presidential elections going back to 2000. That was back in 2004. The party’s unpopularity has forced it to rely on one of the most undemocratic features in the Constitution, the Electoral College to retain its slippery hold on the White House

The attack on the Capitol was just one sign of democracy in decline.

After the Electoral College failed to bail Trump out in 2020, Republican governors and state legislators pushed an aggressive and regressive effort to make it more difficult for voters to elect Democrats. A study by the Brennan Center for Justice in May indicated legislators in 48 states have filed 389 bills to restrict voting rights.

The GOP approach to elections appears to be: if you can’t beat them at the polls, then cheat them out of their votes. The party has decided to destroy democracy rather than embrace it.

The trend in American political history is the expansion of the voting franchise. In the early days, only white men who owned property could vote. After a long and agonizing struggle, women and people of color gained voting rights. But Republicans seem to want to reverse 245 years of slow, hard-earned progress in our great democratic experiment and make it harder for people to vote.

The Democratic response to the Republican war against democracy was legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives to preserve voting rights. The For the People Act would undo some of the restrictions on voting enacted since the 2020 election. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the federal government’s oversight role in reviewing state and local voting laws.

Not surprisingly, Republican members of the U.S. Senate led by Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have threatened to kill any attempt to pass voting rights protections by talking the legislation to death with a filibuster.

The Republican spin is that the party’s opposition to voting rights is based on the right of states to run their own elections. This states’ rights argument is the same pitch that segregationists used in the 1950s and 1960s to fight legislation that guaranteed voting rights to African Americans. The device that Senate opponents used to delay passage of the bill then was the filibuster.

History repeats itself or as New York Yankee great Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again”.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, “Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon,” airs on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon

Tags Brad Bannon Capitol attack Capitol insurrection Democracy Donald Trump House January 6 Select Committee jan. 6 Joe Biden John Lewis Mark Meadows Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Steve Bannon White House

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