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How Democratic Party Squabbling Could Lead to the End of Democracy


1. Democracy is Fragile.

Samuel Huntington in his classic book The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (1993, University of Oklahoma Press) showed that the world vacillates between alternate waves of dictatorship and democracy.

The 1930’s saw a wave of new dictatorships including the fascisms of Europe and the populist dictatorships of Latin America.

The 1980’s and 1990’s saw a huge wave of transitions from dictatorship to democracy. The Communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe fell. So did the military governments in Latin America and many of the military governments in Africa.

2. People Abandon Dictatorship or Abandon Democracy When Government Seems Weak and Incapable of Dealing with Important Problems.

The fall of Eastern European Communism and the Latin American dictatorships was linked to stagnant economic growth. The governments seemed incapable of moving the economy forward. The fascisms of the 1930’s also came from frustration with persistent high unemployment and mediocre GDPs.

3. If You Look at the History of the Rise of Dictatorships – They Are Predicated by Legislative Squabbling. Lots and Lots and Lots of Legislative Squabbling. Nothing Gets Done. The Arguments Are Interminable.

Mussolini parlayed a minor position in the highly fractionated Italian Parliament into his position as Il Duce. In pre-Nazi Germany, their legislature, the Bundestag, was divided among forty parties. These ranged from ultra-leftists (such as the Communists) to ultra-rightists (such as the National Socialists). Little got done.

4. Political Paralysis After an Election Tells Voters That Voting in the Party of Their Choice Solves No Problems and Does Not Make Things Better.

5. The United States is Facing Increased Threats to Voting Rights.

One part of this is gerrymandering, restricting voting hours in minority districts and increased challenges of electoral results by partisan authorities. However, there is also increased participation in intimidation and threats of violence by the organized right. The obvious example of this was the January 6 Capitol insurrection. But it shows up in anti-vaccine activists showing up in crowds to intimidate schoolchildren wearing masks or the brandishing of weapons around minority groups. Conservatives are getting more and more practiced in using rallies and mass demonstrations to push policies that do not have the support of the larger majority of the population. This increasingly will involve contesting the results of elections that are close – or not so close but which come out liberal.

The Worst Thing the Democrats Could Do Right Now Is 

Pass Nothing In Washington Due to Squabbling Among Themselves

The infrastructure bill is popular and important.

The Democrats can not afford to not pass that.

Voting Rights are popular and important (or popular and important to everyone except the right).

The Democrats can not afford to not pass that.

The Budget is important.

The Democrats can not afford to not pass that.

It doesn’t matter at this point if the problems come from Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema – or if they come from Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders.

It doesn’t matter at this point whether the final bills look more like the Manchin version or more like the AOC version.

At the end of the day, the Democrats have to get something done.

And we aren’t even talking here about the other basic issues our country faces like saving the Post Office or saving Social Security.

It doesn’t matter if they get things done by banning the filibuster or they do it by finding a version of their bill that some Republicans like.

At the end of the day, if they do nothing, support for democratic norms will go way down in the United States.

For a whole lot of neutrals, Trump won’t look so bad.

And with no Voting Rights Protection, it will be completely fair game for elections to be continuously rigged so that 30% of the population determines 65% of the seats.

Yes, the Republicans are making things as difficult as possible.

But if the Democrats do not resolve their internal disputes and begin playing as a team, it will be a long time before we get another Democratic government.

And a long time before elections are determined democratically.

Democracy is never a sure or automatic thing.

Defense of democracy means getting things done.

So the time to come together is now.

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