In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday night, former President Barack Obama admitted that our democracy isn’t something that we should just assume will always be there.
“My hope is that the tides will turn,” Obama said of our current political moment. “But that does require each of us to understand that this experiment in democracy is not self-executing. It doesn’t happen just automatically.”
Yes. Nailed it. Especially this: “This experiment in democracy is not self-executing. It doesn’t happen just automatically.”
If the last four years of Donald Trump in the White House have taught us anything, it should be this: Democracy is durable, yes, but it is not immune to corruption and collapse. It requires care and maintenance – from all of us.
And at the moment, it is quite clearly under attack by Trump and the forces aligned behind him.
Don’t believe me? Consider what we’ve learned over just the last few weeks:
* In late 2020 and early 2021, Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows repeatedly pressured the acting attorney general to open investigations into a series of ridiculous conspiracy theories regarding election fraud in hopes of finding a way for the incumbent to be declared the winner. Among the conspiracies pushed by Meadows was one in which Italy is alleged to have used some sort of technology to change votes cast for Trump into votes cast for Joe Biden.
* Trump appears to believe that he could be reinstated to the office of the presidency as soon as this summer if audits and recounts – pushed by his most ardent supporters – in Georgia and Arizona somehow, uh, pay off. As The Washington Post wrote earlier this month:
“Trump has rebuffed calls from some advisers to drop the matter, instead fixating on an ongoing Republican-commissioned audit in Arizona and plotting how to secure election reviews in other states, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Georgia, according to advisers. He is most animated by the efforts in Fulton County, Ga., and Maricopa County, Ariz., according to two advisers who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.”
*The Republican-controlled Texas legislature pushed one of the most restrictive “election security” bills in the country, part of a broader effort by Republicans at the state level to make it more difficult to vote. While the Texas move was blocked by Democrats, a special session is likely in the state in order to force passage. Meanwhile, 14 other states have passed so-called “election security” measures since the 2020 election, with dozens more bills working their way through state legislatures.
* A recent Reuters/Ipsos national poll showed that 53% of Republicans in the poll said that Donald Trump was the “true” president, while 47% said Joe Biden, who is the actual president, is. It also revealed that 6 in 10 GOPers either “strongly” (39%) or “somewhat” (22%) agreed with the statement that the 2020 election “was stolen from Donald Trump.” (Sidenote: There is ZERO evidence of any widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.)
And did I mention that Michael Flynn, who served (briefly) as national security adviser to Trump, appeared to endorse a Myanmar-style coup last weekend? (He later insisted he was not, in fact, endorsing a coup. But the fact there was a misunderstanding about it at all is, well, concerning.)
The evidence is literally everywhere you look.
Choosing to ignore it – or to assume that now that Trump isn’t president anymore that things will go back to “normal” – plays directly into the hands of those who are even now actively working to undermine our democracy.
Think of American democracy like a marriage. You have to actively work to make it healthy and functional. Neglect those basics – or ignore the forces seeking to pull it apart – and by the time you finally realize or admit you have a problem, it might be too late to fix.
That prospect should scare every American – no matter your party affiliation. That it doesn’t suggests we are already in some real trouble.