January 6 hearings: The truth may not be enough to prove that democracy is still a viable form of government
The July 21 public hearing by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol brought the story of Trump’s attempt to overthrow our democracy to its logical conclusion. After four years of destroying democratic norms and taking power into his own hands, the former president tried to overturn the will of the voters.
Trump was attacking the fundamental concept on which this nation rests: that we have the right to consent to the government under which we live. Far from rejecting the idea of a minority government after seeing where it was leading, Republican Party lawmakers redoubled their efforts.
They embraced the idea that state legislatures should dominate our political system, and so in 2021, at least 19 states passed 34 laws to restrict voting access. On June 24, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government lacks the power under the Fourteenth Amendment to protect the constitutional right to abortion, calling into question the other rights the amendment protects. . When Democrats decided to protect some of these rights through federal legislation, Republicans in Congress voted overwhelmingly to oppose these laws.
In the House, Republicans voted against federal protection of an individual’s right to choose whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services: 209 Republicans voted no; 2 did not vote. That’s 99% of House Republicans.
They voted against the right to contraception: 195 out of 209 Republicans voted no; 2 did not vote. That’s 96% of House Republicans.
They voted against marriage equality: 157 out of 204 Republicans voted no; 7 did not vote. That’s 77% of House Republicans.
They voted against a bill guaranteeing a woman’s right to cross state lines to obtain abortion services: 205 of 208 Republicans voted no; 3 did not vote. That’s 97% of House Republicans.
Sixty-two percent of Americans think abortion should be legal. Seventy percent support gay marriage. Over 90% of Americans think birth control should be legal. I can’t find a poll indicating whether Americans support the idea of women being able to cross state lines without restrictions, but hopefully this concept is also popular. And yet, Republican lawmakers are comfortable standing firmly against the strong will of the people. The laws protecting those rights passed the House with overwhelming Democratic support, but will struggle to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
When he took office, Democratic President Joe Biden acknowledged that his role right now was to prove that democracy is still a viable form of government.
The rise of autocrats has declared democracy obsolete. They argue that popular government is too slow to keep up with the fast pace of the modern world, or that liberal democracy’s emphasis on individual rights undermines the traditional values that hold societies together, values like religion and similarities. ethnic or racial. Hungarian President Viktor Orbán, whom the radical right supports with such enthusiasm that he speaks on August 4 in Texas at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), has called for replacing liberal democracy with “democracy illiberal” or “Christian democracy”, which explicitly will not treat everyone the same and will rest power with a single political party.
Biden has championed democracy around the world, accomplishing more in foreign diplomacy than any president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Less than a year after the former president threatened to pull the United States out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have brought together the countries of the NATO, along with allies around the world, to oppose the Russian invasion. from Ukraine. NATO’s new force has prompted Sweden and Finland to join the organization, and earlier this month NATO ambassadors signed protocols for their admission. This is NATO’s largest expansion in 30 years.
This force helped to conclude an agreement between Russia and Ukraine with Turkey and the United Nations on July 23 to allow Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and Russia to export grain and fertilizer to developing countries facing starvation due to Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports. A Ukrainian government adviser called the deal “a major victory for Ukraine”. When a Russian attack on the Ukrainian port of Odessa put that deal in jeopardy, US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink called the attack “outrageous”.
Biden has also championed democracy at home, using the power of the federal government to bolster the ability of working Americans to provide for their families. As soon as Biden took office, Democrats passed the US $1.9 trillion bailout package to rebuild the economy. It worked. The United States has created 10 million new jobs since Biden took office and unemployment has fallen to 3.6%.
This strong economy has translated into higher tax revenues which, combined with the end of pandemic-related spending, have led to a considerable drop in the budget deficit – the amount by which the government operates in the red each year and thus weighing down the national debt – during its term.
The strong economy has also led to runaway inflation, fueled in part by supply chain issues and high gasoline prices. During the pandemic, as Americans shifted to online ordering at the same time factories closed, shipping prices skyrocketed. Over the past year or so, outdated infrastructure at U.S. ports has slowed the recovery, while a shortage of truckers has slowed domestic supply chains. The Biden administration has worked to untangle the mess at ports by securing commitments from businesses and workers to extend hours, and has launched new programs to increase the number of truckers in the country.
While the oil companies are private and therefore have no obligation to lower their prices rather than pocket the record profits they have enjoyed over the past year, Biden has nonetheless tried to drive down gas prices by releasing oil from the strategic reserve and urging allies to produce more oil to put on the world market. Gasoline prices have fallen over the past month and now average $4.41 a gallon, down from a high of over $5 last month.
Last month, on June 25, Biden signed into law the first major gun safety bill in nearly 30 years, after securing the necessary votes despite opposition from the National Rifle Association. On July 21, he signed the Bipartisan FORMULA – which stands for “Fixing Our Regulatory Mayhem Upsetting Little Americans” – Act to remove tariffs on infant formula for the rest of the year to make it easier to get this product. vital following the closure of the Abbott Nutrition factory in Sturgis, Michigan, due to contamination, which created a national shortage. The Biden administration also staged 53 formula thefts in the country, accounting for more than 61 million 8-ounce bottles.
While we’ve heard a lot about Biden’s inability to pass the Build Back Better portion of his infrastructure plan due to Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) refusing to come on board, Biden nonetheless piloted a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill through this partisan Congress, investing in roads, bridges, public transportation, clean energy and broadband.
Love or hate what Biden has done, he’s managed to rally a wide cross-section of countries to oppose Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian attack on Ukraine, and he’s managed to pass woefully divided congressional legislation to improve the lives of the majority. , even as Republicans reject the idea that government should reflect the will of the majority. This is no small feat.
Whether that’s enough to prove that democracy is still a viable form of government is up to us.