Sometimes political situations and their implications are very clear to the objective observer, someone like the Observer who is far removed from the buzz of Washington, Twitter, and the latest “breaking news” on the Cable News networks. The Observer is a keen and unbiased commentator who reads many newspapers, both American and foreign, and who has been paying attention to political developments in the United States for a long time.
Drawing on this experience and his own original analysis, the Observer believes that there are three major problems that pose a challenge to American democracy, and that there are three active measures that the Democrats and “little d” democrats should take, now, in order to save the Republic.
The Three Problems
1. The propagation of lies and misinformation
The first and greatest problem is that perhaps up to 40% or more of the population no longer access reliable newspapers, television channels, and websites to inform themselves of the facts of what is going on in the country and the world. As a result, they live in an alternate universe in which the truth is often ignored and lies and disinformation are transmitted to them instead. Fox News, One America News and a number of right-wing media operations and social media accounts propagate this false information and maintain what is in effect a propaganda bubble which serves to prevent people from understanding the facts and events that define the universe in which they live. Donald Trump and legions of his Republican supporters have either willingly contributed to the creation and maintenance of this false universe of lies and disinformation which obscures facts and reality, or have simply acquiesced in limiting themselves to the media and narratives of the tribe they are comfortable in.
The core of the problem is that media companies are allowed to, and are complicit in, the transmission of the disinformation and lies, and deliberate omissions, that create and maintain the alternate universe of propaganda which enshrouds an alarming percentage of the population. The fact that individuals and politicians, including elected officials, contribute to and magnify this propaganda bubble, is a related but separate problem.
2. The failure to indict Donald Trump and his Republican enablers
The second problem is that, despite all of the hard work done for and hopes placed in Democratic candidates in the November 2020 elections, Attorney General Merrick Garland has not indicted Donald Trump and his co- conspirators in what was a conspiracy to overthrow the November 3 presidential election and the Constitution. Trump and his supporters clearly appear to have committed numerous electoral crimes, while Trump himself clearly appears to have committed numerous felonies involving obstruction of justice, including the intimidation and retaliation against witnesses in the Ukraine impeachment proceedings in 2019 and 2020, and in his impeachment and trial in 2021 for abuse of power including his support of the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection.
3. The failure to enact Voting Rights legislation
In an emergency situation in which all but a few Republican Congressmen and Senators either support or acquiesce in the Big Lie espoused by Donald Trump that Joe Biden did not win the November 3, 2021 presidential election, but instead secured the presidency through massive fraud, the Democrats and “little d” democrats have failed to enact legislation to protect voters’ rights and ensure fair elections in 2022 and 2024, and beyond.
Republicans in many and indeed most states have been busy enacting laws that suppress voting, and that place key positions in the electoral machinery in the hands of politicians, including state legislators who are being given control over the selection of electors for the electoral college in the 2024 presidential elections. It is evident to even the most casual observer that the Republicans are hell-bent on setting up the electoral machinery that will enable them to refuse to certify or to overturn the popular vote in upcoming elections.
The three urgent actions
1. Congress should pass legislation prohibiting the knowing propagation of lies and disinformation
The Democrats and other little “d” democrats in Congress have a powerful weapon they can use to fix our current broken communications system. They can and must pass legislation prohibiting, and establishing liability for, the knowing transmission of lies and other misinformation on television and radio and Cable News channels. This is an important first step, which can be taken now, whereas federal regulation of the transmission of such content on social media platforms may be considered at a later stage.
This is analytically simple. The Democrats may have to amend the Senate filibuster rule to be able to pass the legislation, 51- 50 with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.
This can be done. This must be done. Now.
2. Indict Donald Trump now
Why Attorney General Merrick Garland has not indicted Donald Trump for his many apparent felonies is a mystery which future historians will be left to ponder.
By this inaction, Garland and the Democrats have granted Donald Trump and his Republican co-conspirators effective impunity from the rule of law.
This impunity has enabled Trump and the Republicans to perpetuate the Big Lie, and to run around the country organizing the anti-democratic forces of the Republican Party to run on a platform of lies and misinformation in Congressional races in 2022, and in the presidential race in 2024.
Democrats appear to be afraid to take Trump and his supporters on directly, by indicting him and seeking to enforce the law. This appears to be a fatal error on their part, however.
3. Enact Voting Rights legislation
The third action which must be taken, on an urgent basis, is the enactment of legislation to protect voting rights, both to prohibit the blatant forms of voter suppression Republican state legislatures have been enacting, and to safeguard the fair and impartial operation of our electoral machinery, which Republican-controlled legislatures have also been trying to weaken in order to ensure that they can successfully overturn the election results as they tried but failed to do in 2020.
This is not the time for “perfect” electoral reforms or remaking the entire federal electoral system. Democrats should be willing to peel back their ambitions to the extent necessary to secure the votes of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and to reform the filibuster if that is what is needed to pass the essential voting rights legislation.
Taking down Trump is the single most important action the Democrats can take to safeguard American democracy in 2022 and 2024. Together with passing legislation prohibiting the knowing transmission of lies and disinformation on television and radio, and enacting Voting rights legislation, indicting Trump is a critical action in any program to protect American democracy against the anti-democratic and authoritarian threat Trump and his supporters represent.
These three problems represent the greatest challenges to American democracy today.
These three urgent actions represent our best hopes for beating back the anti-democratic challenge before it is too late.
The Trenchant Observer