Is American Democracy Doomed To Fail?
Remix of photograph by Jessica Griffin, The Philadelpia Inquirer showing a number of members of Congress and conservatives at the insurrection at the US Capitol, January 6, 2021. (outtacontext/Creative Commons)

Is American Democracy Doomed To Fail?

Al-Ittihad, UAE, January 13

The attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and its aftermath on political life, contributed to the growing literature on the fate of democracies in the 21st century. Could the United States soon lose its basic liberties? And how could that happen? What are the lessons we can draw from history? The most frightening historical analogy that is often referred to is the fall of the Weimar Republic in Germany and the rise to power of Adolf Hitler by legal means in 1933. According to this “Hitler scenario,” political chaos in the United States, coupled with the ongoing pandemic, growing partisanship in Congress, and uncertainty about the future of the economy could lead to a disputed presidential election in 2024, in which both Democrats and Republicans claim victory and accuse each other of fraud. This could easily be followed by violence, and Donald Trump being re-elected. Under these circumstances, many believe that a Trump Administration would strive to secure all the control necessary to prevent serious and genuine opposition and proceed as an authoritarian dictatorship. Attention must be drawn here to the fact that prominent historians and political analysts are increasingly using this analogy, and that is why it must be taken seriously. The Weimar Republic was founded in Germany in 1918, at the end of World War I, and its early years were marked by an economic crisis due to the financial reparations imposed on Germany by the victorious Allies under the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919. But from 1924 to 1929, the Republic began to grow and flourish, becoming a liberal democracy boasting arts and culture, such as cinema, theater, painting, and sculpture. Similarly, women enjoyed emancipation, and alternative lifestyles were accepted. However, the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange in September 1929 led to a global recession, so global trade declined, and unemployment skyrocketed everywhere.

In Germany, these conditions strengthened both right-wing and far-left parties that increasingly engaged in street battles to achieve their goals. These were the circumstances in which the old political elite of Germany’s conservative class offered Adolf Hitler the chancellery of the “Reich” in the hope that he would stop the left-wing communist parties. They believed that Hitler wouldn’t last long and that he would be quickly replaced by someone else. Critics of the US Republican Party say that in 2016, the leadership of the party establishment accepted Donald Trump as the party’s leader, and never thought he would be able to win the election and become president. But the big difference between the United States today and Germany in 1933 is that the American economy is currently booming, with unemployment at its lowest level in decades. However, if these conditions change and a global recession affects all major economies again, the political conditions for Trump’s return will be more present. Perhaps the most disturbing element in the current US political system is the common and effective propaganda of Trump supporters who argue that the latter has won the 2020 election, and thus Joe Biden is not the legitimate president of the country. Despite hundreds of Republican election challenges that have been dismissed in courts, the so-called big lie that the election was stolen is now accepted by a majority of the 70 million Americans who voted for Trump. Against this backdrop, all states with Republican-controlled legislatures passed thousands of new laws to ensure that any other closely held elections would be overseen by party officials with the power to invalidate the popular vote, if necessary. Given that elections in the United States are conducted with great transparency, there is no doubt that any attempts by Republicans to harass, challenge, or even reject legitimate votes will lead to a constitutional crisis, and perhaps to violence. This is because when the rule of law is abandoned by one side, the path to authoritarianism becomes clear. –Jeffrey Kemp (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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