Could American democracy be on its last legs?
Anthony Moretti
Pro-Trump protesters climb the wall to enter the Capitol building complex in a riot in Washington, D.C. , U.S., January 6, 2021. /CFP

Pro-Trump protesters climb the wall to enter the Capitol building complex in a riot in Washington, D.C. , U.S., January 6, 2021. /CFP

Editor's note: Anthony Moretti is an associate professor at the Department of Communication and Organizational Leadership of Robert Morris University. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily those of CGTN.

January 6, 2021, would have been an important date in U.S. history even if nothing more had happened than Congress affirming Joe Biden would be the next president of the United States. 

But that date will be seared into the country's collective memory because of the violent insurrection that took place inside and outside the Capitol building, where supporters of then-President Donald Trump refused to accept the democratic process; they believed the 2020 election had been stolen and that their man deserved to remain in the White House. Americans found out on that date just how fragile democracy is.

And it might be more fragile than millions of people inside and outside the country want to believe. An investigative report from a top U.S. news magazine and an editorial appearing in a Canadian newspaper suggest America's democracy is in deep trouble. The current problems, which could grow exponentially in the coming years, cannot be ignored by the global community.

First, Newsweek blares this headline: "Millions of Angry, Armed Americans Stand Ready to Seize Power If Trump Loses in 2024," as one of two stories in its current issue examining how U.S. politics – and the country's democratic norms – continue to be eroded by Trump and his fanatical supporters.

The article reports that a pocket of "more-or-less ordinary people, stoked by misinformation, knitted together by social media and well-armed" are increasingly of the belief that the U.S. is led by a tyrannical government determined to undermine freedom. They insist the Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election and are prepared to do so again in 2024. In their twisted reality, Trump, and Trump alone, is the man who must restore order. 

What is especially dangerous about this group? According to Newsweek, "in 2020, 17 million Americans bought 40 million guns and in 2021 were on track to add another 20 million. If historical trends hold, the buyers will be overwhelmingly white, Republican and southern or rural," a group clearly ready to undertake another insurrection in order to return Trump to power.

Next, in late December, a prominent Canadian scholar penned an op-ed in the Globe and Mail, Canada's most respected newspaper, in which he suggested Canada should prepare for the potential that the U.S. will be governed by a full-fledged right-wing dictatorship before 2030. 

Thomas Homer-Dixon stated that by 2025, “American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence.”If that were to happen, Homer-Dixon believes that by 2030, "if not sooner, the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship. We mustn't dismiss these possibilities just because they seem ludicrous or too horrible to imagine."

He is right: People all over the world would be making a huge mistake in thinking America's democracy is so deeply rooted into the fabric of the country that it could never disappear. Democracy – like any institution – survives because the people governed by it want it to continue. Failure to nourish and protect it will lead to its demise.

Is it fair to say that Trump alone is responsible for the erosion of democracy in the U.S.? No. American history is filled with examples of men endorsing white supremacy, racism, hatred of minorities and more. Throughout his presidency, Trump legitimized these ideas in word and action, and sidelined ideas became mainstreamed. 

Supporters during a campaign rally for Donald Trump, at East Carolina University in Greenville, U.S., July 17, 2019. /VCG

Supporters during a campaign rally for Donald Trump, at East Carolina University in Greenville, U.S., July 17, 2019. /VCG

He undermined America's allies, deemed all Democrats as losers (or worse) and moved the Republican Party further to the right. One effect of all of this: the rise of anti-Asian hate throughout the country. He contributed to this hatred by his drumbeat of hostile rhetoric about China.

If Trump were to return to the White House in 2024 via an insurrection, he, and eventually his successor, would maintain that hostility. Congress, weakened and likely nothing more than Trump's rubber stamp, would turn this rhetoric into nationalistic policies. 

It is not a stretch to see Trump employing the U.S. military in a reckless war with China; no matter how that war turned out, it would crush the country-to-country exchanges involving business people, academics, artists and more who are so vital to improving our world.

And most definitely, people living in the U.S. who trace their ancestry to China and East Asia would be especially vulnerable as Asian hate became more prominent.

A dark scenario that could unfold if millions of angry Americans who feel empowered when they have big guns in their hands decide if their man does not win, then 200 plus years of democracy, however faulty it is, must be trashed. 

What can you and I do? We must push back on all fake claims that the 2020 election was stolen. We must announce loudly that democracy can't fall victim to one man who hates any country that dares to question his authority. We must strengthen our relationships with people all over the world. We must commit ourselves to affirming a community with a shared future is the only way our imperfect world must live in the coming decades.

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