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American democracy is at stake

If the January 6 Capitol attack and furore over counting and certifying 2020 election results are any indication, what’s certain is that the Republican Party’s refusal to accept defeat in an election is gathering momentum and poses an imminent threat to American democracy. 

Political pundits were alarmed at how close we came to losing our democracy. Sadly, these threats are ongoing. The majority of Republicans continue to be election deniers who question the legitimacy of the Biden Administration. 

It’s what makes the November midterms one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime. President Biden emphasized the severity of the threat, laying blame directly on ‘Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans’ in a speech he made on September 1 in Philadelphia.

Racial minorities change American demographics

In 2018 author William H. Frey wrote that racial minorities would become the engine that fuels the nation’s growth. His book, “Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America,”  postulates that changing demographics would counter the aging and declining white population. In fact, data from the last U.S. Census estimates that by 2045, America will cease to be a majority-white country. It’s a reality that the Republican party, largely supported by a white, rural population, has been trying to systematically subvert by attacking the democratic process and undermining the institutions at its very foundation. 

Isabel Wilkerson in her book, “Caste”, recounts a conversation with renowned historian Taylor Branch. The discussion between the two Pulitzer Prize winners focused on the rise of white domestic terrorism under Trump and how it manifested in a backlash against the country’s growing racial diversity. The white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, (August 2017) and the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh (October 2018) were two obvious flashpoints that demonstrated racist undercurrents in the body politic. Branch asked, “the real question would be if people are given the choice between democracy and whiteness, how many will choose whiteness?”

Who gets to vote in a democracy?

Threats to US elections, who gets to vote, and how and whether the votes get counted were the topics of discussion at a September 30 panel hosted by Ethnic Media Services. Experts voiced concerns about gerrymandered maps that would diminish the power of voters of color, laws that would restrict access to the polls, and efforts by partisan poll workers to interfere in the election process.

In the southern states for example, civil rights activists have filed lawsuits against unpopular redistricting plans used to ‘crack and pack’ districts.

Evan Milligan, Executive Director of Alabama Forward, explained that deeply undemocratic gerrymandering forced Blacks who make up 27% of the states residents into one district while whites are spread out into six districts.

“If you make it out of your primary because your district is drawn in a way that disadvantages competition, then the most extreme candidate becomes the person who gets on the ballot. That is what is driving our political discourse today and it’s going to drive us off a cliff,” said Milligan.

Dangerous Trends

These dangerous trends are not new. For decades, Republicans have gerrymandered districts to favor their political candidates, suppress voter turnout in areas with sizeable minority populations by closing polling stations, narrowing the window of time available for early voting, enacting strict voter I.D. laws, and purging voter rolls.

Discriminatory actions have scaled un the last decade. In 2021, the ACLU reported more than 400 anti-voter bills introduced in 48 states, to make it difficult for people from minority communities to register to vote, to vote by mail or, to vote in person. These efforts severely compromise our democracy, asserts the ACLU. The only way to negate this trend is to with high voter turnout that decisively pushes back against the anti-democratic forces on the right.

Low voter turnout in the midterms hurts American democracy

Unfortunately, voter turnout in midterms is typically lower than in a presidential election year. In the 2006 and 2010 midterms, a little over 40 percent of voters cast their ballots. In 2014 this fell by another 5 percent. In 2018, 50 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots; but this number still falls short of the average voter turnout (66.7 percent in 2020) in a presidential election. 

Why are voters staying away from the polls? 

According to an NBC poll of likely voters, two-thirds now believe that the economy is in a recession despite assurances from economists that the U.S. economy is stable and growing at a healthy 2.6 percent in the third quarter. In the last one month, the Republican propaganda machine has managed to change the narrative once again.

Optimism among likely voters has sunk low and their priorities have shifted away from the threats to our democracy, a top concern for  21 percent of respondents in September.

American democracy  depends on the midterms

What’s at stake is American democracy. Next week’s election is crucial – every seat in the House of Representatives is up for grabs, as are 35 U.S. Senate seats and 36 governorships. Down-ballot races for secretary of state, attorneys general or control of state legislatures could have long-term impacts on how the 2024 presidential election is managed. 

The Washington Post reports that close to 300 GOP candidates in the upcoming elections are Election Deniers – who have denied or questioned the outcome of the last presidential election. If these candidates succeed in getting elected there is no guarantee of a free and fair election in 2024.

American democracy works best when

Why should Indian Americans pay attention even if they aren’t the target of attempts to disenfranchise minority voters?

They should, simply because democracy works best when all eligible voters participate. The Founding Fathers set up America as the world’s first democracy, based on the fundamental principle of equality which entrusts power to its citizens. 

Indian immigrants in the U.S. are largely well educated and affluent. They do not live in concentrated districts and communities like the other minorities do (as is the case with African-Americans and Latinos). So Indian Americans are not necessarily a target of voter suppression efforts.

But as people of color, the stakes in preserving democracy are as high for us as they are for other minorities. So it’s essential that we do our part in safeguarding the system that benefits all of us. 

In his primetime speech this week, President Biden asked voters to defend, protect and stand up for democracy.

“For a long time, we’ve reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed. But it is not.”

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of India Currents. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, organization, individual or anyone or anything.

Shabnam Arora Afsah

Shabnam Arora Afsah is a writer, lawyer, and short story writer who is working on her first novel based on the Partition of India. She is a committed political activist and also runs a food blog for fun!