Democracy in America on a Knife’s Edge

Photograph Source: Kasra Kyanzadeh – CC BY 2.0

If 2022 were a normal year, one could watch the riveting Hearings of the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol with sympathy, understanding – and foreboding for the plight of democracy in America.

2022: a year of climate emergency and war

But 2022 is not a normal year. It is a year of climate chaos and war.

The dreadful predictions of the UN climate summit of last year have had no effect on politicians or businesses the world over. Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, minced no words in saying to the world’s rulers (presidents, prime ministers, billionaires, and fossil fuel company executives) that they have been setting the planet on fire.

No wonder 2022 is business as usual. The sky is full of airplanes and the asphalt streets are choked with millions of cars and trucks emitting climate offending fumes and gases.

War in Ukraine boosting the petroleum economy

And as if human irresponsibility needed another excuse to maintain the global warming economy of fossil fuels longer, Russia’s invasion and war in Ukraine was what the petroleum doctor ordered.

President Joe Biden gave up his flimsy efforts in convincing the Republican petroleum war party that the climate emergency demanded its cooperation. Instead, he grasped the Russian war in Ukraine like manna from the heavens. Suddenly, Republicans and Democrats embraced each other, agreeing with Biden in supporting Ukraine with $ 40 billion military “assistance.”

Biden’s rhetoric against Russia resembles the Cold War rhetoric of American presidents against the Soviet Union. His Secretary of Defense said something to the effect that American weapons and billions to Ukraine would teach Russia to mind its own business, not to pretend it’s a superpower like the United States. And the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said Russia must be defeated.

This war mongering becomes a cloud that covers up climate emergency, the epidemic of gun violence and the killing of children, the outrageous and undemocratic edicts of the Supreme Court, and the January 6, 2021 failed insurrection inspired and guided by former President Donald Trump.

The war in Ukraine has been a gigantic gift to fossil fuels domestic and global economy. Furthermore, it unleashed the barbaric hatred countries harbor against each other.

But the sudden American immersion in this deadly conflict, basically funding it with billions of dollars and tons of lethal weapons, not merely annihilates the climate emergency from people’s minds, but brings the world a step closer to nuclear war.

Trump’s crime against American democracy

So, yes, the House committee is revealing details of an evolving crime against American democracy. Members of Congress and some of the senior Trump administration officials conspired to bring down whatever stands between democracy and tyranny in America. Trump orchestrated this illegal effort to deny Biden his election victory. Trump wanted desperately to remain in his office. He pressured Justice Department officials to investigate voting “fraud.” But these officials, Republican appointees all, kept telling him there was no voter fraud and that he had lost the election.

Some of the Republican members of Congress who supported Trump’s allegations and wild schemes of abolishing democracy realized they had supported criminal activities. They pleaded with Trump for a presidential pardon.

“The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you’ve committed a crime,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said during the House select committee hearing.

Overall, the details of the House hearings are revealing of the dangerous political situation prevailing in America. The two parties no longer serve democracy or democratic aspirations. They are subservient to billionaires and religious ideologues trying to formally establish a Christian state in America.

Threats from the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court’s decision against women’s rights to abortion is part of this larger political ambition of ending the separation between church and state. And then arming all Americans with the right of displaying their guns is bringing the country back to its cowboy tradition that might is always right. Shoot and ask questions later.

The king of Florida

Some of the revelations of the House hearings are now floating in the ether. They appear incredible and fitting for a gangster Friday night movie.

Yet Trump is untouchable. He is the king of Florida, blessing his political followers and dismissing the Washington proceedings. In fact, he may be the Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election.

Capitol insurrection almost annihilated American democracy

The testimony of a former Federal judge, J. Michael Luttig, captured the anxieties and dangers of the Capitol insurrection. He said to the committee and to all Americas that the country is facing a present and clear danger from Trump and his associates. He said:

“A stake was driven through the heart of American democracy on January 6, 2021, and our democracy today is on a knife’s edge.

“America was at war on that fateful day, but not against a foreign power. She was at war against herself. We Americans were at war with each other — over our democracy…

“We Americans no longer agree on what is right or wrong, what is to be valued and what is not, what is acceptable behavior and not, and what is and is not tolerable discourse in civilized society. Let alone do we agree on how we want to be governed or by whom, or where we go from here and with what shared national ideals, values, beliefs, purposes, goals, and objectives — if any at all. ..

“The war on democracy instigated by the former president and his political party allies on January 6 was the natural and foreseeable culmination of the war for America. It was the final fateful day for the execution of a well-developed plan by the former president to overturn the 2020 presidential election at any cost, so that he could cling to power that the American People had decided to confer upon his successor, the next president of the United States instead. Knowing full well that he had lost the 2020 presidential election, the former president and his allies and supporters falsely claimed and proclaimed to the nation that he had won the election, and then he and they set about to overturn the election that he and they knew the former president had lost…

“Our democracy has never been tested like it was on that day and it will never be tested again as it was then if we learn the lessons of that fateful day. On the other hand, if we fail to learn the lessons that are there to be learned, or worse, deny even that there are lessons there to be learned, we will consign ourselves to another January 6 in the not-too-distant future, and another after that, and another after that. While for some, that is their wish, that cannot be our wish for America…

“America finds itself in desperate need of either a reawakening and quickening to the vision, truths, values, principles, beliefs, hopes, and dreams upon which the country was founded and that have made America the greatest nation in the world — a revival of America and the American spirit.”

Back to democracy

Judge Luttig is a rare American thinker and patriot. He is warning Trump and the Republicans to abandon their plutocratic politics. Otherwise, they are dragging the country to a potential civil war.

But President Joe Biden is not innocent in this evolving tragedy. His plunging into a subversive war against nuclear-armed Russia is another way of destroying democracy at home, undermining our purpose to fight climate chaos – an existential danger.

This country, Judge Luttig said, needs a new vision similar to the ideals that brought it into being. I agree. What better than the Greek vision of Thomas Jefferson? Democracy, “We the People,” was the core Greek idea Jefferson brought to the table in the constitutional construction of the American republic.

Biden should talk to Judge Luttig. But get out of the war in Ukraine, telling the NATO allies to mind their own business. The key to survival in America is to cease the internal war and embrace democracy, getting it away from the knife’s edge.

Evaggelos Vallianatos, Ph.D., studied history and biology at the University of Illinois; earned his Ph.D. in Greek and European history at the University of Wisconsin; did postdoctoral studies in the history of science at Harvard. He worked on Capitol Hill and the US EPA; taught at several universities and authored several books, including The Antikythera Mechanism: The Story Behind the Genius of the Greek Computer and its Demise.