Democracies In Danger: Coup, Voting Rights, And Everything In Between
Democracies are in trouble across the world, in the east, the west, and the middle. Every democracy has its own struggle, from the fledgling democracy of Myanmar to the American democracy of over two centuries.
Because they cannot be all encompassing, laws in democracies are limited in what they can achieve. They set boundaries to avoid only the most egregious abuses. So democracies count on the decency of those in power to interpret and follow explicitly stated laws as well as respect the unstated obvious.
Some threats to democracy are well known. A government elected democratically in a landslide in Myanmar has been overthrown in a coup. Their people are protesting and dying to save their democracy. The fourth election in two years in Israel has failed to produce a clear victor. It is the relentless will to hold on to power by their central political figure, who is under the cloud of corruption investigation, that has left their democracy teetering. Their multi-party system is not the one to blame. The multi-party ruling coalition at the Center in India, unlike Israel, has overwhelming support. The danger for Indian democracy is lack of a meaningful opposition to serve as its guardrails.
America, closely divided between two parties, is on the verge of being dysfunctional. In the current voting rights fight, every right question is seen as having an answer that favors one party or the other. The party that presently controls all three elected branches of the US Government wants to write laws to make voting easier in elections. The minority party, using states’ rights as the shield, aims for federal inaction and favorable state voting laws.
Where exactly is the hope for bipartisanship on voting rights in the US Senate that is divided 50–50 between the two parties? Automatic voter registration when one gets a driver’s license and presents a proof of citizenship? At least some early voting access? Allowing voting over the weekend before the election? On what constitutes sufficient identification? On what is an acceptable excuse for absentee balloting?
For any bill such as H. R. 1 to become the federal law, it will take the support of sixty votes to overcome a filibuster by the minority party in the US Senate. West Virginia Senator Manchin who is in the majority is trying to find common ground with ten Senators of the opposition on a voting rights bill and preserve minority power. A noble cause, but probability is not on his side.
To see how hard Senator Manchin’s task is, consider an exercise in democracy anywhere you live. Have a cordial discussion with someone who supports the opposing party and identify one voting rights question on which you come to an agreement. Let us make it even simpler. See if you can agree on two points jointly, one each of you like and one each of you can stomach.
Bipartisanship is hard. On voting rights, it is harder. No kidding. Here is a link to more Vijay Violet writings.