Austin C. McCoy: Democracy Can’t Be Reduced to Voting in 2022 — It’s Also About Building the Future We Want

Workers with the Baltimore City Department of Public Works distribute jugs of water to city residents at the Landsdowne branch of the Baltimore County Library on September 6, 2022, in Baltimore, Maryland. DREW ANGERER / GETTY IMAGES)

Truthout | September 12, 2022

In a moment of rising living costs, climate emergencies and infrastructure failures in Jackson, MississippiBaltimore and Kentucky, two recent polls from NBC News and Quinnipiac found a majority of Americans viewed “threats to democracy” as the top election issue going into the 2022 elections. Looking to bolster the Democratic Party’s position before the midterms, President Joe Biden sought to address the threat of right-wing authoritarianism (or “semi-fascism,” as he called it) to representative democracy.

As constitutional law scholar Leah Litman demonstrated in a recent Twitter thread, curtailing voting rights is not the only strategy authoritarians are willing to pursue on their way to political dominance. On August 31, the two Republicans sitting on the four-person Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted against including an abortion rights initiative on the November ballot after canvassers throughout the state acquired more than 750,000 signatures to do so. In other words, two Republicans blocked the will of more than 750,000 Michiganders, presumably not all of them Democrats, in order to undermine reproductive rights. “But it is part of two larger trends that are worth understanding: (1) the relationship between the attacks on reproductive freedom & voting rights (2) the GOP’s efforts to win by attacking democracy itself, in part by seeking to control all state & local levers of power,” Litman rightfully explained on Twitter. The theft of voting and reproductive rights go hand-in-hand.

Yet, the curtailment of democracy runs deeper than the far-right attacks on the electoral process. President Biden and other Democrats continue to resist calls to defund the police. President Biden recently also laid out his “Safer America Plan,” which seeks to add 100,000 more police. His plan expands policing, which as an institution, along with prisons, has successfully shielded itself from public accountability and calls for radical changes. In addition to acknowledging these aspects of the criminal legal system’s undemocratic nature, political scientists Amy Lerman and Vesla Weaver argue that disproportionate contact with police and the legal system suppresses civic participation as police tactics such as “stop and frisk” tend to engender more estrangement from all government institutions, including those administering elections. And, on the economic front, corporations such as Amazon and Starbucks continue to resist unionization campaigns across the country, blocking democracy at the workplace.

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