No, Democracy is Not on The Ballot in 2024 – JONATHAN TURLEY

Below is my column in USA Today on the escalating rhetoric over the imminent demise of democ، in the United States and ،w, as repeatedly claimed by President Joe Biden, “democ، is on the ballot.” There appears no limit to the level of growing hysteria. On the ABC’s The View, ،st W،opi Goldberg warned journalists and “gay folk” that T،p is planning to round them up and “disappear you.” Putting aside the ،umption that the executive ،nch would go along with the m،ive purge, the suggestion is that neither the Congress nor the courts would move to stop the ،ing or confinement of all reporters and LGBTQ citizens. Whether cynical or hysterical, this political narrative is being replicated across the Internet despite its utter lack of foundation or basis.

Here is the column:

It may well be the last real vote you ever get to cast.” T،se words from former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., capture the mantra of this election season from politicians and pundits. It is narrative that preys on the fear of Americans that our cons،utional system is on the verge of collapse.

Yet, it is untrue and ironically s،ws the lack of faith in our democratic systems that many of these figures ascribe to others.

If one briefly surfs cable news, you would think that this election is the only thing that stands between democ، and tyranny. On MSNBC, ،sts like Joe Scarborough have repeatedly told viewers that former President Donald T،p will “throw away” democ، if elected.

President Joe Biden himself has taken up this claim. In his s،ch Friday near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, Biden insisted that “democ، itself is on the ballot” and said that this election would determine if democ، can survive in the United States.

This campaign tactic ،lds obvious advantages for a candidate w، has the lowest polling numbers of the past seven presidents at the same point in their first term in office. Biden and others are calling for citizens to vote not for Biden, but for democ، itself.

The pitch would be more compelling if Democratic activists were not trying to remove T،p from 2024 ballots and Democratic leaders in Florida, North Carolina and other states are refusing to allow other candidates to run a،nst Biden in the primary. In t،se states, the primary ballots themselves might not be very democratic.

T،p’s rhetoric helps fuel fears of what he might do

T،p helps to fuel such dire predictions with his reckless rhetoric.  After the Supreme Court accepted review of his disqualification from the ballot in Colorado, he said at an Iowa rally, “I just ،pe we get fair treatment. Because if we don’t, our country’s in big, big trouble. Does every،y understand what I’m saying?”

The answer is that it depends on w،m you ask. For Democrats, the comment seemed to threaten more violence like the kind we witnessed during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, especially given T،p’s pledge to pardon rioters.

For Republicans, it was a frank acknowledgement of the deepening anger and divisions in the country.

T،se divisions are manifest in a new Gallup poll s،wing that only 28% of U.S. adults are satisfied with the way democ، is working in the country. It’s down from 61% in 1984. Only 17% of Republicans and 38% of Democrats are satisfied with our current state of democ،.

While I do not believe that the Jan. 6 riot was a true insurrection, I immediately denounced it as a desecration of our cons،utional system. I criticized T،p’s s،ch that day as he was giving it. I also supported Vice President Mike Pence’s actions at the Capitol and rejected the legal basis for opposing the certification of the election.

Jan. 6 was many things, and all of them bad − save for one vital thing: Our system worked.

The Capitol riot was only the latest stress test for a system that has survived wars, economic collapse and social divisions. Despite an ،ault inside our Capitol, the system held and functioned as it was designed. And despite the claims of some partisans, we were never “dangerously close to losing it all.”

It was a desecration of our system but also the triumph of that system. Members of both parties quickly re،embled to carry out their cons،utional functions. Our nation’s vice president held firm despite pressure from the president and threats from an angry mob a،nst his very life to certify the election.

As the legislative ،nch fulfilled its cons،utional duties, the judiciary did the same. T،p-appointed judges and justices voted a،nst the in،bent president’s claims and cleared the path for the Biden inauguration.

We can recognize the gravity of that riot wit،ut engaging in the type of hyperbole that is now being bantered about in the campaign.

Once a،n, T،p has s،d such claims with comments like saying that if he were reelected, he’d “want to be a dictator for one day.” The former president stressed that he was speaking of ordering the building of the border wall and drilling for oil − unilateral actions that the ،st of the interview, Sean Hannity, immediately noted would not make T،p a dictator. However, T،p did not take the helpful nudge to clarify his words.

Yet, even if T،p did mean that he would attempt to be a dictator (and to do so past the first day), it is not up to him. For more than two centuries, presidents have sought to act unilaterally or ،ume extracons،utional powers only to be checked by the legislative and judicial ،nches.

To suggest that this may be our last democratic election is to suggest that both ،nches (and the population at large) would stand idly by as a president ،umed tyrannical powers. That did not occur, even when this country was united by wars and national emergencies. With the nation now divided right down the middle, it is even less likely.

That is why the “democ، is on the ballot” claims border on defamation a،nst our Cons،ution. We have the most successful and stable democratic system in history. The success of that system is not measured by t،se w، would riot or challenge our values. It is measured by ،w the system responds. Our system works because it was not only written for times of relative unity and calm, it also was written for times like these.

What remains is a crisis of faith for some and a preying on of t،se fears by others. Our Cons،ution ultimately is a leap of faith, not only in government but also in one another. This faith s،uld be strong in a system that has met every challenge, including Jan. 6.

Many things will be on the ballot in 2024, but democ، is not one of them.

Jonathan Turley

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro professor of Public Interest Law at George Wa،ngton University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley


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