Below is a slightly expanded version of my Hill column on the widespread claims that democracy is in peril if the GOP prevails in the midterm elections. On the eve of the midterm elections, one would think that our constitutional system has only days to live. Indeed, on Fox Sunday, House Majority Whip James Clyburn declared “I’ve studied history all of my life. I taught history. And I’m telling you, what I see here are parallels to what the history was in this world back in the 1930s in Germany. This country is on track to repeat what happened in Germany when it was the greatest democracy going, when it elected a chancellor that then co-opted the media.” In other words, the Republicans are like Nazis about to overthrow democracy, an analogy to the rise of Adolph Hitler. It is notable that Democrats, including President Biden, are now arguing that the media is pro-Trump or coopted by the Republicans.
Here is the column:
If a single moment could sum up the growing hysteria heading into the midterm elections, it was the appearance of historian Michael Beschloss on MSNBC this week when he warned that, if the Republicans prevail, we could see “our children … arrested and conceivably killed.”
In other words, it is not gas prices, the economy or crime that once again are the top polling issues for voters. Instead, it is democracy or death, gas or grandchildren — you choose.
The drum major in this parade of horribles has been President Biden, who was widely criticized for an earlier Philadelphia speech that denounced his political opponents as fascists plotting to overthrow democracy.
Biden returned to this theme in what White House chief of staff Ron Klain called his “final warning” to voters. The president ominously cautioned voters who might be thinking of voting for Republicans that, “make no mistake, democracy is on the ballot for all of us.” In other words, be afraid, be very afraid.
President Biden and others have returned to that theme as Democrats appear to be losing ground even in traditional blue states. Among others, Hillary Clinton warned that the GOP is trying to “steal” the election and that “they’re going after democracy.”
The president’s attacks do not appear to be gaining much traction, with polls showing that most people view him as inciting political unrest. Nevertheless, on almost every network and cable news program, the mantra seems unrelenting: If the GOP prevails in the midterms, democracy could be lost.
Whereas the media once pushed a false Russia collusion claim in the 2016 election, this time it is pushing a claim that the GOP itself represents the threat to our liberties and very lives.
As Democratic alarm over a GOP win in both houses of Congress has increased with polling in the past two weeks, so has the alarming rhetoric. Beschloss, for instance, warned that not only may democracy have just a few days left but there may be no one allowed to record its fall: “Fifty years from now, if historians are allowed to write in this country and if there are still free publishing houses and a free press — which I’m not certain of, but if that is true — a historian will say what was at stake … was the fact whether we will be a democracy in the future, whether our children will be arrested and conceivably killed.”
The Democratic campaign against GOP candidates as extremists and election deniers is breathtakingly dishonest. Democratic leaders like Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), have been accused of deceptive practices in spending tens of millions to support the most conservative candidates in Republican primaries. Those candidates — now denounced by Democrats as “extremists” — prevailed in their primaries with the Democrats’ support and could now win in states like New Hampshire.
At the same time, Democrats and the House’s Jan. 6 select committee are pursuing those who engaged in similarly inflammatory rhetoric leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot — just as the airways are filled with Trump-like warnings that the midterm elections are about to be “stolen.” Likewise, just as some on the left claim there may be no more real history books after the midterms, others are campaigning to ban books by figures like Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the name of protecting free speech.
What leaders like President Biden seem to forget is that our Constitution not only was written for times like this, it was written in a time like this. Federalists and Jeffersonians actually — not just figuratively — tried to kill each other with the use of laws like the Alien and Sedition Acts.
But James Madison crafted a Constitution for the worst of times — and the worst of leaders. He famously observed that we needed a system that did not depend on the good intentions or motivations of our rulers: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” So he created a system that contains a series of checks and balances to prevent the concentration — and the abuse — of power.
There has been a growing crisis of faith on the left as leaders and pundits have attacked our Constitution and its institutions, including the Supreme Court. These objections appear to be based not on the Constitution failing to resist extraconstitutional demands but on it failing to yield to such demands. These figures apparently are upset that the democratic process or the Supreme Court have not given them what they demand. Thus, the Constitution or the court must go.
Widespread references to Jan. 6 should inspire greater confidence in our constitutional system and dispel the doubts being voiced by President Biden and others. The Capitol riot was denounced by most Americans; Republican leaders like Vice President Pence and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) carried out their constitutional duties. Federal judges (including many appointed by then-President Trump) uniformly rejected challenges to the election; the Supreme Court, with six conservative justices, repeatedly ruled against Trump — including all three of his appointees.
The Constitution has weathered every storm in our history, including a Civil War and a “war” over civil rights. We’ve tackled everything from a depression to desegregation; we’ve faced periods of violence and vitriol that tore us apart. And yet, we remain.
The U.S. Constitution is not an elegant or poetic document, but it has one thing to commend it: It is designed to survive the worst of times and the worst of leaders, and it has done just that.
The Democrats’ democracy-or-death mantra is not just demagoguery. It is defamation of a constitutional system that has proven itself, time and again, to be up to any challenge. Democrats indeed may be in danger in this midterm — but democracy is not.