The one thing Democrats and the MAGA Party (the Republican Party no longer exists having been subsumed by Fox-fueled Trump followers) can agree on is that our democracy is under attack. However, they see vastly different threats.
The MAGAs believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. While Democrats point to the January 6 insurrection and increasing laws in MAGA-controlled states that limit voting rights for MAGA opponents, that take away a woman’s right to control her own body, that prioritize the freedom to own weapons of war over the lives of children.
But I believe the division runs deeper than that. It stems from the way the leaders of the MAGA Party view democracy.
Instead of seeing democracy as a means of majority rule, I believe MAGA leaders see it as a tool that can be manipulated on behalf of the powerful and wealthy. The result is that we now have several standards of justice based on factors such as race, wealth, and privilege. We see elected officials defy the wishes of significant majorities of their constituents on universal background checks for gun purchases, red flag laws, and access to abortion. And we see them use the power of their office to threaten and punish those with whom they disagree.
As a result of the MAGA ideology, our entire economy and, at times, our government are driven by a wealthy few. The owners and investors of large, multinational corporations have been allowed to influence elections while avoiding taxes. Through their political influence, these multinationals have been deregulated. They have exported high-paying jobs. They have eliminated workers’ retirement plans and other benefits. And they have taken almost total control of entire industries through consolidation.
For much too long, we’ve had eight too-big-to-fail banks, three or four conglomerates that control most of our grain, and six companies that control most of our meat supply. The majority of pharmaceuticals sold in the US are controlled by just ten corporations. Our oil and gas industries are controlled by a few corporations and state actors that dismiss their role in the climate crisis. Likewise, our transportation, insurance, and other industries have each been captured by a few large corporations.
And, chillingly, just six corporations now own roughly 90 percent of the media that bring us the news!
At the same time, the politicians that have been bought and paid for by these corporations have cut their taxes while pushing the tax burden onto ordinary hardworking citizens. Even that has not been enough to satisfy their greed. So, they regularly offshore profits in order to extort our government into allowing them to “repatriate” their ill-gotten gains at further reduced tax rates.
Corporations’ insatiable greed has even been the primary driver of inflation. Yet they and their political lackeys have blamed it on an administration that has set about trying to curtail their power.
Understandably, many Americans are angry. But thanks to the many lies peddled by the leading cable “news” outlet and others, their anger has been misdirected. Instead of blaming the rich and powerful, they blame immigrants, the poor, and minorities.
The problem has been made worse, I believe, from the MAGAs’ Kim Jong-un-like devotion to Trump. In both cases, the followers seem to see their Dear Leaders as deities. Many MAGAs continue to believe that Trump was chosen by God. They compare him to the Messiah and pray for him to save them. And, with both Trump and Kim, the followers not only accept their leaders’ extravagant lifestyle. They celebrate it. And they contribute to it.
The only conclusion can be that the many Millennials and GenXers who have bought into the MAGA ideology, simply don’t understand the benefits of democracy. It seems they have become convinced that an autocrat – at least their autocrat – can improve their lives. That an autocrat can help them live a similar life of luxury. That, instead of the messy process of convincing others to agree with their political and religious beliefs, an autocrat can force others to agree with them by decree.
Like so many of those in pre-war Germany, they seem more interested in forcing change than preserving our government along with its freedoms. Far too many of today’s Americans lack an understanding of history or civics. And, instead of seeking truth from universities, books, and qualified experts, they turn to social media and propaganda outlets like Fox “News.” In fact, they have eschewed legitimate news sources as “enemies of the people.” They dismiss education as a waste. And they are banning books that make them uncomfortable, blissfully unaware of the comparisons to the dictators and war criminals of the past.
In doing so, they are following the path taken by unsuspecting citizens in Russia, Myanmar, Venezuela, Hungary, Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran, as well as pre-WWII Italy, Japan, and Germany. And, unless we can convince them that democracy is worth saving – that real change can only come through the ballot box – we may be headed down those same rabbit holes.