Anniversary of January 6 Assault on the Capitol in Washington, DC

Attempts to Hide Crisis of U.S. Democracy

Workers across the U.S. are taking action to demand their rights. Above, Alabama miners march in New York City, July 28, 2021 declaring "We Are One."

A feature of the situation as 2021 ended is the failure of attempts to hide the crisis of U.S. democracy. When President Joe Biden opened and closed the Summit for Democracy he convoked in Washington, DC on December 9-10, 2021 with the participation of some 100 governments and others, both he and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to "challenges" the U.S. faces when it comes to democracy. While they focused mainly on voting and the deepening crisis of a system failing to deliver the human rights being demanded worldwide, they did not fail to issue threats against all those who do not submit to the U.S. "rules-based" international order.

Biden began the Summit by putting forward the U.S. Constitution as the model for "democratic values." He also made it clear that democracy is a matter of ideals, not actual reality. He said U.S. "democracy is an ongoing struggle to live up to our highest ideals and to heal our divisions; to recommit ourselves to the founding idea of our nation," that "all women and men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This talk is in conditions where human rights and the right to live and be are under brutal attack as governments at all levels refuse to guarantee rights to health care, housing, education, a livelihood and safe living and working conditions. Furthermore, neither Biden nor Harris speak to the fact that the Constitution enshrines a structure of inequality, including keeping the people out of power and the rich in power, evident from the days of slavery to today.

Speaking to the crisis facing liberal democracy, Biden said that "perhaps most importantly and worrying of all" is "the dissatisfaction of people all around the world with democratic governments that they feel are failing to deliver for their needs." He tried to hide this reality by saying democracies are not perfect, are hard work, are fragile, etc. He, like Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Harris, then tried to reduce the issue of democracy to voting. The desperation of the ruling circles is such that they believe that if only the right to vote were recognized nationwide, the U.S. democracy would go back to being the best in the world.

Biden said, "My administration is going to keep fighting to pass two critical pieces of legislation that will shore up the very foundation of American democracy: the sacred right of every person to make their voice heard through free, fair, and secure elections."

If problems could be sorted out by passing laws, what is the problem? Once laws do not suffice, then come the police powers and the threats of war and especially the use of nuclear weapons.

The fact is that despite Constitutional Amendments and numerous laws, such as the 1965 Voting Rights Act, simply being able to vote is blocked and no explanation is given. In 2013 even the Supreme Court repealed sections of the Voting Rights Act.

History shows that yet more legislation is not going to eliminate the many ways voters are blocked from voting, whether through limits and requirements of voter registration, arbitrary elimination from the voter rolls by election officials, rigged drawing of district lines (gerrymandering), the blocking of the equal right to be elected, for third parties to register and run candidates and much more. U.S. elections have long been widely known to be neither free nor fair.

The focus on voting is also meant to divert from what Biden himself admits: the broad dissatisfaction worldwide with the failure and dysfunction of liberal democracy and its institutions.

At the Summit for Democracy, Biden recognized that the world is at a turning point. His response however is to deny its material basis and what it reveals and instead try as he might to unite the contending factions behind what he calls his Presidential Initiative. Biden said:

"My fellow leaders, members of civil society, activists, advocates, citizens: We stand at an inflection point in our history, in my view."

In mathematics, an inflection point is a point of a curve at which a change in the direction of curvature occurs. In business it is a time of significant change in a situation; a turning point. In life it refers to points where events and decisions take one in a different direction, altering the course of at least one aspect of one's life.

Biden said: "The choices we make, in my view, in the next -- in this moment are going to fundamentally determine the direction our world is going to take in the coming decades. Will we allow the backward slide of rights and democracy to continue unchecked? Or will we together -- together -- have a vision and the vision -- not just 'a' vision, 'the' vision -- and courage to once more lead the march of human progress and human freedom forward?"

"The vision," as he puts it, is one where "the march of human progress" is to be blocked by using his Presidential Initiative to institutionalize different organizational forms to attempt to maintain rule by the oligarchs in general and the U.S. imperialists in particular.

Harris also spoke to this turning point but in a different manner. She said: "I believe our world is at the start of a new era -- an era with new challenges, an era with new opportunities, an era that is defined by interconnection and interdependence. In this new era, I believe that democracy is our world's best hope not because it is perfect but because of its principles, because it delivers for the people. Democracy protects human rights and promotes human dignity. It is a means to create peace and prosperity."

It is as if the U.S. is not waging wars, has sorted out the problem of rising poverty, homelessness and attacks on human rights which are reaching new levels of genocide on several fronts. What such assertions serve to achieve is to highlight the crisis of credibility and legitimacy in which the U.S. democracy is mired. Making clear that her reference is to the defunct liberal democracies, Harris said, it is "of urgent concern that democracy is presently under threat and, for 15 years, has been on the decline."

Evidently, the broad mass movements in the U.S. for equality and rights and against the racist government and police killings are not considered part of democracy and nor are the demands of the countries which affirm their right to be and oppose foreign interference in their internal affairs. The rise of a people's democracy is to be averted at all costs. The broad and growing resistance of the working class, among Indigenous peoples, immigrants and refugees, farmers and youth are also not to be permitted because they are described as part of the decline of the democracy. Both the battle for democracy and the battle of democracy are nonetheless the order of the day in which both the quality and the structure of democracy so that it is to the people's advantage is emerging ever more clearly.

Workers shut down the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, March 5, 2021, demanding  recognition of their rights and of their critical role in keeping people safe.

This dismissal of the people is further evident in Harris' closing remarks, where she echoes Biden's many statements saying "democracy is the government." She says, "As we go forward, let us do the work that democracy requires. Let us go to work, let us deliver together for the people."

The separation between the people, those governed, and those governing is evident. Those governing, constitute the "we" and the "let us" as in "Let us deliver together for the people," refers to the government.

The issue on the minds of millions worldwide when it comes to democracy is not to defend the likes of Biden or Trudeau or their rivals for power or any of their counterparts in other countries. They are acutely aware of who decides all matters of concern when it comes to questions related to the economy and all that entails, war and peace, politics, culture and the very fate of the natural and social environment. It is the people who pay the price for this retrogression and they are heeding the call of the times to Make Way for Renewal.

In the face of the clash between concrete conditions and authority, the effort to stop the advance of democracy is to no avail which is what makes the current situation very dangerous at the hands of a warmongering ruling class. In Biden's concluding remarks at the Democracy Summit, he thanked everyone for "renewing our dedication to the shared values that are the root of our national and international strength." It is precisely these pro-war, anti-social values that the ruling elite has trouble promoting and justifying because they do not accord with the conditions and are being rejected, along with the institutions that uphold them. Again focusing on voting and the values of the rich, Biden said:

"We're affirming the democratic values that are at the heart of our international system and which have been the foundational elements of -- for decades -- of global growth and prosperity."

The other shoe then dropped when he affirmed the U.S. role of deciding who is and is not upholding the values. "We're committed to working with all who share those values to shape the rules of the road that are going to govern our progress in the 21st century," Biden said.

These are the values that are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and others like it based on the same Covenant Thesis which creates a fictitious person of state which allegedly stands above the fray and can sort everything out if you follow the rules of the road.

(Photos: J. Noor, B. Lander)

This article was published in

Volume 52 Number 1 - January 9, 2022

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