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Democracy itself is at stake
Elwood Watson
Elwood Watson

“Democracy will be on trial in 2024.” That is one of the many startling revelations provided by Atlantic staff writer Barton Gellman in his new piece, “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun.”

Gellman provides an extremely detailed analysis of how Donald Trump and the right-wing apparatus used the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as a form of scrimmage to place further designs on grabbing and securing power in the near future.

To say it is an alarming and timely piece is to put it mildly. Just this week, we learned that Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, was pressured by Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Brian Kilmeade, and Laura Ingraham to urge Trump to issue a statement calling for the rioters to cease their anarchic behavior. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr,. was also among those privately pushing Meadows to force the president into action as the Capitol was being sacked.

There is no doubt we are residing in very unsettling times. Jan. 6 has quickly joined Dec. 7, 1941, Sept. 11, 2001, and a few other dark days for our nation’s history, and will certainly reside in the tragic, horrific dustbin of infamy. The political atmosphere, while never totally serene, has become increasingly more frantic with searingly abrasive debates occurring at all levels of government.

Through it all, Republicans have continued to downplay the importance of the riots at the Capitol and the culpability of those who participated. Georgia Rep. Andrew S. Clyde referred to the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol as “tourists,” while potential Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy denounced the members who make up the Jan. 6th panel as a “sham committee”.

Republican Matt Gaetz, (who has his own problems to contend with) arrogantly stated at a Dec. 6 press conference, “We are going to take power after this next election and when we do, it’s not going to be the days of Paul Ryan and Trey Gowdy and no real oversight and no real subpoenas,” highlighting the District of Columbia’s jail conditions for accused U.S. Capitol rioters. “It’s going to be the days of Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Dr. Gosar and myself doing everything.”

Ever too eager to pacify their politically unhinged base with rancid, sour political rhetoric, certain right-wing pundits such as Ingraham, Greg Kelly, and Megyn Kelly, have referred to members of the capital police who testified before the select committee as “crisis actors’’, “dishonest,” and “delusional.” Kurt Schlichter, a senior columnist for, called Officer Harry Dunn a “lying sack.”

Mark Twain once stated that “history does not exactly repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” There are a lot of eerily striking parallels between today and what occurred in our nation during the 1850s. Talk of secession. The Know Nothing Party. Rabid social and cultural distention. Indeed, the Republican Party of 2021 is tragically similar to the Democratic Party of the 1850s. Callous, arrogant, confrontational and prone to violence.

Back then, the primary issue of the era was slavery. Today, the dissension is divided across several issues, including immigration, race, abortion, sexuality, free speech, and religious freedom.

The current Republican Party has become so rapacious, barbarous and amoral in its blind thirst for power, they seem determined to attack and, if possible, overturn any election outcomes or social movements that are not conducive to their agenda. We have already seen the GOP engage in this sort of undemocratic activity with voter suppression and the duplicative election laws they have enacted.

Truth be told, Republicans made the decision decades ago to never alter their tactics in an effort to win over the votes of an ever-increasing non-white, racially diverse, left-leaning populace. Rather, they have decided to repress all entities whose ideology does not square with theirs.

The acrimonious rhetoric of the far right betrays the undeniable truth that they are terrified and aware that their stronghold on the current state of affairs will erode if they are unable to manipulate the laws and future elections. Thus, they are attempting to establish a form of minority rule. As President Biden and others have stated, such retrograde antics are a form of “Jim Crow 2.”

The present climate is filled with ample amounts of fear, resistance and anxiety. Things are tense to be sure. Such a situation certainly does not bode well for the immediate future.

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.