An American in Des Moines like a Parisian in Paris can hardly be faulted for fearing that America’s democracy is in crisis. Footage of the violence at the Capitol dominated the airwaves last week along with reports that a panicked House speaker appealed to U.S. military leaders to keep a president she believes to be unhinged away from the nuclear “button” just in case.
The nation has its problems but is not falling apart. The violence at the U.S. Capitol was serious but hardly amounted to the insurrection some claim. Nor did the president call for or incite the violence. If President Trump is responsible for what happened in Washington last week, then the organizers of last summer’s protests that tore apart our major cities as violent protesters within the crowds they called into being burned down police stations, federal buildings and terrorized major cities around the country.
It is a sad fact that a few violent radicals with their own twisted agendas can be found in most such protests with crowds of 100,000 or more. Their presence requires security but is not a reason to limit the First Amendment rights of law-abiding demonstrators. Few of the protesters took part in the assault on the Capitol; there are videos of other protesters trying to stop them.
While law enforcement should go after those who broke the law, those who terrorized our cities this summer were not prosecuted for the same sort of outrageous behavior. Many of the very politicians now demanding the resignation of the president and his congressional allies defended the most violent protesters who laid siege to major cities just a few months ago. Our incoming vice president raised money to bail out the most violent Antifa demonstrators — and encouraged them to keep protesting.
There is likely to be more violence with the nation so divided. Our incoming president pledged repeatedly during his campaign that his first job as president would be to reunite America. Since his election, he has tacked to the left and joined the attack on those who did not vote for him. That will continue as his allies weaponize reaction to last week’s protests to essentially shut up or shut down their political opponents.
It won’t work.
In the last 40 years, the Republican Party has been declared dead at least three times but keeps crawling out of its grave to win elections. To prevent that from happening again, progressive Democrats are determined this time to put a stake through its heart by changing the election laws, demonizing the party leadership and Republican voters themselves as the “deplorables” and racists Hillary Clinton labeled them in 2016.
But Democratic Party leaders know there were dangerous harbingers in the election results. Historically, the party holding the White House loses seats in the off-year contests and with the narrow margins in the new Senate and House both could end up in Republican hands in 2022. This is particularly true of the House as redistricting will alter the national political landscape in the GOP’s favor.
Significant demographic shifts from urban to more rural areas began before the pandemic. Democratic states like California, New Jersey and New York are losing populations to more Republican Florida, Tennessee, Texas and the Mountain states. The mainly Democratic seats these states will lose will be replaced by the Republican leaning seats that will replace them.
Knowing it was coming, Democrats launched a four-year effort following the 2016 elections led by former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder to win back governorships and “flip” the Republican-controlled state houses that play a key role in redistricting. $80 million and four years later, they lost another governorship, two state legislatures and more than 200 legislative seats nationwide.
The looming possibility that their majority is at risk will embolden House progressives to accomplish as much as possible while they can, exacerbating internal divisions within the House majority. Non-ideological members know that unless they are careful, they could lose their majority … and their seats … in just two years. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be in the middle; she does not have the reliable majority she had in the last Congress and whatever she passes will have to be sent to a Senate that is even more closely divided.
When his party took back the Senate by the narrowest of margins, New York’s Chuck Schumer bragged that his party will “change the world” and urged everyone to “fasten their seatbelts as it will be a wild ride.”
Wilder, perhaps, than he imagines.
• David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times.