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Participant seen holding a sign at the protest. Fair Elections for NY and New York organizations working on the Build Back Better package gathered at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, to urgently call on Senator Schumer, as the Majority Leader, to deliver on the host of critical issues facing our country, using every tool at his disposal to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the infrastructure bill and reconciliation package that make up the Build Back Better agenda. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Survival of Democracy Is Under Threat

Passing the "Freedom to Vote Act" is necessary for radically expanding economic and social democracy.

Peter Bloom

With all that is happening in the country and the world, it was perhaps all too easy to miss the ongoing battle for the future of US democracy. Republicans have opened up new racist offenses against voter rights and are once more pushing through corrupt gerrymandering to rig elections in their favor. They are also blocking the "Freedom to Vote Act" that would to curb systemic racist voter suppression through policies such as automatic registration at MVA, longer early voting, greater access to mail in ballots and fresh regulations for guaranteeing that people are not wrongly barred from voting and reducing partisan interference at the polls.

The battle for this Act represents so much more than the defense of our current democracy. It is the ongoing drive to radically expand the power of people over profits locally, nationally, and internationally.

It is no exaggeration to say that the very survival of liberal democracy is under threat. This Republic strategy is just the latest example of a long history of repressing democracy. From its beginning, the promise of popular rule in the US has been undermined by the power of racism, capitalism, and patriarchy. Further, so much of the nation's imperialism abroad and repression at home have been sanctioned by elected majorities.

The effort to stop these Republican assaults on democracy is an attempt to preserve the bare minimum of fairness in a system designed by and for elites. Fighting them is crucial for stemming the present spread of white power and corporate rule. Yet it is also necessary for radically expanding democracy in the future beyond its liberal limits.

Rigging Representation

The overriding aim of Republicans is to maintain power through rigging democracy. This desire is perhaps most blatant in its ongoing gerrymandering strategies. Again and again, they redraw district lines to ensure maximum Republican representation—regardless of the actual makeup of voters. This year the new census results have provided a once in a decade opportunity for many legislatures to redraw their electoral boundaries in ways that would maximize their partisan advantage. As one expert, recently lamented,

"Republicans have control of the process in many states this year. And so far, they're maximizing their advantage wherever they can. The new lines will likely help Republicans retake control of the US House next year."

To be fair, Democrats are also guilty of such legislative chicanery. Yet their push for the "Freedom to Vote Act" shows their desire to at least reign in these duplicitous practices. According to a report by the Brennan Centre:

"If passed by Congress, the legislation would put in place the most transformative changes to the redistricting process in the country's history, including banning partisan gerrymandering, strengthening other protections for communities of color, and making it easier for voters to get bad maps quickly struck down in court."

The importance of passing this Act, though, goes far beyond partisan politics. Gerrymandering and voter suppression laws are the last gasp to democratically protect a racist corporate status quo. The biggest fear of elites is to encourage all non-whites and working class voters the chance to either cast a ballot against this racist political establishment or elect representatives who would actually challenge it once in power.

Expanding Corporate Democracy

Republicans and the corporate interests backing them are ironically and tragically trying to use democracy against itself. They are seeking to justify their racist hyper-capitalist through pretending it is supported by a majority of voters. It is a false perception that their regressive views are actually representative of the desires of US citizens overall.

The ultimate goal is to not just maintain but expand this racist capitalist oligarchy. The suppression and rigging of democracy at the ballot box is linked to the broader repression of democracy within the economic and social spheres. Rightwing political control is needed to push through an anti-worker and anti-civil rights agenda to combat calls for bottom up change against a free market system that has rapidly increased inequality, incarceration, and imperialism. Just this year Amazon used fundamentally "broken" anti-worker labour laws to defeat a vote by warehouse employees in Alabama to unionize.

As these crises of racial capitalism only become more acute, so too will the need to use whatever reactionary democrat means necessary to fight its resistance. Gerrymandering, far-Right populist recalls of progressive politicians, and denying historically marginalized populations their basic voting rights, have and will be deployed by elites to decrease the democratic power of unions, growing demands to defund the police, and calls to end the overthrowing and undermining of democracy around the world by the US military.

Threatening the Future of Democracy

There is a less publicized but still serious danger to democracy posed by the current battle for the passage of the "Freedom to Vote Act". It is to restrict the struggle for democracy to the narrow limits of Liberalism. If Republicans want to actively restrict democracy to expand the power of white privilege and corporate oligarchy, status quo Democrats too often want to stop at simply preserving basic voting rights.

Instead, this should be the first step in the progressive spread of democracy beyond traditional politics. It means promoting the democratic control of workplaces and community democracy initiatives such as participatory budgeting. It also entails providing global solidarity and real support for radical democratic movements challenging corporate power internationally.

The battle for this Act represents so much more than the defense of our current democracy. It is the ongoing drive to radically expand the power of people over profits locally, nationally, and internationally. The very future of progressive democracy is under threat.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Peter Bloom

Peter Bloom

Peter Bloom is a Professor at the University of Essex in the UK. His books include “Authoritarian Capitalism in the Age of Globalization” (2016), “The CEO Society”, and most recently “Guerrilla Democracy: Mobile Power and Revolution in the 21st Century.”

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