As Trump’s Big Lie festers among the Republican Party and political norms continue to erode, we at The New Republic are pretty concerned about the future of small “d” democracy, both in the U.S. and abroad. So we’ve started a series we’ve termed Democracy Watch, wherein we will regularly survey experts, writers, and generally interesting thinkers on a specific question about the state of democracy and what keeps them up at night.
This month’s question: It’s been a year since the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. How worried are you that political violence will increase ahead of the 2024 presidential election?
Barbara F. Walter
Author, How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them
The U.S. has both factors that increase the risk of civil war: a partial democracy and one whose citizens are engaging in racial politics. Every year that the U.S. refuses to strengthen its democracy, and the Republican Party refuses to widen its appeal beyond white Americans, increases our risk of political violence. And these have both only gotten worse since January 6.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt
CEO, Anti-Defamation League, and author of It Could Happen Here: Why America Is Tipping From Hate to the Unthinkable—And How We Can Stop It
I’m extremely concerned about the prospect for increased hate and political violence in 2024. Since the January 6 insurrection there’s been a dangerous mix of conspiracy theories about the election that are spreading across mainstream outlets and social media. This dangerous feedback loop of falsehoods has created a highly combustible environment that could be deadly.
Executive director, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law
Recent polling shows that an alarming number of Americans believe violence may be necessary to “save” the country. The shameful efforts of elected officials and others in positions of power to normalize election denial is like fuel to the fire, increasing the perception that political violence is an acceptable option.
Political scientist, Georgia State University
I am very worried that intimidation and physical violence against election workers will increase, given new legislation criminalizing common election activity and persistent belief in the Big Lie. The growth of militias, hate groups, and the presence of active and former law enforcement officers in them, could result in more violent acts. Meanwhile, Republican leaders fail to denounce fellow elected officials who glamorize violence.
Author of Homegrown Hate: Why White Nationalists and Militant Islamists Are Waging War Against the United States, equity consultant, and holistic justice activist
Very. Political violence perpetrated by white nationalists also includes disinformation, voter suppression, ableism, misogyny, transphobia, racism, and discrimination against many religious beliefs. Such harms are inflicted through public policy at all levels of government and through media outlets. No matter the outcome of the 2024 presidential election, the casualties of these continued assaults will be trust in democratic institutions, systemic equity, and Americans’ recognition of each other’s humanity.
This article appeared in the March 2022 print edition with the headline “Democracy Watch.”