“We have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election. Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.”
— Statement of Concern: The Threats to American Democracy and the Need for National Voting and Election Administration Standards
On June 1, 2021, more than 100 notable American scholars of history, political science, government and communications — including Thomas E. Mann, Norm Ornstein and Laurence H. Tribe — issued a Statement of Concern, decrying the actions of Republican lawmakers across the nation usurping power to change elections if Democrats win.
They’re doing this, the scholars argue, through restricting mail-in and early voting methods as well as imposing fines and criminal sentences designed to “intimidate and scare away” poll workers and others, among other measures. Such actions, the scholars warn, “call into question whether the United States will remain a democracy.”
Nine months after the statement was published, the situation is even worse.
So what's at stake?
What’s at stake are not only the radical rollback across various states of voting rights, but a host of other freedoms that Americans being attacked, including rights for women, the LGBTQ community and immigrants and people of color, among others. Consider these actions:
Republican state lawmakers have filed nearly 200 bills to curb protections for transgender and gay youth or restrain discussion of LGBTQ issues in public schools.
In 2022, 40 states introduced 531 anti-abortion restrictions. Last year, states passed more than 100 laws restricting abortion, the most since the high court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973.
At least 561 state bills restricting voter access or election administration have been introduced this legislative session.
Last fall, there were at least 330 challenges to books on library shelves.
State lawmakers aren’t the only ones seeking to destroy rights. The “conservative supermajority” on the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade — which has guaranteed federal protection for nearly 50 years — in months.
And don’t forget that senators voted to acquit the twice-impeached Trump for his role in the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection as well as trying to withhold millions of dollars in aide to Ukraine in exchange for dirt on now President Joe Biden.
'Democracy is a task'
Trump’s culpability in the insurrection is so clear that U.S. District Judge David Carter in a recent case for the House select committee investigating it ruled that Trump and conservative attorney John Chapman “launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history. Their campaign was not confined to the ivory tower — it was a coup in search of a legal theory. The plan spurred violent attacks on the seat of our nation's government, led to the deaths of several law enforcement officers, and deepened public distrust in our political process."
Biden’s election nearly 18 months ago and Democratic control of the House and Senate didn’t end the Republican assault on all our rights and freedoms. The GOP’s assault on societal norms, rights and the Constitution itself has only deepened.
In a New York Times opinion piece Jan. 22, 2022, constitutional law expert Jedediah Britton-Purdy wrote that “democracy is a task, not a birthright.”
“Aristotle called democracy ‘the rule of the poor,’ and he was onto something,” wrote Britton-Purdy. “Democracy, when it works, puts the ultimate political power in the hands of the people who work, worry and wish they could promise their loved ones more than they can. It gives us back a bit of our world.”