Never before have threats to US democracy been so grave, says political scientist

Never before have threats to US democracy been so grave, says political scientist

By
Elizabeth Ross

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US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible as he stands in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House after walking there for a photo opportunity during ongoing protests over racial inequality in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, at the White House in Washington, DC, June 1, 2020.

Credit:

Tom Brenner/Reuters

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Tensions over race may seem at an all-time high, following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who perished while in police custody in Minneapolis. But what makes this moment of national unrest especially significant, in a country with a long history of racial division, is that racism has become a threat to our democracy, according to scholars such as Suzanne Mettler, a professor of government at Cornell University.  

It has “been like this underground stream through all of American history. It’s always there, kind of waiting to be tapped, and sometimes it comes to the surface more than others,” explained Mettler. 

In this instance, racial conflict has been layered on top of an already deeply-polarized political system, “with one side insisting upon law and order … and the other side saying we need racial equality in the United States and police brutality is a huge problem and it’s against what the United States is supposed to stand for,” said Mettler. 

Related: Systems of oppression in health care long made ‘invisible,’ Harvard prof says

She believes the way US President Donald Trump has used racial divisions for political gain, is similar to a period in the 1890s when the Democratic Party — with the support of white supremacists — tried to dominate the political scene in the South. In the mixed-race community of Wilmington, North Carolina, the results were far from pretty. There was rampant voter fraud followed by a coup d’état and a massacre on November 10, 1898.

The true story of the massacre was not told in student history books, according to David Zucchino, the author of  “Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy.” He went to high school and college in North Carolina but never heard about the tragic events in Wilmington until the hundredth anniversary of the coup.

The story is of great interest to Mettler, who has also written about it, because of the way in which democracy was curtailed in Wilmington — much as it had been in the 1790s and in the lead up to the Civil War, during the Great Depression, during Watergate and now, she explained.

Mettler, the co-author with Robert Lieberman of Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy, has identified four issues that have historically undermined American democracy. For the first time in US history, all four factors: expansive presidential power, political polarization, rising economic inequality and racism or nativism, are at play at the same time, the authors claim.

Related: The slow burn of a long-term slowdown

While the threats are not new, they are convinced that their confluence under Trump has led to the weakening of the very necessary checks and balances built into our political system. The pillars of American democracy, including the rule of law, the legitimacy of opposition and free and fair elections, are under attack now like never before, Mettler explained. 

She is especially concerned about the forthcoming presidential election because of the added crisis of the coronavirus pandemic. “There’s just a lot more opportunity for politicians to then play with electoral rules and procedures in ways that could help them to gain advantage,” Mettler said.

The political scientist fears there could be hotly contested results in November and even violence. If Trump is re-elected, Mettler predicts damage to the integrity of civil rights and liberties and potentially the emergence of a so-called “competitive authoritarian regime” which only bears the “outer look of democracy.”

The fate of the country’s future has also been on the mind of presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden who — in a recent speech in Philadelphia in which he criticized the president for his response to the protests against police brutality — condemned him for “sweeping away all the guardrails that have long protected our democracy.”

At the same time, Biden tried to offer hope by recalling how, during some of the darkest moments of despair in US history, the nation has made some of the greatest progress. Still, it may be a while before we can see what progress, if any, comes from this difficult moment.

Elizabeth Ross is the senior producer of Innovation Hub. Follow her on Twitter: @eross6

N.E.R.D – Don’t Don’t Do It (Demo) lyrics

(feat. Kendrick Lamar & Frank Ocean)

[Intro: Frank Ocean]
It makes no difference in this life
Up and ups just fine
On the up and up this life
Til’ we’re down on our luck
It makes no difference in this life
Up and ups just fine (oh, you scared?)
On the up and up this life
Til’ the lift gets stuck (you scared of?)
Lifting up, lifting up
Lifting up
Coming down, coming down
Coming down (I don’t mind)
Make ’em look, make ’em look
To the sound

[Chorus: Pharrell Williams]
They tell you pull over, tell you get out the car
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
They wanna see your hands, tell you hold up your arms (Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it

[Verse 1: Pharrell Williams]
We were going home
Waiting for the kids
School bus to arrive
Oh, but you know, they’re gonna do it anyway
Reaching for your keys
Wait, is that your phone?
Got a TBI
Wait, is that police?
Get out for what?
I’m not your guy
(But you know, they’re gonna do it anyway)
Wife behind the trees
Tryna to tell you don’t
They’re about to fire
(They’re gonna do it anyway)

[Refrain: Pharrell Williams]
They’re gonna do it anyway
They’re gonna do it anyway
They’re gonna do it anyway
They’re gonna do it anyway

[Chorus: Pharrell Williams]
They tell you pull over, tell you get out the car
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
They wanna see your hands, tell you hold up you arms
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it

[Verse 2: Pharrell Williams]
Whoa Ferguson, oh Baltimore
Raleigh, North Carolina
But you know, they’re gonna do it anyway
Wisconsin, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Cleveland, Ohio
Montgomery, Baton Rouge, Cincinnati car
Dayton, Ohio
But you know, they’re gonna do it anyway
New York, New Jersey, Phoenix, Minnesota
South Carolina
They gonna do it anyway

[Refrain: Pharrell Williams]
They are gonna do it anyway
They are gonna do it anyway
They are gonna do it anyway
They are gonna do it anyway

[Verse 3: Kendrick Lamar]
You better duck, run fast from the mania
Don’t stare, don’t laugh at the media
Brake free, press gas when it enter ya’
Don’t let it go bad when he ante up
Highway, get out the way
Black man do your great escape
Pac-man wanna prosecute you
Raise your hand up, and they’ll shoot ya’
Face off, face off Adolf Hitler
Grandkids slayed off
Niggas, same rules, same chalk
Different decade, same law
Keep focus, you wanna get caught with your eyes open
You wanna stay clear of the prognosis
Pride provoked him, watch demotion
Watch em’ close enough
Don’t let the holster break or roast ya’
Rollercoaster ride that bitch
Soon or later sides gon’ switch
You know Johnny got that itch
How many more of us gotta see the coroner?
Slain by the same badge, stop, wait, brake, fast!

[Chorus: Pharrell Williams]
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it

N.E.R.D – Don’t Don’t Do It! lyrics

(feat. Kendrick Lamar)

[Intro: Pharrell Williams]
It makes no difference in this life
Up and ups just fine
Gonna up and up this life
Til’ we’re down on our luck
It makes no difference in this life
Up and ups just fine
Gonna up and up this life
Til’ the lift gets stuck
Lifting up, lifting up
Lifting up
Coming down, coming down
Coming down
Wake them up, wake them up
To the sound

[Chorus: Pharrell Williams]
They tell you pull over, tell you get out the car
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
They wanna see your hands, tell you hold up your arms (Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it

[Verse 1: Pharrell Williams]
We were going home
Waiting for the kids
School bus to arrive
Oh, but you know, they’re gonna do it anyway
Reaching for your keys
Wait, is that your phone?
Got a TBI
Wait, is that police?
Get out for what?
I’m not your guy
(But you know, they’re gonna do it anyway)
Wife behind the trees
Tryna to tell you don’t
They’re about to fire
(They’re gonna do it anyway)

[Refrain: Pharrell Williams]
They’re gonna do it anyway
They’re gonna do it anyway
They’re gonna do it anyway
They’re gonna do it anyway

[Chorus: Pharrell Williams]
They tell you pull over, tell you get out the car
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
They wanna see your hands, tell you hold up you arms
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
(Something says)
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it

[Verse 2: Pharrell Williams]
Whoa Ferguson, oh Baltimore
Raleigh, North Carolina
But you know, they’re gonna do it anyway
Wisconsin, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Cleveland, Ohio
Montgomery, Baton Rouge, Cincinnati car
Dayton, Ohio
But you know, they’re gonna do it anyway
New York, New Jersey, Phoenix, Minnesota
South Carolina
They gonna do it anyway

[Refrain: Pharrell Williams]
They are gonna do it anyway
They are gonna do it anyway
They are gonna do it anyway
They are gonna do it anyway

[Verse 3: Kendrick Lamar]
You better duck, run fast from the mania
Don’t stare, don’t laugh at the media
Brake free, press gas when it enter ya’
Don’t let it go bad when he ante up
Highway, get out the way
Black man do your great escape
Pac-man wanna prosecute you
Raise your hand up, and they’ll shoot ya’
Face off, face off Adolf Hitler
Grandkids slayed off
Niggas, same rules, same chalk
Different decade, same law
Keep focus, you wanna get caught with your eyes open
You wanna stay clear of the prognosis
Pride provoked him, watch demotion
Watch em’ close enough
Don’t let the holster break or roast ya’
Rollercoaster ride that bitch
Soon or later sides gon’ switch
You know Johnny got that itch
How many more of us gotta see the coroner?
Slain by the same badge, stop, wait, brake, fast!

[Chorus: Pharrell Williams]
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it
Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it

Bugsy Malone – My Name Is Talulah lyrics

Tallulah:
The name is tallulah
My first rule of thumb
I don’t say were I’m going
Or where I’m coming from
I try to leave a little reputation behind me
So if you really need to
You’ll know how to find me

My name is tallulah
I live till I die
I’ll take what you give me
And I won’t ask why
I made a lot of friends
In some exotic places
I don’t remember names
But I remember faces

chorus girls:
Lonelyyyy

Tallulah:
You don’t have to be lonely
Come and see Tallulah
We can chase your troubles away (ohhh)
If your lonely
You don’t have to be lonely
When they talk about Tallulah
You know what they say
Know one south of heaven’s gonna treat you finer
Tallulah had her training in North Carolina

My name is tallulah
And soon I’ll be gone
An open invatation is, the road I’ll travel on
I never say goodbye because the words upset me
You may forgive my going
But you won’t forget me

chorus girls:
Lonelyyyy

Tallulah:
You don’t have to be lonely
Come and see Tallulah
We can chase your troubles away (ohhh)
If your lonely
You don’t have to be lonely
When they talk about Tallulah
You know what they say
Know one south of heaven’s gonna treat you finer
Tallulah had her training in North Carolina

Dave East – It Was Written

[Intro]
Six million ways to die
(Took a lot to get this Rollie nigga)
Six million ways to get rich
(Huh, hah)

[Verse 1]
Everybody keep telling me "make a club record"
You ain’t trapping no more, stop making drug records
You got a daughter bout to come, stop making thug records
I brought that money back fast, I had the plug flexing
Welcome to Harlem, el Barrio, that’s the drug section
Hit your bitch with my jeans on, ain’t making love naked
I got love for my loco but I know cuz reckless
I ain’t gotta sleep in the projects, I did enough stressing
My father was a rolling stone but taught me one lesson
Do your dirt by yourself, your friends be the ones telling
I knew it broke my mother’s heart to know her son selling
I had coke in my dresser, trifling as ever
I had a dream Biggie featured me on Life After
I be with my same niggas, I don’t really like rappers
Niggas can’t make a song for nothing but they nice actors
Go and get a movie role, low bagging up tuna rolls, raw shit
I come from a block where you seen it but never saw shit
I be at the juice bar, my wheat grass and bark shit
My younging just came from up north, he want to park shit
Tryna teach him something bout life and how we started
Lower class poverty, homies from jail calling me
Playing the number everyday but never hit the lottery
Liquor store on every corner, might as well get drunk
I remember that free lunch wasn’t shooting, we would jump stones
Niggas like the end of the blunt, traps load up
I told papi I got him by the end of the month
I was thinking bout 550’s with the cinnamon guts
These shots’ll blow your mind away, now your memory dust
And memory of, I got a JF Kennedy buzz
Presidential called enterprise, I need another rental
Tryna take a package down to North Carolina
Maybe buy some Ferragamo, I’m so focused on the commas

[Hook]
If you never been broke it’s gon’ be hard to feel me
Only Allah get my flow, it’s gon’ be hard to kill me
They say practice make perfect, we at it every day
Thinking about that consignment, sometimes I never paid
It was written I’m gifted, homie come learn something
Conversations bout paper homie, let’s burn something
It was written I’m gifted, homie come learn something
Conversations bout paper homie, let’s burn something

[Verse 2]
It’s hard to stop what’s already in motion
I ain’t gotta hit your blunt, I’ve already been smoking
G Star denims on my Shmurda shit
In ’08 my mental was really on some murder shit
Cause nothing was working out
Just to pass the time started working out
Me and my nigga Jay Black from way back
He a Bronx nigga, met him in Queens
Butch crib, met up with fiends
Imagine Nas signed you, hell of a dream
Somebody pinch me
Promise nothing they say ever getting to me
Used to watch House Party, not kidding play listen to me
This that talk that make the hustlers want to open shop
This that stash house talk, don’t let ’em know the spot
This that talk that got my city wanting to rap again
This that all black everything like an African
This that middle of the summer in a trench coat
Glock 19 reminding them of how you been broke

[Hook]
If you never been broke it’s gon’ be hard to feel me
Only Allah get my flow, it’s gon’ be hard to kill me
They say practice make perfect, we at it every day
Thinking about that consignment, sometimes I never paid
It was written I’m gifted, homie come learn something
Conversations bout paper homie, let’s burn something
It was written I’m gifted, homie come learn something
Conversations bout paper homie, let’s burn something

[Outro]
I talked my way right up out the projects nigga
Put your mind to it, anything is possible haha
From a hole in the wall, yeah
Now we in the presidential suite man
Top floor, flower for your bust nigga
Harlem, yeah