A broken scale of justice lying on a damaged U.S. Constitution, symbolizing the increasing threats to women's rights, health rights, and democracy in contemporary society.
A broken scale of justice lying on a damaged U.S. Constitution, symbolizing the increasing threats to women's rights, health rights, and democracy in contemporary society.

Article Summary:
As the 2024 election approaches, the stakes are higher than ever, with immediate threats to American democracy and women's rights. This comprehensive analysis delves into the erosion of democratic norms, the assault on voting rights, and the impact of recent Supreme Court decisions, including the Chevron doctrine's overturning. The article also explores the rise of authoritarianism within the political landscape and its implications for economic inequality and public health. By understanding these challenges, readers can better grasp the urgency of the upcoming election and the importance of taking action to protect democratic principles and women's rights.

article break

As we approach the 2024 election, our nation stands at a critical juncture. This isn't just another election cycle; it may well be the most consequential vote in our lifetime, with the very fabric of American democracy hanging in the balance. Our threats are not theoretical or distant – they are immediate, tangible, and potentially devastating to the republic our founders envisioned.

The Erosion of Democratic Norms

The assault on our democratic institutions didn't begin overnight. It's been a slow, insidious process traced back to the Powell Memo 1971. It laid a blueprint for corporate America to significantly influence politics, law, and education in the decades since we've witnessed a gradual but relentless erosion of the guardrails that protect our democracy. Today, this erosion has accelerated to an alarming degree. A stark example is the recent Supreme Court decision granting sweeping immunity to the president for official acts. This ruling, decried by constitutional scholars and even dissenting justices, potentially shields a president from accountability for actions that could include the persecution of political opponents. It's a step toward unchecked executive power that our founders explicitly sought to prevent.

But the threat doesn't stop at the highest levels of government. Across the country, we're seeing a coordinated effort to undermine the very foundations of our democratic process.

innerself subscribe graphic

The Assault on Voting Rights

One of the most pressing threats to our democracy is the ongoing assault on voting rights. Since the 2020 election, numerous states have passed laws making voting more difficult. These laws disproportionately affect marginalized communities, including people of color, older people, and those with disabilities. For example, in Georgia, the Election Integrity Act of 2021 imposed new identification requirements for absentee voting, limited the use of ballot drop boxes, and made it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water. In Texas, Senate Bill 1 banned 24-hour and drive-thru voting, which had been used successfully in Harris County to increase voter turnout. These are not isolated incidents but part of a broader strategy to suppress voter turnout and manipulate the electoral process. The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, and any attempt to restrict this right directly threatens the principle of government by the people.

Curtailing the Power of Federal Agencies

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court recently struck down the Chevron doctrine, a ruling that significantly curtails the power of federal agencies. The Chevron doctrine, established in 1984, allowed federal agencies to interpret ambiguous laws as long as their interpretations were reasonable. This principle provided agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the flexibility to implement and enforce regulations essential for public health, safety, and the environment.

The recent decision to overturn this doctrine represents a seismic shift in administrative law and has far-reaching implications for regulatory oversight across the United States. Critics argue that this move is a libertarian dream aimed at dismantling the federal government's ability to regulate industries effectively. By removing the deference that courts previously gave to agencies' expertise, the ruling opens the door for increased judicial interference in regulatory matters, which can lead to inconsistent and fragmented enforcement of laws.

Diminished Regulatory Oversight: The primary impact of this decision is the potential for diminished regulatory oversight. Agencies will face greater challenges in implementing regulations, as their interpretations of laws will no longer be given the same deference by the courts. This change could hinder the government's ability to address complex issues like environmental protection, workplace safety, and public health efficiently.

Unequal Outcomes: Without the Chevron doctrine, regulatory enforcement may become more uneven across different jurisdictions. Courts with varying interpretations of the same law could lead to a patchwork of regulations, creating uncertainty for businesses and individuals. This inconsistency can result in unequal outcomes, with some states or regions benefiting from robust protections while others may suffer from lax enforcement.

Increased Litigation: The ruling is likely to spur a wave of litigation as industries and interest groups challenge federal regulations more aggressively. By shifting the power to interpret laws from agencies to the judiciary, businesses may seek to exploit this uncertainty to weaken regulations they find burdensome. This increased legal activity could clog the courts and delay the implementation of crucial protections.

Impact on Public Health and Safety: Federal agencies like the EPA and FDA have historically played critical roles in safeguarding public health and safety. The Chevron doctrine provided these agencies the necessary leeway to enact and enforce regulations based on scientific expertise. The removal of this deference may compromise the agencies' ability to respond swiftly and effectively to emerging threats, such as environmental disasters, food safety issues, and public health crises.

For libertarians and proponents of limited government, the Supreme Court's decision is seen as a victory. They argue that reducing the power of federal agencies will decrease bureaucratic overreach and foster greater individual and corporate freedom. However, this perspective overlooks the essential role that regulatory oversight plays in maintaining a fair and just society. Without strong federal regulations, there is a risk that powerful interests will dominate, leading to greater inequality and harm to vulnerable populations.

The Rise of Authoritarianism

handmaid tale 7 5
A group of women dressed as Handmaids from The Handmaid's Tale, symbolizing the increasing threats to women's rights and autonomy in contemporary society, including the rollback of women's health rights and reproductive freedoms.

The most alarming trend we're witnessing is the rise of authoritarian tendencies within our political system. We've seen leaders who admire authoritarian figures abroad attempt to delegitimize the electoral process and use political power for personal gain. The January 6, 2021, events are a stark reminder of how fragile our democratic institutions can be when faced with authoritarian forces. The attempt to overturn a free and fair election based on unfounded claims of fraud was an unprecedented attack on the peaceful transfer of power – a hallmark of American democracy since its inception.

The widening gap between the rich and the poor in America isn't just an economic issue – it's a democratic one. When wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of a few, so does political power. This creates a feedback loop where those with means can influence policy to entrench their position further. At the same time, the majority of Americans find themselves increasingly disenfranchised. The statistics are staggering. According to the Federal Reserve, the top 1% of Americans hold 32.3% of the country's wealth, while the bottom 50% hold just 2.6%. This level of inequality breeds disillusionment with the democratic process. It makes people susceptible to populist appeals that often mask authoritarian agendas.

The Republican Party and the Threat to Democracy

At the heart of the current crisis lies the modern Republican Party, which has increasingly embraced anti-democratic tactics and policies. This is not a typical partisan disagreement but a fundamental shift from core democratic principles. The Republican Party's actions in recent years amount to a slow-motion coup attempt:

  • Voter Suppression: Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed numerous laws making it harder to vote, mainly targeting communities that tend to vote Democratic.
  • Election Denialism: Despite no evidence of widespread fraud, many Republican leaders continue to question the legitimacy of the 2020 election, undermining faith in our democratic processes.
  • January 6th Insurrection: The attack on the Capitol was incited by Republican leadership and downplayed by many in the party afterward.
  • Gerrymandering: Republican-led redistricting efforts have created heavily skewed electoral maps, diluting the power of voters.
  • Supreme Court Manipulation: The Republican-controlled Senate's blocking of Merrick Garland's nomination and the rushed confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett exemplify the party's willingness to bend power rules.
  • Embracing Authoritarianism: Many Republican leaders have admired authoritarian figures and tactics, both domestic and foreign.

This is not the Republican Party of decades past. It has transformed into an entity prioritizing power over democratic principles, much like the Whigs and Federalists before their eventual collapse and replacement.

The Path Forward

For the sake of American democracy, the current incarnation of the Republican Party must be decisively rejected at the ballot box. This is not about policy disagreements but preserving the system that allows for fair political contest. Only through a resounding electoral defeat can we hope to see the emergence of a new conservative party that respects democratic norms, accepts the results of free and fair elections, and engages in good-faith governance rather than obstructionism and power grabs.

The 2024 election offers a crucial opportunity to repudiate these anti-democratic forces and pave the way for a healthier political landscape. By turning out in unprecedented numbers, we can send a clear message that attacks on our democratic institutions will not be tolerated. It's important to note that this isn't about creating a one-party system. A robust democracy needs multiple parties with different viewpoints. However, it requires that all parties operate within the bounds of democratic norms and the rule of law. By decisively rejecting the current Republican Party, we create space for a new conservative movement to emerge - one that can engage in legitimate policy debates without threatening the foundations of our republic.

Given these threats, the 2024 election takes on monumental importance. It's not an exaggeration to say that the future of American democracy may hinge on its outcome. But this isn't cause for despair – it's a call to action. We've seen the power of democratic mobilization in recent history. In the U.K., we witnessed a seismic shift as Labour secured a historic victory, reminiscent of their 1997 landslide. This demonstrates that transformative change is possible when people recognize the gravity of the moment and turn out to vote.

What You Can Do

The preservation of our democracy isn't the responsibility of politicians or judges alone – it's up to each and every one of us. Here are concrete steps you can take to make a difference:

  • Check your voter registration status now, and make sure it's up to date. Visit vote.gov to get started.
  • Help others register to vote. Organize registration drives in your community or help friends and family navigate the process.
  • Stay informed about voting laws in your state. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to exercising your rights.
  • Volunteer for get-out-the-vote efforts. Organizations often need help with voter education and mobilization.
  • Spread awareness about the importance of this election by sharing credible information on social media and in your community about the issues at stake and the voting process.
  • Consider becoming a poll worker. Many jurisdictions face shortages, and this is a crucial way to support the democratic process.
  • Donate to organizations fighting for voting rights and election integrity if you're able.

Remember, these actions aren't just about supporting a particular party or candidate. They're about safeguarding the democratic principles that have guided our nation for nearly 250 years.

The Broader Context: Climate Change and Global Democracy

While our focus must be on the immediate threat to American democracy, it's essential to recognize that this struggle is part of a global context. Climate change, for instance, poses an existential threat to our way of life and human civilization as we know it. The failure to address this crisis is a failure of democratic governance, as short-term interests are prioritized over the planet's long-term well-being and its inhabitants. Moreover, the rise of authoritarianism isn't unique to the United States. From Hungary to Brazil, we've seen democratic backsliding in nations worldwide. The outcome of the 2024 U.S. election will have repercussions far beyond our borders, potentially influencing the global trajectory of democracy.

I remember Benjamin Franklin's famous words as we approach this critical juncture in our nation's history. When asked what kind of government the Constitutional Convention had created, he replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." Those words echo through time, reminding us that democracy is not a spectator sport. It requires active, engaged citizens willing to stand up for their rights and the rights of others.

The challenges we face are significant, but they are not insurmountable. Throughout history, the American people have risen to meet moments of crisis with courage, determination, and an unwavering commitment to democratic ideals. Now, it's our turn. The 2024 election offers us a chance to reaffirm our commitment to democracy, to reject authoritarianism in all its forms, and to build a more just and equitable society for all Americans.

The power to shape the future of our nation lies in our hands. Will we allow the erosion of our democratic norms to continue unchecked? Or will we stand up, make our voices heard, and fight for the republic we believe in?

The choice is ours. The time to act is now. Our democracy depends on it.

About the Author

jenningsRobert Jennings is co-publisher of InnerSelf.com with his wife Marie T Russell. He attended the University of Florida, Southern Technical Institute, and the University of Central Florida with studies in real estate, urban development, finance, architectural engineering, and elementary education. He was a member of the US Marine Corps and The US Army having commanded a field artillery battery in Germany. He worked in real estate finance, construction and development for 25 years before starting InnerSelf.com in 1996.

InnerSelf is dedicated to sharing information that allows people to make educated and insightful choices in their personal life, for the good of the commons, and for the well-being of the planet. InnerSelf Magazine is in its 30+year of publication in either print (1984-1995) or online as InnerSelf.com. Please support our work.

 Creative Commons 4.0

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License. Attribute the author Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com

Further Reading:

  1. https://www.scotusblog.com/2024/06/supreme-court-strikes-down-chevron-curtailing-power-of-federal-agencies/
  2. https://billmoyers.com/content/the-powell-memo-a-call-to-arms-for-corporations/
  3. https://www.cnn.com/2024/07/01/politics/takeaways-trump-immunity-scotus/index.html
  4. https://www.npr.org/2021/08/13/1026588142/map-see-which-states-have-restricted-voter-access-and-which-states-have-expanded
  5. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-may-2024
  6. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-much-do-voting-restrictions-affect-elections/
  7. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2024/07/trump-v-united-states-opinion-chief-roberts/678877/
  8. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/conservatives-aim-to-restructure-u-s-government-and-replace-it-with-trumps-vision
  9.  https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/z1/dataviz/dfa/distribute/chart/
  10. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/rising-inequality-a-major-issue-of-our-time/
  11. https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2014/06/12/political-polarization-in-the-american-public/
  12. https://fivethirtyeight.com/tag/the-gerrymandering-project/
  13. https://www.vox.com/polyarchy/2017/1/31/14458966/democracy-requires-civic-engagement


Related Books:

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

by Timothy Snyder

This book offers lessons from history for preserving and defending democracy, including the importance of institutions, the role of individual citizens, and the dangers of authoritarianism.

Click for more info or to order

Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America

by Stacey Abrams

The author, a politician and activist, shares her vision for a more inclusive and just democracy and offers practical strategies for political engagement and voter mobilization.

Click for more info or to order

How Democracies Die

by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

This book examines the warning signs and causes of democratic breakdown, drawing on case studies from around the world to offer insights into how to safeguard democracy.

Click for more info or to order

The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism

by Thomas Frank

The author offers a history of populist movements in the United States and critiques the "anti-populist" ideology that he argues has stifled democratic reform and progress.

Click for more info or to order

Democracy in One Book or Less: How It Works, Why It Doesn't, and Why Fixing It Is Easier Than You Think

by David Litt

This book offers an overview of democracy, including its strengths and weaknesses, and proposes reforms to make the system more responsive and accountable.

Click for more info or to order