The Fantasy of Anti-Democratic Threats

Democracy is under attack—or so we’re constantly told if we turn on CNN or glance at any major newspaper. The mainstream media claims Russia wants to conquer Ukraine solely because its neighbor is a democracy. The Freedom Convoy in Canada allegedly threatens democracy (don’t ask how). And, of course, the gravest threat to democracy is American states passing voter ID laws. 

Americans may think they could wake up one day in a dictatorship based on this hysterical coverage. The reality is different. There are obviously threats to people’s basic liberties in the West—but you won’t hear CNN worrying about them. Peaceful January 6 demonstrators face several years in jail for their political beliefs. Canada freezes the bank accounts of those who donate to non-violent protests. Australia made it a crime to leave your home under its COVID regulations. Many Western governments criminalize politically incorrect opinions on immigration under the dubious standard of “hate speech.”

All of these things are treated as “pro-democracy” measures, however, by respected opinion makers. What really threatens democracy is, well, whatever these opinion-makers don’t like.

Two recent articles from the Los Angeles Times illustrate the absurdity of the media’s standard of democracy. One is an opinion piece, the other is a straight news story.

The opinion piece, written by columnist Jean Guerrero, discusses how Hispanics could save Democrats from a brutal midterm election in California. The article casually concludes: “With the future of the next Congress riding on California’s new districts, Latinas might play a central role in protecting democracy in the long run, too.” A threat to democracy is never explained in the column. It’s just assumed that the reader would know that democracy is under attack by racist white Republicans, and Hispanics voting for Democrats protects our form of government. 

The straight news story lamented the current state of India, the world’s largest democracy. Hindu nationalists are gaining greater power in India, which has led to violence and persecution against the Muslim minority. International observers have downgraded India’s democracy “ranking” (a very subjective measure) as a result. The writer is upset about this because America needs India “as a democratic counterweight to China.” The implication is that America only allies itself with democracies and its chief goal is to spread democracy everywhere. American ally Saudi Arabia—the furthest thing from a democracy—would be surprised by this.

The problem with the American media’s hysteria over democracy being threatened by everything they dislike is that it gives ample ammunition to those wanting to defend their “undemocratic” records. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister, scoffs at claims about his nation’s declining democracy by pointing to America’s problems. Specifically, he cites the media’s own claims about Trump nearly overthrowing American democracy as a reason to not worry about India. “You use the dichotomy of democracy and autocracy,” Jaishankar declared last year. “You want the truthful answer? It is hypocrisy.”

China and its defenders are very happy to use this line of defense. The Chinese government issued a condemnation of American democracy last December. It focused on many of the favorite themes of American liberals who fret over our democracy. The alleged January 6 “coup,” “entrenched racism,” voting laws, and many other complaints that easily could have been taken from a Washington Post op-ed. The only difference is that it was China, and the communist government wanted to deflect from its own abuses.

Most American commentators will not go as far as to equivocate between America’s alleged misdeeds and Chinese atrocities. But some will. Frequent ESPN guest J.A. Adande made that leap earlier this month. “Who are we to criticize China’s human rights records when we have ongoing attacks by the agents of the state against unarmed citizens and we’ve got assaults on the voting rights of our people of color in various states in this country?” he said in response to those who protested China hosting the Winter Olympics.

Who’s to say he’s wrong? Certainly not our own leaders. Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed a United Nations investigation into America’s racism last year. This of course creates the impression that our misdeeds (often overblown or fake) are equal to those of China. When our own UN ambassador says America was founded on white supremacy and our president says voter ID laws are the new Jim Crow, who could blame China for simply repeating these messages?

The constant fearmongering about democracy is nothing more than shallow propaganda. There is no standard of democracy articulated in any of these complaints. We can see this in Ukraine, where we’re told a democracy is threatened by an “autocracy.” Ukrainian democracy isn’t much to write home about. The government suppresses the Russian language and its speakers who live within its borders. The current president wages a punitive legal campaign against the last president. Corruption is rife within the country. Its democracy score is only 60. Russia may not be a perfect democracy either, but it’s hardly the fascist government of liberal nightmares. At least its ethnic minorities do not face pogroms—a fact that cannot be said of “democratic” India.

For the liberal elites, democracy is whatever they say it is. The trucker convoy isn’t democratic, but freezing the truckers’ bank accounts is. Requiring an ID to vote isn’t democratic, but allowing non-citizens to vote is. Invading a country isn’t democratic unless America does it to spread freedom (hello, Iraq!). Respecting the popular vote is democratic, unless the people vote the wrong way. Then it’s anti-democratic (see Hungary). 

The elite rhetoric about “democracy” shouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s all a ploy to dupe middle Americans into accepting permanent leftist rule. 

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