Our democracy doesn’t look the same as it used to.
Press credentials have been revoked, issues of voter registration have robbed citizens of their basic rights and residual vote recounts from the 2018 midterms have turned into bloodbaths.
The common theme in all of this is a divided country, which has trickled down partisan issues into cracks that are usually occupied by basic democratic ideals, never intended to stir up an agenda but designed to serve the people of our country.
One example of this was seen when Jim Acosta, who was interrupted at a White House press conference for asking hard-hitting questions, had his press credentials taken away before a federal judge ordered the White House to return it.
As if attempting to suppress the press wasn’t bad enough, things escalated when White House press secretary Sarah Sanders shared an edited video on Twitter that made Acosta seem violent and intrusive when asked to give up the microphone.
It was quite the definition of ‘fake news,’ and it stems from a relationship between Acosta’s network, CNN, and President Donald Trump. The president has demonstrated that he sees CNN as more of a liberal instrument than an organization focused on objective reporting.
No matter what opinion you hold of CNN’s liberal biases, or those of Fox News, which is often classified as a biased pro-conservative news source, we must agree that these dynamics are dangerous.
Earlier this year, another incident of suppression occurred when Trump blocked users on Twitter for attacking him and Russia for election fixation. Again, a federal judge ruled that he couldn’t block people on a public forum.
Both of these are prime examples of a chilling effect, where First Amendment rights are impeded by a political agenda, with the hopes of turning people away from asking the administration tough questions.
The undermining of democratic principles was also put on display during the midterm elections, after recounts in Florida and Georgia were deemed necessary.
Tainted vote tallies in Florida highlighted the imperfections of our electoral system. In the Georgia governor race, Stacey Abrams accused Brian Kemp, the former Secretary of State for Georgia, of voter suppression. An Associated Press investigation revealed Kemp’s office had 53,000 voter applicants still pending as of Oct. 10 — 70 percent of whom were African-American.
According to Adams, “Democracy failed in Georgia.”
We have seen this undermining too many times for a country that prides itself on being more democratic than any other.
It’s clear that Americans remained on edge after Russia was accused of meddling in the 2016 elections. And there seemed to be some anxiety leading up to the 2018 midterm elections that our democracy might possibly be undermined again.
For students, the undermining of democratic principles might have an unexpected chilling effect.
In the weeks leading up to the midterm elections, students were approached by people on campus encouraging them to register to vote. There was an excitement and passion to recruit students to register.
After some students learned their votes wouldn’t count because of an issue with registration, something that seemed innocent quickly turned to frustration with the system.
Even these cases of voter registration have become a partisan issue, with NextGen America, the culprit of many Lehigh registration errors, claiming to be nonpartisan while supporting progressives on their website.
These incidents seem to be very black and white, and draw upon deep partisan divides. Democrats blame Republicans, and vice versa. Dynamics and interactions that are supposed to be nonpartisan end up becoming partisan issues. Harmless and multi-sided debates become one-sided, red vs. blue politics.
Issues that haven’t been partisan before have become such.
For example, people will associate tightening gun legislature with Democrats, and Second Amendment freedom with Republicans. People will associate climate change with Democrats, and attacks on climate change theory with Republicans.
The democratic process should be put before any partisan issues, and democratic principles should never be undermined for a partisan agenda.