The 55 Year Old Democracy

I don’t believe President Trump actually has any core motivations beyond his own financial enrichment, but he’s been extremely good at convincing millions of Americans that he shares their worldview. He knows how to push people’s buttons — and get paid for it.

That button, of course, is racial supremacy.

Adam Serwer breaks it down quite well in “The Capitol Riot Was an Attack on Multiracial Democracy,” posted today at The Atlantic:

Demanding that a candidate who lost the Electoral College and received 7 million fewer votes than his opponent be allowed to remain president may seem a strange turn for a party that has spent the Trump years presenting itself as the vanguard of the people. But it represents an old worldview in American politics, one that dates back to the founding.

There is an element of historical truth to this worldview. America did not have universal suffrage at its founding. The Constitution accepted the existence of slavery, and imagined democracy as the responsibility of property-owning white men. But the Founders also created a society where the blessings of liberty they imagined for themselves could be extended to others, the promissory note of which Martin Luther King Jr. spoke.

Although the story of American democracy is often told as an unsteady but certain march toward a more perfect union, there have always been people who recount that story as a tragedy, one in which the Founders’ vision of limited government and individual freedom is effaced by the inclusion of those who were never meant to share it. If democracy must be set aside to defend that liberty, then so be it.

Most Americans think of the USA as one of the oldest democracies (I certainly did), but Serwer cogently argues that it’s more accurate to think of multiracial democracy only beginning in 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.