Tag Archives: Democracy under attack

PBS News Hour – American democracy is in an uncharted and fragile place

‘Tyranny of the Minority’ writers say Constitution not strong enough to protect democracy

[It’s not like we haven’t heard this before from Rachel Maddow, Professor Timothy Snyder and the “liberal” media.  The significance here is the boldness of PBS News Hour to broadcast truth to the general public.  If you don’t have time for the excellent 7 minute interview, see below the video for my summary of the two Harvard government professors’ main points and recommendations.  – BenIndy Contributor Roger Straw]

Amna Nawaz is an American broadcast journalist and a co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour.

>> America’s democracy is in an uncharted and fragile place, according to two Harvard government professors. In their new book, “Tyranny of the Minority,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt say politicians are welcoming anti-democratic extremists into their party ranks and part of the problem lies in the Constitution. Laura Barrón-López spoke with the writers about how the country got to this point.

Introduction and thesis
Laura Barrón-López is the White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, where she covers the Biden administration for the nightly news broadcast. She is also a CNN political analyst. Previously, Barrón-López was a White House reporter for POLITICO.

Laura Barron-Lopez: One of America’s two major political parties has turned away from democracy, warn Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. One key accomplice to the backsliding, they say, are politicians called semi-loyalists, who rather than expel anti-democratic extremists from their party ranks, accept and make room for them. Why is this happening? Their new book, “Tyranny of the minority,” concludes that part of the problem lies in the constitution. They joined me now. Thank you so much for joining. Steve, can you first establish we knew, as someone as an expert in the collapse of democracies, diagnosed that there is now a popular authoritarian movement within the Republican party?


To be a party committed to democracy, you have to do three simple things:

  1. First, you have to accept election losses win or lose.
  2. Number two, you have to not use violence to gain or hold onto power.
  3. And three, most critically in some sense, for mainstream political parties, you have to distance yourself and be explicit and open about  condemning anybody who’s an ally of your party that commits any of those first two types of acts.

Over the past four years, we have seen a decay of that in the Republican party, including among mainstream members of the senate. This is a violation of that third principle, people who knew what was happening on January 6 and did very little to stop it.

What can be done?

Laura: Daniel, your book warns that the constitution, the world’s oldest written constitution, is part of the problem, is part of what is imperiling democracy.  What changes do you think need to be made?
Daniel: Some of the things we  discussed in the book, we have a 15 point set of suggestions in our last chapter, including

  1. Eliminating the electoral college. We are the only democracy in the world with the electoral college,
  2. Introducing term limits and retirement ages for the supreme court — we are the only democracy in the developed world that does not have term limits for judges.
  3. We also have proposals that do not require constitutional reform, like eliminating or weakening the filibuster. We are the only democracy in the world that has such a strong tool of obstruction in our chambers of congress. This often blocks majority supported policies, gun-control, efforts to address climate
    change, minimum-wage. Things get held up in the  national congress which frustrates citizens.
Regaining faith in the political system

These things could have a sweeping reform agenda. We have discovered that when constitutional reforms come, they tend to cluster together. People regain faith in their political system. This is part of the American tradition, whereas today we are operating outside the American tradition. This is something we need to get back to.

Benicia poets appear in “Yearning To Breathe Free – A Community Journal of 2020”

Benicia Herald’s “Going the Distance” columns published in book form, now available

Yearning To Breathe Free—A Community Journal of 2020, published by Benicia Literary Arts, available at Bookshop Benicia and on the BLA website.  The first of three readings and community conversations will be held on August 28 3-5 p.m at the Benicia Public Library (via Zoom). Everyone is invited – more info at https://www.benicialibrary.org/poet/events.

BENICIA > Yearning To Breathe Free is the collection of “Going the Distance” columns that ran in the Benicia Herald from April 1 through Election Day 2020.

Published by Benicia Literary Arts, the book is now available from the BLA website, http://www.benicialiteraryarts.org/ store/product/17 and at Bookshop Benicia, https://bookshopbenicia.indielite.org/book/9781735499925.

On March 23, 2020, as lives and livelihoods began shutting down due to the COVID pandemic, Mary Susan Gast emailed Galen Kusic, editor of the Benicia Herald, “As the fears grow around the coronavirus and tensions increase about ‘shelter in place,’ I’ve been imagining a column to appear in each edition of the Herald that would voice and speak to the fears, tensions, inspirations, hopes, and oddities we are experiencing.” Kusic responded with encouragement. Continue reading Benicia poets appear in “Yearning To Breathe Free – A Community Journal of 2020”

Impromptu Benicia pro-choice protest draws cheers and honks of support

On the morning that the Supreme Court abolished women’s reproductive rights

By Dagmar Kuta, Benicia
Photos by Larnie Fox, Benicia, June 25, 2022

I woke up to the news and tried to find a nearby event to share in the collective sorrow and strength of the community. The nearest event I could find was in Napa in the afternoon, and I felt too anxious and upset to wait until then. I decided around 11:30 am to post the event via womensmarch.com, and figured if no one else showed up that was okay, but I couldn’t sit at home and fester in my feelings and doom scroll online.

Luckily Larnie and Bodil picked it up and shared it with their network of activists and we had a few drop ins too.

We know this decision by the Supreme Court is not representative of the desires of the people. Removing our constitutional right to self-govern our bodies is wrong.

There is more work to be done, and more to come.

Dagmar Kuta

Solano Dems host fiery pro-choice rally to protest Supreme Court decision

[BenIndy Editor:  Benicia poets were present in spirit: the Fairfield crowd heard Benicia Poet Laureate Mary Susan Gast’s “Uncertain Inalienable Rights” and Roger Straw’s “The Nation I Used to Love.”  – R.S.]

Ana Petero speaks during a rally against the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade court ruling at the Government Center in Fairfield, Friday, June 24, 2022. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

Fairfield Daily Republic, by Matt Miller, June 25, 2022

FAIRFIELD — Solano Democrats held a fiery and emotional rally Friday before a few dozen sign-waving supporters, showing anger and disgust over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Thank you for showing up spur of the moment,” said Chairwoman Marjorie Olson of the Solano County Democratic Central Committee. “We need to see what we can do for women’s health because this is a decision subject to further victimization.”

Barbara Gaea of Vallejo said it is even a matter of suicide prevention.

“How many suicides can be linked back to pregnancy tests?” Gaea asked. “I’m so mad about this, my brain wants to explode.”

Demonstrators hold signs during a rally against the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling at the Government Center in Fairfield, Fri., 6/24/22. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

Gaea turned around and looked at the American flag in front of the Government Center and said it should be at half-staff for “all the women that have died and all the women that will die” from government intrusion into individual abortion decisions.

Supervisor Monica Brown told the crowd she was donating $500 to the National Abortion Federation to help those who need abortion care and help with travel expenses. Brown also announced a $500 contribution to Planned Parenthood and emphasized the organization provides many more services than abortions.

Brown said change is needed and the biggest way to do that is through the November election.

“They have reversed half a century of reproductive freedom,” Brown said of the Supreme Court’s decision. “I’m tired of this country taking five steps back. The only way to get it back is to vote. Every state should have equal access to what we have here in California.”

Fairfield-Suisun School Board Trustee Ana Petero said, “Women need to stick together as one.”

Ana Petero holds a sign with a pair of coat hangers during a rally against the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, at the Government Center in Fairfield, Friday, June 24, 2022. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

Ana Petero holds a sign with a pair of coat hangers during a rally against the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, at the Government Center in Fairfield, Fri., 6/24/22. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

Petero talked about her own personal struggles at a young age. She reiterated the ruling is an attack on all women.

N’dea Johnson, who is running for Fairfield City Council in District 1, said it is important to respect everyone’s choice.

“Whether it’s a sister, a cousin, a person you know that can bare children, (they) deserve the right to terminate their pregnancy if they choose,” Johnson said. “It’s important to respect everyone’s choice. This is just the beginning of what they are going to do to us.”

“We need to keep our government with the government and our bodies with our bodies,” Tara Beasley-Stansbury said. “We have the right to make our own decisions.”

Lerecia Evans wondered how this decision could be made in the middle of an infant formula crisis and during a teacher shortage.

“No one deserves the right to tell you what you should do,” Evans said. “How can you regulate such a personal thing? We’re still being told what to do and that abortion can be done easily. Men don’t understand what it’s like to have a uterus.”