Our democracy is under threat. Voter suppression prevents free and fair elections. Extremism continues to be mainstreamed and normalized in the wake of the January 6, 2021 insurrection. Immigration and refugee rights are being weaponized for hate-filled partisan warfare. Hate and conspiracy theories spread virally on social media around the globe. Against this backdrop, antisemitic incidents and other acts of bias are at an all-time high.
Experts in democracy and political violence warn that our nation is moving toward an increasingly flawed “hybrid democracy” with growing risks of autocracy, fueled by hyper-polarization and incendiary ethnonationalist divides. For Jews and other minorities and marginalized communities, this poses a particular danger.
Mainstreaming of Extremism
Hateful and violent extremism has always existed. In healthy societies, these ideologies are relegated to the margins, with most people rejecting the hate-filled, conspiratorial and violent ideas and tactics promoted by extremists.
Extreme ideologies have been mainstreamed at an alarming pace. This is due in large part to the proliferation of online ecosystems that traffic in misinformation and hate. This trend was blatantly exemplified in the lead up to, during and in the aftermath of the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Today, conspiratorial and extremist beliefs on topics as wide-ranging as election “fraud,” immigration and educational priorities, which are often rife with antisemitism and racism, are trafficked by political leaders, candidates for elected office and influential media personalities. Polls show that millions of Americans who believe baseless voter fraud conspiracies about the 2020 presidential election also believe that political violence may be justified to overturn “fraudulent” election results.
The Supreme Court has gutted voting rights protections that for decades were supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.
Congressional gridlock has further sidelined the federal government and made possible an enormous volume of state laws effectively disenfranchising many voters, especially in communities of color and those residing in many urban centers.
Illiberalism across the political sphere also exacerbates the threat to democracy. We need allyship, not division, as we face the enormous threat to our democracy. We need engagement, not isolation of already marginalized and targeted groups. We need to stomp out the embers of hate that threaten our democracy.