By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
The election is officially over and despite the president’s refusal to concede, Americans elected former Vice President Joe Biden to be the 46th president of the United States, and Sen. Kamala Harris, the first female, who happens also to be the first Black woman and the first Asian American, to be vice president.
The streets of this country burst into dancing and celebration after Biden and Harris were declared the winners, but the president and his minions sulked. Biden was a socialist, they had said, and in spite of all of their efforts to drive that message home, he had won.
Many people have expressed fear that under Biden, the United States would become a socialist nation. The Trump camp used the word to bring back painful and frightening images of despotic leaders in Cuba and Venezuela. Their countries, the Trump camp said, had been socialist.
Meanwhile, we heard little from the Biden camp about this country moving toward being an authoritarian nation under Trump, in spite of grave reservations of people who had likewise lived under oppressive leaders. Many Americans, it seemed, were supportive of Trump’s authoritarian leaning, as reported by The Washington Post.
Though we call America a democracy, in reality it is a constitutional federal republic, which means that it depends upon and recognizes its constitution as the law of the land. In this form of government, the leader of the party, which delivers the most votes, is in control but is still answerable to the electorate.
In a dictatorship, there is one person in control over the party and the country.
And in a socialist government, the means of production, distribution of benefits comes from the government. Even the mention of this form of government scares capitalists to death, as it seems to be a threat to entrepreneurship.
It is troubling that so many people are much more worried about this country being a socialist rather than an autocratic country. The stories of the atrocities committed by autocratic leaders, including Hitler, Erdogan, Mussolini, Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin (my assessment of his presidency) and others seem to have flown over the consciousnesses of over 70 million Americans. Americans who lean toward authoritarianism favor leaders who exhibit “strength,” who will encourage “law and order” to deal with civil unrest and, according to an article in Politico, are not opposed to stripping rights of citizenship from people they feel are not “real” Americans.
If we look at the history of this country, in spite of our claim to be a “democracy,” we have leaned more toward being authoritarian, softened some by leaders being aligned enough to the idea of representation of, by and for the people to make people believe our country was different and unique. There were and have been two parties, but our leaders have been more than willing to acquiesce to their own beliefs in white supremacy, which justified their denying some rights to Black, Brown and Native American people, as well as women.
The underlying argument of many in this country has been and still is that this country “was built by White people for White people.” The reports that America will soon no longer be a majority-White nation has frightened those of the ruling class who feel that their lock on power may be diluted and compromised. Trump’s moves have been seen by many to be a way to save “their” America.
We have been more authoritarian in our very spirit than we care to admit.
Professor Tim Snyder, in his book On Tyranny, said that democracies fall most often not by violent takeovers, but by legal elections. An autocratic leader with a sense of how to manipulate people into fear, anger and discontent can lead them to an autocracy with little effort. Once the fear and anger of a people is tapped, it is hard to tamper down. When they finally realize that they have been “had,” with their rights all but decimated, it is too late.
Is America a democracy? We call it a democracy; many of us want us to be at least what we really are – a representative democracy with the power vested in the people.
But at the end of the day, maybe our autocratic leanings are pushing through our veneer. Trump might have lost the election, but Trumpism is and will be as powerful a force as was and was Naziism.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. Her latest book, Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul, is now available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon. She is available for speaking. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.