Many Americans are justifiably outraged that, as the evidence suggests, Russia hacked the U.S. presidential election and assisted the president-elect to victory. Indeed, the prospect of a foreign power unduly influencing our internal political process and selecting our leaders is disturbing, placing the very integrity of the American democratic system in question. However, what should unsettle the soul even more is the nation’s propensity for fomenting anti-democratic forces and authoritarianism at home, and its extensive history of suppressing democracies, assassinating foreign leaders and engaging in regime change around the world.
The recent events in North Carolina--in which a Republican legislature and a defeated outgoing governor engaged in a coup, nullified an election and stripped the incoming governor of his powers--are a foretelling of the new normal in the Trump era. The state government, according to a report from the Electoral Integrity Project, should no longer be considered a fully-functioning democracy. In fact, of North Carolina received a score of 58 out of 100, meaning that were a country, it would rank about the same as Cuba, Sierra Leone and Indonesia in terms of democratic governance.
Meanwhile, GOP-dominated state governments, already stripping the voting rights of people of color through blatant suppression methods and racial gerrymandering, are perpetuating their rule unencumbered. A federal court found racial gerrymandering of North Carolina’s legislative district unconstitutional, while a federal judge was “horrified” by the state’s “insane” Jim Crow-style voter suppression process, which has removed thousands of black voters from the rolls.
But North Carolina is not alone in its deliberate and malicious usurpation of democracy. Throughout the U.S.. in states such as Wisconsin, Indiana, Georgia and Ohio, there have been efforts to block thousands if not millions of voters of color from the rolls. Meanwhile, though its emergency manager law, the GOP governor has taken away the power of predominantly African-American cities under the guise of solving financial crises.
And an ally in the White House named Donald Trump will only facilitate and expedite their efforts. After all, Trump railed against nonexistent rampant voter fraud on the part of blacks and Latinos during the election. He has selected an attorney general who is hostile to civil rights and the Voting Rights Act, and a white supremacist senior adviser who supports the notion that black people should no longer have the right to vote, and would limit the franchise to landowners.
It should come as no surprise that in a nation that thrived on slavery (that institution was encoded in the Constitution) and never embraced democratic rights not earned in blood, the American experiment has proven a constant struggle to withstand oppressive tendencies.
Keeping people down and out is what America does. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Reconstruction Act of 1867, which ushered in Southern rule by a coalition of progressive blacks and whites. There were 2,000 black elected officials, 22 members of Congress, hundreds of state legislators and local officials, even a governor. All of that abruptly ended when white supremacists, Confederate veterans and the Ku Klux Klan decided to take their country back and make the South great again for white men. And they accomplished this through thievery, intimidation, violence and the assassination of black political leaders. This, as Jim Crow segregation and voter disenfranchisement laws erased African-Americans from civic participation, enforced by the lynchmob and the Jim Crow police state.
And the system of Jim Crow segregation provided an inspiration to Nazi Germany, while the “land of the free” supported apartheid South Africa.
Meanwhile, as the U.S. preaches democracy to other nations and stifles it domestically, its government has actually replaced foreign governments.
For example, in 1953, America and Great Britain overthrew the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran, and replaced him with a puppet regime under the Shah. The following year, the U.S. staged the overthrow of the president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman.
Similarly, in 1965, the U.S. supported the rise of Indonesia's strongman General Suharto, and encouraged his massacre of hundreds of thousands, supplying him with the weapons to enable his bloody invasion of East Timor.
In 1961, Uncle Sam funneled money for the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the Congo’s first democratically elected leader, while in 1966, the CIA was involved in the overthrow of Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah through a military coup. And the U.S. government supported the Chilean military in its 1973 coup against President Salvador Allende, who committed suicide.
In the 1980s, the United States supported brutal dictators and death squad leaders in countries such as Haiti and El Salvador, and sponsored the Nicaraguan Contras, even providing them with Spanish-language assassination manuals. And this past year, Obama administration officials hailed the all-white-male coup that ousted Dilma Rousseff in majority black Brazil as democracy in action.
Meanwhile, if Russia rigged our election and selected its pliant orange lapdog for president, then the pump had already been primed. In which case, Putin is the least of our problems. Unfortunately, America is an expert on regime change and making democratic rule go away. As we prepare for certain rule by kleptocracy if not kakistocracy with the Trump administration, and earn full-fledged banana republic status, Americans should reflect, and wonder if karma has returned like a boomerang.
If a foreign country placed its thumbs on the scale and succeeded in stealing American democracy and installing an authoritarian strongman, then there wasn't much of said democracy left to salvage. And the NSA career staff are leaving their positions for the same reason the marching bands refuse to come and play for Trump on Inauguration Day. They refuse to witness the atrocities about to take place.