Will democracy die in the desert? It doesn’t have to.

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

In David De Jong’s book, “Nazi Billionaires: The Dark History of Germany’s Wealthiest Dynasties,” he describes a secret meeting held two weeks prior to Germany’s 1933 national election at the residence of then-Reichstag president, Hermann Göring, in which several leading tycoons were invited ostensibly to discuss economic policy but were instead treated to a 90-minute diatribe on the current political moment by the newly appointed chancellor himself.

Among other things, Hitler said, “Private enterprise cannot be maintained in the age of democracy,” and went further by proclaiming, “Everything positive, good and valuable, which has been achieved in the world in the field of economics and culture, is solely attributable to the importance of personality.”

Sound familiar? It should. For the last six years, this country has been bombarded with statements, actions and tweets with an erily similar message.

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Many of us throw around the terms “SS” and “Gestapo” lightly as punchlines but if you stop to understand the rise of fascism and the Nazi party, you’ll find some striking similarities, most notably the attack on the sacred institution of democracy itself. So much so that a recent article in the Economist raised a chilling question in response to the specter of three highly consequential positions of public office responsible for certifying elections in Arizona — attorney general, secretary of state and governor, and I would add a Senate seat — falling into the hands of candidates who have thus far shown very little regard for our democratic institutions. They have sworn allegiance to a man who has not only shown contempt for the rule of law but has consistently shown no regard or respect for the hallmarks of our democratic system – the legitimation of free and fair elections, the peaceful transfer of power and the US Constitution itself. It should come as no surprise then, the author in the Economist posits “a constitutional crisis looms” and asks if “democracy will die in the desert?” It doesn’t have to.

We can debate the merits of government and the liberal-conservative divide until the cows come home. This is the essence of America. But what we cannot do is sacrifice the very foundation of our democratic principles and our democracy itself. We must outright reject extremist ideology and those who only recognize victory when it is in their favor. We must also categorically reject any candidate or political party that accepts and normalizes violence, gives cover to white supremacists, uses migrants as political tools and tolerates any form of racist, sexist or homophobic rhetoric.

In their book, “How Democracies Die,” professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt study the rise and fall of democratic systems around the world, most notably those in Europe (1930s) and Latin America (1970s), as well as emerging authoritarian trends ( ie, Russia, China, Hungary, etc.).

Although we have several threads holding our system in place, namely our Constitution, a national creed based on freedom and equality, a historically strong middle class, high levels of wealth and education and a diverse private sector, they note some disturbing trends that do not body well for its sustainability.

They argue the vulnerability of our democracy hinges on two litmus tests – the ability for political parties to identify and keep out would-be demagogues and autocrats (ie, the Fords, McCarthys and Wallaces) and the extent to which autocrats can be constrained by democratic institutions.

It is blatantly obvious we failed the first test in 2016. In regard to the second test, I’ll let the testimony of the January 6 Committee speak for itself, as well as the pending lawsuits.

Let us not fail this test again. Let’s vote for candidates aligned with bipartisan bills on pandemic relief, infrastructure, gun safety, health care reform, manufacturing, jobs and clean energy, not to mention civility, decency and integrity. And let’s protect the right to vote and a woman’s right to choose. The choices are clear.

Tim Kennedy is a teacher in Marana Unified School District. He has been serving youth in this community for 10 years but has over 20 years of experience in the fields of education, conflict resolution, workforce development and athletic programs administration domestically and internationally.

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Jorge Oliveira

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