Since the January 6th riots of 2021, the United States government has been up in arms about how to handle the fates of those who took part in the riots. These riots were brought to fruition through the encouragement of then-President Donald Trump; still today the GOP and DNC are becoming further polarized on how to handle this situation. The GOP is largely supportive of Trump’s ever-changing stance, whereas the DNC is of the belief that the riots were unnecessary, violent, and anti-democratic. On January 30th, 2022, former President Trump claimed to consider pardoning those involved in the December 6th riots if he were elected President. In response, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger condemned the January 6th riots, which was later claimed to be an anti-Republican party decision by the GOP. Today, the GOP voted on removing support from and censuring both Cheney and Kinzinger. These events demonstrate a turbulent political situation in the United States which beg the question: is the United States Democracy unraveling?
To best answer the question, one must consider the identifying factors of anti-democratic politicians. Upon losing re-election for the United States presidency, Donald Trump incited citizen attacks upon the Capitol in an effort to regain control. While the attacks were ultimately unsuccessful, they still have effects on the government and civilians today. Within the past week, the former President claimed that he would contemplate pardoning the attackers, on the condition that he won the 2024 presidential election. These claims to pardon were met with forceful approval from the majority of the Republican party. Two members of the GOP, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger spoke against Trump’s claims. In response, the GOP essentially exiled two of its members.
Some might claim that the decision of the GOP to remove support from Cheney and Kinzinger is a well-planned idea. Each party has its own set of ideals, and for each to operate effectively, its members must be in a general consensus. This being said, it is evident from the dissents of Cheney and Kinsinger that their ideals do not line up with the GOP at large. For this reason, one might say that they are not viable candidates for representing Republicans. Their alliance with some Democrat ideals has made them the enemy of the republicans.
While this makes sense, it is important to remember that the preservation of democracy is of the utmost democracy- if not, the institutions in place in the US will not function. In censuring Cheney and Kinzinger, the GOP is implicitly arguing that it is acceptable to sideline democratic values in favor of conserving the values of Republicans. What is seen here is a series of events that scream democratic erosion. Using the litmus test for identifying antidemocratic politicians, these events will be first be analyzed for the denial of the legitimacy of political opponents .
Through censuring Cheney and Kinzinger, the GOP has delegitimized the power of both representatives within the Republican party. Through doing so, the GOP has opened space for being mistrusted by the public, as it suddenly named two of its own members as outsiders. It has additionally inhibited freedom of association, by not allowing (now former) members of its party to be legitimized as true Republicans . In this way, the civil liberties of both Cheney and Kinzinger have been curtailed, as they were punished for nothing but speaking out loud about their lack of support for the rioters.
The onset of the January 6th riots was a blatant encouragement of violence. After the attacks, Trump’s words were “They were there for one reason, the rigged election. They felt the election was rigged. That’s why they were there. And they were peaceful people. These were great people.” After injuries, deaths, police involvement, and overall chaos, Trump commended the rioters for their job. For acting on his behalf, his followers were rewarded by his praise.
Democratic rules have been rejected time and time again during this governmental meltdown. Trump attempted to force his way into a new term using the support and violence of his followers. Moreover, he is now making plans to overstep the judicial process and pardon those who fought on his behalf in the riots. Rather than respecting and following the laws, Trump has so far circumvented them and twisted their interpretations (breaking norms)   to fit his agenda.
When it comes down to it, the United States is not making the best of this situation. Each process in handling the rioters becomes a messier and less democratic process. The Democrat and Republican parties are further polarizing themselves, another hallmark of an increasingly less stable democracy . Cheney and Kinzinger’s censorship from their positions in the GOP has only heightened this condition, which does not bode well for the future of democracy in the US. The future of free speech and the entirety of the democratic government in the US is at stake, and there is little time to spare before all parties involved fall apart.Levitsky and Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, 2018, Introduction (pp. 1-10) Levitsky and Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, chapters 1-3 (pp. 65-67) Ozan Varol, “Stealth Authoritarianism,” Iowa Law Review 2015, p. 1677 Robert Lieberman et al., “The Trump Presidency and American Democracy: A Historical and Comparative Analysis,” Perspectives on Politics 2018, p. 2  Ginsburg and Huq, How to Save a Constitutional Democracy, chapter 5
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