Over the past four years, Americans have received a heavy dose of autocracy as they witnessed Trump’s repeated violations of basic democratic norms, culminating in his ongoing plot to overthrow the presidential election last November.
And we must emphasize that the autocratic urge in US society is not Trump’s solo effort. The attack on democracy has been open and brazen, and has been passionate and proud in public and in public by significant sections of the Republican Party, right-wing coalitions, and far too many Americans who have promoted voter suppression and still support Trump’s rally carried out crying that the election was stolen.
These autocratic tendencies, however, have deeper historical roots in right-wing politics, roots uncovered last October when the Trump administration signed a global declaration with 32 United Nations member states against abortion, many of which are authoritarian regimes or are considered strict become flawed democracies. The declaration was jointly sponsored by the United States, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Brazil and Uganda. Other nations that signed up included Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all of which are ranked authoritarian regimes in The Economist’s 2019 Democracy Index. Aside from the US, none of the signatories ranked higher than 95 on Georgetown University’s Women, Peace and Safety Index.
While there are undoubtedly several autocratic encumbrances woven into the US political fabric that run counter to the ideals of the nation in actively attempting to deny people’s rights to fully participate in US democracy – racism plays an important role – we must recognize this anti-abortion policy. Trying to deny women full control over their bodies is contrary to democracy.
Indeed, anti-abortion policy enables and normalizes largely autocratic behavior by denying women the status of personality and thus equality.
Opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment was fueled significantly by fears that the clear assertion in the Constitution that women have equal rights under the law would provide a firmer legal basis for a woman’s right to abortion.
So anti-abortion policy in the US was precisely about denying women constitutional rights.
Here is the statement in ERA that this nation is trembling to confirm:
“Equality under the law cannot be denied or curtailed by the United States or any state on the basis of gender.”
In other words, opponents of the ERA fundamentally believe that women are people and are therefore converged by the 14th Amendment, which includes the following clause:
“Also, no state may deprive a person of life, liberty or property without this being required by law. not deny anyone in their jurisdiction the same protection of the law. “
Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia believed, for one, that women’s equality is not enshrined in the constitution, which means he doesn’t believe that a woman is a person, plain and simple.
It is important that we recognize and shape the efforts to deny women the right to vote and the right to control their bodies as anti-democratic and indeed autocratic, precisely because they are so open and acceptable in US politics.
Supreme Court justices are appointed based on their perceived support in prohibiting abortion – denying women personality and equality under the law.
Many citizens are proud individual voters when it comes to banning abortion and denying women equal rights under the law.
Although the majority of Americans support a woman’s right to vote in some form, this minority position of denying women their personality still has a significant impact on major political decisions that distribute real power over our lives in US society like the US and consolidate the selection of the nine chief judges who have an incredible say in the interpretation of our country’s constitution and laws that govern our lives.
While racism is alive and well, while it is openly and deadly practiced, it is still much less acceptable to attend clan rallies or to declare oneself a racist. To argue against granting African American equality under the law seems unthinkable, even as we testify every day that black lives do not matter in the eyes of the law.
The shamelessness with which one can openly and hypocritically deny equality for women in acceptable legal and political discourse should signal to us, and signal us all the time, that the strong countercurrents are undermining democracy in America.
Trump’s signing of the global anti-abortion declaration highlights the authoritarian skills in US culture and politics.
And it also explains the strong affinity between anti-abortion politics or anti-women politics and authoritarianism.
We know that Trump has no moral bone in his body that does not endorse or uphold a code of values other than promoting his own very narrow self-interests and satisfying his basic appetite and aggressions and sensitive ego. This is not a secret or earth-shattering statement.
Protestant law, however, pretends to be characterized by its deeply Christian moral attitude.
What drives the evangelicals to Trump despite his bidding? While on one level they may seem like strange political bedfellows, they actually share a deep commitment and attraction to the autocracy.
For them, power cannot be evenly distributed over a democratic community. There should be those who rule and those who are governed. Those who can impose their ideology and values on others and those who simply have to accept that imposition without saying anything on the matter. Those who are considered to be people whose lives matter and those who have been denied personality whose lives don’t matter.
If President-elect Joe Biden wants to take strong action against the burgeoning autocracy in the United States, he can begin concurrently with removing the nation’s signature from the Global Declaration against Abortion, which violates the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Nation back to the Paris climate agreement.
And let us all realize that denying a woman a woman’s right to have an abortion, denying her personality, is incompatible with democracy and enables autocracy in America.
Tim Libretti is a professor of American literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. As a longtime progressive voice, he has published numerous academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, and the National Federation of Press Women and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.