Unchecked authoritarianism? You can find it on the right and the left

During this election cycle, a central theme for Democrats has been the protection of democracy from right-wing threats. But liberal Democrats can also present a very real threat. This is clear in their attitudes toward the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on abortion, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules, and gun rights. In these cases, the justices ruled that decisions must be made through the legislative process. In particular, on the EPA and gun rulings, the court argued against allowing state or federal agencies to unilaterally make important rulings that have far-reaching effects.  

To many Americans, these Supreme Court rulings have strengthened democracy by putting more decision-making in the hands of legislators and voters.

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Yet, in contrast with the other 48 states, Democratic officials in New York and New Jersey have ignored the Supreme Court gun decision. In an Oct. 6 ruling, U.S. District Judge Glenn Suddaby rejected New York’s attempt to require gun permit applicants to demonstrate “good moral character.” In addition, Suddaby concluded that the state’s prohibition of guns in settings such as bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, gambling facilities, stadiums, parks, playgrounds, zoos, libraries, museums and public transportation was inconsistent with the Supreme Court ruling and policies throughout the country.  

Unfazed, “New Jersey Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge Township) have unveiled legislation that closely resembles the law that Suddaby deemed constitutionally dubious,” Jacob Sullum reported.

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Similarly, the Pennsylvania Board of Elections announced it would not follow the Supreme Court ruling on an absentee ballot requirement that absentee ballot envelopes must be dated and have the voter’s signature. Despite this ruling, county boards of elections have been directed to “include in the canvass and pre-canvass … [a]ny ballot-return envelope that is undated or dated with an incorrect date but has been timely received.”

The recent decision by President Biden to use an executive order to forgive a half-trillion dollars’ worth of student debt would circumvent the legislative process based on a tenuous reading of an emergency statute. Indeed, Biden quickly made an adjustment to his order in an attempt to forestall a judicial judgment. 

Specifically, the court can hear challenges only if someone with standing brings a lawsuit, and having to pay additional taxes is insufficient. Six states, however, demonstrated standing when they pointed to the losses they would have, based on their investments in companies that made private-sector student loans. Realizing this, the Biden administration rewrote the executive order, disallowing eligibility to students who had taken out private-sector loans. Thus, the administration unfairly eliminated an estimated 700,000 students solely for fear that their inclusion would allow the courts to rule on the constitutionality of its executive order.

These efforts at court nullification should be seen in the context of other Democratic Party efforts to shape elections. Through Special Counsel John Durham’s work, we learned more about the efforts of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign to falsely link Donald Trump to Russia during the 2016 elections, even though the two cases that Durham brought to trial did not lead to convictions. 

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Many also questioned the $410 million that Mark Zuckerberg gave to election offices in Democrat-led urban centers in battleground states, to hire Democratic activists to determine and implement local get-out-the-vote policies. And as many Latinos seem to be shifting their allegiance to Republicans, George Soros led a group of liberal Democratic investors in seeking to purchase 18 Spanish radio stations in 2022. To this we could add the apparent liberal biases that led Facebook to limit the flow of information regarding climate change, the pandemic, or even news such as what was on Hunter Biden’s laptop.  

All these efforts, and others, could be considered serious threats to the democratic process.

None of this suggests that we should dismiss the dangers to democracy posed by many on the far right. However, too often this legitimate concern is magnified by broadly labeling all those who supported Trump as “semi-fascists,” or anyone who had concerns about 2020 election policies as “election deniers.” Most importantly, none of the concerns about the right wing should be used to ignore the very serious attacks on the rule of law that characterize many of the current initiatives by progressive Democrats.

Moves to nullify court rulings signal a danger that many liberals would be willing to nullify the 2024 presidential election if a Republican presidential candidate wins the Electoral College but loses the popular vote. Just as they have come to believe that Supreme Court rulings are illegitimate, many liberals also believe that the Electoral College is illegitimate when in conflict with the popular vote. These dangers will only grow if efforts to nullify court decisions are not vigorously condemned.

Robert Cherry, a retired Brooklyn College economics professor, is an American Enterprise Institute affiliate and author of the forthcoming book, “The State of the Black Family: Initiatives to Counter Decades of Policy Failures” (Bombardier).

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