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Todd Whitcombe: Democracy needs protecting

As a form of government, democracy is under attack from both without and within.
The gothic revival style spires and towers of the East Block of Canada's Parliament Buildings are silhouetted against a blue autumn sky with backlit Canadian flags.

Democracy. We take it for granted.

Modern democracy is not a very old concept, though. It is only really existed since the early 1600s and one could argue it really didn’t take off until the early 1900s. Indeed, when Canada was formed, there were only a half-dozen democratic states.

As a form of government, democracy is under attack from both without and within.

Over the past five months, we have watched with horror as Russia has tried to engulf Ukraine. By any measure, Ukraine is a democratic state with an elected president and parliament. Russia, on the other hand, is an oligarchy where a very small number of insiders control all aspects of government and society.

For whatever reason, Putin decided Ukraine should be reclaimed into Russia. After all, under the Soviet Union, Ukraine was part of the bloc. Perhaps the success of Ukraine and its tendency towards western style government was the reason he invaded. Or maybe it was to give his country something to think about other than the number of citizens who died from his mismanagement of the COVID pandemic.

In any case, Russia invaded a sovereign democratic nation with the intent of wiping out the democratic government.

At the other extreme is the United States. It fashions itself as the leading democracy in the world. The champion of the west. The only super-power.

But with the rise of Trumpism and arguably long before then, the U.S. has lost its way and is rapidly moving towards an autocratic theocracy. State after state legislature is under pressure to change the laws governing voting to favour only those who will vote the way Republicans want. Some Republicans still deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election, refusing to recognize President Joe Biden won by a large margin.

This willful blindness was demonstrated during the Arizona Republican primary for governor when Kari Lake claimed Biden did not get 81,000,000 votes. She implied there weren’t 81,000,000 votes to be had. 

Of course, the argument is complete nonsense in a country of 330 million. But the denial of the election – the unwillingness of many to admit the election was fair and President Biden won – puts democracy in jeopardy. And democracy really isn’t something we should take for granted.

Todd Whitcombe is a chemistry professor at UNBC.