The progressive New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez believes the Republican-led pressure on political systems is so great that there is “a very real risk” democracy will cease to exist in the US within a decade.
The leftist Democratic politician derided efforts by Republican legislatures around the country to restrict voting rights as the “opening salvos” in a war on democracy, which she said could result in a return to the Jim Crow-era disenfranchisement of racial minorities.
In the interview with the New Yorker, she warned that the clock was ticking for Joe Biden and other leaders to do anything about it, with huge chunks of the president’s agenda, including legislation to protect voting rights, stalled in Congress by more conservative or moderate members of her own party.
“Honestly, Democratic it is a shitshow,” Ocasio-Cortez said of working in the same-controlled Congress in which centrist senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have both electoral reforms and Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better social spending initiative.
“We don’t have much time,” she said. “The president has not been using his executive power to the extent that some would say is necessary.”
The issue of voting rights was a dominant theme of the interview with New Yorker editor David Remnick, who asked her about her previous use of the phrase “if we have a democracy 10 years from now”.
“There’s a very real risk that we will not,” she said. “What we risk is having a government that perhaps postures as a democracy, and may try to pretend that it is, but isn’t.
“We’ve already seen the opening salvos of this, where you have a very targeted, specific attack on the right to vote across the United States, particularly in areas where Republican power is threatened by changing electorates and demographics.
“You have a white nationalist, reactionary politics starting to grow into a critical mass … the continued sophisticated takeover of our democratic systems in order to turn them into undemocratic systems, all in order to overturn results that a party in power may not like.”
Although she believes the situation “is not beyond hope”, Ocasio-Cortez fears inaction will lead to a “return to Jim Crow”, a reference to repressive laws in the US south to the mid-20th century designed to enforce racial segregation and disenfranchise Blacks.
“You have it already happening in Texas, where Jim Crow-style disenfranchisement laws have already been proposed,” she said.
“You have the complete erasure and attack on our own understanding of history, to replace teaching history with institutionalized propaganda from white nationalist perspectives in our schools. This is what the scaffolding of Jim Crow was.
“The question we’re really facing is, was the last 50 to 60 years after the Civil Rights Act just a mere flirtation that the United States had with a multiracial democracy that we will then decide was inconvenient for those in power? And we will revert to what we had before?”