Imagine a presidential election in a democratic country where millions of votes are cast and the margin of victory is razor-thin.
Imagine also that the loser is the daughter of a former head of state who has long been implicated in corruption and whose authoritarianism mirrors her father's.
Finally, imagine the loser of the election claiming fraudulent voting and issuing baseless claims by which she hopes to eradicate 200,000 votes and turn the election.
Is that Ivanka Trump losing the popular vote to a Democrat in 2024? No. Just present-day Peru, a South American democracy, where a recent election shows ominous connections to our 2020 version—the one that is still being legislated among our country's unhinged. But there is one major difference: in Peru, the newspapers and media outlets are mainly behind the losing candidate and the lies are ceaselessly repeated and promulgated on major television channels. As a result, there are genuine fears that the disinformation campaign may lead to actual violence, and that would set in motion more unrest and ultimately a need for the military to become involved. Many experts view that eventuality as the first step in overturning an honest election. (Think January 6 with battalions of soldiers and air support on the side of the loser.)
In the United States, so far at least, most reputable newspapers and media outlets continue to refer to Trump's "big lie," and baseless claims, with only Fox News and some other conservative/conspiratorial networks still espousing the Trumpian whine of fraud...all of which brings me (in a roundabout way) to the recent demise of the Hong Kong newspaper, Apple News.
If you have not been following that story, a summary: Apple News promoted a democratic Hong Kong like the one that had existed before the British relinquished the area to China in 1997. Since that year (and before) Apple News has remained critical of Chinese communism, and after 1997, China had no use for the newspaper. (In truth, the paper could be crude and sensational, more of a New York Post than a New York Times, but it invariably spoke against Communist repression.) Now, however, with its assets seized and some reporters jailed, the paper published its last issue this past week. It is not a good sign.
Maybe you remember Donald Trump's first official visit to China and his envy of Xi Jinping who didn't have to run for office every four years. Trump mused—as much as he's capable of musing— why America couldn't have a president for life. All that came well before his abdication to Putin and the January 6 insurrection where Trump supporters—and Trump himself—tried to fulfill that wish of a permanent presidency. And the sham has continued ad nauseam, so much so that we need to ask what if this country, a supposed democracy, followed the path of Peru, but with all the news media shut down or declaring fraud and supporting an organized plan to eliminate a quarter-million vote? What chance would Americans have of preserving democracy?
Republican voting restrictions now being initiated may accomplish pretty much the same end—shifting power away from the voter and toward the people who oversee the elections. "Finding" Trump's 11,780 Georgia votes will be child's play for corrupt officials: why recount and retabulate when a pen stroke from an election commissioner would accomplish the same end? And without a free press, how would we even know?
Peru and America are vastly different entities of course, but authoritarianism knows no boundaries; and with the Republican party committed to removing the one underpinning of any democracy—the vote—Peru may become the model more than the anomaly, and America may become the worst-case scenario.