It’s not just our democracy at stake, it’s our freedom

Source: Movement Advancement Project
Source: Movement Advancement Project

Political journalists covering the 2024 presidential election are missing the big picture in a big way.

Most of them are covering it like a popularity contest or a horse race, which, given the stakes, is utterly inexcusable.

Some of them are at least acknowledging that American democracy as we know it could end.

But even those few aren’t fully grasping the magnitude of the tipping point that a victory by Trump and the movement he leads would entail.

It’s not just democracy at stake, it’s freedom.

That, I believe is the proper and essential framing for all political coverage henceforth. And it’s powerfully laid out in a new report from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) titled “Freedom Under Fire: the Far Right’s Battle to Control America“. MAP is a progressive think tank that researches LGBTQ issues and laws. Here’s the summary:

Across virtually every aspect of life, people’s freedoms are under assault in the United States. The forces attacking these diverse freedoms ultimately want to create a rigid, restrictive society  according to their worldview only, with little room for  those of different beliefs, values, or expression.

The report details a number of ways in which extremist politicians are attempting to “fundamentally remake this country.” They include:

  • Restrictions on health care and the right to make decisions about one’s body 
  • Restrictions on the freedom of ideas and the ability to get a comprehensive education
  • Restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of expression
  • Restricting the right to vote and participate in free, fair elections

There are other freedoms under fire as well.

A country built on immigration is growing increasingly hostile to immigration. Trump is threatening to detain and deport hundreds of thousands of people of color who have made America home.

And extremists have successfully banned efforts to redress the legacy of racial discrimination against Black Americans or address the systemic inequality they continue to experience.

In a brilliant New York Times Magazine essay, Nikole Hannah-Jones writes about how “We are in the midst of a radical abandonment of a compact that the civil rights movement forged, a shared understanding that racial inequality is harmful to democracy.”

She quotes Anthony K. Wutoh, the provost of Howard University, saying: “My broader concern is this is a concerted effort, part of an orchestrated plan to roll back many of the advances of the ’50s and ’60s. I am alarmed. It is absolutely regressive.”

Regressive is exactly the right word. Journalists should use it instead of “conservative” because there is very little that’s genuinely conservative about the MAGA movement that has swallowed the Republican Party whole.

Dobbs as a Starting Point

The threat of a white Christian authoritarian government is no longer abstract, it is upon us – but the corporate media remains tongue-tied on the subject.

Reproductive rights are the most obvious target of the extreme right. In the Dobbs decision, six extremist justices destroyed half a century of progress for women’s rights, health care, and justice. (The press, incidentally, blew that story and continues to do so to this day, wildly understating how enormous a victory it was for the forces of authoritarianism and misogyny.)

The same Christian nationalist extremists who since Dobbs have made abortion effectively illegal in so many states are also targeting trans people, endangering access to birth control, banning books in schools, censoring university professors, threatening the press, and trying to throw young people and people of color off the voter rolls.

The seminal question being put to us in 2024 is not which candidate is more energetic. It is: Are we at the end of our nation’s slow march to progress based on expanding human rights? Are we, instead, at the beginning of an era of rescinding them?

Indeed, so many of the ways that this country once seemed to be moving toward enlightenment  – most particularly in terms of the moral acceptance and civil rights of minorities and women — feel like they’re in the process of reversing under the influence of Trump and MAGA. Meanwhile, the values of white Christian nationalism, which had been becoming increasingly rejected by civil society, are now liberated and ascending.

Pluralism as a shared American value is being replaced by othering. The value of diversity is shifting from positive to negative. The threat of political violence is on the rise. The definition of patriotism is being changed from shared sacrifice to resentment. Truth is under siege, while misinformation is rampant.

Here’s how the MAP report concludes:

The politicians, extremist groups, and activists that comprise the far right have demonstrated that they want to dictate what people can think, do, and say. They want to constrict people’s freedom to make their own decisions about their health, bodies, and identities. And to clear a path for their efforts, they want to silence anyone who would apply pressure to the levers of power in opposition to them, whether they are voters, protesters, the press, or political opponents. Their tactics to achieve these goals are to attack the bedrock freedoms of democracy in the courts, in the legislatures, and in the public discourse. When they rack up policy victories along their path, everyday Americans suffer concrete harms, including worse health outcomes, the loss of a quality education, and barriers to basic needs like social safety net benefits. If the far right succeeds in this multi-pronged attempt to reshape society, the price will be liberty.

Should Republicans win the White House and Congress, giving no indication they would ever relinquish power, there will be no coming back.

We are at an inflection point. The very nature of our country is at stake. It is beyond time to sound the alarm, and the leaders of our newsrooms should overcome their squeamishness and start ringing away.


  1. Such projection and fear mongering. The only people being fired from their jobs for disagreeing with progressive ideology are conservatives, You can burn a pregnancy center down with impunity because “it happens at night but if you simply stand in front of a abortion clinic and pray you are charged with a FACE violation. You can storm the White House for three days, burn the Church of the Presidents and injure nearly 200 federal officers in the melee and no one is jailed yet a few hundred idiots who rioted on January 6 still await trial in the DC gulag. I don’t see our VP raising money for their bail if any is granted.
    Ask yourself who is the FBI investigating? Who is claiming white Christians are a threat. Pluralism permits opposing points of view yet progressives want to cancel those who object to their policies. And for the record progressives are conflating illegal entry and legal immigration. Conservatives have no issue with immigration but it has to be done legally. Both Obama and Biden once said a country cannot allow its borders to be erased by illegal immigrants.
    The biggest bigots are those who believe people of color are too stupid to get a valid id to prove voting eligibility. Conservatives only demand that voters are eligible and only legal votes are counted so if you want illegal votes counted don’t talk to me about saving democracy.
    Wake up progressives and see that these gaslighters are using you as human chattel to promote their own totalitarian desires.

  2. Yes, let’s keep Trump off the ballot to “preserve democracy.” God help us if voters were allowed to vote for someone who we “progressive” hypocrites don’t approve of. After all, we love The People but we are scared to death of people. We love democracy! LOL


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