Mike Lee's insistence that America isn't a democracy is a dangerous slide toward fascism

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There's a certain type of obnoxiously precocious middle schooler who loves to lecture their peers (and everyone else) about things like how the word "decimate" actually only means "1 in 10,'" and how I bet you didn't know the word's largest desert is in Antarctica, did you? — the sort of "technically true"-isms that are incredibly annoying but ultimately harmless when issued from a 12-year-old eager to show how smart they are.

And then there's United States Republican Sen. Mike Lee, of Utah, whose "um, ak-shu-a-lee!!!" shtick isn't so much an endearing exercise in ephemeral trivia as it is one of the more overt examples of the GOP slide toward fascism in an era already rife with undemocratic Republican power plays.

The shtick in question is Lee's denial of American democracy, which he insisted on reiterating over and over again Wednesday evening during the vice presidential debate between California Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence.

To be clear, in the most nitpicky, obnoxiously specific definition imaginable, Lee is technically correct that America isn't a pure democracy — in fact, debates over whether we're a representative democracy, a republic, some weird fluctuating hybrid of the two, or neither are nothing new. But Lee, who fired off his explicitly undemocratic tweets in the wee hours of Wednesday morning while quarantining after a positive COVID-19 test, clearly wasn't offering his poli-sci assessment as a purely academic thought experiment.

"We want the human condition to flourish," Lee wrote. "Rank democracy can thwart that."

Lee neglected to clarify what, exactly, he considers "rank democracy," but the purpose here is clear: to denigrate the very concept of democracy as being subordinate to the expansive, all-purpose Republican shibboleth of "liberty," which can at any given time mean letting people own their own anti-aircraft guns, forcing women to lose agency over their own bodies, and giving multi-billion dollar companies free reign to do, well, anything they want really.

Indeed, downplaying American democracy — nuances, disagreements, flaws, and all — has been something of a bugbear for Lee for months.

Taken on their own, Lee's tweets could, I suppose, be written off as the hypocritical musings of a crank who just so happens to sit in the United States Senate. But taken in tandem with President Trump's not-so-subtle insinuations that he might refuse to leave office should he lose re-election, to say nothing of his ongoing efforts to delegitimize the election process itself, Lee's tweets take on an ominous new dimension: that of a powerful ally to the president who has no qualms about personally joining in Trump's destabilizing slide toward fascism, no matter what the voters actually want.