Although we have just celebrated another Independence Day, our country is in serious trouble.
Americans have been losing faith in their leaders for decades. Much of the blame lies with elites whose “expertise” led us into war in Vietnam and Iraq and shipped jobs out of the country without providing adequate replacements. Not surprisingly, many Americans no longer trust the experts (regardless of the issue) and feel played for suckers by those calling the shots.
We also have been losing faith in each other. While some applaud our racial, ethnic and religious diversity, others view that diversity as a threat to the values of the founding fathers. Similarly, we are deeply divided over abortion, guns, and gay rights, with opinions usually reflecting the different ways we interpret scripture and the constitution. Predictably, we have come to view those who disagree with us as “enemies” to be crushed rather than as fellow citizens to be debated.
Doubts about America’s future are not new. In the 1700s and early 1800s, the conventional wisdom was that democracy could not survive in a geographically large country with a diverse population. By our 90th birthday, we had already fought a civil war, “testing whether) in the words of Abraham Lincoln) ... any nation (conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal) ... can long endure.” Unfortunately, unless we strengthen our commitment to democracy, we could well be headed toward a second civil war.
Most of us do not want to settle political disputes through violence. However, no matter how Republicans try to explain away what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and to downplay Donald Trump’s role in it, we saw the insurrection with our own eyes.
Shockingly, Republicans (who claim to be the party of “law and order” and the defenders of the police) have turned their backs on officers who risked death to protect the vice president and members of Congress from Trump’s own supporters. The hypocrisy is overwhelming.
As a legal matter, the 2020 election is over. Most Republican politicians know that, but too many of them are afraid to tell their constituents the truth.
If Republicans had really believed that Trump carried Pennsylvania, they would have requested a statewide hand-recount before the 2020 results were certified.
Their failure to pursue that option is strong evidence that party leaders had no faith in Trump’s claim that the election had been stolen from him. They knew what really happened: a significant number of Pennsylvanians voted for most other Republicans on the ticket but rejected Trump.
Post-election audits in Pennsylvania and other states are not going to “reinstate” Trump as president.
In fact, as Trump’s own acting deputy attorney general observed in January, the claim pushed by the Trump White House that Italian military satellites changed votes in our election was “pure insanity.”
Likewise, examining ballots to determine whether some votes for Joe Biden were cast on bamboo paper and shipped into Arizona from Asia is ridiculous.
Nevertheless, Trump’s claims of election fraud are fueling intense fights in state capitals and in Washington over voter registration, voter ID, mail-in voting and in-person early voting.
In the opinion of most Democrats, GOP efforts to change state election laws are aimed at reducing Democratic turnout, especially among racial and ethnic minorities. In contrast, most Republicans defend these state “reforms” as necessary to assure that only eligible citizens actually vote. Republicans also consider proposed federal voting rights legislation as unfairly benefiting the Democrats. Interestingly, when Democrats in Washington offered a compromise that would have mandated voter ID nationwide and dropped much of the liberal wish list, Senate Republicans refused to allow a debate on the proposal.
Some Republican states have gone a dangerous step beyond adopting new laws to tighten registration and voting procedures. They have also made it easier for local and state GOP election officials and GOP-controlled legislatures to overturn future election results they do not like.
By refusing to let go of Trump’s fantasy, Republicans are making the naïve assumption that Democrats will not follow the GOP’s example if the tables are turned in some future election. Sadly, as history shows, the Democrats are not saints. If something works for the GOP, it is likely that the Democrats will eventually try the same thing.
Democracy requires us to agree on – and stick to – a set of rules for determining who won and who lost an election. Without that, democracy will die.