“The best argument against Democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
- attributed, perhaps apocryphally, to Winston Churchill
Not long after we retired in 2015, a conservative friend added me to a conservative email chain; soon thereafter, I received an email circulated by the group sharply criticizing then-President Barack Obama for having “the lack of respect to not honor our fighting forces,” stating, “In the 69 years since D-Day, there are four occasions when the President of the United States chose not to visit the D-Day Monument that honors the soldiers killed during the Invasion,” listing four years in which President Obama had not traveled to Normandy: 2010 – 2013.
I was surprised by the email. Even if not stated explicitly, it left the impression that President Obama had never traveled to Normandy to honor our D-Day fallen. I seemed to recall that Mr. Obama had spoken at Normandy D-Day Commemorations during his time in office. In an internet search taking literally less than 30 seconds, I found that during his presidency Mr. Obama had spoken on the Normandy shores not once, but twice, in 2009 and 2014. I emailed our friend my search results, along with supporting links. Our friend sent a very gracious thanks for my disproving the message’s totally inaccurate and disparaging impression of Mr. Obama.
Not long after, I was removed from the circle. [It was almost certainly for the best ;).]
As these pages have made pretty clear, my greatest fear for the American way of life prior to Election Day was the likelihood that President Trump’s obvious dictatorial – at times, seemingly fascist – tendencies would cause our descent into autocracy if he was re-elected. Now that such risk is arguably behind us (although I will breathe most easily on this score once President-Elect Joe Biden is sworn into office), the once seemingly-unimaginable reactions of so many of our people to the unsubstantiated malevolent claims of election fraud spread during the last month by Mr. Trump and his enablers have brought home to me what I would suggest may be the next greatest danger confronting our American democratic experiment:
Not Mr. Trump’s increasingly unbalanced narcissism and pathological lying;
Not national Republicans’ continued gutless subservience to the President, a despicable dereliction of their Constitutional responsibilities undertaken solely to preserve their own political careers;
Not the alt-right media’s promotion of ever-more-outrageous conspiracy theories to inflame their followers, broadcast purely to jack up their own profits;
Surprisingly, not even that segment of Americans who are affirmatively racist, misogynist, nativist, homophobic, or religiously biased – many of whom, alarmingly, apparently don’t care that Mr. Trump lost the election, and are merely intent on keeping him in power – only because I believe – hopefully not mistakenly — that this segment, whose sentiments pose a poisonous threat to our republic, is relatively small.
It is the indication that many millions of our people, who do believe in democracy, with accurate information readily obtainable through the slightest of effort, are either negligently or willfully choosing to give credence to manifest falsehoods.
Republican election officials in Arizona and Georgia that personally opposed Mr. Biden have declared that there was no fraud in their electoral processes and that, alas, Mr. Biden won their states. Former Republican WI Gov. Scott Walker, perhaps as venomously partisan as any state official in this country, sent a tweet soon after Wisconsin’s votes were tabulated, in effect signaling that Wisconsin’s processes were clean and that, alas, a recount would not unseat Mr. Biden’s victory in the state. U.S. Attorney General William Barr, arguably Mr. Trump’s more important defender and enabler, has declared that, alas, the Department of Justice has uncovered no evidence of fraud that would overturn Mr. Biden’s victory. So many identifiably or de facto Republican judges have thrown out the Trump Campaign’s specious attacks on various states’ electoral processes that I have lost count.
I always paid greater heed to Fox News’ Shepard Smith’s debunking of Mr. Trump’s lies than I did to that of CNN or MSNBC commentators specifically because Mr. Smith was at Fox News. (Mr. Smith is now at CNBC.)
I’d wager a fair sum that any of Mr. Trump’s supporters visiting a car dealership this past weekend were appropriately skeptical of any salesman’s claim that a given car “was a great deal.” Yet, despite a Rocky Mountain Range of indications that Mr. Trump’s blatantly self-serving claims about election fraud are entirely baseless, these supporters remain determined to believe him. If enough of our people are unwilling for a long enough period to face facts that are, in a saying favored by my sainted mother, “as plain as the nose on your face,” our experiment in democracy will not survive. Now that we have at least for the present escaped the overt danger of totalitarianism, let us hope that after Mr. Trump leaves office – and despite his inevitable efforts to the contrary — a significant percentage of those now giving any level of heed to his lies “awaken,” and reassume their civic responsibility to investigate and reflect upon the issues facing our nation with a level of reason and dispassion.
“This Constitution can only end in despotism…when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.”
- Benjamin Franklin, at the conclusion of the 1787 Constitutional Convention