Apocalypse Now

We are, all of us, standing at a crossroads.

How we respond will determine whether we continue with a constitutional form of government with three co-equal branches, or a neo-fascist regime administered by an authoritarian, aided by a rogue attorney general, a self-assured Senate majority leader, a majority of silent Republicans, and a transparently dishonest cable opinion network that acts as a propaganda machine.

I’ve made jokes about Trump in the past and so have Republican lawmakers, but there is nothing to laugh at now.

When Trump was asked last week if he would “commit” to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the upcoming election, he wasted no time in making his intentions clear.

“We’re going to have to see what happens,” he told White House reporters. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster. … Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse laughed it off. “He says crazy stuff. We’ve always had a peaceful transition of power. It’s not going to change.”

Here’s some of Trump’s “crazy stuff.”

Trump told Washington Post reporter, Bob Woodward, in a recorded conversation, that he knew how bad Covid-19 was in February and deliberately downplayed it.

“…you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. … more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

“It’s going to disappear one day,” he said, publicly. “It’s like a miracle. It will disappear. … I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down…”

Even as the virus was shutting down the economy, people laid off and sequestered at home, the president knew… he knew the crisis was coming, and his administration never developed an effective plan to deal with the greatest medical emergency in 100 years.

Without evidence, Trump continues to discredit mail-in ballots.

Recently, Trump, Jr. has called for an “army” of “able-bodied” people to join an “election security” squad to prevent “millions of fraudulent ballots that can cancel your vote and overturn the election.”

“Election security” “army.” What does that sound like?

After FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress that “The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections,” Trump said – without any evidence – “I did not like his answers yesterday.”

While drug makers and the FDA state that they will only release a viable vaccine when it is safe to do so, Trump claims he can override the FDA regarding new vaccine guidelines.

“We’re looking at that and that has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move.”

And it gets crazier.

When experts on his coronavirus task force tactfully disagree with Trump’s assessment (remember the time he suggested injecting bleach as a solution?), he pushes them aside and hires Dr. Scott Atlas, an expert on two things: neuroradiology – the diagnosis and treatment of brain, spinal cord, head and neck, and vascular lesions – and time spent on Fox News.

And in the midst of all of this chaos, Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, announced – 90 minutes after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg – that the Senate will confirm a replacement before the end of the year, maybe sooner.

This week’s TIME magazine celebrates the 100 Most Influential People. On the last page, beneath a photo of Ginsberg from a similar list years ago, is a statement by Justice Antonin Scalia, the political opposite of Ginsberg.

“Having had the good fortune to serve beside her,” Scalia writes, “I can attest that her opinions are always thoroughly considered, always carefully crafted and almost always correct (which is to say we sometimes disagree).

“What only her colleagues know is that her suggestions improve the opinions the rest of us write, and that she is a source of collegiality and good judgments in all our work.”

If only such collegiality and good judgment existed in Congress today.

Through all the lies and hypocrisy in the last two weeks, the one word that has not been mentioned is character.

Character is not about what you say, it’s about what you do. People demonstrate good character when they act outside themselves, are willing to put the interests of others ahead of themselves. Leaders with good character are guided by the ethical principles of honesty, respect, responsibility, compassion and civic virtue. They do the right thing even when the price is more than they want to pay.

This election is totally about character – one person who believes that he is the United States, and one who believes that we are the United States.