Has America Lost Its Moral Compass?

Published: July 1, 2022

By Jim Lichtman
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In September 2009, I posted a commentary with that title with the following opening . . .

“During an awards ceremony, a Rap star takes the stage away from one winner and shouts that another should have won.

“A political pundit calls the President a racist.

“In the middle of the President’s address to a joint session of Congress, a representative shouts, ‘You lie!’ and… is hailed as a hero by some.”

We live in a much darker universe, today.

We learned that a former U.S. president continues to rally supporters behind a lie they willing believe.

We learned that that same former president attempted to dragoon three top officials at the Department of Justice to “just say [the 2020 election] was corrupt and leave the rest up to me and the Republican congressmen.”

We learned, through a former senior White House aide, that on the day the electoral votes were to be certified, at a time when the Capitol was beginning to swell with angry protestors, that the former president knew that supporters we’re carrying weapons and encouraged them to march on the Capitol.

In the last four years, the country has seen more chaos, deeper divisions, and a very real threat to democracy from the most unlikely of individuals . . . a U.S. President.

We are lumbering through a wilderness of vulgarity, division and rage the likes of which hasn’t been seen in more than 100 years.

“What has happened to the United States of America?” wrote Steve Wacker in a September 2009 letter to the New York Times. “…we waste precious time appeasing a fringe that apparently thinks catcalls, insults and half-truths are the keys to effective governance.”

Today, the catcalls, insults and half-truths have morphed into violence against valued institutions and the officials who represent us by a forceful fringe who have set aside their belief in their country’s values and instead put their faith in rumors and falsehoods spread by a swaggering, reckless, self-serving former president.

We are losing the best of ourselves to fear, lies and intimidation.

“You must have faith,” Franklin Roosevelt told Americans in 1933. “You must not be stampeded by rumors . . . . confidence and courage are the essentials. Together we cannot fail.”

In today’s political universe, Roosevelt would likely face an unbeatable challenge in overcoming the hostility rampant in America today.

Nonetheless, we need someone who will stand up and stand for our highest aspirations; someone who will not be bullied by fear or intimidation, who understands that during times of crisis, each of us has a duty beyond ourselves.

Cassidy Hutchinson displayed the kind of character and courage rarely seen in Washington. Hutchinson is the former aide to Mark Meadows, chief of staff to President Trump. She was in the room and heard the conversations leading to the events on Jan. 6. Much of her testimony to the House committee disturbingly described Trump’s actions on that day.

“Trying to fight the results of the election, finding missing ballots, pressuring,” Hutchinson described, “filing lawsuits in certain states where there didn’t seem to be significant evidence, and reaching out to state legislatures about that.

“So pretty much the way that the White House was handling the post-election period, [John Ratcliffe Director of National Intelligence] felt that there could be dangerous repercussions, in terms of precedent set for elections, for our democracy, for the 6th,” she told the committee.

“We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie . . .  As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American.”

The truth is not always easy to accept, and it’s getting rarer to hear.

Committee vice-chair Liz Cheney said, “Republicans cannot be both loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution.”

Poised, remarkably detailed and candid, Hutchinson became another example this week of the kind of character and courage that is largely absent today. And, along with Republican Congressman, Adam Kinzinger, we need a few thousand more Cheneys and Hutchinsons to help us find our way back.

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