The Ghost and The Darkness

Published: July 1, 2024

By Jim Lichtman
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Last week left us gasping after the first presidential debate and apprehensive about what to expect from the Supreme Court this morning about Trump’s total immunity case. (Now we know the answer to the second issue.)

Let’s begin with the obvious. Joe Biden did not have a good debate night. He had a disastrous debate night. Despite the rah, rah rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, that followed, Biden appeared like a ghost of his former self on Thursday, leaving Senate and House Democrats deeply concerned and supporters and donors alarmed about what happens next.

Biden had more than 30 opportunities to punch back at Trump’s encyclopedia of lies but failed, to the orgasmic ecstasy of Trump supporters who have surrendered their thinking to a man devoid of decency and character. They may not want to admit that, but I’d like to believe that most of them know it in their hearts.

British-born American patriot Thomas Paine wrote, “When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.”

Donald Trump is out to dismantle the Constitution and the institutions that have sustained us from the Civil War to Civil Rights. To believe otherwise is to live in denial of his plans to expand his power.

I’ll be a dictator . . . on day one, only,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “Revenge” is mine, saith the lord of the Republican party.

Memo to supporters: Snap out of it! That’s precisely what Trump will do before he leaves the west front of the Capitol if he’s elected—beginning with pardoning himself, ordering the Justice Department to drop the federal cases against him, or both. And that’s just the beginning of what he will do to curtail our Constitution and deny us accountability.

The intransigence of the Republican party to all of this is beyond immoral. And the stick-with-Biden-he’s-a-good-man loyalty by Democrats is a disservice to supporters.

This is the nightmare scenario we’re living through. Both sides saw this coming, but both failed to act on behalf of the country they were elected to serve.

While Democrats beat their chests about how dangerous Trump would be in a second term, they never looked to their farm team for a younger, brighter, and more appealing candidate to run against the Prince of Darkness. (Trump would throw Machiavelli under the bus if it served his needs.)

In 2023, Pew Research reported, “About two-thirds (66%) of the voting-eligible population turned out for the 2020 presidential election – the highest rate for any national election since 1900.”

As uplifting as Pew finds this, one-third (34%) of voters did not vote. Allowing for 10 percent who may have been sick or otherwise legitimately indisposed still leaves far too many who abdicated their civic duty.

The League of Women Voters defines civics “as the study or science of the privileges and obligations of citizens.”

Obligation being the operative word here.

Back at the dawn of my high-school years, civics was a required course. Today, Louisiana now requires a poster-size display of the Ten Commandments in every public school–K-12 as well as state-funded universities. When did Christianity (at the exclusion of other religious beliefs, by the way), become so important that it be posted in public school classrooms?

“In recent decades, we as a nation,” the LWV adds, “have failed to prepare young Americans for self-government, leaving the world’s oldest constitutional democracy in grave danger, afflicted by both cynicism and nostalgia . . .”

Living in a free society requires us to work at it, not turn our thinking over to social and partisan media that encourages contempt and succumb to our worst impulses.

While there have always been wild conspiracies, I’d like to believe that most of the country relies on reason for their decision-making, especially regarding civic duty. As such, we have an obligation to do our homework, examine the facts, and form an opinion on the issues and the individuals without relying on conspiracy theories or social media factoids.

Is there any hope at the end of this tunnel vision?

This may come as a shock, but according to a poll by the Associated Press and NORAC Center for Public Affairs (April 3), “Despite the country’s deep political polarization, most Americans share many core beliefs about what it means to be an American.”

Part of the tension that drives dissension, the report points out, “is our leaders are not reflecting the electorate, and they behave in a way that’s much more polarized than what the electorate is,” said Lilliana Mason, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University. “Most Americans,” she said, “are pretty moderate, but they’ve been riled up to hate people of the other party for being different from them culturally, racially and religiously.”

I would have voted for the most common-sense Republican running for president in 2016—former Ohio Governor and House member John Kasich—if he had not been drowned out (ultimately disappearing from the primaries) by all the personal attacks the other candidates inflicted on each other on the debate stage. At one point, Kasich asked the moderators when they were going to discuss the issues.

The TIME magazine cover story headline quoted Kasich: “The Republican Party is my Vehicle, Not My Master.”

The recent cover story in TIME about the former president reads: “How Far Will Trump Go.” The warning could not be more ominous: it isn’t about what Trump will do for the country but what the country will do for him.

While I agree with Bill Maher’s NY Times editorial, “Why I Want and Open Convention,” most party leaders appear willing to risk going down with the S.S. Biden. So, we’re left with playing the hand we’ve been dealt.

This election is a choice between the Ghost and the Darkness.

Do we choose a man who, despite age issues, has a track record of working for the whole country, and remains a firewall against autocracy, or do we choose a man who is manifestly self-serving, and set on altering our democracy no matter the cost ?

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