Democracy Calls on Us

Published: December 11, 2020

By Jim Lichtman
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We are living in dangerous times.

Photo: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

In his biography of George Washington, Douglas Southall Freeman wrote that President Washington led the country “by directness, by deference and by manifest dedication to duty.”

Donald Trump is the polar opposite of Washington in character and duty.

Indeed, Washington would be sickened to see that the nation’s capital that bears his name has disgraced itself in the last four years not only from a self-serving, narcissistic liar, but the sweeping cowardice of a majority of Republican leaders who are more interested in their political survival than duty to the country to which they swore to “protect and defend against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

“The president’s legal and moral responsibility,” economist Robert Reich said, “is to protect and uphold our system of government.”

Donald Trump’s immoral irresponsibility has been to do pretty much whatever he wants to inflict damage to our system of government and credibility with our allies.

Trump has so thoroughly poisoned the well of core institutions and American values that the 74 million who voted for him distrust any institution or individual he deems as disloyal or part of an imaginary “Deep State.”

Even the deadliest virus in 100 years, that Trump admitted he downplayed in an interview with journalist Bob Woodward, has had zero effect on supporters. In an utter lack of caring for millions of Americans, Trump attacks the CDC and our nation’s top scientists even as he continued to hold rallies where few, if any, wore masks and none socially distanced themselves as health agencies strongly advise.

The mantra that Trump used in his 2016 election was, “Make America Great, Again.” This is just one example of many simplistic phrases that supporters cling to and cheer: When we stop Mexican “rapists”; When we build a “great wall”; When we defeat the “Deep State”; When we stop Muslims from entering the U.S.; When we… When we… When we…

The unalterable world of Trump lives and breathes by three precepts: disregard, distrust, and denial: disregard for American values; denial that he’s ever wrong; and distrust of all who challenge him with the truth: don’t trust the FBI; don’t trust the justice system; don’t trust scientists.

In supporters deeply flawed logic, whatever Trump says works like an aberrant form of a high school geometry proof.

“The only way we can lose,” Trump boasted at a rally, “is if the election is rigged.”

He lost the election, therefore, the election was rigged.

Now that he’s leaving office on January 20, let’s take a small peek at his legacy.

When Trump’s own attorney general declares that there was no widespread voter fraud, and Trump rages otherwise, that’s his legacy.

When 40 legal challenges against election results have been dismissed, mostly by Republican judges, that’s his legacy.

When the U.S. Supreme Court – with three Trump-appointed conservative judges – refuse his challenge of election results, that’s a huge part of his legacy.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

However, none of this matter to supporters.

None of what the attorney general says matters.

None of what scientists say matters.

None of a basket full of conflicts of interest matter.

Well, it matters to the rest of us.

In the last four years, the country has slowly been poisoned. Trump’s particular brand of poison is cynicism, a deep and abiding conviction that everyone and everything that challenges his belief system is corrupt.

This isn’t what makes America great. This is what has made America more divisive and contemptuous.

How do we recover from this poison? What vaccine can we take to defeat this virus?

Republicans in the House and Senate need to stop cowering, and stand up for the truth, not only about the election results but against the staggering amount of lies from this demagogue in chief.

For Americans, it calls for the acceptance of facts first.

It calls for the belief that science is here to help, not be judged through a political lens.

It calls for all of us to re-engage in democracy and elect individuals who believe in duty to country before party loyalty.

It calls for all elected leaders to put aside differences and be the example of unity that the country needs right now through reason and compromise on policies that help the country, especially in its greatest hour of need for the many who are suffering financial hardship as well as a deadly virus.

“Elections,” Robert Kennedy said, “remind us not only of the rights, but the responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy.”

We are facing such responsibilities now. We can meet them, but only if we restore faith in our democracy and push for real leadership can we solve any problem, face any hardship, defeat any enemy “by directness, deference, and… dedication to duty” …one nation, indivisible.

Democracy calls on us. Will we answer?


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