Is Our Republic in Jeopardy?
During the recent impeachment hearings, frequent reference was made to the quote by Benjamin Franklin when he was asked when leaving the Continental Congress in 1787 what type of government had been devised: a monarchy or a republic. He is alleged to have answered “A republic if you can keep it.”
We are once again in a time when many feel our ability to “Keep It” is in jeopardy. For over 200 years, such a thought would have seemed ludicrous, but recent events lead many of us to believe that our government is now at risk.
Politicians talk a great deal about public service, but the nature of that service involves the need for power. In a democratic republic such as ours, we elect people to do our bidding, and cede power commensurate with what is needed for them to do the jobs we hired them to do.
Unfortunately, power is intoxicating, and can be addicting. As with all forms of addiction, such a lust for power can overwhelm moral and ethical prohibitions and result in corruption – thus the oft quoted saying: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
As is commonplace with all addictions, once power is conveyed, it is never enough. A taste merely whets the appetite for more. History is replete with examples of elected heads of governments progressing from employee to ruler, sometimes accomplished by means of violent overthrow, but in more recent times by the subversion of institutions designed to limit power. In order to stay in power, it is necessary to maintain control over those governed, thus information, the most powerful freedom of all, must be controlled. Since secrecy is important, terms such as “national security and executive privilege” are often used to prevent the masses from becoming well informed.
Truth. Facts. Confusion.
With the advent of what has been called the “information age” secrecy has been difficult to sustain leading to the use of misinformation as a tool to keep the masses confused and/or unaware. Unfavorable news can be effectively buried by diverting attention to something more dramatic…either real or imagined. Our news media has become as biased as our political parties, which makes truth ever more elusive. There seems little attempt to separate fact from opinion especially now that we see more people getting their news from TV or online. Trust in our institutions is faltering. Conspiracy theories abound and effectively obliterate truth.
The Rise of the Executive Branch
Presidents have become progressively more powerful since the beginning of our nation. This has culminated in our witness to a President who not only evades oversight, but whose power so completely dominates his party that he has been able to trample long-held traditions and the Constitution itself without a whisper of dissent from a Republican controlled senate. It appears that his failed impeachment has resulted in an extension of his reach for power.
Trump and the RNC Convention
I did suffer through his acceptance speech last night although I cringed at the sight of his continued violation of the Hatch Act while presenting himself as the purveyor of law and order. Mark Meadows when questioned about this responded that: “No one cares about that (the Hatch Act)”, and sadly that seems to be true for many if not for everyone as it is for most of the administration’s other transgressions. Nevertheless, I was sickened by the desecration of that hallowed residence as I watched it being used as a backdrop for a political carnival.
Fact checkers have apparently given up on their usual chore, the distortions partial omissions, half-truths, and downright lies presented in his acceptance speech are well beyond the scope of this little ditty, but the one I found most disconcerting was the realization that during the 70 minutes he was pontificating about how well he has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, 47 Americans were dying. In ICUs across the country, wires were removed, tubes were extracted, oxygen valves were closed, bodies were covered, and transferred from beds to gurneys. 47 families would receive the dreaded phone call, denied the option of that final kiss or squeeze of a hand. Yes, over 1,000 people still die of this scourge in our country daily while Nero Trump fiddles and pretends it is “under control.” Whatever happened to the term: negligent homicide?
A Brief History of Campaigning and Elections
With Trump’s survival of impeachment, the only recourse left for those of us who are convinced that he is unfit for office is to replace him by voting him out. It didn’t take long after the birth of this republic for people to start looking for ways to game the system. The founders were a bit skittish themselves about who they should trust with the power to hire people to run things. Half the population was eliminated from the start for everyone recognized that women were much too emotional and illogical to be allowed such awesome power. However, it is interesting to note that there were already signs that rebellion was afoot, for Abigail Adams wrote her husband to suggest to him that it was time for women to have their say. John of course realized this was ridiculous (sorry Maggie). Native Americans and slaves were among other groups who were automatically denied voting privileges.
Although there was general agreement among the founders that self-government was the ideal, there was no precedent as to how this could be accomplished as monarchies and theocracies had been the rule for centuries. There was concern as to the ability of the masses to make informed decisions due to their lack of literacy and their perceived naivete leaving them more vulnerable to charismatic leaders. I found it interesting to note that many, John Adams in particular, were also concerned about the formation of political parties which he felt could lead to divisiveness. There was prolonged debate as to how elections could be done, but they finally arrived at the compromise we call the electoral college.
Initially it was considered unseemly for one to campaign for the Presidency for it was felt to be an honor to be chosen and not solicited. It was not long however until campaigns, especially for the highest office, became competitive and efforts to cheat began. Buying votes with money, booze, food, or privilege was common. Following the Civil War with masses of former slaves having won the right to vote emphasis shifted to finding ways to prevent voting with poll taxes, literacy tests, vagrancy laws, requirements to own property, or threats of bodily harm, largely initiated by democrats who were a majority in the south. With the civil rights movement headed by a democrat, the south rapidly switched parties and took over the voter suppression business.
In 1965 the voting rights act became law consequently; efforts to suppress voting have become much more sophisticated. There has been gerrymandering, shortened hours to vote, fewer polls in selected districts, increased difficulties in registering, purging of rolls, and more complex ID requirements. Since nationwide, democrats outnumber republicans, and a larger percentage of republicans usually vote, a lower vote total usually favors the republicans. Now we have a unique problem in that we are facing the challenge of conducting a national election in the midst of a serious pandemic.
In the midst of a time when it is advisable to minimize human contact, the most obvious solution would be to enhance voting by mail. Several states have had very favorable experiences with such plans including a significant increase in voter turnout which from the republican point of view may not be such a good thing. Fortunately for Republicans our genius President has implemented a plan. He appointed a buddy to run the postal department with instructions to dismantle or at least disable the entire system in order to prevent a millions of ballots from being counted. He has also promised a backup plan to intimidate disadvantaged voters by dispatching police or armed troops at polling places throughout the country (guess which ones?).
RED FLAGS Anyone? | Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You!
For the first time in our country’s history a sitting president has suggested delaying a national election. He has also refused to agree to abide by the results of the upcoming election, and appears to be setting the stage to invalidate it by predicting that there will be lots of fraudulent votes and that it is “rigged.” He characterizes the press as “the enemy” and has set an all time record regarding the number of associates and staff members who have been found guilty of felonies. He meddles in court decisions and constantly finds ways to subvert constitutional oversight. He has congratulated and expressed envy of those world leaders who have been given lifetime terms in office. He alienates our nation’s friends and coddles our enemies. I have written in previous blogs as to how I believe his insatiable ego needs prevent him from experiencing any concern about right, wrong, or the effects his behaviors might have on others. In ordinary circumstances Trump’s braggadocio, bullying, lying, impulsiveness, and impaired judgement would be laughable, and indeed it was before he became president, but now that he has become the most powerful man in the world these qualities make him the most dangerous man in the world.
Trump and I Agree on One Thing
There is one statement made by Trump in which I am in total agreement: this is indeed the most important election in my long memory and perhaps the most important in the entire history of this nation. We must spare no effort to assure this election is not stolen and that every vote is counted. That includes making a lot of noise about this attempt to cripple the postal service.
Meanwhile, be alert, stay healthy and vote early.