This is one of the most clearly black-and-white, right-and-wrong, good-vs.-evil moments in recent American history
By Brian E. Frydenborg (LinkedIn, Twitter @bfry1981, YouTube, Facebook) November 4, 2020 (audio version of this article and podcast discussion here)
SILVER SPRING—Decency. Truth. Democracy. They are not candidates, but make no mistake, they are running and on the ballot. Trump’s supporters tried, surrounding a Joe Biden campaign bus on a highway in Texas, to run it off the road. The President himself approvingly retweeted their horrific, reckless act; no one was hurt, but that was never a pre-determined outcome on a crowded highway involving many large vehicles, including a large and hard-to-control bus that could easily have ended up in a fatal accident. The weather could easily have been worse, it could have been at night, any number of other factors could have been part of the equation and you would not be irresponsible for thinking such factors would not have been high on Trump’s or his supporters’ list of concerns.
Besides sending signaling approval of white supremacists, anti-Semites, Islamophobia, proven liars, grifters, convicted felons formerly on his staff, violent police abuse, a supporter who literally killed protesters in a riot, murderous dictators who continually spit at democracy in its face and fight its practice in their countries and abroad, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and plenty of other deplorables, Trump had amplified the messages of all of them and the one condition is that they support him, period, full stop.
This man loves power for his own sake and for power’s sake, two qualities many of the Founders feared with all their hearts and souls in a possible president. They even wrote a clause into the Constitution, the Foreign Emoluments Clause, to keep the president from being influenced by foreign powers while in office, a clause of the constitution that he has routinely violated (and gotten away with these violations rather inexcusably). He even disparages those who serve and die for the nation in uniform. He approaches virtually everything—even sensitive foreign policy decisions—from one or more of two perspectives: if something benefits himself personally or if something benefits himself politically.
Trump has broken the system so that it still sputters along, but hardly works as intended, making our current system of government not only dysfunctional but “extraconstitutional,” as I noted long ago. He has literally taken a great leap forward away from democracy and towards a democratic form of fascism (which I noted shortly after Trump’s inauguration), one far less violent than its twentieth century counterparts but far more deceptive in its less physically aggressive ways. Patriots within the system who are not on board to move America in a sharply fascistic direction are labeled by Trump and his sheep as “the deep state,” but as I noted long ago, even through the failure of Congress, the media, and voters to robustly hold Trump and his minions accountable, these so-called deep-staters—bureaucrats and officials whose loyalty is to the Constitution and the system above any loyalty to Trump, as their oath of office requires—have heroically limited the damage of Trump’s first term, but Trump would be able to whittle them down in spirit and numbers over time, and they have done about all they could up to this point: now, it is up to us to make sure they will not be reduced to martyrs flaming out along with the rule of law and the democratic republic we have had for over two centuries, always flawed but always advancing over time ever since its Founding to correct many of its faults and mistakes.
This is a historic chance to correct one of those mistakes, one of the worst in American history.
Other than his brinksmanship towards war with nuclear powers North Korea and Iran, nothing Trump has done has been more dangerous than his speech late last night, and certainly none have been more damaging to American democracy, when he as a sitting president attacked from the White House the very concept of legally-cast votes being counted and stated he would go to the U.S. Supreme Court to try to stop both votes from being counted and an American presidential election from being completed.
If anything, Trump has gotten worse over time since taking office; rather than the office ennobling him, he has dragged the presidency to his level and, in many ways, the nation along with it, and far before the coronavirus pandemic exposed Trump’s America as something of a failed state. It is hard to calculate the substantive damage, not even addressing the reputational damage, that Trump has done to America while in office, but it is not hard to imagine how accelerated his destruction of American democracy and American character would be in a second presidential term, and we should not give him the chance to show us since the American republic would not survive this.
I could write a whole other article about the character and experience of Joe Biden, who is a better man than Donald Trump in every possible way, who has far better ideas and policies in every category conceivable, and who would behave presidentially in every instance when Trump has behaved unpresidentially.
It is not just American democracy at stake, but democracy itself and the idea of a West worth emulating that is at risk if Trump hangs on. It seems we are entering a dark phase of legal challenges based on lies during which Trump will try to steal the election and disenfranchise thousands, maybe even millions, of Americans. We must all stay engaged and demand from our leaders at every level that they stand up to this and resist, and it may come to the point where we must stand up and resist the tyranny of Trump. Our republic is on the brink in ways reminiscent of the ancient Roman Republic, driven there by the crude, delusional narcissism and fraud of a madman and his followers. No president has done more to undermine democracy and the rule of law more with the arguable exception of Andrew Johnson during Reconstruction, right after the Civil War. You either stand with America and democracy or with Trump and tyranny. This is not just “another” election. With any recent presidential election, any Republican or Democrat winning would not be a risk to American democracy itself, but that is exactly where we are now. Those of you supporting Trump—for whatever reason—yes, you may continue on as our family members and friends, colleagues and bosses, but this mark, this stain, on your values and judgment and conception of being a citizen will never go away and we will never forget. Whatever issue(s) or sentiments drove you to support Trump, being so blind to or even accepting his wider damage both to American institutions and to fellow Americans make you his accomplices and neither history nor we will forgive or forget. We will remember the needlessly, vastly amplified numbers of both Americans who died during the pandemic and migrant children separated from their parents at the southern border. We will remember that you put whatever narrow interests or myopic fears you had ahead of the collective good of the nation and that you tolerated or even embraced behavior you would never, ever have stood for coming from the other side. You may buy some goodwill by stepping aside and declining to support the would-be tyrant’s efforts to illegally stay in office after what will almost certainly be his loss once the votes are counted, but your actions have spoken for a part of your soul that we cannot ignore but must find some way to learn to live alongside. We will go on living in the same country as you, but trusting you as fellow citizens again is not guaranteed and only action to right some of the horrors of this era on your part will earn you respect as citizens again.
For Trump, though, there is no redemption, and prison would be his only fitting next act once he is no longer in office. But for now, all that matters is this moment: the republic must be saved, Trump defeated, Trumpism as a movement massively contained, and Biden sworn in to replace the Trumpian stain and wipe it away clean as much as is possible from the White House and the nation, though a full cleansing may not be possible for a very long time.
Donald Trump is an existential threat to our democratic system as we know it, and a second term for him would be an extinction-level event for American democracy. Our republic needs saving; let us now, during these precarious days and weeks, stay focused and ensure it does get saved. After that, let us make sure we keep it worth saving.
Also see Brian’s eBook, A Song of Gas and Politics: How Ukraine Is at the Center of Trump-Russia, or, Ukrainegate: A “New” Phase in the Trump-Russia Saga Made from Recycled Materials, available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook (preview here), and be sure to check out Brian’s new podcast!
© 2020 Brian E. Frydenborg all rights reserved, permission required for republication, attributed quotations welcome
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