It has been an interesting summer, beginning with the House hearings of the January 6 committee and continuing with the revelations of how the 45th president pilfered classified documents when he left office 14 days after his failed attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Important as they are, neither of those events should distract us from the realization that we are at a historic moment in our 246-year-old democratic experiment.
We’re running up against another election only slightly less consequential than the 2020 contest. Once again, it is no exaggeration to say that democracy is on the ballot. The issue no longer is whether one prefers the policies of the Republicans or the Democrats. The issue—the only issue—is whether one believes in majority rule and minority rights, the rule of law, the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, the equal right of all citizens to vote.
Those who have been regular readers of these essays over the past three plus years may have tired of the repeated times that you’ve been warned about the threat to American democracy. Nonetheless, it’s still there—perhaps greater than ever.
The Republican Party leadership still acts as though it’s business as usual. Meanwhile the grassroots drift farther to the right, holding on to the fiction about a stolen election while locally around the country efforts are under way to subvert the next presidential election.
We’ve become so inured to chaos and official unlawful behavior over the past seven years that we run the danger of thinking that the present situation is normal. It isn’t.
And because we’ve experienced something like normality for the past year and a half, we may have deluded ourselves into thinking the danger has passed. It hasn’t.
We are in the eye of the hurricane, and the worst may be yet to come. The 45th president now flirts with the neo-fascist QAnon crowd, in addition to the Proud Boys, Promise Keepers and assorted militias. Thanks to the Second Amendment many of their members are armed, and they’ve already proven themselves dangerous. They’ve appropriated the rights, privileges and vocabulary of American democracy and fashioned them to accomplish their anti-democratic goals.
We’ve been here before. In the 1930s a robust Nazi movement grew in the America with a clear, explicit anti-Semitic agenda. We heard echoes of that program in Charlottesville in 2017.
The mythology of America is that we are a generous, welcoming, law-abiding nation. And we have been that in good times. But we also have dark episodes in our history when we have skirted the protections of the Bill of Rights that we profess to uphold. We’ve experienced one violent episode recently already, and we have every reason to expect that more will follow.
We should have every reason to believe that we’ll be safe. My own family has been in this country since before the Civil War. My brother, my uncle and I have served in the Armed Forces. My children, my cousins have served their country. But we are Jewish and fully aware that we could become targets if the dark forces that have emerged in the past five years have their way.
We’re past the time when our fears—and those of many I know—can be dismissed as paranoia. Those who ignore history, etc. The warning signs are there and shouldn’t be disregarded. If our democracy isn’t a given—and it isn’t—then nothing that flows from it is either.
Yet we aren’t helpless in this situation. We are still a democracy. We still can vote. We still can participate in elections like the one approaching. We don’t even have to leave the comfort of our homes to join the effort. Candidates in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Virginia need support. If we think of ourselves as isolated individuals, then our contribution may seem insignificant. If we realize that individually we are part of a multitude, then we become powerful.
Nothing is inevitable.