Over the years, historians have written that democracies are “experiments in government,” rarely surviving more than a few centuries. The reasons they state for the failures are many.
First is the burden placed on its citizens. Consensus for group decisions is difficult to reach and seldom satisfactory to participants, necessary honesty and transparency are difficult to maintain, and the goal of equality for all is an enormous challenge.
Second, democracy is based on peaceful co-existence, often leaving these countries less prepared for war, violence, and invasions from enemy forces.
Third, historians have not written much about domestic terrorism, a present threat to democracy’s existence in America and elsewhere. Our nation’s Civil War was the most formidable threat to our democracy, and much of the hatred and racism continue to exist.
How could we ever imagine there would be large groups of citizens who would seek to overturn the government?
After the November election, Trump convinced a large number of his devoted supporters to believing his Big Lie: that the election was fraudulent and that he was the duly elected president. Masterfully employing his honed showmanship skills, power-hungry Trump soon garnered a huge following. Who’d ever think a president of the U.S. would refuse to follow the law; lie about and dispute our free and fair election; and reject his oath of office to uphold the Constitution? It is amazing that he has had an increasing number of believers. It should be noted that Trump is determined to destroy democracy and establish his presidency in an autocratic America.
Shockingly, Trump instigated a vicious attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021. Without concern or regard for folks who might be killed or injured, or for damage to our treasured Capitol building, Trump did nothing to stop the melee after he encouraged it. The coup was unsuccessful, but great damage was done, and the fury over election results continues to the extent that many of our states are now initiating questionably unconstitutional election restrictions.
Fourth, another obstacle to our democracy is from a group of influential Republicans, determined to rewrite history. They would like us to forget the despicable ways we dealt with native Americans and forget our abuse of enslaved non-white people. Vociferously, they want us to reject history and believe, instead, that early settlers, land owners, and slave owners were fair and concerned folks who offered “help” to “needy” people in “our” America. They even desire re-writing current events, claiming that the violent incursion of Jan. 6 was merely a Capitol tourist squabble. How is it possible to re-write Jan. 6 history with the thousands of photographic and video footage that exist of this horrendous event?
Democracy demands truth and transparency. It also demands accountability in the face of unlawful actions. How else can our society combat wrongs and tackle unconstitutional problems?
To dispute historians’ prediction of democracy’s failure, we must evaluate our existence — although on “shaky” ground at present. As noted previously, we have faced a multitude of problems. We have been able to win wars due to the noble sacrifice of many Americans devoted to fighting for our way of life. Over the years, we have rebounded from economic crises, and we have survived inept and unqualified leadership in both the Republican and Democratic parties.
Now it depends on us to fight for our special, diverse and peaceful way of life. Our devotion to democracy must include action. The seemingly impossible task of establishing cooperation between the two polarized parties is critical. We must convince our leaders to move past their prejudice and party disputes in order to collaboratively address the greater threats and problems facing our nation.
We know that “true” Republicans did not want or support the bigoted, dictatorial ways of Donald Trump. Yet many of those good folks were, and continue to be, silent. With mob-like threats, Trump bullied moderate Republicans into silence and reluctance to oppose him. The only way to combat a bully is to publicly expose him. Exposure will garner media support that will hopefully encourage cooperation between folks, necessary to defeat Trump and preserve our democracy.
For the present, let us bombard true and honest Republican senators and representatives with our voice, imploring all of our elected officials, from both parties, to take bi-partisan action.
Let’s do our part to preserve our democracy and its precious tenets of truth, justice, equality, and fairness.
Harriet Hausman is a longtime resident of River Forest and a longtime member of the ACLU.