In a recent column for The Washington Post, Robert Kagan wrote, “The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves.”
My columns over the past four years in The Pilot have charted this gathering storm. Those columns have:
- assailed the cowardice, mendacity, duplicity, corruption, incompetence and destruction of norms demonstrated by local, state, and national far-right Republicans;
- considered how “dark money” has corrupted our system and made politicians servants to their corporate owners;
- looked at systemic racism from the days of Reconstruction, the rise of the KKK and subsequent Jim Crow laws, through the simmering racism that has festered since the enactment of the Civil Rights laws of the 1960s;
- discussed how racism has presented itself in the form of voter-suppression laws, racially motivated gerrymandering, persistent killing of unarmed black men and women by protected white males and rogue white police officers;
- addressed the historically harsh manner in which America has treated immigrants, from those reaching our shores in the 19th and early 20th centuries to the present cruel and bigoted rejection of Muslims, people from Africa and people from Mexico and Central America;
- denounced politicized religious organizations, like select groups or evangelicals who have raised millions of tax-free dollars while shilling for — and embracing — a corrupt president; or, denounced Catholic priests who have preyed on innocent children for generations, often under the protection of bishops who covered their crimes;
- cast a cold eye on the “paranoid style” of right-wing media figures like Tucker Carlson, as well as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Maria Bartiromo and other propagandists who peddle Trumpism and routinely pit Americans against each other in their trademark sneering and contemptuous manner; and
- encouraged critical thinking and warned against anti-intellectualism and tribalism by analyzing current problems in the context of historical precedents, and by weighing causes as well as effects in our present crises.
My Trump-supporting readers, especially those of the “America Right or Wrong” contingent, have incorrectly referred to me as an America-hating Marxist or socialist. In the reductive bromides of the ‘60s, they have invited me to “Love America or Leave It.” Somehow these folks believe that they are the sole arbiters of who is — and what is — truly “American.”
Sadly, there is no arguing with people who embrace absolutist, bumper-slogan attitudes and uncompromising positions against those whose ideas offend them. They seem willfully blind, even hostile, to national crises that warrant immediate attention — like the climate, the unceasing pandemic, infrastructure, the widening wealth gap, a woman’s right to choose.
America is not now and never has been perfect. Our foundational documents profess that all people are created equal and that we are a government of the people, by the people and for the people. These are admirable, but essentially aspirational, beliefs. We are still striving to actualize these ideals and, yes, have made significant progress. Yet when Trump Republicans in many states and in Congress systematically and aggressively legislate to deny their political opposition the right to vote, or even have their votes counted, they are cutting at the very heart of democracy.
It is essential to be open and honest about our current problems — so we can solve them. We do not drive our cars with flat tires. We do not let our burning homes be consumed by flames without calling the fire department. We do not let our loved ones die of disease without calling a doctor. Why would we let our nation, in crisis, implode?
We must be honest about this crisis, in order to better achieve the mission stated in the Constitution, namely, to form a “more perfect union” — not a perfect union, but a more perfect one. We can do better, and if we are to survive and prosper as a democracy, anti-Trump Republicans must join with the Democrats to place country above Trumpism.
In his Washington Post column, Kagan concludes by saying, “One wonders whether modern American politicians, in either party… have the insight to see where events are going and the courage to do whatever is necessary to save the democratic system.
“If that means political suicide for (a) handful of (courageous) Republicans, wouldn’t it be better to go out fighting for democracy than to slink off quietly into the night?”
William Shaw, of Pinehurst, can be followed at williampshaw.substack.com.