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Questioning American Democracy


Questioning American Democracy      Gerry OShea

President Lincoln in his famous Gettysburg address delivered in November 1863, summed up the dream of a vibrant democracy for America in his famous words, “Government of the people, for the people and by the people.” Who can argue with such noble sentiments?

 America never functioned as a perfect democracy based on the Gettysburg ideals. For instance, twice in recent times in Bush v Gore in 2000 and Trump v Clinton in 2016 the candidate who got the most votes lost the election – hardly a good advertisement for democracy.

There is, of course, a constitutional reason for these aberrations but it does raise eyebrows about the fairness of a system anchored on belief in the equality of all citizens. Still, democracy is alive in America featuring hotly contested elections for local and federal offices.

However, the system is in crisis since the last presidential election, won by Joseph Biden. His opponent, Donald Trump, representing the Republican Party, has rejected the outcome as corrupt. His lawyers made the case for overturning the official results, but dozens of judges rejected their claims refusing even to hear their legal briefs because of the complete lack of evidence for any serious electoral miscreancy.

He is still crying about how he was wronged and, amazingly, has been successful in persuading a majority of his party that Joe Biden actually lost the election which took place three years ago. Anybody seeking to wield power in the Republican Party must affirm the preposterous belief that Donald Trump is the real president of the country, that a half dozen states conspired to hide the genuine election results which would have sent him back to the Oval Office.

America used to be the City on the Hill for aspiring or struggling democracies in Africa and Asia. Today we must acknowledge America’s greatly reduced influence in many parts of the developing world. The noted political scientist, Joseph Nye, defined the “soft power” of a country as its ability to shape the behavior of others through attraction rather than coercion. A fractured America doubting legitimate election results provides a poor exemplar of high democratic standards.

Why would any nascent democracy model itself on a country where one of the two main political parties vociferously questions the authority of the elected president? Furthermore, adding insult to injury, Republicans intend to nominate again the man who not only lost the last election but led a violent insurrection to promote the ludicrous claim that he won.

Perhaps the scariest part of this story is that Donald Trump is running neck-and-neck with President Biden in polls that predict the likely winner in the presidential choice next November.

During a Veterans Day speech, he used language reminiscent of Mussolini and Hitler promoting their deadly message in the 1930s. He demeaned his political opponents by pledging “to root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin in our country.” Continuing with this listing of enemies, he went on to decry Democrats as presenting a threat from within the country far more hostile and dangerous than outside forces in Moscow or Peking.

His use of the word vermin to describe his opponents was particularly offensive and far outside the often-harsh give and take of American politics. Hitler and Mussolini used this sinister word to dehumanize their adversaries and it is still identified with fascist rhetoric.

One might expect an explanatory note after that speech claiming that he was misunderstood and resented being compared to obnoxious dictators. No. Instead, his spokesman, Steven Cheung, warned that the people attacking him will “have their sad miserable existence crushed when Trump returns to the White House.”

The Anti-Defamation League condemned his characterization of undocumented immigrants as “poisoning the blood of our country.” What road are we going down when the blood of some groups is deemed inferior to others? Why are religious leaders not loudly condemning this balderdash language?

He has promised openly to use the Justice Department to take vengeance on his political rivals while, at the same time, claiming that Joe Biden and the Attorney General, Merrick Garland, are in cahoots against him, using their authority to engineer 91 felony charges – all with punishment levels covering years in prison if he is found guilty.

There isn’t an iota of evidence supporting his allegation about the misuse of power against him by President Biden or the Justice Department; in fact, the president and attorney general, who distanced himself from the legal imbroglio by appointing a special prosecutor, have been extra careful to stay a mile away from the ongoing investigations into the credible claims that Trump initiated the violent insurrection in the Capitol on January 7th, 2020 and that he stole sensitive state secrets after leaving the White House.

He insinuates that the nation’s top military general should be executed, and he proposes to eliminate some unspecified parts of the Constitution. Also, he has told the country that if he wins next November, he would have “no choice” but to imprison political opponents. He has spoken about invoking the Insurrection Act on his first day in office which would allow him to deploy the military to put down civic demonstrations.

It is hard to believe that the Republican Party seems set to nominate a man with such outrageous ideas for governing the most powerful country in the world. We are not dealing here with legitimate ideological differences between conservatives and liberals, but we are taking seriously a man who is so delusional that he promises without reservation to imprison his political opponents when he gets back to the White House.

The MAGA condemnation of “the fake news media” qualifies as standard rhetoric in far-right circles in every country. In America, they accuse the major media outlets, except for Fox News, of showing bias in favor of what they view as standard liberal fare. Mr. Trump’s disdain for factual information in favor of a flow of half-truths and lies is well documented, especially by the Washington Post.

Trump has warned us publicly of his intentions. Surely, we should take him seriously.

Gerry OShea blogs at


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