As he publicly and privately seethes over his two year ban from Facebook and indefinite removal from Twitter, Donald Trump is labeling the 2022 election for U.S. senators and congressional representatives as the most important in our history.
Hyperbole, perhaps, but he is not alone in his assessment. If your email inbox is anything like mine you are inundated with multiple urgent messages declaring a crisis of possibly Armageddon size if an immediate (and generous) donation is not forthcoming to a candidate or cause dear to your, or should I say, their, heart. All will change for the worse, the entreaties insist, if “our” side doesn’t win so we can throw the bums on the other side out.
Trump has always cast himself as a media Megatron force. It is easy to visualize him stalking through Mar-a-Lago ranting to anyone who would listen that his First Amendment right to free speech is being trampled by Facebook and Twitter.
For the record, as private enterprises the social media giants have a right to censor anyone, especially if the transgressor pollutes their forums with falsehoods.
It is also quite illuminating that Trump’s primary mouthpiece in trying to overturn the 2020 election, former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, had his law license temporarily suspended by a New York State appellate court Thursday because he “sought to mislead judges, lawmakers and the public” in his advocacy that the election was fraudulent.
New York is a liberal state, for sure, but one wonders if other state judiciary systems will have the courage to slap down Trump loyalists who have impugned the validity of Joseph Biden’s election and the consequences of the insurrection inside the Capitol on January 6.
Indeed, a recent count of congressional candidates for the 2022 election included 18 professed QAnon members. It is almost certain some will be elected and become part of Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s posse.
Extremists, on both sides of the political divide, harangue about the virtues or detriments of socialism or unbridled capitalism. What most Americans really want are a decent paying job they enjoy, affordable housing, quality healthcare, a solid education for their children, security from evil doers, a safe and up to date infrastructure network, and a stress free retirement.
How to fulfill those wants separates Democrats from Republicans. Democrats believe achievement can come if government plays a part in balancing a field made steeper for the disadvantaged, be it by racism, sexism, or ageism. Republicans believe the free enterprise system is all that is needed to achieve equality and equanimity. Capitalism, they believe, rejects inherent bias. It does not require any government intervention.
Throughout our nation’s history there have been inflection points that altered government’s involvement in its citizens’ everyday lives. We fought a civil war that ended slavery (though not racism). When businesses became too monopolistic and exploitative, Washington passed anti-trust and consumer protection laws during the Teddy Roosevelt era. Franklin Delano Roosevelt ushered in the New Deal to reverse the unemployment scourge and related woes Republican Herbert Hoover could not manage. Lyndon Johnson pushed through voting rights laws and anti-poverty programs.
With income inequality rising sharply, with a shift from a manufacturing economy to a service oriented workplace, with a depleted middle class, with racism still a blight on our country even as our population evolves into a more colorful pattern, with global warming affecting agriculture and land use, and with the Internet transforming the way we communicate and work, we appear to be at another inflection point that would require government intervention.
A major difference between past eras and the present is that the opposition party, in this case the Republican Party, has turned its back on reality and the decades-long national interest in expanding voting rights.
Former Ohio Republican governor John Kasich says his party does not have an agenda beyond culture war issues such as being anti-LBGTQ rights and trying to end a woman’s right to control her own reproduction. The party’s platform, to Kasich, is simply to stymie any action by President Biden and Democrats.
Throughout our history we have witnessed how one man can change the trajectory of our nation, be it in politics or business. Jeff Bezos transformed shopping. Steve Jobs transformed communication. Donald Trump transformed politics.
Trump, as are all politicians, is entitled to believe his programs are best for America. But in advancing those beliefs Trump altered relationships long held by the public.
No longer can we rely on the sanctity of our electoral process. No longer can we rely on the wide acceptance of facts. No longer can we rely on the integrity of a president to adhere to and protect the Constitution. No longer can we rely on the innate goodness of the American public to distinguish between right and wrong.
Consider that a recent poll found that almost a third of Republican voters believe Trump will be “reinstated” in August (https://mol.im/a/9670255). Did these people not study civics in school? Are they not aware there is no such thing as “reinstatement” in the Constitution?
In 2020 the electorate decisively chose an agenda of action advanced by candidate Joe Biden. But voters failed to provide him the legislative support needed to push through his agenda in Congress.
Razor thin majorities in the House and Senate are at risk in 2022, especially when past midterm elections show that a president’s party usually loses seats.
Rather than support the programs Biden has put forward to help middle and lower class voters, voters are being manipulated by Republicans to care more for wedge culture issues than their own economic welfare (https://mol.im/a/9657183).
Recently, a post from Laura C. Keeling made its way back onto Facebook. It succinctly described our national predicament:
“America will not be destroyed by undocumented workers, same-sex marriage, Muslims, atheists or abortion, but rather by unreasonable fears, uncontrolled hatred, divisive politics, unethical politicians, deliberate misinformation, and a gullible population.”
“The Biggest Threat to America Is America Itself,” screamed the headline of Nicholas Kristof’s latest opinion piece in The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/23/opinion/america-security-competitiveness.html?smid=em-share).
Compared to other countries American students are mediocre, Kristof wrote, particularly in math and reading proficiency.
What really is worth worrying about, I believe, is the population’s failure to know history and recognize the traits of demagogues and the easy, almost imperceptible, way they can lead us into an autocracy, a dictatorship.
It is not just those free range Western state libertarians who challenge Washington and state capitol authority. Immigrants who came here for a better economic life, or to escape repression, violence or limitations on their freedom of thought are vulnerable to a Trump-like figure. Perhaps the last thing they want to embrace is a government seeking compliance, even if a program is well intentioned, such as wearing a face mask or getting a COVID-19 vaccination.
Complacency is the ultimate enemy of democratic values. In the past, too many Democratic voters were contented by having a Democrat in the White House. They failed to elect sufficient House and Senate members and, even more importantly, they neglected statewide elections, ceding powers to Republicans that only now are being realized.
Trump is right. 2022 may be our most important election as a democratic republic. Elections after that may be as free and fair as they are in Russia if complacency keeps Democrats, Independents and patriotic Republicans away from the ballot box in 2022.