Democracy’s not a spectator sport
In the Sept. 7 Cape Gazette, a letter-writer referenced an old urban legend about Donald Trump. Similar stories have been told about other celebrities. They share common themes. Someone does a celebrity a small favor and is rewarded beyond their wildest dreams.
Upon closer inspection, the stories evaporate. Such is the story about Trump paying off a Good Samaritan’s mortgage. Yes, it has been printed here and there. No, it didn’t happen. More information is available online.
The letter-writer was calling for a calmer approach to our politics, which is good, but inadvertently furthered the narrative that the fault for our poisonous politics lies with both sides. That’s partly true, always will be. There are extremists on both sides. But only one of our two major parties is unwilling to accept the results of a free and fair election. If that remains true, one of two things will happen. The Republican Party will die, or our democracy will die.
Even now, Republicans have been laying the groundwork in case Gov. Gavin Newsom survives California’s recall election. They’re calling it “rigged,” which has become the Republicans’ go-to response for any election they lose.
Nearly a year afterward, Trump continues to contest the 2020 election. On Saturday, he observed the 20th anniversary of 9/11 by, among other things, lying about the supposedly “rigged” election that he lost by 7 million votes. Those continuous attacks on our elections poison our democracy. Fortunately, we have some reasons for hope.
On Thursday at the Reagan Presidential Library, former Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) said that Republicans have to stop “pretending” they won the 2020 election. “We need to give our supporters facts that will help them put all those fantasies to rest so everyone can focus with clear minds on the issues that really matter,” Christie said.
On Saturday, former President George W. Bush spoke at a ceremony honoring those who died in Shanksville, Pa., while trying to regain control of Flight 93. The plane is believed to have been headed toward the U.S. Capitol building. Bush compared the international terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 with our homegrown fanatics.
“There’s little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” Bush said. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard of human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them.”
That’s what our country needs, Republicans willing to speak up about the Big Lie and the Jan. 6 Insurrection. We also need Democrats and independents willing to heed Bush’s call to confront those seeking to destroy our democracy.
If we’re too timid to speak the plain truth or if we lazily step back and blame both sides, we further the aims of those who would seek the end of our democratic experiment.
In other words, now is not the time for “calmer, common ground,” as appealing as that sounds. Common ground can only be achieved when both sides respect our elections and our democratic institutions. Until then, we have to be willing to fight for our country: Democracy’s not a spectator sport.