Two hundred and forty years ago today, the 13 British colonies in eastern North America proclaimed their independence from the mother country, with historical consequences that have shaped western civilization and the world for over two centuries. It is an appropriate day to reflect not just on the birth of the greatest democracy every conceived but to look honestly at the state of the Union and where it is heading.
Friday evening I posted a few words about the occasion on Facebook, and was taken aback by the response. My point was simple, really: that the great freedoms given to us by the Founding Fathers and for which generations of Americans fought and died should not be squandered by putting an unqualified would-be dictator like Donald Trump at the nation’s helm:
The decision of the original colonies to give the finger to their ruler is one that changed the world. The movement for independence was led by educated and subtle men who understood what they were doing and understood that Great Britain likely would not commit substantial military resources to keep dominion over the colonies. At the time Britain could have squashed the Revolution if they had had the political will to do so. They did not. And so our country was born, this nation that for the past two centuries has been the world’s greatest experiment in freedom and democracy.
The experiment worked.
On this celebration of our national decision to become the greatest country the world has yet known, remember that our democracy is as fragile as any. And the efforts of the Founding Fathers, and the iron will of Abraham Lincoln, and the heroism of the Greatest Generation that rescued Europe from Nazi enslavement will all be for naught if we anoint as our leader a stupid man who does not have the first clue what the United States of America stands for.
Happy Independence Day. Don’t throw our hard fought freedom in the garbage in favor of a reality show star who hates everything that makes America, America.
Much of the response to my post was favorable (I think most Alabama progressives are my Facebook friends), but the post also ignited a vitriolic and at times downright hateful partisan argument about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and yes, even Bernie Sanders. The rhetoric employed by all sides brooked no conciliation or middle ground. The tone of the “debate” was I’m right, you’re wrong, go to hell, nah nah nah nah I’m not listening.
It is this partisan divide that could tear our fragile democracy to pieces. America has come to a crossroads and in November it will be forced to choose a direction not just for the next four years but for the next century. The United States must decide whether to maintain the democratic ideals on which our nation is based or instead embrace the anti-democratic rule of a vulgar man who promotes ignorance, racial and ethnic divisions, nativism, and knee-jerk nationalism, and who rejects and is professedly ignorant of the constitutional framework on which our democracy depends.
My detractors will say I am only saying this because I am following my own liberal biases. It is true that I am liberal, that I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Alabama Democratic primary, and that I in all likelihood would have supported Hillary Clinton even against a mainstream Republican candidate in the general election. Guilty as charged. But that does not change the truth of what I am saying here.
This election for our 240-year-old nation does not pit a center-left Democrat against a center-right Republican, which describes just about every presidential election in the 20th century. As an example, I was disappointed in 2000 when the United States Supreme Court handed a partisan electoral victory to George W. Bush over Al Gore, but I did not worry that our country was rejecting its core ideals. I figured the pendulum would swing back to the center-left and I was right — in 2008 we elected Barack Obama over John McCain, a mostly admirable center-right Republican who made a shockingly terrible choice for running-mate.
Some argue that McCain’s decision to put on the GOP ticket Sarah Palin, a completely unqualified far right-wing moron bereft of the slightest knowledge of how government works, paved the way for the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the GOP throne. That may be, but it is not particularly relevant.
What is relevant is that we cannot elect Trump and maintain our democracy. He is not a center-right Republican. He is not really even a Republican; he’s just using that party’s name to help in his quest to become dictator. And if you don’t believe Trump intends to arrogate to himself powers the constitution does not give the President then you have not been paying attention.
Donald Trump is a demagogue who plays on populist fears and racial hatred, much as a failed Viennese artist did in post-World War I Germany.
Donald Trump wants to Make America Great Again, but only for white men, who constitute the bulk of his supporters. Trump supporters claim that lefties like me use the label “racist” as some sort of weapon of mass distraction, and ignore Trump’s own statements (and tweets) that demonstrate that he is in fact a xenophobic racist who treats women like possessions. It is not my opinion that Trump is racist and misogynist. It is a fact, proven by the things that come flying from his mouth on a near-daily basis.
Donald Trump believes as president he can “change the libel laws” so that he could sue newspapers and other media companies who publish stories critical of him. He is unaware of the First Amendment limitations on the libel laws. He is also unaware that it is the independent judicial branch that imposes and enforces those constitutional limits. He thinks the president does that. He is wrong.
The list of things of which the GOP presumptive nominee is ignorant is a lengthy one. He does not understand the international monetary system and the disastrous consequences if America went along with his stated intention to “negotiate a deal” on America’s debt obligations, confusing the largest economy on earth with one of his scammy businesses that use the bankruptcy laws as a negotiating tool and a sword to screw over creditors. Trump does not understand the nature of international relations and so believes that he could personally force Mexico to pay for his mythical wall between our countries. His ignorance of the complex geopolitics of the Middle East is abysmal. He is unaware of the Equal Protection clause and how that fundamental constitutional provision would prevent him from barring Muslims from America.
In sum, Trump seeks an office that does not exist. He does not want to become president, with the checks and balances and limitations on power that the constitution imposes on that office. Instead, Donald Trump wants to be anointed king. He wants virtually unlimited power. He wants to be a dictator without restraint.
Donald Trump wants to be America’s Adolf Hitler.
Will America remain divided? Will American voters continue to ignore the evidence of their own senses? If they do, there is a chance that our electorate is poised to make a decision from which our democracy may never recover, at least in our lifetimes.
The men who decided to split from Britain, and the men and women who preserved our Union through a fractious and bloody civil war, and the men and women who defeated the Nazis deserve a better legacy than a nation that embraces its own Hitler.
Hillary Clinton is flawed, and she has baggage. But a vote for her will be a vote to preserve our democracy.
A vote for Trump is a vote for a racist dictatorship.
The choice is yours, and the responsibility is yours. Choose wisely.