American politicians like to paraphrase the scripture to proclaim that this nation is a light in the darkness, a beacon that engenders freedom and equality and hope to a beleaguered world. In truth, however, our practice of politics has become more like the darkness of a moonless overcast night.
The Los Angeles Times reported that “Our quadrennial balloting, despite obscene spending by campaigns and the often-rancorous exchanges between candidates, has served as an example to the world that free and fair elections are possible and the transitions of power can be peaceful. Americans might be deeply divided politically, but every four years they have a chance for a political reset––and the voters of all the parties accept the outcome. So, what does this year’s election signal the world? The vote has revealed cracks in the country’s foundations that will have significant global repercussions.
“A second crack likely to reverberate around the world has been the steady flow of unfiltered lies from the president. By reaching out to his supporters directly on social media with deeply misleading information, he has provided a dangerous model for would-be leaders about how to lie directly to supporters with few repercussions, while undermining reputable media that rely on facts.
“Success in escaping electoral accountability––and in undermining democratic foundations––will not go unnoticed by other populist and authoritarian-leaning politicians around the world… contradicting inconvenient facts with lies and governing with bluster rather than actions will undermine democratic accountability around the world.”
Leadership of Threats and Lies Rather than Inspiration and Truth
It seems to me that President Trump is abandoning even a pretense of governing. His single-minded focus is on the destruction of every person and every institution that stands in the way of his perverted understanding of democracy. His management-by-threats and his firing of people who have the knowledge and experience to contradict his lies has left the United States bereft of expertise. The president has submerged highly respected U.S. government institutions, institutions that have historically been shielded from politics, into his swampy wash of lies and bluster.
Mr. President, Someone is Going to Get Hurt
When facts and expertise repudiate a Trump doctrine, he turns to more lies and heightened threats of violence. A case in point is Gabriel Sterling, the Georgia Republican who had the responsibility of overseeing the state’s voting. The president suggested that if the Georgia election results were certified and Biden was declared the victor there could be a violent response. Sterling lashed back that “Mr. President, this has to stop….Someone is going to get hurt. Someone is going to get shot. Someone is going to get killed and it is not right.”
Seeking Blame Rather than Solutions
I have great sympathy for parents and young people who are dealing with school closings and distant learning. But I have no sympathy for those who are blaming governors, mayors, school superintendents and teachers. These public servants did not cause the situation and they are not being given the guidance, expertise and resources they need to solve it. It is, rather, the fault of those US Senators who refuse to fully fund the community institutions we need to fight this pandemic. Governors, mayors, superintendents and teachers are fully capable of bringing the schools back online if they are given the funds and guidance they need.
A large portion of blame also rests with those who reject social distancing and insist on gathering without masks at events and in restaurants, bars and homes. My God, folks, between 2,000 and 3,000 people a day are dying because of our mutual irresponsibility. When I see someone without a mask in our public square, I don’t see a neighbor, I see a threat to my life.
An Assault from Within
The continued assault by Republicans on American democracy will cripple the nation as they blindly follow their failed leader down a rabbit hole. For weeks they refused to acknowledge President-Elect Biden’s victory and they denied him the resources needed to begin the transition. Their acquiescence to the president’s ridiculous accusations of fraud has discredited the integrity of the vote despite the fact that the president’s own national security leaders proclaimed the election fair and free of fraud. They are encouraging the creation of a potentially permanent block of Americans who think anything less than reaffirming a ruthless, lying autocrat is fraudulent. It breeds a cynical distrust in American democracy among a large swath of American voters—and, in the world.
My own cynical distrust is focused on those Republicans in Congress who encourage the president’s abhorrent misbehavior in the hope that it will ensure a failed launch of the Biden administration. A long-standing Republican political tactic is to create doubt about government efficacy, deprive elected Democratic presidents of the resources they need to do their job, and then proclaim the Democrats have failed. It is time for statespersons in both parties to stand up and fight for the good of the our nation rather than the good of a party.
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.