Opting Out

Alan Zendell, August 19, 2018

Ever since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, public reaction has been separated into well-delineated camps. One of the two most vocal and obvious groups is comprised of Trump’s loyal supporters. The other is made up of people who think he represents a clear and present danger to the nation, not the way Tom Clancy imagined it, but the elements of a conflicted Intelligence community and a president who is accused of putting ego and politics above the welfare of the country are strikingly similar.

We’ve heard the talking heads on both sides ad nauseum. The constant din of people screaming, “Fake News” on one hand and accusations on the other that the president is immoral and unfit have resulted in a dangerous impasse. Trump’s relentless attacks on his opposition and his willingness to go to any lengths to silence anyone who stands in the way of his insatiable lust for power have caused his party’s leaders in Congress to either submit to his will or announce that they are withdrawing from the fray. Now we get to decide if they’re unfit.

The political atmosphere has become one in which the people in power are ever more extreme in their attempts to further their divisive agenda to disrupt the political establishment, while those willing to speak in opposition have so far seemed relatively impotent. The noise from both sides has become mind-numbing, causing far too many people to bury their heads and tune out.

The same thing happened prior to the 2016 election. The anger and corruption in both major political parties, the hype over lies and false accusations, the outrage felt by both sides caused millions of us to opt out, and the resulting ennui was a major factor in Trump’s victory. We can’t afford to let that happen this November.

Neither Trump’s rabid supporters nor his vehement detractors comprise a majority. As in 2016, the midterm elections will hinge on the disaffected nonvoters and those who held their noses and voted for someone because they disliked him less than his opponent last time. This time they have no excuse to stay home on Election Day or pretend this election is not about a critical turning point in our history.

We now know exactly who our president is and what he represents. And we know who our Congressional representatives are, which ones still have a shred of integrity and understand their constitutional obligation to be a check on the excesses of the Executive Branch, and which ones  have succumbed to preserve their seats. It’s up to us, the voters to elect people willing to stand against abuses of power, xenophobia, and racism.

If we don’t, we will enable an administration that will go to any lengths to suppress the opposition and dissent that are fundamental to our way of life. We will be telling Trump that there are no limits to how far he can go to punish anyone who disagrees with them. We will be supporting his attempts to shut down immigration so he can arouse his ultra-nationalistic base and profit the billionaire donors who are desperate to stop the demographic shift toward a multicultural, browner America. We will be adding our voices to the mobs who scream that the media are the enemies of the people unless they speak adoringly of the president.

If you discount the fears that our democratic institutions are under attack, if you smugly believe it can’t happen here, you may one day look back on November of 2018 as the moment when we might have avoided a disaster that our children and grandchildren will live with for decades. How is it possible that a government that is praised by our most dangerous adversaries and despised by our traditional allies could be acting in the best interests of any but a small, elite power clique?

For those among us who cheer the president’s divisive and racist attacks on groups who cannot defend themselves, re-read your history. The day may come when you and your family are on the receiving end of this evil.

I’m reminded of the 1970 film, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. It’s 1938 in Ferrara, a prosperous mid-sized city in Italy. Outside the town the world is in chaos, with governments being overthrown, fascism uprooting democracies, and millions of people arrested and murdered because of their race or religion. The Jews in Ferrara think it won’t happen to them, because they’re Italians and their country would never betray them. Complacent to the end, by 1943, all of them who haven’t escaped Italy are in concentration camps.

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