The Most Serious Threat to Our Democracy Yet

Alan Zendell, August 14, 2020

I was a Never-Trumper long before he announced that he was running for president. Trump and I have the same Queens, New York pedigree, except that I wasn’t born to a wealthy, racist father. My father was a hard-working guy, a smart, decent man whose education was cut short by the Depression. While Fred Trump was getting rich cutting corners and denying decent housing to blacks, my father served in World War 2 and came home with neurological damage that led to a long, slow decline from Parkinsonism. He did his part to protect our democracy and raised his children to respect that above all else.

As the president’s niece, Mary Trump documents in her book, Donald Trump was raised with an entirely different set of values. Laws existed to be circumvented, morality was for chumps, and nothing mattered except making money. Lying, cheating, stealing, ripping off people who depended on him were just business, as long as he didn’t get caught. After he left his father’s house he was schooled by corrupt lawyers and criminals. Unlike the wild claims and accusations Trump throws around, all that is well-documented in places like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

That was the Donald Trump who was constantly in the face of everyone who grew up in New York, the Donald Trump I believed was not only unfit to be president, but a dangerous threat to our country. It wasn’t about politics. I would happily trade Trump for a conservative Republican, in the mold of compassionate conservatism, people like John Kasich, Larry Hogan, or Jeff Flake.

Despite my misgivings, when I began this blog shortly after Trump was inaugurated, I decided to wait and see if he was capable of growing into the job as Lyndon Johnson did. With an education rooted in scientific method, I put my bias aside and watched as objectively as I could. But it was clear from the start that Trump reveled in vulgarity, pandering, and flaunting every norm including laws, honesty, and common decency. I and others better qualified to evaluate such things, quickly noticed frightening parallels between Trump’s behavior and that of Adolf Hitler. We posted warning signs, things to look for that would signal our democracy was in jeopardy.

Trump brags that he’s an expert at creating chaos, sowing dissension, and generating rage so intense it blinds his opponents. In three-and-a-half years he has outdone himself with lies, absurd conspiracy theories, and bald-faced attempts to undermine the Constitution. He would turn back the clock to the era in which people like his corrupt father thrived. We warned in 2017 that he would stop at nothing to expand and hold on to his power, even at the expense of our democracy.

As the endgame for the 2020 election begins, Trump is at his immoral, conniving worst. The last two years have seen Trump-inspired attempts to suppress voting on an unprecedented scale, most notably in Georgia. Both parties agree, the lower the turnout on Election Day, the better it is for Republicans. The more Trump prevents people of color from voting, the greater his chances of re-election. Trailing badly in the polls, he decided to undermine the election rather than lose.

This isn’t just Trump being the immoral narcissist we knew him to be. This is a man willing to dismantle our Constitution for his own ends. The American Revolution was about escaping the financial and social tyranny of an autocratic king. The framers of our Constitution assured, as best they could, that an autocrat would never rule here. The keystone of the thing we call the American experiment in democracy is our elections. Discredit and undermine them, and our country will never be the same again.

Yesterday, Trump admitted to a world-wide television audience that he intends to hamstring the postal service, to assure that universal mail-in voting in the midst of a pandemic expected to claim a quarter of a million American lives by Election Day will be impossible. There is no greater existential threat to our nation.

For voters, there are two ways out of this mess. One is to raise our voices to tell Republican Senators who are on the ballot in November we will not tolerate the destruction of the Constitutionally mandated federal postal system. The other is something each of us can do. If every registered voter requests an absentee ballot today and mails it back by mid-October, Trump’ s attempt to rig the election will fail.

It’s a simple enough thing for every American who cares to do, and Trump is powerless to prevent it. We apparently can’t stop the cost of mailing a ballot to increase from twenty to fifty-five cents, but if you don’t care enough about our country to buy a stamp, don’t complain about the outcome.

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