Alan Zendell, May 5, 2021
Marriages break up for various reasons, the most common of which is “irreconcilable differences.” That’s another way of saying that in the absence of flagrant adultery or spousal abuse, couples drift apart, and rather than attempt to resolve their differences, they often let them grow and fester.
Differences exist in all relationships. They can be a source of growth, strengthening the bond, or they can be destructive and divisive. With open communication and a mutual willingness to invest the requisite time and energy, they can be bridged, but when they become extreme, it can be impossible to find common ground. When that happens there is no recourse but divorce.
All relationships are fragile. They require care and nurturing, and that’s equally true in the politics of a two-party democracy. Differences between Republicans and Democrats have always existed, but in the past, people of good will have found ways to come together and overcome them. Our system has endured until now because no matter how sharp our differences, there always came a time when responsible people put country ahead of personal gain and ideology. Our republican form of government survived wars and economic disasters but there is no guarantee that it will survive internal pressures tearing it apart.
In the decades since Ronald Reagan declared that the government was more a source of problems than solutions, and Republicans realized that if they continued to depend on white, working class voters to retain power, we’ve seen an erosion of the basic notion that the Constitution and the general welfare of all Americans must always be our guiding principles. In the face of population shifts in diversity and education which would inevitably relegate their traditional base to minority status, Republicans had an existential choice – expand their tent or rely on lies and restrict voting rights for people who typically voted Democratic.
Despite calls by Republicans who remember what their party was based on, systemic racism, misogyny, and elitism caused the party to drift to the extreme right. Differences and prejudices were exacerbated rather than negotiated, and the result has been the worsening gridlock that dominates Congress and many state legislatures. And that has revealed a glaring weakness in our democracy, an oversight by our founders which may ultimately destroy it if we do not rethink our priorities.
The founders assumed that when push came to shove, patriotism and the Constitution would prevail. They never anticipated that someone like Donald Trump would be willing and able to come to power based on an alternate reality that ignored facts, or that Americans would be gullible enough to be manipulated into thinking that anyone who believed differently was their enemy. The strength of our democracy depends on a loyal opposition. When each side views the opposition only as something to be put down and defeated, we are in serious trouble.
That is the real legacy of Donald Trump whose entire governing philosophy is creating chaos and destroying anyone who is not one hundred percent loyal to him, and for whom nothing matters but his own power and wealth. Rather than heal, Trump prefers to inflame. Since his only real talent is a lynch mob kind of charismatic appeal, and he is completely without scruples, we are being driven to the same end as all those couples who allowed their relationships to erode until there was nothing left to save. Make no mistake – perpetuating the Big Lie that the election was stolen will destroy our country if we allow it to continue.
I just returned from two months in Florida. At the hundred-day mark of the Biden administration, I saw signs everywhere that read, “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Trump.” The anger and vitriol of Trump supporters is real and tangible, notwithstanding that they’re based on a deliberate campaign of lies and misinformation promoted by the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate.
That’s why Facebook announced today that it will continue to ban Donald Trump from its platform, and Twitter has shown no inclination to reinstate Trump’s account. Those are the only signs I’ve seen that there is hope for our future. We should be thankful that the two most powerful (and unregulated) social media platforms recognize that truth is more important than profit and popularity.
If only our elected representatives believed that, if they demanded that voices like Liz Cheney’s be heard instead of demonizing her, we might actually emerge from the Trump era stronger than we were. If they don’t, I fear that the American experiment with democracy is doomed.