‘A republic, if you can keep it’—Why we can’t let 2022 be our last election

Voters at the polls, 2018. (Photo: Author)

July 4, 2022 by David Silverberg

Some things just seem to happen as decreed by nature: the planets in their orbits, the moon in its phases, the sunrise and sunset.

Americans in particular have come to expect their calendar to be comfortingly predictable: Independence Day every July 4th, presidential elections every four years, and elections for congressional representatives every two years.

However, as hard as humans try, human events are not dictated by the same forces that make the planets turn.

The fragility of human ritual was shown on Jan. 6, 2021. No matter how many times it had happened since ratification of the Constitution, that day proved the counting of Electoral College votes could be disrupted and that acceptance of the results of a fairly conducted and meticulously counted election could be disputed. It also proved the peaceful, orderly transition of power could nearly be destroyed.

As disastrous as the Jan. 6th insurrection was, it could have been even worse. But despite the defeat of rioters incited by a narcissistic, megalomaniacal president, the worst could still happen. Indeed, the possibility exists that the 2022 election could be America’s last—if the forces of fanaticism get the power to snuff out democracy and the Constitution.

This has happened before in history. The worst example was that of the Nazis, who turned to electoral politics after their violent putsch failed in 1923. It took them nine years before Adolf Hitler attained power and began dismantling a representative democracy. But it’s not the only instance. For example, in 1948 an election in Czechoslovakia brought communists to power and once in power, they simply got rid of democracy and imposed one-party rule. For the next 41 years the country did not have another free election until after its “Velvet Revolution” of 1989.

There is no sugar-coating the reality that this year a political party that has surrendered to mass delusion and the cult of personality looks positioned to take over the US House of Representatives. Bolstered by gerrymandered districts and a wave of new laws intended to restrict voting access and enable the invalidation of the popular will as expressed in elections, there is a very real possibility that America could lose its democracy and that the 2022 election could be its last.

The website FiveThirtyEight.com is now tracking upcoming elections for the House, Senate and governorships. While the odds change hourly as new polling comes in, as of this writing it was giving Republicans a 54 percent chance of winning the Senate and an 87 percent chance of winning the House.

It is the prospect of a Trumpist House that is most dangerous for America. As the 1948 Republican Congress was characterized as the “do-nothing” Congress, a Republican 2023-24 Congress would likely be the “revenge” Congress, dedicated to dismantling and destroying as many democratic safeguards and mechanisms as possible in pursuit of an autocratic dictatorship.

To see proof of this, one need look no further than Southwest Florida’s own Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.).

In an interview on the Patriot Talk show held at the Seed to Table market last Tuesday, June 28, Donalds, who voted to invalidate the 2020 election, told his hosts that the January 6th Committee’s inquiry “is an atrocity for a country like ours. So you have my word, in the next Congress, we will be investigating the January 6th Committee.”

Sentiments like these in the rest of a Republican House means there would be no will to pursue truth or defend the Constitution in the next, 118th Congress. Rather, the House majority will officially propagate Donald Trump’s big lie and do everything possible to undermine popular democracy.

In such an instance there will likely be further efforts at the national level to shrink voting rights, ballot accessibility and exclude the franchise from all but favored people who rubberstamp preordained results. Combined with similar efforts at the state level, this raises the possibility of state officials like governors invalidating elections whose outcomes they don’t like.

Nowhere is this possibility greater than in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has created a state election police force to use against unfavorable outcomes and a state defense force answerable to him alone, all ratified by a completely supine state legislature.

As with all human events, nothing is inevitable so this does not have to be the outcome. But it is undeniable that events are trending in this direction.

True patriotism on the 4th

The Fourth of July has devolved from a celebration of America’s determination to “assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,” to a day to get drunk, chow down and blast off fireworks without thinking of any higher meaning.

This year it’s worth pausing a moment to ponder, not the past, but the future and to rededicate ourselves to preserving democracy and democratic outcomes.

As the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has shown and continues to show, America came breathtakingly close to losing its democracy, its Constitution and its legitimate government on Jan. 6.

What prevented that outcome were patriots—not long-ago patriots in powdered wigs and knee breeches and not loud, beer-swilling, MAGA “patriots,” but real, living, boots-on-the-ground patriots who took their oaths of office seriously and had the courage to stand against a would-be tyrant.

We have seen them on our television screens. They were officials in state offices who wouldn’t fabricate or “find” votes that weren’t there. They were poll workers who did their jobs despite verbal attacks and threats that drove them underground. They were government staffers willing to go before Congress to tell the whole truth about what actually happened that day. They were Capitol Police officers who tried to do their jobs despite a tsunami of crazed rioters wielding spears and clubs and chemical weapons. They were Secret Service agents who wouldn’t indulge presidential rage or obey an order resulting in a constitutional apocalypse. They were members of Congress who put country above party and fearlessly pursued the truth. And one was a Vice President of the United States who, after four years of subservience and abasement, simply upheld his oath of office and followed the law despite blandishments, threats and ultimately a mob intent on lynching him.

These are the real patriots to inspire us this July 4th. While they put their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor on the line to preserve America and the Constitution, the rest of us, in more peaceful circumstances, have only one thing we must do—and that is, vote.

Starting with early voting on Aug. 13 and culminating on Aug. 23 with the primary election and then, beginning on Oct. 27 and continuing to Election Day, November 8, every citizen has to show the same courage and commitment as the patriots of Jan. 6. But the everyday citizen has the great good fortune of being able to do this non-violently and without the cost and danger they faced.

On Sept. 18, 1787 when he was leaving the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked whether America was to be a monarchy or a republic. He famously replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

On Jan. 6, 2021, Americans proved they wanted to keep it.

On Nov. 8, they have to prove that they want to keep it again.

If they do, if the forces of fanaticism can be defeated at the ballot box, maybe—just maybe— the 2022 election won’t be America’s last.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

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