It is increasingly becoming clearer that the lever that turns the engines of democracy is less and less dependent on the transparency, fairness, and openness of the electoral process and more and more on the perception, courage, discipline and honesty of the players of the bruising game called politics.
The sad truth is that there is no form of government open to free societies today that is more dependent on the discipline, trust and care of its practitioners than democracy. The playwright, Sam Shepard, once said ‘’democracy is a fragile thing, as soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn to scare tactics, it is no longer democracy, is it?
It is something else. It may be an inch from totalitarianism’’. The moral philosopher and theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr reminds us that ‘’man’s capacity for justice’’, is the key factor ‘’that makes democracy possible’’ even as he decried ‘’man’s inclination towards injustice’’ which according to him, ‘’makes democracy necessary’’.
The recent United States presidential election highlights the fragility of democracy even in a developed nation with strong institutions. The election furthers underscored the need for men that man the pillars of democracy to be courageous enough, irrespective of party affiliation, to do their duty with utmost honesty, goodwill, and service to ensure that the will and wishes of the people are not offered as oblation to the god of partisan politics nor hijacked to serve the interests of the powers that be.
American democracy has spanned over 200years, withstood the Civil War and two World Wars but perhaps, the 2020 presidential election, more than any other election, has highlighted the fragility of a system largely erected on trust, good sportsmanship and perception of the losing candidate that he or she has lost out in a contest whose rules have been largely fair and whose process has been transparent even while not perfect.
The hyper partisanship and acoustic rhetoric of the 2020 election have threatened to derail a process and an institution that has long been both the envy and light of the rest of the world. Few Republicans have dared to break ranks with President Donald Trump over his patently false claim of wide spread voters fraud and election rigging. In an unusual show of courage and fidelity to the truth. These few courageous men and future ones like them may ultimately be the guardrails that prevents democracy from spiraling out of control into the dark abyss of totalitarianism which lurks unimaginably close to
‘’In a free democracy’’, says Clint Hickman, Republican Chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, while defying pressure from above to certify the county result, ‘’election results in some people’s candidate losing. I was disappointed in the outcome of a couple of races and I was extremely happy with the outcome of others. But I am not going to violate the law or deviate from my own moral compass as some have pushed me to do.’’ Doing one’s simple duty may appear unheroic and commonplace in ordinary times but under Donald Trump’s total fealty and allegiance mantra, simple duties are no longer simple to the extent that they can depart from the Trumpian narrative. We might as well cite additional instances of election officials doing there simple duties regardless of party position.
‘’ We have just had the most transparent and secure election in the history of Philadelphia’’. Declared Republican Commissioner Al Schmidt despite Trump’s claim of massive voter fraud in a city he overwhelmingly lost to rival Joe Biden why desperately trying to disenfranchise millions of voters in Pennsylvania. Despite massive pressure from the Republican establishment led by Sen. Lindsey Graham to compromise the presidential election in Georgia, Secretary of States Brad Raffensperger refused to accede to calls to invalidate legally cast votes insisting that ‘’numbers don’t lie’’ and that ‘’integrity still matters’’
In a scathing judgment, longtime Republican and Federal Judge, Matthew Brann while dismissing Republican suit to upturn the will of the people in a suit long on conspiracy theories, innuendoes, fishing expeditions and baseless allegations unproven and unprovable assertions but anemic on facts and evidence said ‘’our people, laws and institutions’’ demanded more than the barren application before him. It is the simple acts of simple public officials like these that may ultimately salvage democracy for us and our posterity.
‘’Remove justice and what are states but gangs of criminals on a large scale’’ said the great St. Augustine. Justice must permeate every aspect of the democratic process, otherwise elections become a periodic ritual devoid of purpose other than a mechanism of perpetuating the powers of the status quo. The Trump administration may be on the winning side triumphs with a tinge of inebriated vindictiveness. For democracy to survive, it must be able to somehow express the collective value and moral code of its practitioners. It is so dependent on the uprightness and faithfulness of its adherents to the basic principles that both elevate and enervate it. Woodrow Wilson captures this thinking when he submitted that ‘’democracy is not so much a form of government as a set of principles’’ and it is exactly these set of principles that need to be defended at all cost if ‘’man’s inclination towards injustice’’ is not to forever prevail over his ‘’capacity for justice’’