THOMPSON: American democracy has a disease of its own making | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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THOMPSON: American democracy has a disease of its own making

September 06, 2021 - 12:00 PM



In medical parlance, American democracy might well be a stage-four lung cancer patient. The patient - despite the good intentions and day-to-day actions of the majority - has lived a lifestyle marked by recklessness, over-indulgence and self-deceit.

America is like someone who has smoked, drank too much and eaten a steady diet of fast food all while living next to Love Canal.  A trip to the doctor confirms the worst…and somehow catches the patient by surprise.

Democracy ignored all the symptoms that its health was failing. Yes, for most of its life democracy lived like it couldn’t die. Such arrogance…often sheer stupidity.

In real medical terms, stage four is the final stage of lung cancer…the disease has spread virtually everywhere. There are treatment options…surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy…but recovery? Well, living five years with stage-four lung cancer…about a six-percent chance versus someone who never had it.

American democracy might want to get a second opinion…always a good move…especially in desperate times. And now is one of those times.

Of course, the patient did try to do the right things from time to time…there were even moments that looked like it might turn its life around. But they were mere moments. There were so many who tried…like I said…a majority. That’s what makes the outcome so tragic…and but for a few severe flaws…America could have licked this thing.

There are four threats to any democracy…and throughout its life, American democracy has almost always faced at least one of these…political polarization; conflict over who is a full member of the rule-making community; economic inequality; and the concentration of power in the nation’s leader.

In the early days - the 1790s - it was political polarization. This one threat can wreak havoc on a democracy…if it’s not settled. So it was with the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans - two parties that no longer exist - who vied for votes in the presidential election of 1800, pitting incumbent John Adams - a Federalist - against Thomas Jefferson - a Democratic-Republican (who was the incumbent Vice President).

Without delving too deeply into history, suffice it to say the Electoral College system then was no better than today. Four candidates received Electoral College votes…with Jefferson and Aaron Burr - both Democratic-Republicans - each getting 73 votes. The Federalists…John Adams won 65 votes, and Charles Pinckney garnered 64 votes…finished third and fourth, but because neither Jefferson nor Burr supporters would relent even though in the same party…the vote went to the House of Representatives for a run-off election.

After 35 ballots, neither had a majority vote from the state delegations, which had two votes each. It was Alexander Hamilton who convinced a few Federalists to support Jefferson on the 36th tally. America averted a potential civil war…despite a defective certificate of election from Georgia. Sound vaguely familiar? No wonder this made a Tony-Award-Winning musical on Broadway!

Civil war would not come for another three generations…in 1860…when three of the four threats to democracy reared their ugly heads…all except concentration of power in a single person. Slavery divided the political parties and the nation and the presidential election became a contest between two pairs of candidates…one from the North and one from the South.

Abraham Lincoln proclaimed slavery and democracy incompatible, and won decisively with votes exclusively from the North. Seven states promptly seceded from the union, and just a month after Lincoln’s inauguration, the Confederates bombarded Ft. Sumter and the nation that avoided conflict once…entered a bloody and divisive five-year civil war.

In a sense, the American Civil War never ended. The threats that existed when Lincoln was inaugurated…never lessened…slavery was replaced by de facto slavery…Jim Crow. America has never dealt with its shortcomings…devolving into two factions…those who want the American Dream for all…and those who want the power they once had…a land dominated by white man’s rule.

Donald Trump - a con man who told white folks what they longed to hear - arrived and all four threats to democracy thrived for more than four years. And despite a Biden presidency…the threats loom just as powerfully today. The Republican Party has no policies…unless you call fighting to maintain power and stripping rights from women and people of colour policies.

The Republicans have undermined sound elections and the rule of law and are curbing voting rights…three elements that define the very foundation of American democracy. And now a minority - who still number nearly 70 million - stands in opposition to almost everything that America every stood for…if only in its dreams and aspirations.

Republicans have undercut the Presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court. Despite an American public that overwhelmingly supports background checks and greater gun control…a minority of Americans - Republicans - are dictating against the will of the democracy. Some 57 percent of Americans want more restrictions on gun ownership.

Last week, the Right Wing Republican-stacked Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law prohibiting most abortions…even though Roe vs. Wade ruled in 1973 that the U.S. Constitution protects a pregnant woman's liberty to choose an abortion without excessive government restriction. About 75 percent of Americans favour a woman’s right to choose.

Republicans are most responsible for American democracy’s Stage Four lung cancer. Will the patient live? I’m not sure. Republicans want to win at any cost…and they’ve shown that lying, cheating and stealing aren’t beneath them. Miracles - the stuff of old Hollywood movies - don’t often happen in real life. But, Good Lord, America needs a real miracle…really soon.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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