The new year and those thereafter offer many unfamiliar tests. First and foremost is the test of the resilience of the United States. Based on recent evidence, the new President will take dramatically different courses at home and abroad. The Rooseveltian consensus on a social safety net and more recent progress on a variety of other public programs will be tested. The post-World War II world order based largely upon the Atlantic Alliance is also being seriously challenged..
Nominations for cabinet offices in Departments having to do with public housing, environmental protection and climate change, health care, education, and energy, among others, have gone to those with outspoken antagonism to current law and policy and more enduring traditions such as public education. These nominees are committed to reverse course and destroy the respective consensuses that brought us to today.
Our commitment to broad based public education traces to Jefferson who made it the cornerstone of democracy itself. A well-informed citizenry was the backbone of citizen participation in the affairs of governance. Competition in education is one thing. A parallel system of private education primarily available to financial elites is quite another.
If the next one or two presidential terms takes the nation in a radically different course in each of these public policy areas, how long thereafter will it take to return us to the status quo ante? In a nation of the size and diversity of ours, considerable time is required for consensus to form in all of these domestic policy fields. Restoring that consensus will not be as easy as electing a more traditional and mainstream executive.
Likewise, in terms of America’s role in the world. If the incoming President is serious about restructuring NATO and related seventy-year-old institutions which have formed the basis of global stability, those institutions or reformed versions of them will not be restored overnight. As with our domestic institutions and structures, creating a new Western democratic alliance, and negotiating positive relations with emerging powers such as China, will require hard work, patience, and especially statesmanship over time. Most of all, if confidence in the United States is seriously eroded, as it may well be, years will be required before that confidence is restored.
Perhaps most importantly, confidence by American citizens in their own government will have to be restored. Those on the right particularly who have made distrust of our own Government the centerpiece of their ideology will continue their undermining efforts even as they occupy power and will never appreciate the irony of their position.
As some of us have said repeatedly, you cannot claim to love your country and hate its government.
There is every evidence that political parties of the neo-right (as distinct from traditional conservative parties) are networking and sharing goals and methods. Their methods are strikingly similar regardless of country: demonization of the opposition; the use of social media to target individuals for attack; purging those who disagree from positions of responsibility and even from public platforms; disregard for facts, including proven scientific ones; reliance on fear and repression; intolerance; and alienation of racial and religious minorities.
Left unchallenged, these forces will continue to use false media and the security of the mob to propagate hatred of minorities and immigrants and to align with authoritarian leaders in Russia and elsewhere.
None of these promised radical departures is a foregone conclusion, and, even with a complacent Congress, Americans who disagree must be heard from. Authoritarianism invites a Resistance and, I for one, am joining that Resistance. Voices of conviction, rooted in our Constitution and obedient to our principles, will not be silent. Fortified by our ancient ideals and convinced of the rightness of our cause to uphold and protect America’s noblest ideals, we will be heard and we will be as defiant as circumstances require.
It requires no courage to be a summer soldier, a patriot when the sun is shining. What our nation needs now are winter soldiers.
The spirit of our Founders awaits our response. We must be faithful to that spirit and the generations of sacrifice and duty it represents. At stake once again is the future of our Republic. It is in our hands. Loyal Americans must summon the courage to stand up and be counted, to defy voices of bigotry, ignorance, fear, and hate.
For if we do not stand up and do so now, who else is there.