Democracy and Duty

Author: Gary Hart

“When Mr. Trump tried to subvert the election, he failed abjectly because countless people did their duty.”  This from the leader entitled The Resilience of Democracy in The Economist. (Nov 28, 2020)

Unfortunately, more than 100 Republican Members of Congress and a dozen and a half Republican governors were not among them.

Those Republican officials who did their duty and honored their oath of office were targeted for abuse from thuggish Trumpian gangs.

Democracy fails when party is placed above nation.  And much of the Trump campaign was about Trump and not America.  A malignant narcissist cannot communicate, let alone govern, without the first-person singular pronoun.

Even as the number of Americans dying each day reached 9/11 levels, the failed candidate ranted on about a false “stolen” election and not a word of concern for his plague-ridden country.

In the Trump-sphere, patriotism is defined by loyalty to the MAGA hat and not the American flag.

The central question here is duty.  The performance of duty credited with providing the American democracy with resilience is central not only to a democratic form of government but also to the Republic within which that government operates.

Since early Rome, republics succeeded or failed on the issue of civic duty, what the ancients called civic virtue, the sense that democratic principles could only be protected from erosion by citizens who understood and accepted their responsibilities to hold leaders accountable, to protect the public sphere and the commonwealth, and to resist the corruption brought on by placing narrow or special interests ahead of the common good.

It is what causes experts to undertake a lifetime of public service and forgo higher salaries in the private world.  It is what brings patriotic men and women into a career in military service.  It is what causes career diplomats and foreign service officers to spend a lifetime with their families in far flung capitals around the world.  Most of all, it is what causes citizens of all kinds to participate, often as volunteers, in humanitarian causes and philanthropic ventures to better their local or their national societies.

Duty.  It is not taught very much in schools anymore, alas.  It is the other side of the coin of freedom.  It is protecting our rights by performance of our duties to each other and to our nation.

We pray that the new president-elect and vice-president-elect will restore that quality of duty and public service and participation that causes us, once again, to ask what we can do for our country.

8 Responses to “Democracy and Duty”


    Superb from someone making sure, over years,these ideals,be more than idealised.

    Your own venturing into this area in your recent initiative for civic virtue, duty,The Hart Center, For Public service, could and should add to this hole, a something very special.

    I and any who know you, would like to join, partner, engage with this.

    The lack of it is obvious.

    The three great exponents, consistent often, of these qualities, are found withering on the vine, in need of new growing strong!

    Britain, America, we know have deteriorated on the world stage and domestic too.

    But look at France. A moderate president feels he has to placate a female Trump, who is waiting, Le Pen!

    The values, virtues, described, were, are exemplified in the wearing of face covering, and social distancing, too help and not harm.

    But how many, apart from a few of us in parties such as the one I am a member of, the successor party to his own,the Liberal Democrats, even know of the harm principle of John Stuart Mill!

  2. Michael Says:

    If one is a leader in government, making the strongest case possible for your convictions is also a duty. In that realm Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats failed miserably.

    Just assuming that people will blame those responsible for obstructing pandemic relief, instead of pounding that fact into the heads of the electorate at every opportunity and with one voice, was incredibly lazy, irresponsible, and a dereliction of duty.

    For every single Democratic candidate not to have hammered home at every opportunity that the people who are suffering immense hardship have only the Republicans to blame; that if the pandemic relief bill had been a tax cut for the wealthy, Republicans would have passed it months ago, was a dereliction of duty.

    Assuming the other side is playing by rules of decorum and comity that they abandoned decades ago is dereliction of duty.

    And not investigating and prosecuting criminal acts of the previous administration; on insisting that we ‘look forward and not back,’ would be yet another dereliction of duty that only invites more law breaking and norm busting in the future.

    And finally, not recognizing openly and honestly that the Republicans are now an anti-democratic and toxic force in American politics is a dereliction of duty that bring about the end of the American republic sooner rather than later, because they are relentless, craven and shameless in their pursuit of power and see every defeat as only a minor setback. Even when they lose they win because they can count on the Democrats being a feckless bunch who insist on living in a world that no longer exists, as if that’s somehow a civic virtue.



    Are you really sure these are not stances Democrats hold and actions they are carrying out?

  4. H Patrick Pritchard Says:

    Watched the Army-Navy game today as I have done since age 13. My Dad was career Army so no question where my support was! The game this day was special to me because the Army team was honoring the 25th Infantry Division, the lightning division, nicknamed the Wolfhounds. My father had the honor of serving in that division while we were stationed in Hawaii as a Senior Master Sergeant of the 27th Infantry Regiment. It brought back many great memories of the two years spent in Hawaii.

    I am proud of my father’s 32 years of military service and of what the military service academies stand for: duty, honor, and country! Words you don’t hear much about anymore. These young men and women swear an oath to do their assigned duties to the best of their abilities, demonstrate honor in carrying out their responsibilities, and protect the Constitution and democratic values of their country and its citizens no matter their station in life. Yes, some do fall short from time to time, but many do not!

    Unfortunately, there are some members of Congress, many who have probably never serviced in the military, who either do not understand those democratic values and principles or have conveniently forgotten them in search of political power or favor. In my mind those Congresspersons who signed on to the attempt to discredit and disenfranchise millions of voters who participated in the legal democratic act of voting spit on the graves of the men and women who have given their lives to defend our democratic values and principles. Our current Attorney General chose to join that group.

    I consider their actions racist, abhorrent, and in effect treasonous and an unprovoked attack on our democracy, the citizens whom they serve, and those dedicated people who conducted the election count! The plain and simple truth is the action filed by the Texas AG offered no proof of any fraudulent activity or any basis in constitutional law to warrant a filing. It was a political act to provoke public opinion in an effort to destroy free and fair elections in the future.

    There’s was a fool’s errand for foolish purpose and should be punished. You see none of these folks care one whit for democracy or the well being of the public. Their mission is to preserve their little niche on the power grid and exclude anyone and everyone who does not look like them and think like them. There is not one ounce of patriotism in their bodies and should be expelled from Congress and tried for treason! They have betrayed their oath and their country.

  5. Michael Says:

    Lorenzo Cherin, it’s not the policies, rather the ineffectual way the Democrats publicize them, and the way they never extract any penalties from the Republican Party for their obstruction of them. Democrats also have a very bad habit of never holding Republicans accountable for lawbreaking, which only encourages them to become even more lawless.

  6. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    You make a good point, Michael … no, you make a very good point.

    I’m not sure that we can expect much better from Biden when it comes to communicating Democrat policies and how these policies are the best for all Americans. But, I have seen him in action since the election and what I have seen from him gives me a lot of hope … waiting to see how he campaigns in Georgia this month.

    As for holding Republicans … er, ReTrumplicans accountable just for being what and who they are, I think strongly calling them out at every opportunity all the while providing example upon example upon example and then more examples of how Democratic leadership is far superior for Americans and America. And, I’m anxiously awaiting Biden’s pick for AG …

  7. Jack DuVall Says:

    There are very few presidents who matched John F. Kennedy’s magnificent call to higher duty. Jefferson opened the American West. Lincoln saved the American republic. And President Kennedy said this truth:
    “…let us begin anew–remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” President Kennedy revived “the better angels of our nature” in that speech. Let no claimant to the American throne of power ever espouse much less display any breach with the soul of our country.

  8. Eric C. Jacobson Says:

    Alas, the concept of duty is elastic, more-or-less “in the eye of the beholder” and not always salutary when put into practice. For topical example: Justice Kennedy used the concept of “duty” to rationalize his actions in Bush v. Gore: “It involved a constitutional issue of the gravest importance decided 4-3 by a state court on a federal issue that it was our responsibility to take the case,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes it is easy, so it seems, to enhance your prestige by not exercising your responsibility, but that’s not been the tradition of our court.”

    Flash forward 20 years: By and through the not-good-offices of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who almost certainly did the president’s bidding, Donald Trump made good on his post-election night pledge to take his (then probable) resulting defeat “to the Supreme Court.”

    There the president obviously expected the Supreme Court’s now 6-Justice conservative majority to reprise the high Court’s infamous role in Bush v. Gore, when 5 rogue partisan GOP Justices extralegally effectively appointed their fellow Republican George W. Bush president in 2000. 

    Having made Bush v. Gore a personal and professional focus (off and on) for 20 years, I dispatched an article on the Texas v. Pennsylvania lawsuit (linked above) just hours before the Supreme Court ruled on it.

    After opining in passing on why the 6-member conservative majority would almost certainly stay their hand (to avoid provoking “a civil society uprising the high Court as we’ve known it would almost certainly not survive”), I concluded with a more generic “big picture” explanation of why the TrumpGOP’s desperate ruse to retain the presidency against the will of the electorate mediated by the Electoral College failed:
    The last word, then, on this daft desperate attempted “deus Tex machina” (as one Twitter way dubbed it), on the 20th anniversary of the Bush v. Gore abomination, goes to Karl Marx:

    “Hegal remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” — The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

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