Matters of Principle

Author: Gary Hart

Matters of Principle

            Matters of Principle has been a decade-long effort to focus conversation on the foundation of this democratic Republic—the principles upon which civil society, the rule of law, and the structures of a democracy are based.

            At least until the Trump insurrection began in 2016, and culminated on January 6th, 2021, an effort was made here not to contribute to the dangerously wide partisan chasm in America.  But Trump did what those who knew him best predicted he would do and that was to try to replace democracy with authoritarianism with himself in the role of the authoritarian.

            True patriots had no choice but to rise up and resist as our principles required.

            Which now leads me to thank all of you for joining, in various ways, the resistance.

            The turmoil in America will continue, because too many individuals, causes, conspiracists, malcontents, militias, and agitators want it […] Continue Reading…

One of the several wars left over by the Trump administration and the recent 2020 election is the explosion of initiatives, largely in red State legislatures, to restrict voting by limiting or eliminating absentee or mail-in ballots, requiring multiple identification documents, restricting voting hours and days, and generally discouraging people from voting.

This is the principal result of Trump’s repeated claims that voting fraud stole the election from him…this despite no proof of any kind and the judicial efforts to certify fraud that failed in almost 60 different U.S. and State courts.

Both parties have been guilty of voter suppression, most notably a barrage of barriers to black votes in Southern States following the Civil War and during the era of Reconstruction.  Poll taxes were the most blatant of many barriers to African-American voters.

But then, in one of those reversals of history, Democratic party passage of civil rights legislation in the […] Continue Reading…

Much of the Western democratic world is waiting for the United States to reverse Trump era neo-isolation and rejoin the global community.  President Biden now finds himself where President Truman, following the end of WW II, and President Clinton, following the end of the Cold War, found themselves.  He must now define America’s role in the world given globalization, mass migrations, climate change, and pandemics.

Central to that new definition are the roles of diplomacy, the military, and the intelligence community.

But January 6th has created yet other new domestic realities.  Those include domestic terrorism, right wing militias, recruitment by those militias from the ranks of the military, and the need for greater intelligence, and possibly surveillance, on nationalist terrorism.

Both domestic intelligence and tightly structured law enforcement chains of command failed miserably on January 6th and the octopus of insurrection spent hours trashing the Capitol of the United States and threatening […] Continue Reading…

The Big Bet

Author: Gary Hart

Did someone in or very close to the Oval office in the White House call the acting Secretary of Defense between 1:30 and 5 pm ET and suggest in the strongest terms that approval to deploy National Guard troops around the U.S. Capitol to suppress the insurrection against the Government of the United States on January 6th be slow walked?

If I were a betting man, I know how I would bet.  But I will bet that sooner or later that question will be authoritatively answered.

In any except the Trump administration, we would have to say “of course not.”  But this was the Trump administration which demonstrated time and time again that civilized rules of behavior did not apply.

Congressional hearings are seeking to determine why three and a half hours elapsed between the initial urgent request for military assistance to protect the Capitol and Members of Congress, including the Speaker […] Continue Reading…

Insurrection Against Democracy

Author: Gary Hart

The Capitol, both Senate and House, is the place where laws are made by people elected by their constituents to do just that.  For those of us given the privilege of passing laws the two Chambers were, in a secular sense, hallowed places.  They were hallowed not by religious tradition but by human history.

It is often said that the United States and American democracy are an experiment.  And it is still so.  But the experiment is now almost 240 years old and it is still ongoing.  In 1776 we inherited a Republic if we “could keep it”, if we performed our duties of civic virtue, protected the commonwealth, respected popular sovereignty, and perhaps most important, resisted corruption.

Despite our terrible Civil War, recessions and depressions, racial struggles, and a continuing effort to enlarge our democracy inclusively, then came a period of reversion.  Up to 2016, democracy triumphed over adversity and […] Continue Reading…

A Turning Point

Author: Gary Hart

.A Turning Point

It is too soon for a consensus to form over the meaning of the events of the 6th of January, 2021.  One thing is certain, however.  For the first time in our nation’s history, our Capitol was besieged by insurrectionists.

For some it was no more than a frat prank that got out of hand.  In the new denial culture, a United States Senator claimed that he did not see an armed insurrection.  This claim despite the trashing of his Senate Chamber and rummaging inside Senate desks, possibly his own.

In this Senator’s eyes, “armed” is a term reserved for firearms, not clubs, baseball bats, metal flag poles, battering rams, and the loss of lives.

And “insurrection” is apparently beyond the scope of efforts to capture, and possibly murder, the Vice President of the United States, the Speaker of the House, and assault on fellow Senators and Members of the […] Continue Reading…

The Second Judgment

Author: Gary Hart

Events of consequence face two judgments.  The first is immediate.  The second comes later.

For instance, it seems commonly assumed by insiders that the United States Senate will fail to muster the two-thirds vote, including all Democrats and seventeen Republicans, to convict Donald Trump of incitement to insurrection against the government of the United States.

Predictably, press coverage will produce colorful phrases like “dodged a bullet” and “emerged unscathed” from his second impeachment trial, suggesting a Trump victory.  This is politics as it is often treated in sports terms.

The second judgment, however, takes time, context, and reflection.  This is the judgment of history.  The first president to be impeached twice will not go down in the history books as a clever manipulator who sought to overthrow his own government and got away with it.

No, the cold eye of history will judge Donald Trump as a presidential disaster whose only trick was […] Continue Reading…

Assault on Democracy

Author: Gary Hart

Ask any number of Americans what they think of about democracy and they will say “voting”.

That is the way we select our leaders.  In local elections, that is often the way we collectively decide on issues of local importance.  Voting is democratic.  Each vote counts.  And each vote is equal to every other vote.

That very basic common understanding should be endorsed and supported by every American.

That being the case, then why are legislatures in virtually all Republican controlled States taking up proposals to suppress the vote, to make voting more difficult?  This is directly contradictory to democracy.

Proposed measures include elimination of absentee ballots (except in extreme situations), more stringent voter identification requirements, restrictions on voting sites, and a host of other hurdles.

In the past, these measures were usually justified as preventing voter fraud.  A commission composed of those who believed in widespread fraud appointed by President Trump disbanded soon […] Continue Reading…

America is divided into two political cultures.  This is not the first time.  Before and after our founding we were divided between the Federalists, largely in the North, and the Democrats, largely in the South.  Thereafter, this same regional division was projected onto the issue of slavery and the tragic Civil War ensued.

Race has been a deep divider.  So has gender, immigration, military engagement, and religion among much else.  Given our breadth and diversity, division is almost guaranteed.  Deep polarization is thereafter almost assured.

Late twentieth and early twenty-first century divisions somehow seem different.  When conservatism became a “movement” under Ronald Reagan, the Republican party became doctrinaire, rigid, and increasingly bitter.  What sense of humor and even detachment it might once have had has disappeared.

Does anyone remember one instance when Donald Trump laughed?

It is a little difficult to preach against “big government” when a deadly pandemic is rampaging through the […] Continue Reading…

Praying for the Dawn

Author: Gary Hart

Serious thought must be given right now by Americans concerned for their country as to the state of our social and political institutional pillars.

Consider our circumstances.  We are entering the second year of a deadly pandemic that has already taken the lives of well over a third of our fellow countrymen and women.  Inoculations have not been well organized or delivered.  Unemployment and small business failures remain high.  Schools are closed.  Hospitals are overrun.  We will experience a transfer of government that itself has been anything but peaceful.

Most ominously, an extremist mob summoned and instructed by the outgoing president has attacked our national Capitol with the loss of lives and serious damage to the cathedral of democracy.

These are the kinds of times that test men’s souls and our national purpose.

Are we still a nation of more or less likeminded people?  Or has a dangerous political and social malignancy entered […] Continue Reading…