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…

The American Journey

Author: Gary Hart

A critical chapter in America’s complex story is being written right now.  Will we continue to be a Republic founded on democratic rights and ideals.  Or will we continue to permit a slide into authoritarian populism recently overtaking democracies here and elsewhere.

Since the media finds it easier to focus on personalities than ideas, this historic moment will almost totally be about Donald Trump and the future of what, for lack of a better reference, is being referred to as “Trumpism”, never quite defined.

It is fashionable to characterize moments like this as a “crossroads”.  And in this case that description is accurate.  These are turning points that define individuals, societies, and nations.

In important ways the question is how to save democracy, and its freedoms, without resorting to undemocratic means and methods.

Bringing stricter law enforcement and surveillance tactics to bear on the plethora of right-wing militia and quasi-political organizations can easily […] Continue Reading…

Repudiation of Democracy

Author: Gary Hart

The current juvenile chaos in the Republican Congressional caucuses is like nothing less than watching a family feud after the evening circus performance with the departing crowd of spectators hearing the clanging and banging and wondering what it’s all about.

It is a side-show drama important primarily to the combatants within the two major factions of the post-Trump era in the Republican party.  Like academic politics, it is vicious because the stakes are so low.

The stakes in this case seem to be leadership of the Trump cult, “base”, or whatever you want to call it and the more sane, traditional Republican party as the two sides prepare for what will likely be a prolonged, painful, and only slightly rewarding ownership of whatever remains of the Republican party.

Serious Republican analysts now claim a clash between the authoritarian (Trump) wing of the party and traditional Constitutional Republicans has started and is a […] Continue Reading…

Anger

Author: Gary Hart

Does American politics demand anger?  The answer is clearly no.  Then why are we so angry with each other?

I know the answer is no because I served in the United States Senate where, at least during the 1970s, there was little anger, at least by today’s standards, and a general atmosphere of cooperation and conciliation between the two major parties and the complex coalitions they each represented.

Then things changed.  Something called “movement conservatism” arose and had a my way or the highway attitude.  It contained a good deal of anger and considerable resistance to negotiation or cooperation.  Domestic and foreign policy issues became black and white virtually overnight.

At the same time, the news business began to migrate away from the centrist non-partisan networks toward partisan media providing support for and confirming the biases of a polarizing electorate.  This new media confirmed our hardening biases.  They told us what we […] Continue Reading…

The Never-Ending Drama

Author: Gary Hart

Relying, as usual, on something called a “tweet” whose brevity seemed to suit his attention span, the incumbent president, one month ahead of his Constitutionally mandated departure from the White House, let it be known that he was in no hurry to leave, the Constitution and the regular order be damned, and that he might just linger on until it suited him to depart.

This characteristically obstreperous behavior was implicitly justified by his continued insistence that the national election was “rigged” (no evidence offered), that the president-elect, though certified by the electoral college, was essentially an imposter, and that he, the incumbent, remained president and thus held the keys to the White House until he and he alone decided to move on.

As with much else in the last four years, this made interesting theater, with the American people holding their collective breath to determine what drama might ensue.  Though the […] Continue Reading…