We fought a war of independence to rid ourselves of a king’s rule. And the effort to keep Trump in office after courts have repudiated his election challenges is the biggest push back toward a kingship that America has ever seen.
I’m writing this on Sunday and don’t know what this crazy week will bring. But I just learned of the phone call from Trump to Brad Raffensperger in which he pressured the Secretary of State to find votes for him. I don’t know how this is anything but criminal. If Hillary Clinton did this after the 2016 election, she should have truly been locked up. Imagine a local commissioner on tape demanding the elections office finds more votes for him — or else. Our system matters so much more than our individual politicians, red or blue. This is not difficult to see. In fact, it requires willful blindness not to see this.
America’s drift toward increasing executive power has long been in the making — presidents have been accumulating more power for years. But Donald Trump asserts his right to be the sole “decider” in chief at a level never seen in national history. That phone call from Trump to Raffensperger is hard evidence of election tampering, pure and simple. What if Biden also called Raffensperger to influence him over this election? I’d call that criminal, too. How can you argue otherwise?
This long — and now accelerated — slide toward executive rule, or an American king, has been made possible because Congress has been increasingly paralyzed by partisan dysfunction, a branch of government in perpetual stalemate. This leads presidents of both parties to rely on executive orders, and our nation has crept for years toward a kingship. This is not good under any president. But it’s really coming to a head now under a man bent on being exempt from all law and order, and a following that cheers on his exemption.
So why oppose a one-man rule, a king?
Well, in a “king’s world,” we are either loyalists or opposition. And merit is replaced by loyalty. This is so, so dangerous. It inevitably leads to suspicion, paranoia and violence. The history books are full of hard tales about what is done to those insufficiently loyal to the king. So, our founders wisely established three co-equal branches of government with the aim of protecting us from the type of kingship they fought to free themselves from.
But right now, a significant portion of our country wants a king regardless of what a certified election shows, because one man enthralls so many. This zeal for one man doesn’t overshadow the larger historical fact: politicians come and go. Trump’s time is up. Biden will go. So, will the following president. But the system must remain strong as the people change over time.
If we continue to live with incessant screaming proclamations of apocalypse each election time, then elections will never be accepted again by either side and democracy will die, with autocracy taking its place. If it comes to this, it will be with blood. Such horror seems quite fine to a large number of Americans. But many of us are terribly disturbed by the temperature in this pot, which threatens to boil us all. The temperature must come down.
While we are so wrapped up in the narrative of Trump — and have been for half a decade now — we miss some of the broader matters that need our attention, too.
For instance, our long-lasting governmental dysfunction is most evident in Congress. We really need reform there. Citizens of both parties must demand this.
I can’t comprehend how it’s OK for any legislator, red or blue, to go to Washington and trade stocks based on insider knowledge acquired on the job. You shouldn’t go to Washington to get rich — and you shouldn’t be able. We need bipartisan agreement and legislation to eliminate individual stock trading for Congress while they serve. If they can freely trade while making national policy, then they have the perverse incentive to affect the market by their decisions, while profiting off their own legislative action before anyone knows what’s coming. That’s corrupt to the core. And yet it happens, eroding public trust.
Also, what’s wrong with term limits in Congress? We have this for the Presidency. Why not the House? Why not the Senate? We need a rotation of new people with ideas beyond their own preservation of power.
We would truly benefit from adopting the ranked-choice voting practice in most other developed nations. Many in our country are, of course, rabidly partisan. But millions are not, and they go unrepresented. Ranked-choice voting would allow you to choose someone outside of the two-party system, which would bring in new voices and require the Republicans and Democrats to alter their approach. Plus, if you truly dislike a candidate, you can rank them last on your list, while elevating your other choices. Ranked-choice voting eliminates the “picking-the-lesser-of-two-evils” predicament for many voters, giving them the opportunity to vote more in line with what they feel.
Why can’t we have bipartisan support for greater investment into election security? In our current climate, all elections will be bitterly contested and include allegations of fraud no matter who wins. That’s where we are, but not where we need to stay. More attention to election security is warranted in a time of such deep distrust. But a commitment to accepting results is also necessary to remain a democracy. Both parties must commit to both things, securing elections and accepting their outcomes.
I’m so tired of American politics being dumbed down to this overhyped two-person mega-contest, as if we must designate a savior and a Satan. That was never the design. The U.S. is not “we the king.” And it’s not “we the Republicans” or “we the Democrats.” It’s “we the people.” And all of us are bound together under a system of governance that our founders created to protect us from an oppressive monarchy, like the one they endured. They didn’t want a king’s world, with all issues dumbed down to whether you were a red coat or not. They fought for a world without the red coats.
This current political turmoil is not an apocalypse, but it is indeed a time for sober attention to a stressed engine that is overly hot and needs oil to make the parts work together. We need a functioning Congress to make sure we don’t give back what our founders fought for — which was to free us of a king. It’s up to us to maintain that freedom.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.