Colson: Dictatorship or democracy, what a choice
Like it or not, the current form of government in the United States (like governments in certain other nations) is under attack, not by some outside force hoping to take control of our country, our economy and our military arsenals, but from within.
As the House Select Subcommittee on the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C, has concluded, that event was an attack on our form of democracy — a representative republic in which the population at large is in charge of electing its leaders.
And it was an attack overseen by one man, former President Donald Trump, along with an array of like-minded politicians, right-wing activists and others, though Trump is the only individual singled out by the subcommittee’s work.
A main theme of the subcommittee’s work, of course, is the broad-based attempt to overturn the results of the election in 2020 that dumped Trump and put Democrat Joe Biden in the White House. For details (if you don’t want to read the entire subcommittee’s report) I suggest you check out a Dec. 19, 2022, report on the PBS website, “Key Takeaways from the Jan. 6 committee report summary.”
Suffice it to say here that the report finds that there is sufficient evidence to convict the former president and recommended that Trump be charged with four specific criminal acts: obstruction of an official proceeding (the Jan. 6 certification of the election results); conspiracy to defraud the United States (starting with the lie that the 2020 election was fraudulent); conspiracy to knowingly make a false statement (the submission of fake “electors” to swing the Electoral College in favor of Trump); and assisting, aiding or comforting an insurrection (the Jan. 6 assault on the nation’s capitol building).
The former president faces numerous other legal problems, but for now, the threat to democracy in general is the one I’m dealing with.
Aside from the Jan. 6, 2021, event, I need to point out that for many years a concerted effort has been underway, largely by the Republican Party’s more extreme members, to undercut federal agencies (the IRS, the FDA, the U.S. Postal Service, federal land management agencies and many more), most often by withdrawing funding, as a way of derailing the government as a whole.
One result of all this is a hobbled government, incapable, due to funding shortfalls and lack of staff, of fulfilling its obligations and enforcing its rules to the point where the government looks unsustainably inept, which is exactly what anti-government extremists want.
How could this be?
Well, a noted historian, Heather Cox Richardson, writes a regular column, “Letter From An American,” that on Feb. 10 noted, “Democracy stands on the principle of equality for all people, and those who are turning away from democracy, including the right wing in the United States, object to that equality. They worry that equal rights for women and minorities — especially LGBTQ people — will undermine traditional religion and traditional power structures.”
Thus, as maintained by Richardson and others in recent times, the right wing (notably wealthy, white males in powerful positions) would prefer to have a “strong man” in charge, someone who would shower favors on a small circle of powerful allies, kind of like Trump, but neglect the general welfare.
If history is any guide, it is likely that, while certain circles would be living the high life, such a government would be in poor shape to deal effectively and equitably with any number of crises or catastrophes affecting society as a whole.
Take what’s going on in Turkey and Syria right now. Both nations are ruled by virtual dictators despite claiming to be elected, and both are proving unable to cope with the aftermath of recent massive earthquakes that have left tens of thousands dead or injured, hundreds of thousands made homeless.
Much of that carnage is due to corrupt construction practices in buildings throughout the region, coupled with government’s lack of preparation for such calamities.
To bring the matter closer to home, recall the chaos and indecisiveness of our own government in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic back in 2020, when then-President Trump refused to accept the advice of scientists about the growing problem. He wasted valuable time and resources trying to convince everyone the virus would disappear and that it was no big deal, as thousands died for lack of testing and treatment. And that virus is still killing some of us today.
Plus, there is growing evidence that some variant of avian flu is poised to become the next pandemic.
If we are hit with another pandemic, who do you want in charge, a dictator who doesn’t care how many of the people die as long as he’s comfortable and unaffected, or someone who would seek, accept and value the advice of the medical and scientific communities and act on that advice for the general good?
President Biden is an example of the latter kind of leader, and on this issue alone I would vote for him a second time if given the chance.
We had four years of living with Trump — a moronic, selfish man-child as president, who let us down in ways we don’t fully understand. And we now have had two years of a kind of antidote in Biden.
Have we learned anything from our recent history?
I certainly hope so.