I have been living in Switzerland for the last 4 months. From the Outside looking in, I have been worried about the state of America. It seems like there is just no common ground. During the 1980’s I was a university student. There were conservatives and liberals. Democrats and Republicans. We could agree to disagree but we could also find common ground. I am a democrat but I have also voted for some republicans. My conversations with colleagues in Europe made me realize how much the GOP has changed. Never before has there been one side so divorced from reality. They seem to believe that their personal liberties extend to create their own facts regardless of what the science says. For me personally- I believe that climate change is real and that there are things we can do to slow it’s progress. I also believe that everyone who can, should get vaccinated to protect those who cannot get vaccinated. Choosing to be vaccinated CAN be a choice. BUT choices have consequences. If you make the decision to not be vaccinated, you may also be making the choice to not get on a plane, not travel to some countries, not eat indoors and possibly not work in some places. It is a choice you make. You face the consequences. If you get Covid, I wish you a speedy recovery and the best possible care. When you are struggling to breath, realize that yes, the medical staff is pretty pissed at you but they are going to do their job.
When I returned back to the USA I was out getting a coffee and I heard the people at the next table talking. They were clearly more conservative than I am. I listened because I do not have all the answers and I want to hear the opinion of others. What I discovered is that they really were not talking about policy or ideas. The only thing they had was what they could do to “trigger the libs”. It made me think, is the GOP’s policy agenda hidden or nonexistent?
I was trying to put my thoughts into my notebook when I read Sunday’s paper. On the opinion page of Seacoast Sunday there was a piece by John T. Broderick Jr., the former dean of UNH Law and the founder of the Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy. He put it better than I ever could.
Make no mistake. America is broken. The entire idea behind democratic rule is subverted every day by a minority of our population who distrust any government they don’t control, ignore science they don’t understand yet don’t like while callously putting others at risk, disparage and restrict voters of a color different than their own and despise immigrants striving to be free. Their view of our Constitution is most often fanciful, contradictory and uninformed and their idea of freedom is twisted and self-absorbed. They live in a self-interested, imaginary world with no social compact and no reciprocal responsibilities. They disgrace the service and sacrifice of so many Americans who unselfishly gave so much to protect rights they neither understand nor honor. They support the Big Lie with zero proof; a Lie that any rational American would reject. Every federal judge found no evidence because there was none. It is the same Big Lie that even President Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General William Barr disowned. Incredibly, according to some recent polls, sixty percent of Republicans still believe that the election was stolen, too. They have zero proof as well. Do facts matter anymore? Is truth too inconvenient to be honored? For an increasing number of Americans, facts don’t exist or at least facts that don’t serve their ends.
Too many Americans live in a conspiracy-laden echo chamber of their own creation and embrace the American flag while supporting those who used that same flag as a spear to attack Capitol police in an effort to subvert our democratic election. These are the same people who allegedly support the police 100 percent. Many of those people presented with clear and graphic proof that misguided Trump supporters attacked our government on January 6th have concocted the bizarre notion that the FBI or Antifa were behind the insurrection. They have zero proof of that as well yet they hold to it senselessly even as the Proud Boys and others are being prosecuted or plead guilty. How far have we fallen? How dangerous is our descent? How much destructive nonsense, ill-will and subversive conduct can we tolerate and still sustain democratic rule in America? Free speech is protected and cherished under our Constitution but not efforts in plain sight to subvert or destroy our country. Actions speak louder than words.
The Republicans in Congress and in Republican-controlled legislatures across the country are actively working to grind our democratic process to a halt and replace it with autocratic rule. Where are the Republican voices with the courage to speak up? Why are so many good Republicans remaining silent or objecting only in whispers or among a small circle of safe friends? Where are they? Conservative Republicans cheer Kyle Rittenhouse, who, whatever the verdict, took two lives with an automatic weapon. Cheering seems tone deaf and classless to me. I have never heard a police officer cheer if he/she takes another life in self-defense. I’ll bet you haven’t either.
Where have all the statesmen gone? When did truth die? When was finding out who organized and funded the January 6th assault on our free elections a petty partisan exercise to be disparaged by virtually every elected Congressional Republican? Unless things change, America will continue its sorry decline from being a democratic beacon to a world yearning to be free to just a sad example of a noble yet failed experiment in self-government. I take nothing for granted. In current circumstances silence is dangerous.
Putin must be smiling in Moscow.
John T. Broderick Jr. is the former dean of UNH Law and the founder of the Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy.