Legitimization 11/12/20

Political Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Trump and his followers have made it abundantly clear that he has no intention of cooperating with a peaceful transition to the Biden presidency. This is not really a surprise considering his actions for the past four years, but Trump (as of the writing of this blog a few days before you read it) continues his rhetoric and lawsuits in what appears to be an attempt to sow doubt in the democratic process and question the legitimacy of the election results. Unfortunately, after four years of attempts to divide the nation, his die hard supporters are continuing to follow his lead, taking to the streets to protest the results, and attempting to intimidate the vote counters since intimidation of the voters clearly failed.

Today, I read a report that suggested that half of Trump supporters believe in the narratives of QAnon which have been proven, time and again, to be false. For four years, his supporters have been fed a steady stream of lies and conspiracy theories so it’s not really a surprise, but if this report is correct, then it means that about a quarter of Americans believe in these insane and extreme conspiratorial lies.

Think about that; of your neighbors, one in four believe that the Democratic party are prostituting children. This is an incredibly large fraction, much larger than I would have guessed.

I’ve heard political pundits saying that this nation has not been divided so badly since the Civil War. That’s an amazing statement to make, and one that is excessively frightening. This makes me think about the Revolutionary war.

In 1776, the US declared its independence from Britain in a letter sent to King George III. As I understand it, there were actually three copies of the letter; the one in our possession is just one. Eleven years later, the US Constitution was ratified. Things were much slower then. Today, revolutions are streamed over the internet, but in 1776, it took over a month for the declaration to reach England (it arrived on August 10, 1776) and the response took even longer. The war lasted for five years until 1781 (although some hostilities continued until 1783), so there was a delay of five years until the Constitution was even ratified in 1787.

In the interim, rumors abound. Many colonists remained loyal to King George III (especially those with money they made while under English control), and news was very slow. There was no instant news, no organized national news, no reliable news sources. Among the rumors included some pretty extreme ones, including that Washington had been crowned king of the Americas.

Does this sound familiar? It is such a strong reflection of the political environment today, and like today, the new US government faced the daunting task of not only convincing the people that theirs is the legitimate government of the new nation, but also that the people will want to follow and support the new government. There were plenty of detractors, people who propagated untruths and claimed that England was, and legitimately should have been, still in charge.

Two parties developed, the Federalists who favored a strong federal government independent and stronger than state government, and the anti-Federalists who believed in strong state governments. Through the years, there was a lot of compromising and debating, and promises made to incorporate a bill of rights to win over anti-Federalists, a promise that had been kept.

I cannot get over the similarities in the situation then and now, except the political parties seem to have reversed. The Anti-Federalists were, as I understand it, the foundation of the Republican party, opposing large government and yet, in the past four years, the Republican Trump did all he could to consolidate power to himself by taking out anybody he deemed disloyal to him. For further irony, among the most significant strife today is over the rights of people; LGBTQ+, minorities, immigrants, Native Americans and more, and yet it seems to be the Republican party, so eager to embrace individual rights back then, who appear to oppose them today.

I have no idea what President Biden will do to turn around the divide. The Bill of Rights bound the nation back then, but today it seems that rights for the disenfranchised Americans holds the danger of only widening the divide. Still, I hope he secures the rights of all Americans, regardless of faith, gender, who they love, where they were born or any other minor issue to be equal among all. This will strike fear into the hearts of many, but until we have the opportunity to see that such rights will pull us together, we will never be able to get past that fear.

Don’t expect the divide to heal anytime soon. I hope we see some progress in the first four years, but I doubt we’ll see it in the next eight (assuming Biden is a two-term president). But hopefully we can begin to turn the ship around.

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