Every weekday of my youth began by pledging my allegiance to our flag “and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
But recently, watching Donald Trump’s increasingly bizarre antics, with the complicit silence of most of his Republican Party, I have had to question whether any word of that pledge is still true.
Are we still one nation? Are we indivisible? Because it sure feels right now like our president is trying his best — or perhaps I should say his worst — to divide us. And while liberty may need to be curtailed for a bit to deal with coronavirus, is there any longer such a thing as impartial justice? For any one, let alone for all?
As someone who was always conscious of belonging to a minority religious group in this country, I listened to everything the majority told me about how things work:
“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
“Everyone is entitled to their day in court.”
“You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.”
“We are a nation of laws, not of men.”
“Everyone is equal before the law, and no one is above it. Not even the president.”
And as the Republicans endlessly insisted was their reason for impeaching Democratic President Bill Clinton, “character counts!”
The Republican president is now fulminating and fuming, inviting Michigan party officials to the White House — to do what? Talk about the weather? No, Trump is looking to wrestle any kind of victory from a definitive loss and he doesn’t care how he gets it.
He lost the popular election by more than 6 million votes, in the largest turnout this country has ever seen; and Joe Biden stands to win in the Electoral College by at least as great a margin as the victory Trump spent four years calling “a landslide.”
So here is my question for the Republican men and women who are encouraging Trump’s antics, whether by their silence or by actively taking part:
Do our election laws apply to everyone? Or only when Republicans win?
Do you think you can turn our democracy into a giant game of “Heads we win, Tails you lose”? And if you could, would you really want to live there?
In any sport if each side is playing by different rules, you don’t have a sport. And if both sides in a country’s politics aren’t playing by the same rules, you no longer have a country.
Recently, a Republican functionary asked, “What is the downside for humoring (Trump) for this little bit of time?”
Let me help answer that. The downside for Trump is bad enough: He will forever be remembered as The Biggest, Poorest, Sorest Loser in American history.
This is from the leader of the party that likes to call Liberals “thin-skinned snowflakes.” We are accused of giving our children “participation trophies” when they don’t win something.
I never did that, but just for the record, what’s so wrong with it? Maybe that’s what their tantruming Trump is waiting for: a nice little trophy — “Thanks for your participation” — and some ice cream on the way home. Two scoops; we know he insists on that.
But, beyond his own reputation, there is the serious risk that Trump’s antics will damage our democracy. As Jennifer Rubin, columnist at the Washington Post, wrote, “Republicans need to decide whether they believe in democracy.”
Edward Foley, Constitutional law scholar, put it even more bluntly: “If the losing party can’t accept defeat, the whole enterprise of electoral democracy is finished.”
Not that Mr. Trump cares. He’s behaving like the man who, when told his wife is divorcing him, takes a chainsaw to the car and burns down the house.
Trump has yet to make any kind of concession speech. Maybe he’s too busy playing golf to write one. But if so, there’s a perfectly good one he can recycle from 2016. It was given by someone who actually won, by 3 million votes in the popular count, but still had to concede and did so the very next day:
“I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Joe Biden is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.”
It was good advice four years ago and it’s good advice today.
This column was submitted before the Michigan State Board of Canvassers voted to certify Joe Biden’s victory and before the GSA allowed the formal transition to begin to the new Biden administration.