America stands near a time of healing
As we turn our backs on one of the most horrific periods of our history, we can take comfort in knowing that a majority of Americans still believes that the rule of law is all-important.
When word leaked of discussion in the Oval Office of the unconstitutional use of martial law to try to overturn the presidential election, the revulsion was immediate.
When children were separated illegally from parents at the southern border, the courts stepped in and cried “Foul.”
When federal troops were trotted out on American streets to try to quell legal protests, the backlash went from coast to coast.
Months after Russia initiated one of the worst cyberattacks on U.S. institutions in history, the White House said nothing, but appalled Americans who discovered what was going on blew the whistle.
Nonetheless, enormous generational damage has been done to America, completely aside from the pandemic.
It will take months to find out how deeply anti-democratic minions burrowed in government to try to undermine legal processes in a vast array of agencies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Department of Interior.
That’s why Joe Biden has turned to experienced hands; it is not yet the time for experimentation and innovation. We need people who know what to look for and what rocks to turn over. The country needs to come to grips with what a dangerous precipice we have been straddling.
We have matured as a nation in the past four years as much as any other four-year period in our 200 years. We know now that democracy is remarkably vulnerable to an authoritarian power grab. We know the three branches of government are not co-equal. And we may have actually learned that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
So how do we safeguard democracy?
First, we need an informed electorate and we must agree on facts. If we each would go out of our comfort zones to tap more than our usual sources of information, that would help. Being a citizen is not easy; it’s not for the lazy.
We have to stop automatically imputing evil to others’ motivations. We are Americans who have prided ourselves on our sameness, diversity and tolerance. It should repel us to contemplate banning people based on their religious beliefs or lack of them. Racism has shamed us enough.
We have to defend the principle that the law and politics are not the same.
We need to teach civics to every American schoolchild.
We need laws that forbid a president from financially benefiting from his office. We need laws mandating that presidential candidates make their tax returns public. We need to clarify constitutional limits on the corrupt use of presidential pardon power. We need to break out of our tribalism.
We have had four years of screamingly disgusting executive branch abuse of law and order, repression and cronyism. Thank heavens for the restorative promise of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.