The United States of America will celebrate its 250th anniversary as a free and democratic republic in less than five years on July 4, 2026.
At least that’s the plan.
Amazingly, however, this event appears no longer to be a sure thing. As a growing body of evidence has made clear in recent days, our nation came much closer than most of us had realized to experiencing a right-wing coup d’état in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. What’s more, the would-be traitors behind the effort remain on the scene and, by all indications, actively engaged in renewing their efforts.
Meanwhile, the people and organizations with the greatest power to help expose this criminality and stop it – Republican politicians and their allies in national and state conservative think tanks – remain worrisomely muted or even complicit in the scheme.
If this all strikes you as alarmist, you probably haven’t perused the now infamous memo in which Trump adviser and confidante John Eastman spelled out a step-by-step scheme under which former Vice President Mike Pence could have sought to overturn last November’s actual election results.
As veteran journalist Jay Bookman explained recently, the memo was “pretty much a how-to booklet on ending American democracy.”
Historian Heather Cox Richardson described the memo this way in a Sept. 24 post: “we now have written proof of an attempt to destroy our democracy and replace it with an autocracy.”
Bookman’s and Richardson’s assessments are bolstered by many of the revelations contained in the new book authored by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa entitled “Peril,” in which the two journalists document several of the terrifying details of the final weeks of the Trump presidency – a period Woodward describes as “a national security emergency.”
One of the most notable is their report of the vital role played by – of all people – former Vice President Dan Quayle – in dissuading Mike Pence from acquiescing in Trump’s scheme to subvert the election during the process of certifying the Electoral College results.
Sadly, while Pence ultimately, if grudgingly, did the right thing, many others in the dark circles that surround Donald Trump have no intention of letting something like that happen again.
As Brookings Institution senior fellow Robert Kagan explained in great detail in a frightening and detailed essay published Sept. 23 in the Washington Post, Trump allies across the country are assiduously laying the groundwork for what he describes as the nation’s “greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War.”
Thanks Kagan writes, to the ongoing efforts of Trump loyalists to seize control of the election oversight mechanisms in several “purple” states where a handful of honest and patriotic Republicans refused to go along with the preposterous “stop the steal” scheme last fall and winter, we could be on the verge of an existential crisis come 2024 and 2025 that makes recent conflicts look like child’s play. Kagan forecasts a situation that could include “incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves.”
The only plausible antidote to the group madness that the Trump’s cult of personality has come to embody, Kagan observes, is to be found in courageous Republicans who know better.
Unfortunately, the signs thus far that these people will rise to the occasion remain hard to detect. North Carolina – a state in which the Republican Party voted to censure one of its longest-serving elected officials, Senator Richard Burr, after he voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial – is a classic case in point.
At a time in which there is a desperate need for conservatives with integrity to debunk Trump’s lies and to talk sense to the rank and file, important North Carolina voices of the right seem instead intent on fanning the flames of discord.
Here’s Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger as he whipped up the audience at a conservative Christian event in Mt. Airy on Sept. 25, as reported by Raleigh’s News & Observer: “There’s never been a more critical time in America than right now. Our world is polarized, and it only continues to get more and more divided. Our values are attacked, day after day, our freedoms often becoming an afterthought.”
A similar tone can be found over at the John Locke Foundation – the state’s most visible conservative think tank and a group that has long boasted of its supposed commitment to civil debate – where the drumbeat of fiery incitements has been unceasing. The group regularly features and/or links to posts from commentators who cast President Biden and Gov. Cooper as fiendish tyrants and promote the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
Meanwhile, sane conservative voices like former GOP Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, who differ with progressives over many policy matters, but who are also willing to publicly call out Trump’s crimes and the dire threat he poses to our nation, are as hard to find as an anti-Kim Jong-un columnist in the Pyongyang Times.
The bottom line: Senator Berger was right about one thing – this a critical moment in our nation’s history. Tragically, however, it’s clear that he and other Trump lackeys have badly misdiagnosed the source of the crisis, and the cure.