Viewpoint: American democracy in danger
When Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter for the presidency in 1980, I was participating in a college foreign study experience in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I recall feeling pride when I received an absentee U.S. ballot in the mail at Fourah Bay College.
My sense of pride at being an American was further amplified when the U.S. Embassy brought a video of the Carter-Reagan Debates to campus. My African friends marveled at the professional demeanor of both candidates. Both Reagan and Carter appeared as gentlemen with smooth oratory skills and forceful political arguments.
We learned about Carter’s defeat in a middle-of-the-night BBC radio broadcast. My fellow students from several sub-Saharan African countries asked numerous times, why didn’t Jimmy Carter just declare martial law after the election and have Reagan thrown into jail?
This outcome is in keeping with the many coups d'etats that violently overthrow African governments. Again, I felt pride being an American as I explained how people respect the outcomes of elections. In 1980, it was inconceivable for people to disrespect a legitimate election outcome.
Things have changed in America since then. We have people in Congress representing us, who themselves are election-deniers and co-conspirators. Trump’s rabid followers are pushing for African-style democracy to destroy core democratic institutions such as ballots and polling sites.
Trump continues to attack elections, judges and courts. He continuously changes lawyers because he’s mentally incompetent. People supporting Trump must bear responsibility for their collective attempt to destroy the Constitution, as Trump himself has declared to do.
Opinion polls suggesting Trump’s dominance in the Republican Party show that democracy is in danger. People who study cults point to a leaders’ personal charisma as a drug that blinds adherents to the real dangers that threaten individual autonomy. Trump has committed numerous crimes, before, during, and after his failed presidency. He deserves to be put into prison for the rest of his life.
But Trump supporters display a cognitive dissonance that blocks-out factual information in favor of imagery and lies. Based on this current crisis, our country has never faced a graver threat to its existence.