I remember sitting in my political theory course in college. My professor asked the class, “What makes a democracy?” The answers came fast and furious: a constitution, a voting system, a party system, an open media. With each answer Professor Goldberg casually shook his head. We students became increasingly frustrated with his refusal to tell us. A few people even challenged his line of questioning.
Eventually, he lifted his head up and said, “The losers agree to lose.”
He explained that a constitution is essentially words on a page. An election is an event that occurs. Parties come and go. The media plays a significant role in shaping and disseminating information. But what ultimately counts is when one side fails to win, it agrees that it will accept defeat and move on.
In 1801, America experienced the first peaceful transition of power from John Adams’ Federalist administration to Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic administration. It was the first time in world history that power changed hands from one regime to another without war and conflict.
American presidents have continued this tradition time and again throughout history — including Richard Nixon’s resignation after the Watergate crisis and Al Gore’s concession to George W. Bush after the chaotic recount in 2000. These men agreed to lose for the good of the nation.
We’re now facing a man in Donald Trump who may not do so. He has turned this election into a brutal war of attrition. He has decided that failing to grow his base of support beyond his core, he will work to suppress Hillary Clinton’s turnout. No American presidential candidate has decided to pursue this strategy in modern American politics — and potentially not ever in history.
He has decided that he will make life so miserable and intolerable for his opponent that she either cracks under pressure or loses support or enthusiasm among her growing base.
This election is no longer about issues. It is about methods.
Trump is employing methods never seen in this country. He’s operating right out of the playbook that tyrants and dictators across the world use:
- Mercilessly attack the other side
- Defame and dehumanize your opponent
- Divide and conquer oppositional groups
- Whip your supporters into an angry mob
These methods threaten the fabric and stability of American democracy.
We need two things to happen in this country, NOW. Our very system is under threat.
- We need every eligible voter to engage in the political process. This is no time to sit the election out, claim ignorance or apathy, or to abstain from voting. The stakes are existential.
- We need public repudiation of Trump’s methods from a bipartisan coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and other influential personalities. This is a SAVE-THE-REPUBLIC moment for our country. Leaders need to lead.
Please stop pretending that this election is about the future direction of our country when it’s truly about the future power of one man.
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