We all must work to combat anti-democratic attitudes. Where's Brian Fitzpatrick? | Opinion
I recently returned from a visit to New Orleans the highlight of which wasn’t jazz or beignets, but rather the National World War II Museum. This extraordinary institution recounts the many inspirational sacrifices made by the heroes of the Greatest Generation on the field of battle and on the home front in defending democracy against the dark forces of totalitarianism. As I walked through the exhibits, I thought of my late father, who piloted a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber over targets in Nazi-occupied Europe. I also reflected on America in 2023, in which former President Donald Trump, someone who defiled our democracy and constitution, could still be favored to become the Republican nominee for president in 2024.
Sure, there are many Republicans who, against all evidence to the contrary, believe the 2020 election was stolen and that the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection was, per the Republican National Committee, “legitimate political discourse.” But I know there are many others not detached from reality who continue to back the narcissistic, corrupt, and antidemocratic former president. I keep wondering why, and I think I found the answer in a recent nationally representative survey of 1,500 respondents conducted by The Conversation, a nonprofit news organization founded in 2011 that publishes articles written by scholars on issues of public interest.
The bottom-line conclusion of the survey: “A wide range of the American people, of all political stripes, seek leaders who are fundamentally antidemocratic.”
While antidemocratic sentiments were espoused by members of both parties, they were much more commonly held by Republicans. For example, 32% of “strong Democrats” and 67% of “strong Republicans” agreed with the statement that “political leaders must sometimes use rough language to criticize entire groups who refuse to work hard and contribute to our country.” On another front, 33% of “strong Democrats” and 72% of “strong Republicans” agreed with the statement that “if political leaders believe that a news organization is attempting to undermine American values, they should take action to shut down that news organization.”
This begs the question — why?
The Conversation’s researchers believe the key to understanding these antidemocratic views is “a desire for protection.” In our highly polarized society, many Americans see those in the other party “as existential threats to the country — and close-minded, dishonest, immoral and unintelligent too.” Many Americans, the researchers argue, “prefer leaders who are willing to undermine democracy if it means protecting people like themselves from groups that threaten their values or status.”
I abhor Trump’s GOP, but, as a lifelong Democrat, I also lament any antidemocratic tendencies that might exist within my own party. And I will combat them vigorously, to honor my father and all those who sacrificed down through the years to preserve our liberties. Yet, as the survey underscores, there is even more work to be done within the ranks of the Republican Party. That work must begin with the rejection by responsible Republican leaders of an antidemocratic former president who still pedals the lie about the 2020 election, a lie that gave rise to the January 6 attack on the Capitol, an attack Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick correctly labeled an “attempted coup.” Former Rep. Liz Cheney and former Rep. Adam Kinzinger told the truth to the American people but paid a political price.
At the recent Gridiron dinner, former Vice President Mike Pence spoke truthfully: “President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
Pence should have unhesitatingly cooperated with the Department of Justice investigation so that Trump could be held legally accountable.
Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel announced that any candidate who wishes to participate in the GOP’s first debate later this year must sign a pledge to support whoever wins the nomination. Better they should require all debate participants to support a free and fair 2024 election and pledge to recognize whoever emerges as the winner. The lies and disinformation spread by Trump and his accomplices for over two years must be unequivocally repudiated now and must not be allowed to corrupt the next election cycle.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, the self-proclaimed most independent member of Congress, has been noticeably absent from this discourse. Congressman, would you support requiring all Republican candidates to pledge to accept the outcome of a free and fair 2024 election? Of course, we know that in Trump’s worldview the only free and fair election is one in which he wins. Even more importantly, after the January 6 “attempted coup,” would you still support the antidemocratic Trump in 2024 if he becomes your party’s candidate again?
Continued silence on these issues makes you complicit.
Martin J. Raffel is a resident of Langhorne.