Before the end of the year, our democracy is going to undergo a self-examination. We will find out just how healthy it is and how durable it can be under some stresses that are uncommon to it. There is a clarity that begets unity in dealing with external threats, whether that means Redcoats, terrorist groups, or any other menace from beyond our borders, real or imagined. But we struggle with challenges that come from within.
Sure, we have the example of the Civil War – horrific in that the death toll exceeded 600,000 Americans, but wonderful in that demonstrated the sturdiness of our republic and enduring commitment to the process of creating freedom for all. However, at least so far as the popular histories explain it, there was a fairly simple choice to make and an obvious enemy to fight.
Other threats are more insidious. They are more difficult to define and detect. They are, therefore, more difficult to defeat. We face such an enemy now. Whether we want to admit it or not, our current fight is not with ourselves, but within ourselves. The only battles that will ultimately matter in this upcoming struggle to preserve our democracy will be fought in our own minds. Do we have the strength, discipline, and courage to deal in facts and reality? Can we put aside partisanship, and even our own personal biases, so we can make a genuine, thorough, and impartial evaluation of challenges we face and develop an acceptable, effective solution?
We are about to find out. Unfortunately, most indications so far say party loyalty is going to reign supreme. Even the recent vote in the House to formally sanction the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s potential abuses of power was hyper-partisan in its result. But now that more information will soon be available with public hearings about to begin, constituents will have a more direct view of the data and not be as inhibited in their evaluations of it. No more prisms, lenses, or filters – that is, so long as we don’t deliberately seek them out to make the process more comfortable for ourselves.
Supporters of the president need to recognize the evidence is undeniable that there is the possibility they may need to reconsider that support and not allow it to devolve into a blind loyalty. Opponents of the president must guard against their distaste for him, his personality, and his policies from creating, without proper evidence, an unjustifiable fervor for impeachment and removal from office. The only way we avoid having the constitutionally created impeachment process from becoming a constitutional crisis – and perhaps a threat to our nation’s stability – is for us all to objectively weigh the evidence in pursuit of an outcome that supports a continued commitment and adherence to our republican (small R) form of government and our democratic (small D) principles.
If we make this a contest between the Democratic and Republican parties, we undermine our Constitution. If we reduce the process to a showdown between Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi, we risk losing sight of the values and civic virtues that have served us well for over 200 years. The president has, to put it politely, engaged in questionable behavior. There is a process created by the founders of our nation to deal with these kinds of situations. It isn’t a coup, no matter what is being said. It also isn’t completed. Whatever its result, I hope it is arrived at in a fair, methodical manner, and accepted by everyone, no matter our personal disagreement with what it turns out to be.
Nichols writes for Tahlequah Daily Press, a CNHI News Service publication.