Our current political crisis continues to roll forward, picking up momentum like a snowball rolling downhill. The divisions in the nation remain deep with little hope on the horizon that they will heal. Factions are focused on "owning" the other side and obtaining personal power, rather than focusing on making the nation a better place. I tire of "patriots" thumping their chests as they claim they are saving the nation while they proceed to destroy it, bringing to mind that old trope from the Vietnam War, "Sometimes you have to destroy a village to save it." People are selfishly focused on themselves and screwing the other guy over when they should be working toward fixing the various problems we have. Sometimes I believe they revel in problems just so they can blame the other side for them. After decades of being part of an effort to defend and protect the United States of America, I am sickened and embarrassed by what we have become.
We appear to be at a precipice. We can grow tired of the fighting, of the accusations, of the useless politicians and pundits who keep feeding the flames of our hatred to push their personal agendas and make money off of our fear and anger. Maybe then we can move on from this ugly time. Or, we can take the other road. The upcoming midterm elections next month and the 2024 presidential elections have all the makings of a major political and constitutional crisis. We saw the model for it in 2020, and it continues to fester to this day with candidates and supporters who believe if they win it is a fair election, but if they lose it is fraudulent. Regardless of whether members of the same party won in the same election, on the same ballot, it was rigged.
We can see the train wreck coming in slow motion. Losing candidates call into question the legitimacy of the electoral process. Like spoiled children who demand a participation prize, they will stoke the rage of their supporters. They will take their complaints and accusations to the media, maybe even the courts, shopping for a biased judge who will give them the ruling they want. There will be state legislatures and state attorneys generals who will be unhappy with the election results in only some cases, i.e. the ones their party loses, and they will overturn the vote, themselves selecting the winner. This too will end up in the courts. Others will hurl accusations about voter intimidation with "election police" patrolling voting venues and restrictive voter laws that limit the other side’s ability to vote. What does a court do when a case comes before it showing that a district with 250,000 voters was allowed 20 voting locations and a district with 500,000 voters were allocated two voting venues? Gerrymandering will also play its ugly part.
The political outcome of the election could be in doubt for months as cases make their way through the courts. The sitting Congress could face the challenge of whether to accept new congressmen who were appointed by state legislatures despite having lost the vote. They could refuse to seat the congressmen in question, provoking a further constitutional crisis. We could be left with a small handful of unelected judges deciding another election. And please, don't give me that "this is a public not a democracy" bullshit as justification for dictatorship or one-party rule. A republic is a democracy, a representative democracy.
Regardless of the outcome, and it will not be a pretty outcome, the trust of the people in our institutions will be further eroded. Legitimacy will be gone, and legitimacy is critical to a functioning democracy. The laws, customs, and precedents that allow democracy to function are dependent upon the belief of the people that their government is legitimate, otherwise, the house of cards comes tumbling down. A democracy lacks the coercive power of an authoritarian regime. Democracy functions by the consent of the governed, not the will of the government.
We could end up with two different and competing centers of perceived power. Don't say it can't happen. I would have said what we are currently enduring could not happen in this country, but it is. I am not saying that we would come to a shooting civil war, but we could easily slip into a political civil war where each side pushes its agenda and ignores the other side's agenda. There are all sorts of variations, but the upshot is that we would be further divided, dysfunctional, unable to govern, and easy prey for those that mean us harm. This crisis, this division could be made even worse by the 2024 presidential election, where the impact is greater.
This has been a great country, but we cannot maintain its greatness through division, hatred, and lies, by moving backward. Greatness lies forward. This nation has always been forward-looking, building things, inventing, improving, and making the nation better. We do not seem to be on a forward trajectory. We would rather beat each other up than cooperate to improve every citizen’s situation. It is all about taking power and punishing the other side. This is the road to ruination.