Democracy Prevails, Barely 6

Democracy Prevails, Barely

Every morning, first thing, I take the dog for a walk. In fall, we wade through dead leaves, a downside of living in the older tree-lined hood of Riverside. When the wind is blowing, it’s truly a sight to behold. Leaves tumble in a blizzard of orange, red, and yellow. On my slate-gray street, dead leaves come back to life, and leap like a corps de ballet — spin, double, even triple pliés, pirouetting on one stem.

One morning, after watching this wind-powered dance recital, I had a hunch and turned down a street. The dog was agreeable, as she always is to anything that lengthens our walks. I had something more in mind, and, sure enough, one of my Trumpster neighbors had finally taken down his Trump flag. This was after the safe harbor day, so, at least, for one Trump supporter, sanity prevailed.

After I got home, I checked an old high school chum’s Facebook page, and amid his usual COVID-is-a-hoax garbage were posts of YouTube videos proving that evil commie Demoncrats had stolen the election from Sir Donald Grifter of the Golf Courses.

This viejo amigo and I go way back. In 1976, we traveled in an old Chevrolet pickup from Houston to Alaska, driving the Alcan Highway before it was paved. During a Canadian summer blizzard, these two boys from Texas who had hardly ever seen snow skidded on icy mud, barely dodging the semis that had crashed into snowbanks and survived.

After Alaska, I’d seen him only once, but a few months ago, we reconnected via Facebook. At first, it was nice. We caught up with each other, sharing both the good and the bad of the past decades. Unfortunately, my old friend wouldn’t stop sending me links to every crazy conspiracy theory imaginable. After I asked him nicely to stop, he ranted that I should be more open-minded. Sadly, like many of us, I had to unfriend someone on social media because of their hyper-partisanship.

It’s not just old friends who’ve been lost. One of my relatives who helped raise me called me a “nut” on a Facebook thread for not wanting to support Trump. This is a woman who taught me a love of books and libraries and, ironically, manners. It’s beyond me what causes otherwise good people to reject their friends and even relatives because of their political leanings.

Both my relative and my old high school chum have something in common besides a misplaced fealty to a man who totally botched his most important job, protecting the American people, by politicizing mask wearing. They’re both conservative Christian evangelicals who have convinced themselves that the other side is the total embodiment of evil, calling us communists and even pedophiles.

This past year, like thousands of others, I volunteered to defeat Trump. I wrote letters, gave money, helped with voter registration, and greeted at the polls. I did all the above because I was scared for our democracy and still am.

Friends of mine overuse the word “fascist” to describe the other side. While I don’t use that term, I have to admit there’s something authoritarian and deeply anti-democratic that runs through the worldview of the right. How else can you explain the majority of Republicans believing, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Trump, the loser by more than 7 million votes, actually won the election?

These past few weeks, we’ve come closer to a coup than we may realize. If the election had been closer, would Republican officials in Georgia or Michigan have sided with the president? Would the Supremes have pulled another Bush v. Gore? Fortunately, we’ll never know, for sure. Even so, we should celebrate. After January 20 at noon, Trump will no longer be president, and that is a great win for our country. Also, once deep red Tarrant turned ever so slightly blue due to the hard work of many. And our democracy held, barely.

After this wretched COVID-year of isolation and fear, we should hope for miracles — dead leaves coming back to life, a Trump supporter who concedes, a democracy that works. Or, perhaps, we shouldn’t be too greedy and be happy it wasn’t much, much worse. — Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue


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