The Fate of Our Nation
Matthew R. Bishop - July 17th, 2020 - Washington, D.C.
Rarely in American history have the stakes of one election risen to such heights that they could threaten to dissolve the nation itself. That is the situation we find ourselves in today.
Since 2016, fascism and authoritarianism have trickled down from the highest executive government office to the individual life of the American citizen.
Today, we live in a country where unarmed protestors are seized by unidentified and camouflaged federal officers, kidnapped, and then driven off in unmarked vans. On July 16th, this happened to Portland’s protest leaders.
We live in a country where journalists, medical responders, and legal observers are deliberately targeted and shot by police and federal forces. In the first two weeks of protests from May 31st to June 14th, more than 86 journalists in the United States were shot by police or federal forces.
We live in a country whose President has consistently labeled his own civilian dissidents as “terrorists” and threatens to use lethal force against them nationwide, as if they are a hostile invader.
We live in a country whose President seizes the authority of an absolute monarch, who challenges the notion that his power should have any checks and balances at all, and who famously bragged on several occasions that he could murder a man in broad daylight and walk away without being arrested.
Our President won by promising to imprison his political opposition, shut down the free press, and intimidate dissidents with violence and physical force.
In the past, we have watched events like these, and we have used them to condemn third-world nations, and to challenge those nations to rise above violence, corruption, and fascism into our Promised Land of post-war democracy.
Countries around the world now use this same language to denounce America.
Today, the post-war order itself is collapsing, nationalist fascism is re-emerging as the prevailing political ideology around the world, and once-stable democracies like the United States and United Kingdom are in danger of failing.
The moral leadership of the post-war free world has dissolved, and Americans are left with this political vacuum in which they can redefine what it means to be American.
Right now, they are leaning towards fascism, conspiracy theories, widespread allegations of election fraud, hyper-partisanship, and hate politics. These are the chief ingredients for a civil war to erupt in November.
In any democracy which values itself, an observer might expect to see millions of American citizens taking to the streets, demanding the immediate resignation of President Trump, and furthermore demanding sweeping reforms like the abolition of the Electoral College.
But we’re not seeing that. We are seeing episodic protests where anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand people gather. These people then divide into factions, and disagree over everything from policy goals to operations and planning. There are no million-man marches on Washington, D.C. demanding immediate regime change and a redress of grievances.
This is disturbing for one reason above all else — it suggests that Americans are not aware of the fact that democracy itself hangs in the precarious balance of this moment. For generations of Americans who have lived their whole lives under democracy, now we find that they do not value their democracy at all — because they do not understand what democracy is in the first place, or how easily it breaks.
All the core values of the post-Enlightenment free world are in danger — the freedom to speak, the freedom to petition for reform, the inalienable right of the citizen to live in a social contract-based government. These have been the cornerstones of the free world since the 18th century.
They are up for election again in November 2020. Democracy itself is up for election. It is running against fascism, and we’re not sure that it’s going to win.
How voters cast their ballots will determine whether democracy has been just a brief experiment in the chronicles of world history, or whether it is in fact the enduring, persevering ideology destined to triumph over tyranny.
America has this one last chance to save the free world that it built at the end of the second war seventy-five years ago. I would like to see that dream survive and grow for at least another seventy-five years more. That is why I am endorsing Joe Biden for President.
I hope you will join us in November. We are building a unitarian team that includes everyone from conservative Republicans to card-carrying Socialists.
We’re doing this because we believe in the idea of America. We believe that democracy can work — that it must work — in this hallowed place where people of all different races, religions, nations, and ideologies come together as citizens. We believe that it is the basic right of all these people to disagree with one another without resorting to violence, intimidation, censorship, or fascism.
We believe that freedom will always triumph over tyranny. It is a slow and grueling fight for those who must do the fighting, but the forward progress of history is on our side. We hope that you will be there too.
Matthew R. Bishop
July 17th, 2020