Even amidst a global pandemic that has taken over 400,000 American lives, our country continues to be overshadowed by the cancerous ideology of Trumpism. As we move forward, we must confront an important question facing us: How do we define patriotism?
In recent years, nefarious factions of our society have radicalized the idea of patriotism to rationalize unpatriotic acts. It has become an epitaph for white supremacists, spineless Republicans, and conspiracy theories like QAnon. However, we must remember what patriotism truly is. It is above all, a love of country, our Constitution, and the values and norm that imbue us with an inherent sense of moral decency.
Knowing this, we need to ask ourselves, how did we allow Trumpism and right-wing radicals to usurp our foundational values to the point of blatant sedition? The answer is complex. It lies in a convoluted fusion of multi-faceted political and socio-economic factors that have plagued our nation for decades.
These issues have been ignored by many myopic politicians – from both sides of the aisle – for years but white resentment came to a boiling point through the presidency of Barack Obama. President Obama was elected with the support of a majority of Americans of all stripes and persuasions, who cried out for change. That change applied to a host of issues, mainly healthcare, jobs, education, immigration, among others. The Obama administration took some incremental steps to address these issues, but its failure to take more-decisive action laid the groundwork for Trumpism.
Above all else, Donald Trump was a marketing genius – a showman with a penchant for tapping into the fears and grievances of privileged whites. Primed by a conservative media apparatus, these white people who feared their way of life would be overturned by Democratic spending and growing national diversity. Trump, a political scavenger, sensed these class anxieties and directed his cult-like rhetoric of unimaginable falsehoods, lies, and misrepresentations until he was anointed as the messiah of the white working-classes.
Although Trump lacked the skills of political governance, he possessed a keen insight into our political structure. In his transactional mind, he saw that all political decisions had a price tag that was driven by self-interest. Those who sustain political power have flourishing “war chests” with the means to mount and win the battles of political “representation.” Until we as a nation change this political reality through campaign finance reform, term limits, and super PACs, our Democracy will always be “For Sale” and be exploited by the highest bidder. The idealistic “West Wing” perspective of our politics, which suggests that our elected officials are noble-minded, morally imbued individuals is a fallacy.
Consider the recent incantations of our elected officials, particularly from the Republican party. In recent years, many have contradicted their previously held positions in order to score political points. They have a wanton disregard for the truth, devoid of any semblance of moral decency or respect for the values of constitutional democracy. In doing so, they are denouncing their oath to uphold our Constitution –the very basis of their election to office.
This consistent pattern of deception has culminated in the deplorable act of sedition at our Capitol on January 6th, 2020. Once the violence on Capitol Hill has dissipated, Republicans had a chance to distance themselves from Trump (no longer partaking in the “Donald Trump Kool-Aid”) by voting to impeach him and gaining permanent immunity from his seditious behavior. Sadly, they seem to choose to place their self-interest ahead of their duty.
In my view, their decision to let Trump off the hook was grounded in the tribalism that underpins our nation. Rather than think of the interest of the nation at large, some politicians made a political calculation designed to appease a select few.
As such, now is the time for citizens to return to political independence and shed the polarizing labels of registered Democrats or Republicans. Moreover, we need to establish the norm of open primaries, so that the top two contenders, irrespective of their political affiliation will runoff against each other. These structural changes are the best way to reestablish a sense of national unity because we will no longer be addressed as Democrats or Republicans, but rather Registered Voters.
Furthermore, automatic voter registration and mail-in ballots should be federally mandated by statute through an updated Federal Voters Right Act. It is only then that we can dispel this innate “us versus them” mentality. In my most utopian vision, there would also be no party endorsements for candidates, so the process can be open to those who wish to serve their country, instead of their parties. How can you expect a nation to be united when our Political Structure is created in a manner that divides us?
The daunting task facing our nation is how are we going to save our Democracy from the ideologies that fueled the sedition that took place on January 6th. So far, the Biden administration’s plea for unity rings hollow if it does not confront the seditionists with severe criminal charges. These charges should extend to Members of Congress who played a role in the insurrection. They should be expelled from their legislative bodies at the very least. We have to set a standard as a nation under siege and address the problem in a forthright manner. Anything less would be an encouragement to those who wish to continue with Trumpism.
The Democrats need to fearlessly utilize their majority to enact much required legislative change. They should extend a hand to their colleagues across the aisle, but if Sen. Mitch McConnell remains hellbent on obstructing even the notion of governance, then the Dems should swiftly move forward with their agenda. Biden’s affinity for a conciliatory stance towards the Republicans is doomed to failure if Republicans have no interest in the act of governing. The cornerstone of unity must be accountability, without which our nation is doomed.
In closing, we the people must rise, in greater numbers, to elect candidates who have a genuine desire to serve the people and uphold our Constitution. We must reclaim patriotism, discard the cloak of tribalism, and dismantle a two-party system that chooses to symbiotically self-propagate and separate us into perceived distinct entities. These two parties offer blurred visions of our true cultural identity. Once we make these changes can we truly call ourselves the United States of America where the word “united” truly resonates in all our thoughts and actions.