A lot of ink has been spilled over the last year and a half explaining how congressional Republicans are complicit in the damage Trump is doing to the country because of their failure to hold him accountable. I certainly don’t disagree with that. Based on what has been reported from behind the scenes, it is obvious that most of them know that he is unfit for office, but are too afraid to say so in public. That represents a new level of political cowardice, but the truth is that they are simply trying to protect their jobs in an atmosphere where Republican base voters won’t tolerate disloyalty to the president.
That’s why, in the end, it is the voters who elected Trump and remain loyal to him who I hold accountable, even if that is not the politically correct thing to say. I don’t mean any disrespect with that statement, it is simply that I believe in democracy.
Almost thirty years ago now, Republicans began the process of undermining democracy when Ronald Reagan said that government is the problem, not the solution. Embedded in that statement is an assumption that government is a “them” rather than an “us.” That leads to a kind of authoritarianism that robs us of the whole idea of self-government and makes citizens out to be victims rather than those empowered to make our voices heard at the ballot box.
I watched as some of that came to a head during the 2012 presidential election. Do you remember when Obama said this?
He was making the point that no one is successful on their own. We have a collective responsibility to each other that comes with living in a democracy. But Republicans were enraged and Romney went on to practically build his whole nominating convention around a refutation of that one statement.
Perhaps in response, Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention was all about the idea of citizenship.
We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk- takers, the entrepreneurs who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system, the greatest engine of growth and prosperity that the world’s ever known.
But we also believe in something called citizenship — citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, a word at the very essence of our democracy, the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations…
We, the people — recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only, what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.
As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s what we believe.
The idea that democracy is a collective form self-government in which citizens are accountable is actually the subtle undertone to a lot of the traditional differences we see between Democrats and Republicans. But too often liberals buy into the kind of authoritarianism espoused by the “them” view of government. For example:
The inference that a sitting president would be the one responsible for leaving Democrats in charge should be anathema to any liberal who believes in a democratic form of self-government. It is also a way to avoid holding voters accountable for their own behavior.
There are a lot of factors that go into any election. Those include candidates, money, endorsements and the media’s framing of various races. However, in a democracy, all of those things act as influences rather than decision-makers. That is why I hold Trump voters accountable for his presidency. They exercised the power to elect him and are now accountable for that choice.