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Dear Mom: It has been almost three years since you departed this world, and I think of you so often. But especially now, I think of you daily.

Why especially now? Because we just had a presidential election and the loser, the Republican incumbent, refuses to concede to the Democratic winner. Moreover, this sore loser is, as I write, going full-bore taking all sorts of undemocratic actions, mainly legalistic, to invalidate the election result as fraudulent. And get this, Mom: He even invited the top two Republican state legislators from Michigan, a swing state, to the White House — and no way was this visit about tea and scones. Clearly he wanted them to defy their state’s popular vote and switch to him. …


“Character is destiny.” This wisdom, first voiced by the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, has been reinforced — just barely — by the close election of President-elect Joe Biden, a man broadly recognized as having character, integrity, decency.

Going down in defeat — again, just barely in so close an election (and not yet conceding) — is a man who, as to character, is truly a black hole, an emptiness vast beyond measure. Instead, this man’s rage, and raging ego, bring to mind the rage of Achilles — a rage so all-consuming and blinding that, in the words of the ancient Greek poet Homer, it “brought countless ills” upon his people. “His people,” in this case, are Republicans who blindly support Donald Trump in his denial of the election’s results — and the American people, whom Trump never bothered with, preferring his base. …


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Amin Tn / Unsplash

American Democracy, as much as any candidate, was on the ticket this 2020 presidential election. And the American people — bless them! — saved it. But just barely.

While Joe Biden will be our next President (thank God!), and Donald Trump will not (thank God!), the inescapable fact is: Trumpism won big and is here to stay. That is to say: Anti-democracy. And no countervailing “blue wave” rose up on Election Day to reckon with all of Trumpism’s malignities.

So, we rejoice, after four long days of electoral counting. But our rejoicing is tempered.

After four long, harrowing years of a President (Donald Trump) who knocked off every guardrail of American Democracy, with the approach of Election Day and the chance to make major course-correcting change, any democracy-loving American had to hope post-election headlines would declare, with exclamation point: “American Democracy Saved by the American People!” …


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Twelfth in an ongoing series, “Notes from a Plague-Time”

First, the good news: The unexpected bonus of running for office in a plague-time? When you “dial for dollars,” to ask for a donation, more often than not you will reach the person you’re calling, because: “Sheltering in place,” people are at home and they are answering their phones.

I start with this good news, because there will be more elections and, as epidemiologists tell us, there will be more pandemics. …


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“Build Back Better” is the 2020 campaign theme for rebuilding the economy, put forth by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. But building back better — or building forward better, if you wish — is a good and feasible theme in general, as Americans approach Election Day and think beyond it, to the monumental repair job necessary in a post-Donald Trump future.

The following message, then, is for any independent or undecided voter out there — can there possibly be any left at this frenzied point? — to urge a vote for the Biden-Harris ticket. This is also to outline the repair job in store and how, with seemingly every element of American life flying up in the air, a vote for the Biden-Harris ticket is a vote for the sane and humane reassembling of American life. …


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I.

Remember this moment, my fellow Americans. Remember this dire moment, fraught as any we have known in our lifetime, when, nearing the 2020 presidential election, we want — no, we yearn with all our hearts for — the exact opposite qualities of those possessed by the current occupant of the White House, Donald J. Trump.

Remember this profound yearning of (we hope) a big majority of the American people for the higher, essential qualities — character, honesty, responsibility, courage, decency, dignity, intelligence, empathy, prudence, moral purpose. …


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Miltiadis Fragkidis / Unsplash

“Nothing works and nothing matters.” This idea seems to auto-complete much in the atmosphere at this fraught moment. It is a kind of nihilism that has afflicted Democrats ever since the ascension of Donald Trump. “Nothing works and nothing matters.”

But: Is it just my eyes that tear up when I think of our wounded country? Despite things not working on so many levels, it matters mightily — not just to me but, I venture, to masses more. Rather than feeling numb or truly nihilistic, masses of Americans have never cared more deeply or agonized more anxiously about the outcome of a presidential election than the one nine days away. …


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American democracy tilting toward strongman rule! A deadly pandemic entering its third wave — more people dying, more jobs lost, more businesses going under, the price-tag now $16 trillion! Black Americans marching, insisting their lives matter; women insisting the same! Wildfires burning in the West, hurricanes churning in the East, both at historic rates, heralding climate change is here, with denialists still denying —

Hel-l-l-l-p….

“Monkeys in treetops.” That’s how Franz Kafka described his racing mind: Like monkeys in treetops, leaping from limb to limb, screeching — and making no sense at all to the owner of the tree. Minds — my own and very likely yours too — have very good reason to race these days. While “monkeys in treetops” might be a clinical description of madness (Kafka was not diagnosed mad but he was depressive), the very good reason our minds race (I sincerely hope) is because of information-overload — emphasis: overload. …


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It is clear — from the audacity of their actions, from the near-unanimity of their ranks — that the Republicans view the 2020 presidential election solely as political: that is, the absolute need, no matter the cost to institutions or norms, to retain governing power.

Their latest audacity and its cost? Ramming another conservative onto the Supreme Court (Amy Coney Barrett), at the cost of destroying the Court’s conservative-liberal balance, making it 6 to 3, and rewriting their own rules of blocking President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland. Audacity upon audacity, Republicans pronounce themselves shocked, shocked that Democrats, growing ever confident of winning both White House and Senate, should even consider “packing” the Court as they themselves are doing.


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Second in an ongoing series, “Books for Our Times”

We live in troubled and turbulent times: The great experiment in self-governance — democracy — appears to be faltering, the liberal world order appears in retreat, and authoritarian reign appears on the rise. To make sense of the chaos, what better voice to hear than one that is measured and real, deeply read and experienced, someone who “walks point” into the trouble and turbulence and comes back to report, in a personal and not oracular tone, “Here’s what I think is going on.”

That is the voice Anne Applebaum uses in her new book, “Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism,” a short book (only 189 pages) that is big on the contours of our times. While the title “Twilight of Democracy” might strike one as Wagnerian, Applebaum’s treatment is provisional and, in the end, hopeful that — if we stick together and keep thinking clearly — we can make our way through the dark to a better place. …

About

Carla Seaquist

Our times examined via politics, culture, morality. Author, "Can America Save Itself from Decline?" Playwright. Contributor, HuffPost. www.carlaseaquist.com.

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