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Peaceful Transfer Of Power Is Something America Once Promoted

September 24, 2020

Defeated presidential candidate Stephen Douglas held Abraham Lincoln’s hat while the new President gave his inaugural address in 1861. A few years later in a private memorandum Lincoln struck a strong note about democracy that needs to be highlighted again.

Abe wrote on August 23, 1864, “…[I]t seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to cooperate with the President-elect, as to save the Union….”

Those words echo today in light of what 2020 has demonstrated happening to the nation. Our social fabric is fraying while our society is fragmenting. The labor markets are very ill. Wages have lagged for years, and racial inequality is increasing. The times call for leadership and commitment to democratic principles in our elections. But tragically, that is not what is happening from this White House.

Recall, if you will, the images of Iraqi voters who donned their best clothes and stood not only in long lines, but also up to the ones who threatened them with death if they chose to cast a ballot. Recall the bravery of the voters dipping their finger into a purple ink and proving to all their desire for change.

It was reported that by the end of that historic election day 38 people had been killed and 80 people wounded in attacks by those who wanted to deny others in that nation from balloting. President George W. Bush had spoke with emotion about his desire to promote democracy in that region of the world. That sentiment has been long used by presidents of our nation; urging others to implement a peaceful transfer of power.

Consider the way defeated George H.W. Bush acted in 1993. His letter to Bill Clinton on the day of their peaceful transfer of power remains one of those grand moments of written history.

Recalling those moments in history, in light of the recent and absolutely unacceptable words and tone from Donald Trump about our election results, puts our upcoming balloting into stark perspective. 

Trump has again declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power when he loses the November 3rd presidential election.

“We’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said at a news conference this week, responding to a question about whether he’d commit to a peaceful transfer of power. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”

Can my readers fathom Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, either George Bush or any other American president making such dangerous statements? It comes as a blow to our national decency and understanding of laws and norms to have a president express less than complete confidence in the American democracy’s electoral process. What we have witnessed has some echo to the outlandish creation of national chaos when in 2016 Trump would not commit to honoring the election results. It was appalling then, and more-so now.

We have witnessed a factless but continuous attempt by Trump to disparage and malign mail-in voting. As we are aware many states are encouraging such voting as it is safer to do then in-person balloting during a pandemic. A robust national pandemic, it needs to be underscored once again, due to the lack of any federal planning or leadership from the Trump White House. So the bogus claims by Trump about corruption in balloting is an action from an autocrat for his knee-bending cult followers. For the rest of us we follow the data, the facts.

Studies have shown that all forms of voting fraud are extremely rare in the United States. A national study in 2016 found few credible allegations of fraudulent voting. A panel that Mr. Trump charged with investigating election corruption found no real evidence of fraud before he disbanded it in 2018.

Writer extraordinaire Maya Angelou once stated that “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

In 2016 Trump self-identified who he was, and what he was. He played to poorer whites who are a product of our schools which have lost funding and as a result turn out the types all too easy to dupe. Those voters have no more awareness of autocratic power moves or illiberal democracy than they do of Cicero. And so now they yawn and laugh at what the rest of the nation knows is highly troubling when Trump threatens not to leave office after losing an election.

We again harken back to history to find the sources of not only our strength but also to define the mission ahead of us as Americans. I can make it no more clear than the words from President John. F. Kennedy from his inaugural address.

“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.”

That burden now falls on the shoulders of my fellow citizens.

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