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I hear that a lot these days, that our democracy and our Constitution are under assault. There’s a grain of truth in it, though neither so much nor of the nature those who use the phrase intend when they say it.
Ours is not really a democracy, of course, but rather a democratic representative constitutional republic: we democratically elect representatives who then create and execute the law on our behalf, themselves bound by a Constitution intended to limit their authority.
In general, our system works pretty well: it’s lasted a long time, and we have enjoyed a remarkably orderly transition of power, decade after decade, for centuries. Even during moments of true crisis, it has proven itself robust and resilient. There’s no reason to think failure is imminent, despite the breathless and self-serving proclamations of the talking heads of mainstream infotainment news.
There are, however, those who seek to undermine our system of government, usually with the best of intentions.
— There are calls to restrict political speech, this despite the clear and specific First Amendment guarantee of a right to petition the government. These efforts are usually couched as “campaign finance restrictions,” but their intent and their effect is to limit who can speak and how much they can say and on whose behalf.
— There are calls to compel people to use specific words and phrases — the so-called “preferred pronoun” legislation of NYC, for example — despite the fact that freedom of speech includes a freedom not to be forced to speak, and freedom of belief encompasses a freedom to not profess what one doesn’t believe. Similarly, there are calls for speech codes that would enforce “sensitivity” toward various groups. Sensitivity is nice; mandated sensitivity is fascistic — and not an American tradition.
— There are calls to abolish the Electoral College. This isn’t illegal: the Constitution was designed to be changed through carefully restricted means. But the Electoral College is an important aspect of our Constitutional republic, and efforts to disparage it represent a kind of popular assault on our Constitution.
— There is a growing undercurrent of speech suppression, of First Amendment disenfranchisement, masquerading as justifiable civil disobedience. We see this in its most extreme form in the hooded thugs of the so-called “antifa” movement, who threaten and beat those who attempt to express ideas of which antifa doesn’t approve. We see it in the childish anti-free-speech campaigns on college campuses, where invited guests who espouse unapproved views are hounded, sometimes violently, from the podium by self-righteous students and activists.
— There is a desperate movement to undo, under whatever pretext can be seized, the 2016 Presidential election. I understand that the results were disappointing to approximately half of the electorate, but that’s not an excuse to abuse every conceivable mechanism for the nullification of that election and to thwart the administration’s execution of the office. We’ve seen the fabrication of a Russian conspiracy, the invocation of everything from malfeasance to insanity, the Machiavellian leaking of information by high-ranking officials, and an endless stream of anonymously sourced accounts breathlessly announcing treasonous conduct in the Oval Office.
In the meantime, we have a President who continues to appoint excellent Constitutional originalists, men and women who have demonstrated a deep respect for the substance and defense of the Constitution. We have a President who, whatever his flaws, continues to obey the often wildly improbable dictates of lower courts. We have a free press, a robust national debate, an unmuzzled opposition that routinely abuses its freedom through blatant dishonesty and misrepresentation — and an electorate that will, next year, once again decide which party will occupy the White House, just as it has every four years throughout our nation’s history.
Our Constitutional representative democracy is healthy. Our electorate is lied to by a wildly left-leaning and embarrassingly monolithic press, but nonetheless manages to hear more than one side of our political story — and, often, has enough sense not to believe most of what it sees on television.
We need more open criticism of our dishonest media, more people standing up and demanding their right to use their own words and not those thrust upon them, more people bold enough to face down their would-be censors in the popular culture: more outspoken conservatives, in other words. But our democracy is not under attack — at least, not in the way those who use the phrase believe.