In his “Gettysburg Address,” Abraham Lincoln described a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” The problem for any democracy is that those people can make a mistake -- a dangerous mistake -- by electing someone who’s severely unqualified or a bloomin’ nutcase.
Look no further than Donald Trump, our president, who possesses the power to wreak terrible damage. In fact, he’s doing just that, both with his policies that roll back decades of progress, returning America to a menace to the planet, and even more so with his rhetoric, which has exposed wounds to the nation that might never heal.
Those lined up against Trump in the impeachment fight hope that he will go down in history as the 45th president who was forced to prematurely step aside for the 46th president, Mike Pence. Actually, the get-rid-of-Trump forces shudder at the thought of replacing the deranged current act with his smarmy sycophant, but that’s how it works in our democracy. Unless, of course, they can make it a twofer. In that case, it would be Nancy Pelosi as POTUS, since the House speaker is next in the line of succession. That would be a crazily tumultuous way to install our first woman president. The preferred method, obviously, would be to elect one. Besides, Pelosi is busy these days playing Trump like a fiddle with her soft-spoken responses to every harsh Trumpster outburst. She coos while he talks of coups and treason and spies, and comes up with wackier and wackier responses to the fact that his gig may be over.
His shakedown of the new Ukrainian president got him in his current deep doo-doo, but at least that one was supposed to be secret. Now he is publicly trying to recruit China in his scam, just as the two nations are making one last stab at saving the world from a trade collapse.
For the Democrats, too, the traps are out. Joe Biden has awakened to summon up outrage that he and his son Hunter are accused of sleazy dealings, but his people have overplayed their hand. They sent a letter to the various news networks demanding that they no longer book Rudy Giuliani so he can no longer “spread false, debunked conspiracy theories on behalf of Donald Trump.”
While that may be an accurate description of Giuliani’s task as he takes on the Roy Cohn role as Trump’s enabler, and is largely preaching to the Trump choir and spreading drivel, the networks have so far not responded to the Biden camp, which is a polite way of saying those two magic words we all know so well. Frankly, while the Democrats don’t accuse “fake” and “corrupt” “enemies of the people” the way Trump does, they don’t really understand the news process.
Bernie Sanders’ people withheld for several days the fact that he had had a mild heart attack, which only served to amplify questions about his health. Many Democrats don’t seem to comprehend that we are not in cahoots with them either. We are simply trying to tell the story. The whole idea of a democracy is that the citizens make their choices as an “informed electorate.” Unfortunately, the leaders of our system fail to understand the process of informing them, or try to destroy it.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.