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The next one ‘they’ come for may be you

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The next one ‘they’ come for may be you

Nov 28, 2023 | 6:11 am ET
By Phillip Parker
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The next one ‘they’ come for may be you
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Former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, left, and author Marc C. Johnson discuss the legacy of Mike Mansfield (pictured to the left) and how to return civility to politics at a presentation at the Billings Depot on Nov. 16, 2023 (Photo by Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montanan).

I attended an event sponsored by the Mansfield Center recently. Former Governor Marc Racicot and author Marc Johnson spoke on the legacy of the late Mike Mansfield.  Both men spoke eloquently on the virtues of the U.S. and Montana Constitutions and democracy, especially as practiced by Sen. Mansfield.  They acknowledged the woeful state of our current politics and suggested ways to improve it, including more civic engagement, running for office, staying informed, pushing for improved civics education and, of course, exercising your right to vote.

What was missing, I think, was a sense of urgency. 

Of all the actions listed above, only the last, voting, will have an immediate effect.  The rest will take some time to bear fruit. It’s as if the town is burning and the city council has finally decided it’s time to buy a fire engine.  

In less than a year, the electorate will effectively decide whether or not to continue the American experiment in self-government.  That is, whether to elect Donald Trump to the highest office in the land, or somebody who respects the Constitution.  The dangers of a second Trump administration have been widely reported.  Mitt Romney notes that a lot of Republicans no longer believe in the Constitution.  Tom Nichols, of the The Atlantic, writes that with his Veterans’ Day speech this month, Trump crossed the line into full blown fascism. 

I don’t know what to do, other than to try to remind the electorate why Churchill said that democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others.  

Are you fed up? 

Congress is dysfunctional, you’re convinced that elections are rigged, the courts are corrupt and you’re tired of your life being controlled by some amorphous “woke elites?”  What we need, you say, is to end this ridiculous democracy charade and give everything over to a one-party dictatorship.  They won’t come after me, you say, because the party will only go after “them,” and I, in my red MAGA hat, am definitely one of “us.”  

Let me tell you some reasons why that may not work out for you:

  1. Dictators are paranoid.  Nobody is completely trusted and the most trivial deviations from the party line can make you one of “them” in a heartbeat.  Further, dictatorships survive on fear.  Once in a while, even a high-profile, long time loyalist can become one of “them” just to keep everybody in line.  The consequences of becoming one of “them” are often dire.
  2. Dictators are megalo-maniacs.  They like big things – big walls, big palaces, big parades, big armies, big everything.  All that costs a lot of money.  Initially, they may only go after “their” money, but pretty soon that won’t be enough.  “Our” social security, our IRAs, our wages, all “our” assets will be fair game.  
  3. Once the rule of law is replaced by the rule of the party and the dictator, all bets are off.  In a court suit between you and one of “them,” you may have an advantage. In a suit between two of “us,” however, the law doesn’t determine who wins.  The party determines who wins, maybe based on the level of donations or the most perceived ideological purity.  The same way with whether you get that building permit you need or if your son gets into college. Only loyalty counts in official appointments, not qualifications and competence.

I could go on, noting the strong man’s affinity for starting wars, and the endemic corruption of one party states, but I’ll stop here.  

If the one party dictatorship route still sounds good to you, Donald Trump and his supporters at “Project 2025” are happy to oblige. He will be your vengeance and crush all those “vermin” living within our society, even if it’s the guy next door who has been a good neighbor for 20 years.  Be careful what you wish for, however.  The next one crushed might be you.

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