Really, President Biden said in his speech in Philadelphia the other day, America is just an idea, an idea worth preserving and nurturing to his mind, but fragile, subject at any time, in times like these in particular, to transmogrification.
One of the major thrusts in our founding documents, as I understand them, was to shield this democratic republic from autocracy, from monarchs like England’s king, or from autocrats in populist clothing, demagogues who, while pretending to have the people’s best interests at heart, were nothing but self-aggrandizers willing to say or to do anything to hold on to power. We, of course, have seen such a one in recent times, a person who scoffs at the rule of law upon which our experiment in self-government depends, who condones intimidation and violence rather than reason as a way of dealing with issues.
Ours, the president said, has been a unique society, one dedicated to self-government rather than to hereditary or oligarchical or dictatorial rule, a country designed to check power and to balance competing interests.
We, President Biden said, were at “an inflection point,” adding that while a battle was being waged for the soul of America, he was optimistic that, together, we could restore it and thrive, and that once again we could become the United States.
“Vote, vote, vote,” he said, knowing that the will of the people in this country is chiefly expressed through the ballot box. Two-thirds of the electorate voted the last time, in 2020, the nation’s second-largest presidential election turnout despite the fact that it was a plague year. Let’s hope that that augurs well for future turnouts and for the upward swing of democracy, which cannot exist if apathy and alienation are widespread.
Do we want a country that is fair and just, in which issues are seriously considered, and in which majorities are charitable, not strident, and in which minority views are accorded fair hearings? Most would say so, I think. President Biden’s view is that this will not be the case if we forsake our duties as citizens, if we think that our enlightened way of government without our participation will last forever.
Our democratic republic remains an experiment, one that continues to holds promise, but if we don’t work together to sustain it, it still could fail.