America the Faithless?

I think Jonathan Turley may have said it best in response to those Trump supporters who rampaged through the Capitol Building yesterday, disrupting the certification of the Electoral College vote. After describing Trump’s legacy as now “in tatters” because of his “incredibly reckless” behavior, Turley said, “It’s chilling for all of us because it shows a crisis of faith. That’s what the Constitution is, it’s a leap of faith that we take together. The people that scaled the walls … have lost their faith. And the question is – how much of America is now faithless?”

Based on the actions of many over the preceding months, the number of Americans who are faithless is large and consequential.

It will not do to dismiss those who invaded the Capitol as “deplorables,” or as half-witted racists and conspiracy theorists who could not abide the notion that their hero lost a fraudulent election. Those who do so miss an important opportunity to assess what is ill with this country and to work toward a cure to the faithlessness many now experience. The fact is, the roots of the current discontent are shared by many reasonable people on the right, on the left, and in the middle who have, as Turley said, lost faith in our country’s political process. The invasion of the Capitol was only the most concentrated manifestation of a tension that has been building and blowing up for years. For months now, cities across the country have been torn by riots, looting, murders, and attempts to turn swaths of city blocks into autonomous zones. While black men and women have been killed by ill-trained or malicious police officers, politicians have waged war against the police, cutting their funding even as crime surges and violent actors ambush and kill anyone who wears the uniform. After being unable to accept the results of the 2016 election, many establishment Democrats dedicated the next four years to doing everything they could to bring Trump down. Our political leaders appear inept at managing the challenges that face our nation, unable or unwilling to work together for the nation’s best interest because they are too consumed with securing their own positions of power, or pushing an agenda dear to the elites but out of touch with the majority. Our national media, rather than reporting the news, are more interested in shaping it, reporting only those facts that serve their agenda, or flat out lying about what actually happened if the lie serves the cause.

According to a Rasmussen poll conducted in mid-November, fully 47% of all voters surveyed said “it’s likely that Democrats stole votes or destroyed pro-Trump ballots in several states to ensure that Biden would win.” What?!?! Almost half of all voters surveyed think the Democrats stole votes or destroyed Trump ballots. According to the same poll, 30 percent of Democrats believe it is very likely (20 percent) or somewhat likely (10 percent) that the election was stolen. Two weeks prior to the election, 94% of voters surveyed believed their votes would be correctly recorded and counted. After the election, only 71% felt the same way. More than one quarter of American voters believed their vote would not be recorded and counted correctly. That is not a number that inspires confidence in our electoral process.

Trump is finished. Whatever legacy he hoped to have and whatever dreams of 2024 he may have entertained are over. His insistence that the election was stolen and his willingness to inspire his most ardent supporters to act on that claim took a turn even he could no longer control. There will be no recovery for Trump from the storming of the Capitol Building.

Now Biden and the Democrats have an opportunity. They can, in the spirit of the Machiavellian strategy to “never let a crisis go to waste,” exploit Trump’s demise and the rash violence of his most fringe sycophants and push a radical, progressive agenda that will satisfy the palates of their identity politics plutocrats and street level activists. Or, they can step back and recognize the errors of Trump’s ways of pushing too hard a point unpalatable to the great majority of their reasonable-minded fellow citizens. Perhaps this is a time to search out those policies and positions that might most unite a country sorely divided and find a way to work across aisles for the greater good. Doing so just may help to restore the faith of so many desperate to believe again.

I am reminded of the letter Abraham Lincoln sent to Congress during another national crisis, just before signing the Emancipation Proclamation. He explained how freeing the slaves would contribute toward saving the Union. He wrote:

“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve, we shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.”

At this time of national crisis, we can only pray that our political leaders will see the wisdom of putting aside their ambitions and turning away from the temptation to exploit circumstances for personal gain. Dare we hope that our country’s great challenges will inspire in them true leadership? We can surely hope. Only time will tell.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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