Something extraordinary happened this past week in the US. I don't mean the impeachment trial. That's been rare in American history, but not extraordinary, except perhaps how the outcome of this one trial was reached. But let's go back to the night before the vote, when the chamber of the US House of Representatives sounded more like one of Hitler's rallies in the 1930s.
Every Congressperson in that chamber, whether senator or representative, knew that almost everything coming out of Trump mouth that night was an outright lie or exaggeration, even before the Associated Press came out with their official fact-check the next day, yet Republicans not only did their usual standing ovations, but they chanted aloud over and over, yelling "Four more years!" as if they were drunken teenagers at a school football game, cheering on their team.
In 2009, when Joe Wilson yelled "You lie!" at President Obama during the State of the Union, the entire audience gasped and Wilson received a formal rebuke by the House of Representatives. At last Tuesday's speech, the only person punished for yelling out was Fred Guttenberg, a father whose daughter had been murdered by gun violence at Parkland. Right now in America, we punish for grief and reward for lies, deception and cheating.
Which brings us back to the Senate vote the next day. Most senators have been to law school. They understand the law. They understand evidence, and they all knew there was enough of it to prove Trump guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, even without more witnesses and documents. Some GOP senators gave that as their reasoning for not voting for more witnesses. Yet all but one GOP senator voted Not Guilty on the both articles, and that one senator, stupidly, voted Not Guilty on the article of obstruction, the one most easily proved. Every one of them KNEW they were going against the law and against their oath of office.
So what is happening in this country to make otherwise educated, (one would hope) intelligent, and yes, mostly well-to-do men and women blindly follow a man like Trump, who has no respect for the laws of our democracy or even for anything close to fairness and decency? Those senators had no second thoughts about taking on the mantle of that disrespect and lack of decency themselves.
I'd like to believe that at least some of those Congresspersons, even as they were chanting during the speech and especially as they were voting "Not Guilty" the next day, had little twinges of conscience way back in their brains, telling them "No, this isn't how a democracy is supposed to work." But in the face of all that blind Hitler-like devotion to their leader the last week, they seem to have become monsters before our eyes.
Yet, I see an envy for that devotion on the Democratic side too. I think it's why the Democrats seem to be having such a difficult time sorting through candidates. It's not that they want someone so perfectly qualified that victory is assured. It's that they want someone who can be put on a pedestal, who inspires in them a willingness to follow the candidate off a cliff if necessary. They don't think anyone can defeat Trump unless their candidate is also like him. They want someone who'll make them "feel" a part of something bigger than themselves, the way Trump Nation seems to -- a charismatic golden idol who will fix everything single-handedly. Then all the voters have to do is sit back, wave flags and cheer.
Democracy doesn't work THAT way either. We seem to be gauging potential presidents by the size of the crowds or noise made at rallies. Rallies don't run a government. That's obvious from the last 3+ years. Yet everyone seems to now crave daily political drama on their newsfeeds more than a return to a sane functioning government of the people.
What I want in a president is someone sensible enough to appoint qualified, knowledgeable people to be in the cabinet and head the departments. People who we can trust to get us our tax refunds and Social Security checks. People who'll make sure our water is safe to drink and our interstate bridges are safe to drive across. People competent enough to quickly take care of Americans who've been through hurricanes, tornados, floods, earthquakes and wildfires. People who'll care for separated refugee families with compassion as they do their best to reunite children with family members. People who'll revitalize our education system. People who'll actively work to reverse the human causes of climate change instead of shutting down every federal research facility studying it. People who can negotiate with foreign leaders without cooking up back-room deals that give a select few Americans more power or wealth. People who'll protect fair elections and keep them open to all US citizens.
I think any of the Democratic front-runners can do the job. We shouldn't stress over charisma, or even stress over differing policies right now. The task of putting back together the tattered shreds of the current government needs to be job one. Keep your eyes on the prize: Democracy.
We don't need a president who inspires us to chant in ecstasy when he/she enters a room. That's not American. It's not Democracy. It's Fascism. But remember, when you're busy voting for a president who'll preserve our democracy next November, also vote out all the congresspeople who'd turn this country into a dictatorship. Don't sit back, complacently waving flags, while your power – the power of the people -- is being taken away.