- Crisis Management
A week or so ago, I was in despair about the attacks on the credibility of a U.S. election by the president and his supporters. I was concerned that its unprecedented baseless assault on the integrity of our system represented a threat, not only to our American democracy, but also to the democratic ideal around the world.
Today, I’ve changed my view. Not about the attack on our democracy, but on its ultimate effect. It has begun to dawn on me that the resiliency of the American democratic system in the face of an all-out assault by a sitting president is, in fact, evidence of its strength, and that will persuade the world of the value of our system, not its flaws.
If a president who can attract 70 million votes and whose followers parrot his every unsubstantiated claim cannot undermine our system, it is, paradoxically, a testament not to the vulnerabilities of the system, but rather to its durability.
Too many elected Republican leaders and biased media outlets either cower in the face of or magnify the outrageously false allegations. But, on the other hand, our independent court system, bipartisan local elections officials and rational commentators from disparate media outlets are standing up against the outrageous and ostentatious claims. Thomas Friedman makes this point very effectively in his column yesterday in the New York Times.
It’s significant that business leaders have been willing from the beginning of the Administration to stand up in ways that too many political leaders have not. In response to the president’s comments about the demonstrations in Charlottesville early in the first year of the Administration, a number of CEOs, led by Ken Frazier of Merck, resigned from the President's Manufacturing Council.
Soon after the news media called the presidential election, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce all quickly congratulated the president-elect and vice-president-elect and soon called on the Trump Administration to cooperate with the president-elect on the transition. “The American people have spoken,” the NAM said on Nov. 7, “and they have chosen a leader who throughout this campaign spoke of healing and bipartisanship.”
Before the election, the leadership of the U.S. military indicated it would not intervene in a disputed election. As unthinkable as it is that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would feel a need to make such a statement, it’s reassuring to those who fear authoritarianism might possibly emerge here that this is absolutely not possible.
Even the tardy acknowledgement two weeks after election day that the General Services Administration will begin cooperating with the President-elect on a transition is a welcome confirmation that the system will prevail.
The fundamental reality is that the American system of government was brilliantly endowed by our founders with checks and balances that assure that no single person or party – not even the president – has the power to overturn our Constitutional processes. On the contrary, those responsibilities were specifically endowed to make such an eventuality remotely unlikely.
What the founders were counting on in building the checks and balances and the guarantee of individual rights was that those who hold power in the executive, legislative and judicial branches at the federal and state levels would resist an outrageous authoritarian power grab. And to a significant degree, those officials are showing that they are unwilling to tolerate the unwarranted assault on the Constitutional democratic process. They have both the legal authority and the moral conviction to ensure this is impossible, even over the objections of the president.
I join Thomas Friedman in giving thanks at this time of Thanksgiving that America will continue to be a beacon for truth and justice and the right of the people to decide, and that the system is strong enough not only to survive, but to triumph in the face of unsubstantiated attacks on its credibility.
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