No, at the end of a year in which American global credibility and reputation has taken a hit from which it cannot fully recover, in which neo-Nazis have been assured by the leader of the Free World that there are some fine people among them, and in which the ethnic divisions of the United States have been exacerbated by a president who seemed to enjoy baiting hapless American citizens who hail from Puerto Rico and who agitated for the political prosecution of his defeated opponent in the last election, the vital signs of American democracy are surprisingly good.
America’s civil servants, soldiers, diplomats, and intelligence officials, in their overwhelming majority, take seriously their oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, “foreign and domestic.” They did not snap-to when the president decided to toss transgender personnel out of the military, they did not begin torturing terrorists, they did not suspend their relentless investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election in support of Donald Trump. He lashed out at most of them—from the FBI to the judges. They gritted their teeth and continued to work in accordance with the law.
In the country writ large, the Democrats seem to have a new infusion of energy from all kinds of people, to include minorities who now have an even livelier appreciation of what the right to vote means, once-Republican leaning women disgusted by the president’s own sexual predations, and young veterans of America’s wars who want to bring into Congress the spirit of service that they exhibited on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
From a moral point of view, the national Republican Party is in ruins, led by a woman so embarrassed by her connection to her uncle, Mitt Romney, that she dropped her middle name from official pronouncements. Not a day passes without some senator or representative excusing the latest lie or vulgarity, or denying the latest act of moral turpitude. It is an association of men and women conspicuously lacking guts. But there have been a few politicians, and rather more intellectuals and former officials, who have spoken up against their own side. And as time goes on, more will probably shamble shame-facedly into opposition to the administration.
My parents’ generation experienced the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, McCarthyism, Vietnam, and the social chaos of the 1960s. My grandparents—who came to this country from lands that the president would undoubtedly term “shitholes,” left behind pogroms, and survived all that, plus World War I and the great influenza pandemic. Set against those experiences, it is an unworthy whinge to complain about what Americans are living through today. The United States has survived much worse than one contemptible president and a craven political party; its resilience is built into the bones of its political system. What it is going through now is simply a good, hard shake. And there need be nothing to be afraid of in that.