Vail Daily column: Wise voters trust in safeguards
November 5, 2016
Trust serves as the key component for making our republic flourish.
The Constitution's chief architect James Madison used trust as a two-way dynamic. The federal government had to trust voters to make savvy decisions for the common good. Moreover, citizens who cast ballots had confidence in elected officials worked to enrich the common good.
Madison built the Constitution on this mutual trust, a key non-negotiable. Voters had to believe the electoral system was fair. Washington's elected officials must trust these voters to debate vigorously, fairly state political aims, and endorse whoever wins a presidential election.
By mistrusting the electorate, federal officials would seize tyrannical power, warned Madison. If voters wanted government totally off their backs, our republic would collapse after bickering vigilantes pushed it off the cliff of anarchy. "Anarchy," rooted in an ancient Greek word, means "without government." Madison instituted constitutional checks and balances to curtail tyranny at the top and anarchy at the bottom.
A healthy trust between the federal government and voters acts like grease keeping constitutional machinery running smoothly.
Donald Trump grows mistrust among his followers. He's deft at making voters believe our constitutional machinery is broken, resulting in a "rigged election." Campaigning in Colorado, he suggested that the state's first mail-ballot presidential election is fixed. "Do you think those ballots are properly counted?" Trump asked supporters at the University of Northern Colorado.
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"I know they are saying, 'Oh, of course, it's all legitimate,'" as he fanaticized about voter fraud that's not supported by facts. "Perhaps I'm a more skeptical person." Repeatedly, Trump supplants trust with doubt about the election system being reliable.
"Democratic societies function on faith in strangers — in police and judges to do their job without fear or favor; in government agencies to fairly enforce laws; and, in experts of all stripes, from scientists to journalists to economists, to accurately report on what's happening in the world," declares Time magazine.
"Trump's central argument is that faith has been lost, and he has put himself forward as the only solution. 'We will never fix our rigged system by relying on the people who rigged it in the first place,'" he says (Time magazine, "The Truth Is Out There," Oct. 17).
Trump undercuts common ground, thee base where voters with different preferences may converse and compete. All they can hope for is that the Donald is right, and trust him to call the shots. Such absolutism about a "rigged election" mocks biblical wisdom that "a gullible person believes anything but a sensible person watches his step" (Proverbs 14:15). Trump distrusts the constitutional electoral steps.
His winner-take-all personality drives him to conjure conspiracy nonsense. Trump simplifies life to a series of collisions between winners and losers. Because he can't lose, the Donald imagines malignant forces conspire to steal what is his alone—winning the presidency.
Trump tells supporters that sinister forces plot rampant voter fraud. His sterling reputation is tarnished by global free-traders, government hoodwinkers, turn-coat Republicans and nasty media.
Trump orders voters to spy on polling places where minorities cast ballots. Their malevolent work "is a conspiracy against you, the American people," he warns. He tweets how "the election is absolutely rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary, but also at many polling places — sad."
Trump perfects a verbal skill that earned him millions in real estate. He stretches the truth, treating words like rubber bands that, when often stretched too far, don't snap back to their original size. Reports Time magazine, " … Trump, a salesman … had long become comfortable with manipulating reality and dabbling in falsehood. In his first book, 'The Art of the Deal,' he boasted of the value of 'truthful hyperbole,' and in sworn depositions through the years, he has been rather transparent about how he understands the fungibility (switching) of facts. Whereas most politicians recoil from the public shame that comes from inaccuracy, Trump has taken the opposite lesson…."
Trump opposes the Constitution that thrives on mutual trust between voters and their government. His mental universe skims on a slippery slope of casual disregard for what's true.
Better to respect what Franklin Delano Roosevelt expressed in his 1945 Inaugural Address, beginning his fourth presidential term. "We can gain no lasting peace if we approach it with suspicion or mistrust—or with fear," he declared. "We can gain it (peace) only if we approach it with the understanding and the confidence and the courage which flow from conviction."
Trump lacks basic trust in the constitutional process. To borrow his tweet — sad.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God's history come alive.
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