In times like these, many are quick to offer the line, “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” But while we are so fond of citing it, particularly in light of Charlottesville and the subsequent removal of Civil War memorials, we are less skilled in actually embodying it.
When I look to Facebook and see friends from my middle school days in northern New Jersey, I see a number of very conservative men of Italian decent and Catholic faith. They are quick to offer anti-Muslim rhetoric, while failing to know the historical significant of the Know Nothing Party, a national political party built on an anti-Catholicism belief. And they certainly won’t acknowledge the anti-Catholic bias displayed during the 1960 presidential campaign, with many openly questioning whether John F. Kennedy’s loyalties would be to the American people or to the Holy Father in Vatican City.
They are quick to speak out against “illegals” and what they are doing to this country. But they fail to reflect on a time when cities passed ordinances instructing companies seeking government business “not to employ any Italian labor.” Or that, not too long ago, Italian-Americans in this country were “affectionately” called “WOPs,” short for “without papers.”
And for those who think this lacking grasp on American history is limited to those writing on the right-hand side of our historical ledger, one only needs to look at recent responses from the left on what needs to be done to get rid of President Donald J. Trump to understand that a broader understanding and appreciation of American civics is needed by all comers.
In response to the horrific actions in Charlottesville earlier this month, as well as the words and actions that led up to it, the number of folks on social media calling for the removal of President Trump seems to be growing exponentially. But their calls reflect a dangerous perspective of America and American government.
Even setting aside the drumbeat for “impeachment,” realizing that concerned citizens actually mean “impeachment and conviction,” one can’t impeach an elected official for saying hateful or harmful things. Article II of the U.S. Constitution states that “the President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” And while some may want a broad interpretation of “high crimes and misdemeanors” this time around, it becomes a dangerous precedent to set.
Then there are those who truly believe that Robert Mueller will find malfeasance and wrongdoing in the 2016 elections, be it by the Russians, the Trump campaign, or a combination of the two. Some of those believers are now hoping that such a discovery will result in the entire 2016 election being tossed out, with the results invalidated. Then, one supposes, the White House would either be turned over to Hillary Clinton or we would engage in a redo.
But the Electoral College all but ensures that can never happen. Whether one likes the Electoral College or not, its sole purpose is to validate the presidential election results. It’s why we saw so many people looking to Electors to vote against their state results last fall and instead cast a vote for the good of the nation. They didn’t. They followed the will of voters in the states they represented. The election of President Trump was certified and cast into stone.
Then we have the most troubling calls from the left imaginable. There is now a growing call for our nation’s military generals to stand up, speak out, and remove the elected president. Essentially, some progressives are now asking for a military coup d’etat in our democratic republic. One doesn’t even know where to begin on how horrible, and illegal, such an action is in the United States of America. We’ve really reached the point where a third-world-style military overthrow of an elected government is our best option?
Leaving the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked what the Founding Fathers have given to the fledgling nation. Franklin’s response, “a republic, if you can keep it.”
That meant, and still means, “a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.” While we like to believe we live in a democracy, we simply don’t. It is a democratic republic, and that means the voters speak, and then we live with it.
It does no good whatsoever to wring hands and wish on stars for an invalidation of the 2016 election results, a military coup, or other such actions. If one wants to change the direction, one elects leaders to change that direction. That is what the United States was built on, what we stand for, and is more a monument to our history than any individual or collective statue.