I believe in Democracy.

I wear a “Defend Voting Rights” button almost everywhere I go, including on story assignments in areas I know are highly conservative, where my attitude may be seen as controversial.

But it shouldn’t be, because American Democracy, the “Big D” kind, is important, and is what makes the US special and is absolutely, positively worth fighting for.

That or this 246-year old noble experiment in freedom will die a wretched death.

My form of “Big D” democracy goes a little like this:

It’s a place where people look out for their neighbor, take out their trash, cut their lawns, volunteer at the local food bank, pay their fair share of taxes (meaning you Bezos, Musk, Gates, etc.), attend debates for their local elections, stand up for the rights of the oppressed, read local newspapers (a fool’s wish these days, but yeah, I’m going to ask for it anyway); and above all defend voting rights.

Really, really defend voting rights.

Because, like I said, our democracy depends on it as one year after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Americans, including me, are deeply pessimistic about the future of our form of government and country, which was called by former Republican President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s “A shining city on a hill.”

In short, an example to all the world.

But that point of view is tarnished now and is drowning in a sea of heated family arguments and in fearful, opportunistic and reactionary right-wing state houses across the country who seek to build in permanent victory through gerrymandering and miserable, punitive laws that also want to deny a repeat of the very settled, very fair 2020 election of President Joe Biden.

An outcome that he won by more than 7 million votes.

It is an outcome not believed by a propaganda and “Big Lie” swayed minority of American voters. A minority of voters coming almost exclusively from the Republican Party, under the thrall of the single largest threat to the American ideal since the Civil War, former President Donald Trump.

Because T**** has never believed in Democracy, only in power and was never going to accept any outcome from the November 2020 other than his own landslide victory.

A delusional belief.

In short, he never believed in the principle that has made America truly great.

The peaceful transfer of power had been the bedrock principle of our Republic since the 1790s until that awful Jan. 6, 2021 day and I know there are many Republicans who still believe in it, but they are not being heard these days.

The Republican Party used to be the party of limited government, low taxes, a strong military, looking out for your neighbor, law and order and truth.

It still stands for low taxes for rich people, as that wretched 2017 tax cut that benefitted largely the top one percent of the country demonstrates. It sort of stands for a strong military, but remember T**** denigrated the chain of command time and again and it was the insular, “America First” T**** who negotiated the Afghanistan deal that precipitated the disastrous American withdrawal this past summer that happened under Biden’s watch.

Both bear responsibility for the consequences of that particular action.

But aside from that, the Republican Party is these days pretty much whatever the hell T**** says it is, and that means truth is out the window (fact checkers figured out that he lied to America some 30,000 times during his term, it seemed like a lot more to me) and law and order, well law and order went out the window for Republicans on Jan. 6, 2021.

That day deluded protestors, so-called “patriots,” (they were anything but), grabbed American flags and used them to assault the Capitol police, threatened to hang then Vice-President Mike Pence, and otherwise tried to turn America into a third-world banana republic with a poorly-run, but frighteningly close to effective coup attempt.

A coup T**** egged on in a now infamous speech to the mob that morning before it marched on the Capitol. He then did nothing to stop the riot for more than three hours after the would-be seditionists broke windows, shat on the Capitol floor, stole federal property, assaulted the Capitol police and threatened to do violence to almost any elected official they found.

Never forget, T**** bears the lion’s share of the blame for the tragedy of that day.

The lion’s share!

Hell, he even promised to join his fellow protestors at the Capitol that day, but of course the cowardly liar did nothing of the sort, retreating to the safety of his private offices.

After the dust had settled and after initial cries of dismay and horror aimed at T**** from both Democratic and Republican leadership for what happened, Republicans have pretty much spent the last year following the money, licking the boots of T**** and his maniacal followers and trying to rewrite history, backtracking from any sense of responsibility for what happened.

Toadies and liars on Fox News (a misinformation machine that probably Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia would have envied), the political hacks and tools like Marjorie Taylor-Greene and Matt Gaetz (who now say the insurrection was an FBI plot) and the former whiner-and-orange-toadstool-in-chief himself have claimed that Antifa and Black Lives Matter, and as well as everyone from all the dead Kennedys to the ghost of FDR bear the responsibility of the tragedy that claimed five lives that day.

When in reality, fascists like the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and the Proud Boys, the core of T****’s base, were at the heart of the hatred brought to the Capitol that day.

All because the miserable, incompetent liar-in-chief T**** could not accept that he lost.

Remember, Democratic candidates Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016 (by 2.5 million votes) won the popular vote and conceded graciously when it was determined they had lost in the electoral college. In the former, the recount was a fiasco and the Supreme Court decision a travesty, and in the latter, Clinton was a poor candidate and campaigner who under-estimated T****’s appeal to a large section of white Americans who felt left out in the 21st century economy.

But again both times the system worked, the transfer of power was done by the book and peacefully.

Not so with the narcissist T****.

Remember, he lost the 2020 election by SEVEN million votes and has yet to concede, as President Biden pointed out in his brilliant January 6 speech where he denounced the former POTUS (but never calling him by name) for trying to tear down American democracy because his “bruised ego” wouldn’t allow it.

Because T**** has never been about anything but himself. He’s gone bankrupt multiple times, cheated on his wives countless times, stiffed creditors in dozens of instances, and lied and lied and lied to everyone he knows probably a million times over the course of his hateful, greedy lifetime.

He has absolutely no empathy for anyone but himself. I defy anyone to find any instance where he took on the unofficial, but very pivotal role of “consoler-in-chief” in his four years of office in the face of a mass shooting, a hurricane, an earthquake, anything that caused grievous pain to Americans.

Every POTUS, even ones I disliked intensely, served in this position and usually did it well.

Not T****, because he is utterly incapable of such compassion, such depth of feeling.

Right now, he probably doesn’t give a damn about the officers who died during the insurrection he inspired. And as for the people who are rightfully going to jail for him as result of their treasonous acts that day? I doubt that he or his organization have spent a nickel trying to help them!

And yet, he inexplicably demands and cultivates a huge, rabid following who will go off the cliff like lemmings for him, something I and many millions of others fail to understand.

Many of those followers have likely forgotten their American Civics lessons about free and fair elections, a free marketplace of ideas, respecting others opinions (there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides of the aisle on that topic) and above all being a good loser, which is the very centerpiece of the American ideal.

And they’ve replaced it with the T**** ian concept at the heart of every totalitarian regime that’s ever existed:

“The leader is all, only the leader matters. Everyone must listen and obey the leader.”

Because of the misinformation spread on social media and by the cowards in the Republican leadership (the obstructionist Senator Mitch McConnell is as malleable as a chameleon and the lapdog Rep. Kevin McCarthy has the spine of a slug), the state of American politics has declined even further since that God-awful January 6, 2021 day.

The state of affairs was summed up by these lead paragraphs in a very depressing report heard on NPR’s “Morning Edition” program on Jan. 5:

“A new NPR/Ipsos poll finds that 64% of Americans believe U.S. democracy is ‘in crisis and at risk of failing.’ That sentiment is felt most acutely by Republicans: Two-thirds of GOP respondents agree with the verifiably false claim that “voter fraud helped Joe Biden win the 2020 election” — a key pillar of the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

Fewer than half of Republicans say they are willing to accept the results of the 2020 election — a number that has remained virtually unchanged since we asked the same question last January.

“There is really a sort of dual reality through which partisans are approaching not only what happened a year ago on Jan. 6, but also generally with our presidential election and our democracy,” said Mallory Newall, a vice president at Ipsos, which conducted the poll.

It is Republicans that are driving this belief that there was major fraudulent voting and it changed the results in the election,’ Newall said.’

The Morning Edition story rams the point home that is America is as dysfunctional as its been since the Civil War, as dysfunctional as a flag post from a traitorous Jan. 6, 2021 T****-ite rioter being rammed into the gut of a brave Capitol police officer trying to defend the Capitol Building.

The truth about the election has been repeated over and over many times in the last year and all over the country but has fallen on deaf ears in Republican country.

The dishonor the T****-stained GOP bears was on full display on Jan. 6, 2022. On that day, only principled Republicans Rep. Liz Cheney and her father former Vice President Dick Cheney, joined Democrats in the US House Chamber in attending a solemn one-year anniversary ceremony of the riot honoring those who suffered and died that day, especially the much put-upon Capitol Police.

Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are also the only Republicans brave enough to be on the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol riot and Cheney and her father were the only Republicans in the who were the only GOP members in the House chamber on the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot. It was a ceremony meant to honor the efforts of the badly-abused Capitol Police on Jan. 6, 2021. They were virtually the only ones standing in the way of the Mob and its intention to capture and maybe kill members of Congress.

For their efforts, they were beaten, spat upon and called the “N” word. The ceremony was meant to honor their efforts for which they are still and probably will forever bear physical and emotional scars.

But the GOP House members, some of whom initially condemned the riot and said that T**** bears responsibility for it, where were they? They who always say they are for law and order, were they there to pay their respects to those who died and suffered while they cowered in their chambers hiding from the mob, were they there at all?

No, they were not.

That’s how much the venal, criminal, selfish, mean-spirited jerk T**** has changed the Republican Party of my late hard-working, conservative parents for the worse. They believed in bed-rock GOP principles but always looked out for people and always spoke the truth.

There are other principled Republicans like Rep. Adam Kinzinger and former GOP kingmaker Karl Rove, who are trying to bring their party back to the truth and to the light, but they are treading in a deep swamp of hate and untruth loaded with angry and hungry alligators who swallow honor, decency and principle for breakfast, spitting out the bones of democracy in the process.

Because every Republican with any brains and sense of self-worth knows that Biden beat T**** honestly, but because T**** has lied to the GOP base so often, the lie is taken as gospel truth and so a huge percentage of GOP politicians run for their lives and pay fealty to the lie.

Which means American Democracy is hanging by a thread. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said as much in a blistering front page editorial on Jan. 6, 2022.

Hell, the University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats has been tracking insurrectionist activity since the Jan. 6, 2021 riot and discovered that some 47 million people, largely Republicans, still believe the election was stolen from T**** and that some 21 million of them, and this is a precise quote from the study, believe that:

“Use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.”

21 million who think democracy is subject to violent change due to one man’s bruised ego!

That thought should chill every American to the bone, but is just business as usual for a GOP that looked the other way and nominated T**** in 2016, and now look at him as something of a fat, sweaty, untrustworthy, misery-inducing god.

Jabba the Hutt only not as good-looking or as nice.

No, this is not the Republican Party I was raised in (and happily left 40 years ago for myriad reasons I won’t go into).

Just how truthful was Biden’s election?

In every rational sense of the word.

GOP fanatics went to court to try to overturn elections in Wisconsin (I worked in Milwaukee’s efficient, highly ethical central count myself), Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan more than 60 times.

And they lost more than 60 times, including two swings before the very conservative US Supreme Court. Granted, the Chief Justice John Roberts court is no friend to voting having gutted the hard fought 1965 Voting Rights Act twice, but even they asked “Where is your proof of fraud?”

And when T****’s lackies and toadies could provide none, even the Roberts Court tossed them out into the street.

The following is a pointed reminder of how important truth and facts still remain to judges both left and right by PolitiFact and The Washington Post. They analyzed a Biden assertion about the legitimacy of his presidency and about the number of times T**** lawyers lost in the courts trying to overturn his election and found that:

At least 86 judges — from state courts to the U.S. Supreme Court — have rejected at least one post-election lawsuit filed by Trump or his supporters, according to a review of court filings by the Washington Post, published Dec. 12. Around that time, more than 50 cases had failed or been tossed out of court, the Post found.

The Post analysis found that 38 judges appointed by Republicans were among the 86 judges who had rejected lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-appointed justices, rejected Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s challenge to election results in four states.

Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, said in dismissing one Pennsylvania challenge: ‘Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.'”

But this didn’t stop T****, or his lawyers, or his lackeys in Congress and in state houses across the country from repeating the lie, hammering it home on local right wing media and calling for so-called “election integrity.” laws.

This was done despite countless election officials both left and right, both local and national, calling the 2020 election one of the freest and fairest they have ever seen.

The turnout was record-setting, which social scientists have pointed out, always bodes well for Democrats.

It is a trend that Republicans have known for years as America continues to trend towards being a minority majority country in a few decades.

So Republicans in 19 GOP-led states, including close battlegrounds like Arizona and Georgia, that Biden won by narrow margins, decided to “fix” this perceived problem, by passing a series of punitive, unnecessary and restrictive so-called “election integrity” laws designed to reduce turn-out.

Make no mistake, these laws are not about “integrity” they are about restricting voting rights, making it harder for poor people, minorities, women and the young, mostly Democratic voters to exercise their franchise.

And, yes, the Roberts’ Court sits back and does nothing. Apparently the chief justice has had it in for the Voting Rights Act since he was a young man. I wonder why? Because as Eddie Glaude, professor and department chair of African American studies at Princeton University, said on WBUR’s Here and Now program on Jan. 5, America did not truly become a democracy until the passage of the VRA in 1965.

The VRA, just to remind people, knocked out the last of the miserable Jim Crow-inspired literacy tests and poll taxes that reduced African-American participation in elections in the south to next to nothing.

It was the centerpiece of the 1960s Civil Rights era and for some god-forsaken reason, Roberts, who I consider a thoughtful but often thoughtless justice doesn’t see voting as very important.

And I don’t understand why and I really don’t understand his thinking on this at all. He has indicated in recent years that he is very concerned about the Court’s legitimacy in the public’s eyes. Holding up voting rights for ALL Americans would be a huge step in that direction Mr. Chief Justice.

Remember the close of the Pledge of Allegiance goes: “With liberty and justice for all.”

It should be as simple as that, sir.

Every American should have the opportunity to vote and should believe that voting should be done as freely and fairly as possible, with limited impediments. Out of all the large democracies in the world, America makes it the hardest to vote, allowing a patchwork of discriminatory laws to darken its election landscape.

Many small “D” democratic countries large and small declare election day a national holiday or put it on a weekend, making it easier for their citizens to vote.

Not here in America

That’s why I wholly and completely support the vigorous attempts by the Democrats to pass new voting rights legislation, the “Free to Vote” and “John Lewis Act” would sweep away much of the corrosive and debilitating “Big Lie” supported legislation that has been passed by GOP-led states this past year.

In a 50/50 split Senate, it faces an uphill battle as Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema have expressed reluctance against bypassing or carving out an exemption to the filibuster rule. The exemption is needed because the odds of getting 10 “say no to anything” Republicans to vote to expand voting rights are the same as T**** being elected the next Pope!

But as Senator Amy Klobuchar pointed out and Politifact has verified , in its recent history the Senate has carved out 160 exemptions to the filibuster.

So why not one to help make American Democracy work like it should?

And while we’re at we could all help make democracy work a little better ourselves.

We could do it by turning off our TVs and and our radios for a time and getting our faces out of our phones too. We could also do it by getting off of Facebook, Twitter (I was kicked off that platform last year for calling Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson the venal, fact-free hack that he is), Parler, etc.

Instead, we could get on our computer and bang out an e-mail to that cousin or friend we’ve been avoiding for political reasons or maybe we could use our phone for what it was actually designed for, and call those cousins or friends and actually talk to them.

And maybe, while we’re doing that, we could all shut off our automatic responses (“Fake News” “GOP Hates America”), let down our guards a little and find out the truth about what makes each of us tick.

Maybe in the process we will find out that we have more in common than what separates us.

Or we could even hitch a ride on the brave road that the great community-building and personal communication platform StoryCorps is taking up with with its “One Small Step” project. As highlighted on a recent 60 Minutes segment their idea is to pair up people from disparate backgrounds and ideals and really see if they can communicate, find a bridge to understanding.

Wouldn’t it be great if that could happen?

That thought may be pollyannish in this hyper-divided country but I am hopeful, and to not try to end this death spiral of incivility would truly be the end of this country as we know it. But in my mind, it will never, ever work as long as the miserable T**** creature is in charge of the GOP.

Because even as I hold a strong nugget of hope for American Democracy we need to remind everyone in America that we are in this God-forsaken place of near-anarchy because of the lies and brittle, sterile heart of the truly wretched human being T**** who truly, never ever has given a damn about anyone but himself and earned absolutely no one’s loyalty!!!

He’s a truly awful human being, don’t ever forget that!

BUT yes, I do want a national reconciliation to happen, truly, truly I do, because I have GOP friends and family with whom I used to have healthy and insightful debates with and now I can’t without all the usual ugly tropes coming out. I miss those talks, I miss those people!

In the end, what I’d really like to see is have everyone open their eyes and see this flawed, well-intended country for what it really is.

Still flawed, still well-intended but hopefully trying to get better, trying to become fairer to ALL people. A country that needs to have a deep-down honest conversations about race, guns, income inequality and the environment among other things.

Doing that can help push America become that “Shining City on the Hill” that the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the framers of the Constitution always intended it to be and still can be.

Is that a pipe dream? Maybe, but I hope not.

Because if it were to happen, it would simply be the greatest day in American history!