Will Republicans Kill Democracy?

Republicans are in the process of betraying the United States. Republicans who urge their colleagues not to object when counting the electoral votes, who parrot Joe Biden’s calls for unity, who urge the nation to accept and to move on: these Republicans have decided that nothing is worse than a constitutional crisis. Nothing is worse than turmoil—not even the end of freedom. They are choosing to support an unelected government rather than risk the chaos of leftists rioting in the streets. 

Perhaps, above all, they are choosing a world in which they can continue to rub shoulders at fancy social events in Washington, D.C.. Whether or not the people actually voted to send them there is unimportant. What is important is that they are important. 

The status quo, the thing which President Trump has threatened more than any politician in living memory, is the breath of life even to those politicians who would, all things being equal, prefer free elections and limited government. But all things are not equal. Most politicians, ironically, would choose prominence in a corrupt system over anonymity anywhere else.

Churchill recounted his exchanges with Admiral François Darlan, who was chief of the French Navy at the outbreak of World War II, and who wanted above all to rise to the top political post, Minister of Marine. Darlan repeatedly assured Churchill that, come what may, the French Fleet would never fall into German hands. As France was collapsing under the Nazi invasion in June 1940, Darlan was prepared to order his ships to sail to American and British ports. But, in the last gasp of the Third Republic, Darlan finally achieved his much hoped-for political elevation. He never gave the order to sail, and, when General Georges asked him why, he replied “I am now Minister of Marine.” He wished to remain Minister of Marine in a new government, even under German control. He got his wish.

“How vain are human calculations of self-interest!” writes Churchill, in one of his greatest passages: “Darlan had but to sail in any one of his ships to any port outside France to become master of all French interests beyond German control. Nothing could have prevented him from being the Liberator of France. Instead, he went forward through two years of worrying and ignominious office to a violent death, a dishonored grave, and a name long to be execrated by the French Navy and the nation he had hitherto served so well.”

It was thanks to Darlan that the British were forced to open fire on the French Navy at Oran in July, a month after the French surrender. This is a chapter in their history that the French would rather forget (and probably have forgotten). Having at our disposal certain important information as we do today—namely, that the Allies would eventually win the war—Darlan’s actions seem to us not only treacherous but tragically foolish. As Churchill points out, however, it seemed to many men at the time that it was better to help administer Vichy than it was to fight in exile for the uncertain future of democracy.

In our present crisis, the future is again uncertain and our political men and leading commentators are making their calculations. The most powerful tool at their disposal is a refusal to look at, and a desire not to hear or understand the evidence which so many Americans—so many private, unimportant, workaday Americans—are risking their livelihoods to attest. Only by rejecting the evidence as unworthy even to be examined can these people convince themselves that their abandonment of Trump and of the majority of Americans who elected him is basically OK: Better to help get rid of a man whom they always despised and who always made life difficult for them than to risk damaging a relationship with the new Kamala Harris Administration.

This is not, however, an answer which Americans will accept in the long term. Whether it takes a year or 10 years or 100 years for the wheel of history to turn, the Republicans who chose stability over democracy will not be remembered kindly, if they are remembered at all. New heroes in the fight for liberty are being born at this very moment, and nobody knows their names—yet.

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