Opinion: Restoring our troubled Republic

The U.S. Capitol building is seen during the Congressional Remembrance Ceremony marking 20 years since 9/11 in Washington, D.C. on Monday September 13, 2021. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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The U.S. Capitol building is seen during the Congressional Remembrance Ceremony marking 20 years since 9/11 in Washington, D.C. on Monday September 13, 2021. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

Credit: TNS

THE STATE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

A little more than 40 years ago, the people of Georgia elected me to the Senate of the United States. I also happened to be the first Republican senator from Georgia since Reconstruction, over 100 years earlier. It was the honor of a lifetime.

Today, I write my fellow citizens all across the United States and especially those in the great state of Georgia. As the shadows of time and history lengthen over our nation, I have a growing concern that we all desperately need to relearn our history – and save ourselves from repeating its darkest moments.

There are dark clouds on the horizon that must be addressed by all who bear goodwill toward the sustainment of our democracy and its vital institutions. We must not be afraid to face these challenges even if it calls for us to firmly stand up to those within our own community or political party. Because the preservation of our democracy is greater than the fate of a temporal political party or the maddening crowd.

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Mack Mattingly

Credit: contributed

Mack Mattingly

Credit: contributed

Combined ShapeCaption
Mack Mattingly

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Twenty-three years before the advent of Civil War in 1861, a 28-year-old lawyer named Abraham Lincoln addressed a group of young men in Springfield, Ill., about this nation’s coming trial. “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reaches us, it must spring up amongst us,” Lincoln said. “It cannot come from abroad. If destruction is our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Regrettably, but hopefully only temporarily, one of those dangers is now coming from the political party I have called home all of my life. The revelations of actions taken in the past several weeks by the former president and many of those who support him have deeply troubled me.

By the same token, the actions of those who, for over six years have opposed that same President and have obsessively demonstrated pure hatred toward him -- and anyone who is not one of “theirs” -- is equally disturbing. The anger, hatred, and propaganda hammered into the mind of anyone who dares watch, listen to or read any so-called “media outlet” should be deeply disturbing to all.

Attempts to misuse the media and educational institutions, to issue threats of civil and criminal reprisal to persuade both citizens and elected officials to surrender the rule of law for any position, whether right or left, should be appalling to anyone who values morality and history and truly understands democracy.

In 1980, the people of Georgia asked me, with their votes, to bring about a productive change in the political system in Georgia. They wanted a voice. They wanted an end to a one-party state. They wanted an end to “the way it had been done” for more than a century. Contrary to the spin one might hear today, this was not about racism or a “good ‘ol boy” system, or even corruption in political office by some.

This was about men and women who believed a truly democratic government should have clear limits determined by individual responsibility, limited government, lower taxes and a strong national defense. Today, many conservatives and liberals would actually share those beliefs — but that truth has been tossed aside.

Their voices are constantly being shouted down and drummed out of any debate by those on either end of the political spectrum, by people determined to redefine, with the ugliest possible untruths, what the other party stands for. In the process, they undermine and defile democracy. The truth is, the last thing many of these voices desire is respect and unity. A people respectful of the values and beliefs of others, united in the fight to preserve the Republic in which they live, is the worst thing that could happen to those attempting to overthrow her.

Regardless of whether one is a radical on the right or on the left, or a media propagandist masquerading as a journalist and guide of conscience for all, none of us can surrender the rule of law without destroying the Republic we have worked to grow and perfect for nearly 250 years.

For each one of us, life is about the decisions we make. In the end, what matters is the journey -- how we lived, grew, learned, accomplished, overcame and gave of ourselves throughout our lifetime. A nation, and in particular our Republic, is no different.

In recent days, former Vice President Mike Pence dared to say directly and without equivocation what should be obvious to all given what has poured forth from the documents and testimony now reported: “President Trump is wrong.” In doing so, he stood on his own - and spoke what he knew to be right and true.

We all -- every last one of us -- owe Pence respect for his integrity, and thanks for his courage. It is now painfully obvious that there existed toward the end of the Trump presidency a multi-phase effort to either overturn the results of the 2020 election or at least delay its ultimate effect, all contrary to the law and the U.S. Constitution. And yet, that same election involved dangerous attacks of hatred, propaganda and worse from the left. Each helped drive the other. Each tried to hide their crimes by out-screaming their accusers. But for the courage of Mike Pence and a few others, this nation would have faced a constitutional crisis the dimensions of which we have not seen since the Civil War.

What is now being exposed ought to chill every citizen to their core and move them to engage in the affairs of the nation. We now have ample evidence that all of us, whether we voted for Trump or not, by our actions and choices, through our protests, and through our personal social and network media accounts, helped create and drive a situation in which our democracy was defiled, and the public was confused, indoctrinated and incited to violence and riot -- even killing and injuring those sworn to protect it. No person, no media personality or outlet and no political party who supports such conduct contrary to the law and the Constitution deserves our attention, much less our support. Indeed, they demand our condemnation.

As Lincoln observed in the same speech quoted above: “Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well-wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.”

May we put down our words, our hatred, our weapons, our bile - and stand together to drown out the voices of extremism wherever they be found - and demand the re-dedication of our Republic -- as a nation of, by and for the people.

All the people.

Mack Mattingly was a U.S. Senator of Georgia, 1981 to 1987. A U.S. Air Force veteran, he was assistant secretary general for defense for NATO, 1987 to 1990. President George H.W. Bush appointed him in 1992 as U.S. Ambassador to the Seychelles.