What’s Democracy to You?
Plus: Explaining Mitch McConnell’s Warped Moral Framework
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TED R. JOHNSON: What’s Democracy to You?
For all the talk about our democracy being in a death spiral—the worries about toxic polarization, government paralysis, attempts to overturn elections, the Jan. 6th insurrection, nonstop culture wars, and rising illiberalism—there turns out to be little agreement on exactly what democracy is, what it is supposed to do, and whom it is supposed to serve. As a result, a concept that should be one of the unifying core tenets that all Americans subscribe to becomes yet another thing that sends us to each other’s throats.
A large online survey of American adults, conducted in November and released late last month by the Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement, hints at how our differing perceptions of democracy, among other terms, contribute to the anti-democratic impulses we’re presently seeing.
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Sarah sits down with President Obama’s former White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs to listen to some Biden voters talk about the state of the country and the Biden presidency. They also discuss how (and whether) Biden and Democrats might salvage their political fortunes in the 2022 elections.
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I want to, if you don’t mind, try to step back and try to explain Mitch McConnell and maybe look at his February 13th remarks in a little bit of a different context.
Look, throughout all of history, anybody in politics has to balance their values, their moral beliefs with what they believe is politically expedient. And at times those things are in conflict, right? This is politics. Politics ain’t beanbag, as they say. And at times people decide to do what’s politically expedient versus what they think is morally correct. No matter your party.
Look at Mitch’s predecessor, Harry Reid. When he lied about Mitt Romney’s tax returns, he wasn’t thinking about the morals, he was thinking about what was politically expedient at that time. What Jonathan’s interview with Mitch revealed is that Mitch McConnell is a category difference from all of those other politicians. Mitch McConnell does not try to balance—at all—the moral values that he may or may not have with what is politically expedient.
In March 2011, I began a new posting as the Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, in command of all U.S. Army forces stationed in various countries throughout Europe. It was a dream job as it was in that command – in a different time and under much different circumstances – that I had begun my career 36 years earlier as a 2nd lieutenant platoon leader, leading tanks on patrols of the then-West German border. Back then, it was our job to defend against the Soviet hordes.
But by 2011, things had changed. The size of the U.S. Army in Europe had shrunk dramatically from the quarter-million soldiers stationed there during the Cold War, and it would shrink even more during my two years in command. The Warsaw Pact countries who had been our foes during the Cold War were now our NATO allies and sovereign partners, and there was no border wall splitting Germany in two. Countries like Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, the Baltic states, and others had transformed their governments and their militaries since the early 1990s, and a few of them were even fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Over the course of nearly four decades, I spent a lot of time either engaging or working with the two armies now engaged in a bitter struggle in Ukraine. I met their leaders, observed their maneuvers, and watched their development closely either up close or through reading intelligence reports. Strangely, one memory that stands out had more to do with trumpets and rim-shots than tanks and rifles.
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