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OPINION | GREG HARTON: When did protecting democracy become such a divisive concept?

by Greg Harton | September 4, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

Joe Biden gave a speech the other night in front of Philadelphia's Independence Hall. It was never going to be a speech Donald Trump supporters embraced.

Part of what the president delivered sounded like a campaign speech. Mixing that with his call for Americans to defend democracy against Trumpian tactics diminished what otherwise could have been a strong, and needed, patriotic message.

I suspect some readers will never acknowledge anything coming out of Biden's mouth, or voiced by any Democrat, can be patriotic. This is unfortunately where we are in politics: We can only agree with a call to stand up for democracy if it comes from someone in our party of choice.

Steve Womack, congressman for Arkansas' Third District, declared Friday, "@JoeBiden likes to call himself the 'great unifier.' Yet all he has done is deepen the divide. Last night, he attacked half of America and basically called those who oppose his agenda threats to this nation."

Womack, a military guy who I suspect finds little to like about Donald Trump's leadership and personal behaviors, knows better, but he's eager to stay in office and see his party post gains in November. If he listened to Biden's speech, he knows the president specifically said he wasn't talking about most Republicans at all, but the radical folks willing to tear down what the nation's Founders built if it means they can obtain power.

It's easier to churn up outrage if you can convince Arkansans a Democratic president is insulting their patriotism.

Four years of Donald Trump proved he's not a Republican at all. Like everything else in his life, his political ideology begins and ends with the answer to one question: What's good for Trump?

Much of what Joe Biden said Thursday evening would be embraced by most conservative Americans had the same words been said by a Republican -- that Americans must defend liberty; that the votes of Americans need to be protected and counted; that American democracy isn't guaranteed.

Criticisms of his call for protecting democracy boiled down to: Why does he hate the idea of making America great again? (Disingenuous at best.) Or positioning a photo of Biden, clenched fists raised, next to a photo of Hitler doing the same -- because clenched fists obviously means a speaker must be a murderous dictator, right? Or the lighting was red and evil looking.

I'm not here to defend Biden's presidency. The only reason he's in the White House is that he's not Donald Trump. A majority of Americans were ready in 2020 to move on after four years of narcissistic leadership. Everyone -- not just people who support Democrats -- recognizes Trump's deep flaws as a person and a leader and his ongoing deceitfulness. Some are simply willing to turn a blind eye. His most ardent followers will overlook any damage Trump's kind of leadership does to the nation as long as they did well during Trump's four-year term and might do well again if he's returned to the Oval Office.

I hope Republicans can find a quality conservative candidate in 2024. That's not Trump.

Biden was never going to win over people who equate making America great with restoration of Donald Trump to the presidency. But I don't think Biden is hypocritically failing to pursue unity just because he's calls on Americans to reject anti-democratic extremists. A ship's captain isn't morally or legally wrong to stand against a mutiny.

Biden undoubtedly believes the answer is for people to vote for Democrats. If the GOP rejects Trumpism, it could be achieved by a Republican eager to get past the Trump era and return to principled conservatism.

Print Headline: Democracy, a divisive idea for country?


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