By: Gerardo Garibay Camarena*
Let’s face it, democracy looks like it is broken. There’s no other explanation for the dismal performance of the main contenders in the presidential election. There are more than 300 million Americans and still, after a year of campaign for the primaries and more than $1.2 billion later (according to The New York Times), both Republicans and Democrats got stuck with two candidates that resemble more a liability than a badge of pride.
And it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Clinton’s lack of charisma and unlikeable persona have been an established fact for a long time — that, of course, on top of a steady stream of scandals, from the tragedy of Benghazi to her extreme carelessness in the handling of classified information and her tendency to give short-circuited answers (aka lies).
Trump on the other hand has picked a bizarre feud after another and in early August entered a tug of war with his own party by initially refusing to endorse Ryan and McCain.
Then, the real question is what’s happening? How on earth can two highly skilled people, backed by the finest advisors that money can buy, fail so spectacularly at the somewhat simple task of being liked by the public? Where’s the problem?
Answer: the system itself. Hillary represents the triumph of cronyism and deceit. She’s playing with marked cards and is getting away with it because her network of influence is “too big to fail.” That’s why, in the most pathetic story of the campaign so far, she got Sanders to endorse her, even after the release of dozens of emails proving the manipulation of the democratic primaries in her favor. That’s banana-republic politics.
Trump represents the understandable but overly visceral and populist reaction to those same kind of insider politics, but within the GOP. Many republicans where rightly angered by some of the party leaders who acted like RINOs. The tragedy is that they channeled their anger by supporting a lifelong progressive-leaning democrat and donor to the Clintons. What’s even worse is that in doing so they rejected some of the best potential candidates they’ve had in a long time.
Why? Because Trump, like Clinton, flaunts his power as a presentation card and promises easy answers to complex problems.
How? By expanding the reach and the strength of the executive branch. That’s what happens in democracies — a vicious cycle where the lack of restraint to bureaucratic power feeds corruption, promotes centralization and in turn creates a chasm between the citizens and the career politicians. Eventually all that a tyrant-to-be needs is the right timing to present himself as the righteous defender of the people and claim that, in order to better protect them, he or she needs to take away the traditional counterweights.
Trump, like Clinton, flaunts his power as a presentation card and promises easy answers to complex problems.
Let’s not fool ourselves. This process may be already at play. It has been since the early days of Hamilton and Andrew Jackson, it picked up steam with Lincoln and the Roosevelts, gained even more traction with Lyndon B. Johnson and accelerated under Obama.
So far, the institutional restraints instilled by the Constitution and the republican ideal have prevented or at least contained the effects of such degradation. But, as time goes by, even the strongest pillars begin to crumble.
Maybe it’s time to remember the warning words of John Adams: “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
As America weakens the constitutional and cultural restraints established by the Founding Fathers, it becomes less of a republic and more of a democracy, subject to all the problems and dangers inherent to it. In this respect, Clinton and Trump are not the consequence of a temporary crisis but the heralds of a coming twilight.
Let’s face it, democracy is broken, it always was. The good news is that it has not entirely destroyed the foundations of the republic. Even now, the Constitution remains as a bulwark of the original idea of America. So, in more ways than one, Ted Cruz was actually spot on when he said, at the Republican Convention: “If you love our country, and love your children as much as I know that you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
Whether you like Ted or not, he’s right. And this requires a commitment far beyond a trip to the polling booth. It means to defend the Constitution not only against the attacks coming from the other side of the aisle, but even from those within your own political party.
Because if and when the Constitution falls, the American republic will be dead — and those who mourn it will cry tears of blood and despair, because it will lead to tyranny and the loss of an exceptional jewel among the nations.
More than two centuries ago, the Founding Fathers left the American people with the legacy, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, of “a Republic, if you can keep it.” Can You?
*Gerardo Garibay Camarena is editor of wellington.mx, a columnist for several media outlets and author of the books “Sin Medias Tintas” & “López, Carter, Reagan”.
This article was originally published in Investor’s Business Daily.