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In college, I was a conservative republican. I voted for Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. I abandoned the party in 2008’s presidential election. I loved McCain, still admire him, and would have voted to elect him. But Palin was just too far. So, I voted Democratic, just like many other Republicans. While I still believed in core Republican values, however, I quickly joined the progressive side. I joined the Democratic party as the GOP became a Trump cult. My college roommate moved further to the left. After a recent and somewhat uncomfortable exchange, he sent a link to a Peggy Noonan editorial, America has Lost the Thread, about our polarized politics.Noonan’s piece is a thoughtful and objective lament about the thread, now lost, that had unified the left and right after 9/11. It didn’t address how to reconcile our differences or what we should do.

My view is that trust between us is the root problem. Truth is the missing thread. Noonan and other good Republicans can help to address this problem. They must speak honestly and openly to the Republican base. No tribe, gang or club, country, or nation, can survive without its members being honest with each other. A society must be built on honesty and avoid liars in order to thrive. Honesty fosters trust and helps to bridge divides. We must agree on the facts if we are to ever be united again. It is difficult to find the truth about the outcome in the last presidential election. However, there is much misinformation out there. Biden won, just and square. Decisions in more 60 court cases, many of which were tried before Trump’s conservative judges, have established that the election was fair, honest, and fair. Yet poles show that 66 percentof the Republican party believes that Biden’s election was a fraud and Trump is the true president, actually more than the 53 percent of Republicans who believed it last spring. It is absurd to think we can ever come together when so many have been deceived. Republican leaders who care about democracy or our constitution can’t keep silent about the real outcome. Silence is complicity. It is disingenuous to call for unity and not defend the truth about the election. And we must be honest about our history. Slavery is not something we should ban. “feel discomfort, guilt or anguish”Tennessee House Bill SB 0623 is a bad idea. It could do more harm than good. It is a shame that Treblinka, Auschwitz, and Treblinka were built by people with my genes. This makes me feel uncomfortable. It is good that it does. It is better to know the truth and not be deceived, to understand the wrong and know that it will never happen again. Of course, every American should be proud of their history. Our great founding fathers, who embraced the Enlightenment principles and created this great, free, democratic country, are perhaps the greatest achievements in world history. Slavery, which is the dark side of our history does not diminish that achievement. The Civil War ended slavery and demonstrated the moral resolve of the democratic government that the founders created. We are better Americans if we know the truth about every aspect of our history.

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Our nation is the most important result of the Age of Reason. The foundation of our democracy is not faith in a religion, but faith in humans’ ability to reason. Medical science is the best way to combat the covid pandemic. The efficacy of the covid vaccines is proven.A government’s first responsibility is to protect its citizens. Also, the idea that masks and vaccinations are government overreach or a violation to religious freedom is wrongheaded. Their sole purpose is to safeguard us all. All of our leaders need to affirm that truth in order to stop the needless deaths of people. Democrats don’t claim that November’s election results are fraudulent. However, they do not believe that we should conceal certain aspects of national history or that vaccinations are unsafe. These misinformation and deceptions are the fault of the conservative right. The responsibility for correcting the record lies with Republican leaders. The misinformed won’t listen to the Democrats’ words, but they might listen to Republicans. The elected Republican leaders must not defend the irrational beliefs and opinions of their constituents. But they may listen to Republicans. Although this is understandable in part, it is not acceptable. The stakes here are too high. If they refuse, where will it end? If they refuse to comply, there will be more covid deaths and more unrest. There will also be more distrust in the government and more distrust among each other. We would be a wealthy oligarchy with a poor population and an autocratic government, much like Russia. We would still have elections but with rigged results, just like in every other authoritarian country. Putin, for example, has controlled the outcome for every Russian election for more 20 years. Opposition leaders, such as Alexei Navalny, have been poisoned and thrown in jail, or worse. Would we be better off under autocratic rule? The very wealthy may be, but the majority of the population would not. Our democracy has done a better job managing the economy and distributing wealth that any autocracy. In Russia, for example, the average income is less than half of that in the United States, even though real wages have been essentially stagnant here since the 1970’s. When we look at other countries, it is clear that people who live in democracies are happier, have a better standard of living, and enjoy a better quality of life. Yet, many Republican leaders seem to be well aware of the possibility that the US could become an Oligarchy. They actually favor it. They deliberately ignore or encourage misinformation. And they amplify the distrust between the left and the right undermining our democracy.There has already been a significant shift in our nation’s wealth from the middle class to the affluent. Many believe that we are already an oligarchy. If that, along with authoritarian rule is the end game, then we will have lost more than Noonan’s thread. We will lose our way.

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Bob Topper, a retired engineer, is syndicated through PeaceVoice.
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