Another (more or less) democratic discussion at Babalú spearheaded by its resident champion of free speech, Marc Másferrer ("Beware False Prophets...," Aug. 4). This time Marc objected to the proposition that if Barack Obama were elected president it would mean the end of American democracy as we know it. George took the opposite side of the question. And guess what? George is right. I might note, however, that not too long ago George issued his manifesto taking leave of the GOP (for the second time) and charging his fellow Republicans with betraying the ideals of Ronald Reagan by choosing McCain as their party's standard bearer. He has since said that he will vote for McCain, after all, while holding his nose. If George truly believes that the election of Obama means the end of American democracy, then he should really be a little firmer in his commitment to the only other alternative. Still, tepid to cold as is George's support for McCain, he is right about Obama and the threat that his election would pose to this country.
The motto stamped on U.S. coins reads: "In God We Trust." This does not mean that American democracy was ordained by God to be indestructible. It is as fragile and volatile as any other. A fratricidal civil war (1861-1865), three presidential assassinations within the span of 25 years (1865-1901), the Great Depression (1933-1941) and the near ascension to the presidency of a Communist and Soviet spy (Henry Wallace) on FDR's death (1945) -- the U.S. has dodged a lot of bullets, but because it has been lucky thus far does not mean that its luck is going to hold out forever. The odds, in fact, are stacked against it and with Barack Obama the end of that winning streak may be in sight. True admirers of American democracy should be vigilant at this moment not complacent. Elections are still held in Venezuela, there is a legislature there and a supreme court, but no one would seriously suggest that democracy thrives there.
The institutions of American democracy may survive an Obama presidency, the Constitution itself may survive too, but institutions and constitutions can be and have been perverted in the past, and not only in so-called "banana republics." Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War; the denial for 100 years of the civil rights of black Americans though these were enshrined in three constitutional amendments adopted immediately after Emancipation; Wilson's suppression of free speech and imposition of a police state during World War I and afterwards; and FDR's scheme to pack the Supreme Court in order to undermine its authority and independence — all show that not only could it happen here, it has happened here and will likely happen again.
Marc, who admits that many of his family were fooled by Castro but doesn't mention that the main man wasn't, refuses to believe that what happened in Cuba could happen here. His own family history belies his optimism. Marc mentions that Castro killed his grandfather's cousin by firing squad in Cuba but fails to mention that his great-uncle Rolando Másferrer was killed in Miami by Castro's agents. Yes, Marc, it can happen here. All that is required is someone disposed to make it happen and enough people to tell themselves that it couldn't happen here.
The Rise and Fall of the United States: The Final Chapter