Commentary: Saddle up for the next election

One of my annual rituals is watching the movie “1776.” It’s a musical that was made for the country’s bicentennial to show the debate of the Second Continental Congress in writing and signing the Declaration of Independence. The declaration told the world that Americans would no longer bow to a king.

It’s a story of our founders, who were honest, brave and daring men. But most of all they had brilliant minds. They were able to see into the future and anticipate all the pitfalls that our young country would face. Tired of being ruled by a tyrant, King George, they risked their lives and fortunes to create a new way of governing called democracy. Democracy gave the power of governing to the people — not to kings or king wannabees. Democracy was built on the proposition that all men are created equal and had the God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Democracy was government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Later, these men wrote our Constitution, which encouraged a free press to keep politicians honest and created three equal branches of government, with checks and balances, so one branch could not become more powerful than another.

Also, they anticipated that at some point a criminal would become president. Their remedy for that was a process called impeachment — which could remove the crook from office. America would be a country of laws and no one was above the law. Not even the president.

To many Americans in 1776, the thought of breaking away from England was sacrilege. In fact, many members of Congress felt the same way. No colony had ever separated from its mother country and lived to tell about it. People in other countries had tried it but usually ended up swinging from the gallows. As Benjamin Franklin reminded his co-conspirators before signing the Declaration: “Gentlemen, we must hang together or we will most assuredly hang separately.”

Independence was anything but a sure thing when the delegates met in Philadelphia. At the start of the debate, only a few firebrands like John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock were for independence. A few were violently opposed. Most were taking a wait and see approach.

There was a group of regular Americans who were fence sitters. They were called “Tories.” They woke up every morning, put their finger in the air and tested which way the wind was blowing — and acted accordingly. They mostly sided with the king, hoping he would crush the rebellion so they could continue their comfortable lifestyles as Englishmen living in America.

Today’s Tories are called Republicans. Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Devon Nunez, Bill Barr, Rob Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions, come to mind. These men sacrificed their dignity, self-respect, reputations, and souls for a man who would be king. King Donald.

Like their predecessors, these present-day Tories know the difference between right and wrong, truth and lies and fake and real. But they’ve chosen party and self-interests over country and they’ve remained silent through all the chaos, corruption, lying and vulgarity — hoping that their king can crawl out of the cesspool he’s created. The Tories did not fare well in America after the Revolutionary War. Let’s hope voters remember how these Tories acted when our democracy was under attack and throws these cowards out of office.

We’ve had to defend our democracy many times over the years. Most times it was threatened from the outside with a clearly defined enemy: British; Germans; Japanese; Soviets; Cubans and Al-Qaida.

But this threat comes from within.

President Eisenhower warned us that the greatest threat to our democracy would come from within. This is because when an internal threat comes, it often comes as a wolf wearing sheep’s clothing — preaching religion, love and patriotism while committing corruption, discrimination and treason.

One way to separate the truth from the lies is asking yourself:

•Who’s defending democracy and who’s trying to weaken it?

•Who’s defending a free press and who’s calling it the “enemy of the people”?

•Who’s fighting for transparency and who’s fighting for obstruction?

•Who’s following the rule of law and who’s defying it?

•Who’s trying to expose the truth and who‘s trying to bury it?

One of “1776”s heroes is Caesar Rodney, one of Delaware’s three representatives to Congress. While suffering from jaw cancer and asthma, Rodney left his sick bed in Dover to travel 80 miles to Philadelphia on horseback to cast the deciding vote for independence. And his vote changed the world forever.

Rodney actually gave his life for American independence. There were doctors in England who had a cure for the cancer he had. By signing the Declaration and voting for independence, he committed treason against the British and would have been hanged if he returned there for treatment. He chose independence and democracy instead.

Next November, we will not be asked to give our lives for democracy, or ride 80 miles on horseback to cast our vote. But we must all saddle up and vote this dangerous would-be-king, out of office. We just need to get the vote out. Let history show that America made a terrible mistake in 2016 but righted the wrong in 2020.

Our democracy is a fragile thing and is not guaranteed. It must be protected from threats both outside and in. It is under assault right now by King Donald and his gang of Tories.

So as you enjoy your 4th of July, take a moment to remember all those who fought and died to protect and defend our democracy over the past 243 years. Abraham Lincoln did as he gave his Gettysburg Address and spoke about another internal assault on our democracy — The Civil War. “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Saddle up America, it should be a hell of a ride — and Happy 4th of July.

Jack Hoban is a resident of Lewes

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