Warning: Sharp Curve Ahead

Photo by René DeAnda

“If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re gonna get selfish, ignorant leaders.”

— George Carlin

America, we have a problem.

We’re trapped in a mythical world that gets more and more worrisome.

It’s one made by a scheming Trump and his diehard followers intent on seizing power through building a house of cards on a foundation of lies, a step-by-step process leading to overtaking our democracy.

Crippling inflation coupled with the extraordinary price of gas and rising crime are overshadowing the engineering of another, more insidious insurrection – creating the inability to trust the outcome of an electoral process. Elections are a cornerstone of democracy.

They already have been wounded by repeated Trumpist lies about the “stolen” 2020 presidential election that have been taking an increasing hold on millions of voters as the crucial midterm contest looms Nov. 8. Both the House and Senate with their tenuous Democratic majorities may be up for grabs. Or worse: a Republican takeover.

Perhaps more significant in the long run than who wins the horse races is whether we will continue to live under a viable democracy unencumbered with repeated attacks by Republicans seeking to undermine it.

Fully 71 percent of all voters in a New York Times/Siena College poll taken this month agreed that democracy was at risk. But only a meager 7 percent said that threat was the “most important problem facing the country.”

“Those conflicting views . . . may in part reflect longstanding frustrations and cynicism toward government,” the Times wrote in analyzing the poll, which questioned 792 registered voters.

“I do agree that the biggest threat is survival of our democracy, but it is the divisiveness that is creating this threat,” the Times quoted filmmaker Ben Johnson, 33, of New Orleans. “It feels like on both sides, people aren’t agreeing on facts anymore.” That’s for sure.

Nevertheless, 81 percent of those who believed democracy is threatened said current laws and institutions could fix the problem without going “outside the law” by resorting to violence. Maybe.

Negative views about the government may have started when President Ronald Reagan said churlishly in his Jan. 20, 1981 inaugural address, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

A tossed off empty phrase by a Republican former movie actor that may sound good to conservatives but is just not true.

President Joe Biden has been trying to prove that with trillions of dollars aimed at government helping the people with both money and building up infrastructure

Add to Reagan’s launch of his presidency with bull about government the lie by President George W. Bush’s reason for invading Iraq in 2003 – that Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction, which were nonexistent. It was a lie. And add the more than 30,000 lies shamelessly uttered by Donald Trump during his chaotic, allegedly corrupt presidency. Both he and Bush are Republicans.

And you wonder why Americans don’t believe in their own government and doubt the veracity of their elections.

“The deep distrust of elections, especially among Republicans, points to lingering fallout from the lies and conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election that have been fueled by Mr. Trump and his supporters,” the Times said.

The economy and inflation eventually will right themselves with the correct policies, lowering crime. They always do. My chief concern is the survival of our democracy.

Elect the wrong people to control our government and the democracy we’ve taken for granted since the Civil War ended in 1865 will disappear under the trampling of freedoms by authoritarianism. We may never get it back. I fear for my grandchildren’s world. (See the cancelation of the right to abortion, a far-starter.)

That’s why the outcome of these forthcoming midterms is so crucial to our future, even though Biden as president still has the power of the veto.

But what if right-wing Republicans control Congress and pass veto-proof legislation designed to start legally building an autocracy? What recourse will there be? Correction by a conservative Supreme Court? Secessions galore?

Many Americans seem to be blind to the stakes of this election and the presidential contest to come in 2024. What if Trump should win reelection, assuming he isn’t in prison or laws are passed denying him the ability to run for office?

He plotted and tried, according to testimony before the Jan. 6 House committee investigating the insurrection, to overthrow the government by refusing to recognize Biden as the victor of the election Trump lost. Do we want to give him or his ilk another chance at that? I don’t.

People seem to think the ship of state will right itself after dangerously listing to starboard, a position we seem to be in now with so many Republican election deniers running for office.

The German people began warming to Hitler because of their sinking economy that included incredibly high inflation and the Italians blessed Mussolini for “making the trains run on time.” They bowed to both until it was too late, for them and their countries.

If it will be too late for America, so will go sincere attempts to “form a more perfect union,” as per our Constitution. And to whom would we appeal for help?

There’s only one America, and it’s precious. Just ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.