An Idea Called America
By Reed Galen, Steve Schmidt, Stuart Stevens and Rick Wilson
America is the only country founded on an idea, and it was the most radical idea of its era; the belief that citizens could govern themselves. It was called The American Experiment because there was no reason to believe it would work. For 244 years, it worked, albeit imperfectly, and was an example to the world. On January 6th, this grand experiment nearly ended.
There is an apocryphal quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin. In 1787, while leaving Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, a woman asked him what they’d created. “A Republic if you can keep it,” he is purported to have said.
Since 1776, every generation has been called to defend and renew the promise of America. For some, it was the Enlightenment ideals of equality for all before God. For others, it was the opportunity to make their own way in the world – to pursue their version of happiness.
Millions of Americans defended their country and this idea on battlefields here at home and on far away beaches. When the time came, and the ramp dropped, these heroes ran toward the gunfire, withering as it was, because they knew their duty was to something larger, far larger, than themselves.
For a brave few, battle was joined on the Edmund Pettis bridge. Knowing that they faced nearly certain imprisonment, injury or death, they chose to march forward into the future as their footsteps bent the arc of justice.
On January 6th, the battle came to the Capitol itself. Not since the War of 1812 had America’s democratic citadel been stormed and sacked; Old Glory torn down, and the peoples’ representatives forced to flee. When she fell this time, Trump banners and the Confederate battle flag were raised. Symbols – new and old, of an ugliness that has infected America time and again flew in preference to the flag of our nation.
On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor, setting off the bloodiest war in our nation’s history. President Abraham Lincoln, in office just a few weeks, knew that this would be the defining epoch of American history. For four years he oversaw a brutal conflict that brought the Confederacy to heel, finally broke the back of slavery, and held the Union together, but that did not ultimately heal the nation.
Lincoln asked our country to look to their brothers and sisters “with charity for all and malice toward none.” He would not survive to help make that plea a reality. It is a reminder for us, that it was only after the war was won that Lincoln attempted to bind up our collective wounds.
During the Civil War, Lincoln waged war with grim determination against those who would destroy our nation. He understood there can be no compromise with the opponents – with the enemies of the American republic.
Donald Trump’s presidency will go down as our nation’s worst. Half a million headstones are a memorial to his caprice and wilful mendacity over COVID. This, and his lavish corruption, addiction to division, and the systematic deconstruction of our most important and cherished institutions will mark his personal and eternal ignominy.
In the wake of his defeat last November, Trump made official that the Republican Party’s position is that we no longer live in a democracy. That 2020 was an illegal election. That Joe Biden is not a legitimate president. Trump said it. His enablers echoed it. His lawyers argued it. His propagandists amplified it. His financiers paid for it all – including that infamous rally on the National Mall, where Trump commanded his forces to march on Capitol Hill.
They believe it to this day.
Too many Republicans – both individual voters and those in positions of power and authority, made their choice: They crossed the Rubicon and gave little thought to what it meant. Many of them today – Senators and consultants alike, believe they can play voters, donors, and the media for fools.
Those who could and should lead Trump’s voters out of this wilderness of mirrors persist in the biggest of lies.
We also have a choice. We can look away and pretend what we saw 100 short days ago didn’t happen. We can close our eyes and believe that the war on American democracy and our Republic isn’t happening this very day.
Or we can stand up and fight.
We as a nation did so last November. More than 80 million Americans joined a grand coalition to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and return honesty, decency and civility to the White House. That coalition must endure. We must not, and cannot allow the petty squabbles of everyday politics and the roadblocks of ideological inertia to overshadow and delay the work that we all must do in this moment.
These are not arguments of liberalism or conservatism. This is not a fight about one policy position or another. This war is far more elemental: We will defend freedom or will we succumb, like so many throughout history, to autocracy and our loss of liberty.
History has ordained this moment. This is a great quest and the opportunity of a lifetime. We cannot and must not let it pass us by.
Our nation, its past and its future, is calling on you to help. Will you answer?