Halloween and the election will be here soon, and the White House has already become a full time House of Horrors. The president appears to be campaigning not against his opponent, but against the validity of the entire electoral process.
Until Franklin Roosevelt died when I was 14 years old, it hadn’t occurred to me there would ever be a different president. Roosevelt’s leadership and the New Deal enabled recovery from the devastating Great Depression, and then led the Allies on the way to victory over fascism in World War II.
Since then, I’ve observed some elections with interest and worked tirelessly in others to support candidates I was convinced would lead the country in a better direction. I’ve celebrated victories and endured losses with disappointment. The last election was different. It left many of us incredulous and mystified. Obviously, we had been living in a dream world, assuming that our fellow citizens shared our values and aspirations for America. We prided ourselves on being informed, but realized we had no idea what half the country was thinking.
We are a young nation, an experiment in democracy. For decades after WWII we had the grudging admiration of the world. Older governments considered us strong but naive. We were by no means a perfect nation, but we were prosperous and generous; we offered opportunity and hope, especially for those who were white and straight. Now we’re the brunt of the world’s jokes. They ridicule us while they fear our unstable president’s potential to cause catastrophes on a global scale.
In the 1930s I watched newsreels of thousands of Hitler fanatics chanting slogans as Europe erupted in WWII. After the war ended, I worked for the U.S. Army in Germany and talked with many Germans living in the wreckage, wondering how their country had gone so far astray. In the 1970s my family lived in Tehran for two years while the repressive Shah was in power. Soon after we left, he was deposed by strong religious leaders. Every Iranian immediately lost freedom of speech, worship, lifestyle and travel.
In a week a government can fall. We are naive to think it can’t happen here. This election isn’t a race between Democrats and Republicans. Those simple times are gone. This election will quite likely determine whether our experiment in democracy will continue or disappear, just as many other forms of government have risen and expired.
The twelve signs of fascism on display at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. include a strong sense of nationalism, rampant sexism, religion and government intertwined, corporate power increased and labor unions suppressed and rampant cronyism and corruption.
There are undeniable examples of each of those horrifying issues in our daily news. We are facing the first election in memory with the question, “Will the president leave office if he loses the election?” We’re used to reading about corrupt developing nations whose tin-pot strong-arm dictators have ruled for decades. How did we get to this Halloween House of Horrors so fast?
The Constitution doesn’t come with a lifetime guarantee. Only an informed electorate can protect it. We have under funded education for decades, and people without training in critical thinking are easy to mislead at the mercy of calculated misinformation and fear mongering. Right now we’re harvesting the results of our misplaced priorities. If the essential balance of power between the president, Congress and Supreme Court is lost in this election, no one but the powerful elite in a new government can possibly benefit. Not you, not me, not anyone we know.
To be sure your vote will be counted, in La Grande deposit your ballot in the box outside the Daniel Chaplin Building, 1001 Fourth St., the drop box outside the Cove, Imbler, or Union city halls, or inside the Elgin, Island City or North Powder city halls. We need to vote like Democracy depends on it.
If you haven’t received your ballot by Oct. 21, call the Union County Clerk’s Office at 541-963-1006.
Lois Barry is a member of the Union County Progressives/Democrats and a retired English faculty member from Eastern Oregon University, La Grande.