Election 2020 Is An Existential Fight For The Nation’s Soul | John L. Micek

Election 2020 Is An Existential Fight For The Nation’s Soul | John L. Micek

You’ve probably never heard of Erica Newland. And if she had her druthers, it’s a safe bet that she would have preferred it stayed that way.

But Newland, a former attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, found herself a front-line warrior in the battle to protect the Constitution from the excesses of President Donald Trump.

Newland, who is both Jewish and a civil libertarian, grew increasingly uncomfortable with the administration’s attacks on non-citizens. And one exchange, included in George Packer’s extraordinary cover story for The Atlantic, “The President is winning his war on American institutions,” is everything you need to know about that fight.

As the executive orders “and other requests for the office’s approval piled up, many of them of dubious legality, one of Newland’s supervisors took to saying, ‘We’re just following orders,’” Packer wrote. “He said it without irony, as a way of reminding everyone, ‘We work for the president.’ He said it once to Newland, and when she gave him a look he added, ‘I know that’s what the Nazis said, but we’re not Nazis.’”

When Newland pointed out that Trump had called white supremacists “very fine people,” her supervisor shot back that neither then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, nor any one in the DOJ hierarchy, had used such language. Months later, in October 2018, when a gunman spewing anti-foreigner and anti-Semitic rhetoric opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 worshippers, Newland saw herself in them, and concluded that “her office’s work was sanctioning rhetoric that had inspired a mass killer,” Packer wrote.

She resigned within days.

I’m taking the time and space to share that anecdote because Newland’s story, so ably captured by Packer, to emphasize that the choice between halting Trump’s attacks on our institutions, or allowing him to continue to inflict damage that becomes more irreparable by the day, is the only choice that ultimately matters.

Often, voters make up their minds based on gut feelings: If they can picture a candidate standing on the world stage as a spokesman for American values; if they’re someone who makes them feel safe and secure during times of deep crisis; as someone who fits into the pantheon of flawed, but occasionally men (and, sadly, with Elizabeth Warren’s exit, just men) who have guided the nation since its founding.

If you’re one of those voters — and more critically, if you’re one of those voters who cast a ballot for Trump for those very reasons, then take a minute, and hear me out.

As of Monday morning, 19 people nationwide have died as a result of the coronavirus.

Trump, meanwhile, has offered a constant stream of misinformation on matters ranging from the severity and duration of the pandemic, to when a vaccine might become widely available. He’s persisted in this behavior even, as Politico reports, he’s “gotten a real-time fact check from a health expert sitting nearby.”

At times of grave public crisis, Americans deserve a leader who can relay facts clearly and accurately. Trump, whose falsehoods and misstatements now number in the tens of thousands, has proven absolutely incapable of that basic task.

Last week, as news of Warren’s exit from the 2020 field spread, Trump once again used a racist epithet to describe the Massachusetts lawmaker. And he once again deployed playground nicknames to identify Sanders and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also suspended his campaign last week.

There are some who rejoice in what they see as Trump’s etiquette-free plainspokenness. But four years into his administration, it’s clear his online bullying has not only normalized such behavior in our workspaces and classrooms, it’s also inspired unspeakable acts of violence.

Trump’s assaults on our values, on our institutions, have been well-documented. And they are too lengthy to fully catalogue here. And for every official who has enabled him, there is an Erica Newland, who has tried their level best, to stand up for those very fragile things that knit the nation together – the Republic we have, if we can keep it.

That’s what’s at stake this year, nothing less than our soul as a country. There’s only one right choice. Make it carefully.

An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him at jmicek@penncapital-star.com and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.

More in Opinion

Call to action regarding BI overspending for police station

To the editor: Regarding information that the city of Bainbridge Island overspent… Continue reading

Steve Powell
2020 vision: Kitsap fared COVID-19 fairly well

Like the rest of the country, Kitsap County has been learning as… Continue reading

Working from home is here to stay

With COVID-19 vaccines being widely dispensed, will an end to this pandemic… Continue reading

Amazing grace: It’s easier to say it than live it

Without grace, our public discourse will continue to suffer. “Grace,” according to… Continue reading

Trans movement should not extend to athletics

Civil rights legislation always has its genesis in humanitarian principles: protecting the… Continue reading

A big step toward accountability for habitat impacts

Habitat loss and damage is the driving factor for the decline of… Continue reading

Wildfires were ‘Big Polluters’ in 2020

While the coronavirus and its devastating effects on people and economies worldwide… Continue reading

.
Slow down Chinese immigration for national security

A Chinese spy scandal is rocking Capitol Hill. The sordid tale is… Continue reading

Dr. Gib Morrow
All health care workers need to step up to vaccinate everyone

By Dr. Gib Morrow The first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine – a… Continue reading

Wreaths honor fallen, even during pandemic

Christmas is an especially difficult time for anyone grieving for lost loved… Continue reading

.
All I want for Christmas is COVID gone

Now that we are well into the month of December, my three… Continue reading

.
Think of different personalities when making rules

The way my siblings and I responded to my family’s chicken-pox outbreak… Continue reading