Ask Anything: The State of Democracy

Spencer Critchley hosts a Zoom-based “Ask Anything” discussion covering the chaos in the Republican Party, how we can both believe in tolerance and make clear moral judgments about something like the Capitol riot, whether better education would be enough to save democracy, what we can learn from other countries that have had to deal with shameful periods in their histories, and what reconciliation might look like.

Listen to the episode as embedded above, or subscribe with Apple Podcasts and other podcast apps.

Excerpt:

And politics is always different from ordinary life because these people are elected to represent their districts, and sometimes that means they go along with things that they don’t personally agree with. But if you think about it, there’s a legitimate way for that to happen, because they are supposed to be representatives of the voters who put them there — not just doing what they personally think is the right thing — and the challenge of being an ethical politician is balancing those two things. So you have to represent your voters.

But you have to do it without betraying your core principles. Where I think this crosses the line is actually, I think, fairly clear. It’s just that we’ve lost the ability to talk about morality with clarity.

I believe in our current culture we’re so uncomfortable with — at least if we’re moderate and inclusive and tolerant — we’re uncomfortable with dictating moral terms. But at a certain point, I think there are moral choices that are crucial in a democracy [even though] democracy is inclusive of people of all faiths and moral philosophies, and people who are atheists, and everybody basically.

But it does operate within a circle of basic moral values, and those include the belief in equality, freedom, justice, the rule of law. And if we don’t believe in those values, then we don’t believe in democracy. And that’s the clear line for me.

The Republicans now who are supporting Trump still and [even] following instructions from Trump, obviously, and supporting Marjorie Taylor Green, and who still won’t say that the election was not stolen — those people have committed not just mistakes and they’ve not just bent the rules, but I think they’re doing things that are morally wrong within the context of a democracy.

And so that’s what’s happened, I think, is a moral collapse of the Republican Party. In my opinion, it’s been going on for a very long time — decades now I would say — and this is the crisis point for it.

And I think that at this point there’s no “unity” — that’s a waste of time. You know you can’t negotiate with people who are doing things like this. This is a time for truth and accountability.

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