Stop wondering who is going to save us. We are the ones to save us.
Long ago, the Trump presidency revealed that our solid, seemingly indestructible Constitution is fragile. Thanks to the 45th president of the United States, we now know that our founding document is only as strong as the reverence of it by the 44 men who swore to protect it. The genius of the Founding Fathers was to create a government built on a system of checks and balances. A system that is failing.
Most folks not residing on Earth 2 are appalled by Congress’s inability or unwillingness to fulfill its responsibility to check-and-balance the excesses of the executive. The legislative branch is AWOL. The Republican-controlled House and Senate simply roll over for a Republican president with an 88 percent approval rating among fellow Republicans. And with the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Supreme Court majority is poised to swing hard to the right. Past remarks of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to replace Kennedy, erode confidence that the judicial branch of government will protect hard-fought rights or be an effective brake on Trump’s chaos. But watching the failure of our three branches reveals a fourth branch that we never really took seriously: Us. We the people.
It’s one thing to sling outrage on social media or even march in the streets against Trump’s horrific policy du jour. It’s another thing to get out and vote. Considering an anemic 36.4 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2014 midterm elections, the lowest in 70 years, there is plenty of room for the American people to flex their electoral muscles.
I’ve been preaching this for months now. Yet, it didn’t hit home until my latest journey with the Faith & Politics Institute last weekend. This time, the pilgrimage was to western New York state and the landmarks of the abolition and women’s suffrage movements that were nurtured and led there. And it was at a lunch after a tour of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls on July 21 that Nathan Richardson recited his 2008 poem “We,” inspired by June Jordan’s “Poem for South African Women.”
Just listen to yourself and we will wait no more
No need for another Malcolm or Martin
when you stand ready at the door of greatness
Seeds sewn by Sojourner have now sprouted in her likeness as truth
New answers to old questions now lie in the hands of youth
Man or woman in the mirror now serves as your proof
that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for
That last line of Richardson’s 33-line poem might sound familiar. You know it as a rousing 2008 campaign refrain of former president Barack Obama. It’s actually the last line of Jordan’s famous poem. She presented this praise of protests against apartheid at the United Nations in 1978. Forty years later, that mantra remains relevant. Ten years after Richardson penned his stirring words, their message in the age of Trump has even more resonance. “No need for another Malcolm or Martin” — or Obama for that matter — “when you stand ready at the door of greatness.” Especially when that door leads to a ballot box on Election Day.
Former FBI director James Comey had been a lifelong Republican until he left the wayward party in 2016. But his tweet that “All who believe in this country’s values must vote for Democrats this fall” should not be viewed as party switching. Nope. His was an American response to a clear and present danger in the Oval Office.
If we are to shake the complacency and stop the complicity of the legislative branch, then the Republican majority must give way to members willing to take their constitutional duties seriously and hold the president accountable for his assault on the rule of law at home and the damage he has done to the nation’s standing abroad. That can’t happen without us.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj
Subscribe to Cape Up, Jonathan Capehart’s weekly podcast