The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion It is not Biden who needs to learn from history

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) June 14 on Capitol Hill. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Regarding the Aug. 11 front-page article “Democracy is teetering, historians warn Biden”:

I was pleased but not surprised that President Biden invited some of our most respected historians to speak with him about the crisis facing our democracy. Winston Churchill’s paraphrase of philosopher George Santayana rings true: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

However, it is not Mr. Biden who needs the historical context briefing. Better would be to invite Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and some of the Republican senators who are abdicating their responsibility to protect our precious but precarious form of government into a room with these wise and thoughtful historians. Invite them in not to preach to them but to engage them in a way that respects their intellect and appeals to their patriotism — patriotism, not partisanship. Fidelity to their oath of office, not cynical posturing.

Our great historians have a way of contextualizing the present to provide the perspective that great leaders need to lift them out of the politics of the moment.

Nancy S. Shapiro, Potomac

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