The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The stakes are greater than ever

A sign at a protest in Pasadena, Calif., against a U.S. government mandate requiring all federal employees to receive a coronavirus vaccine, on Nov. 1.
A sign at a protest in Pasadena, Calif., against a U.S. government mandate requiring all federal employees to receive a coronavirus vaccine, on Nov. 1. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
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Kathleen Parker was right in her Nov. 7 op-ed, “Take note: Voters have a problem with authority,” that “Americans hate being told what to do” and that “opposition to faraway authority was among our founding battle cries and today remains a big part of our nation’s DNA.”

Another part of American DNA is the desire to be left alone. You do your thing, I’ll do mine, and we’ll both be just fine. 

What to do, though, when one person’s loathing of being told what to do runs right smack into someone else’s desire to be left alone? And there’s the rub, the one that doubters of democracy have voiced since the earliest days of the republic. The conflict is acute with respect to our embarrassing inability to strike a reasonable balance on guns and the coronavirus.

As The Post reports about the Jan. 6 attempted coup, though, it’s evident that the stakes in this conflict between Americans hating to be told what to do and our desire to be left alone are greater than ever. For all intents and purposes, one of our country’s two major political parties cultivated domestic terrorists who attacked the seat of our government. 

So whereas Ms. Parker lamented that Democratic policies that try “to relieve us of the burdens of responsibility” ultimately weaken freedom, we should be far more concerned about Trump supporters’ rejection of “the burdens of responsibilities” of citizenship — beginning with the responsibility to respect electoral outcomes — a rejection that is steadily, tragically and, I fear, fatally destroying our democracy. 

Michael Moriarty, Charlottesville

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