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Daily Journal
     June 26, 2020      #82-178 KDJ

Dennis Marek: Can we be driven further

By Dennis Marek

Recently I read a rather new book called “The Watergate Girl.’’ It was written by Jill Wine-Banks, one of two lead prosecutors, and the only female, in the Nixon “tapes” and the Watergate burglary investigation.

It was a study of the presidential powers being used to cover up what had taken place, especially after the burglars had been arrested and the denials had begun. Clearly Nixon had made tape recordings of almost all his dealings. Somehow the most important tapes were found to have 20 minutes of erasures in them once the Supreme Court finally made the White House deliver the tapes to the prosecution team.

As I read of all the cover-ups, the bribes, and the scandal finally leading to the resignation of Nixon from office, I could not help but think of the refusals of our current president to permit knowledgeable individuals from testifying at the impeachment hearings, let alone his refusal to ever turn over his personal tax returns. Have we returned to the 70’s?

I then thought about the modern dilemmas of the virus and the protests. How divided the nation has once again become. Back then, the Republican right backed the president without a second thought. Today as we learn of some of the real mistakes this president has made in dealing with our two national crises, we once again see undying support from his Republican backers. And the left is no better by protecting its own. One can only think how rigid the right and the left have once again become. I then think about the recently bandied about term “qualified immunity” and wonder if the executive branch will figure out some way to invoke it. This is a federal law adopted in 1967 that shields government officials from being held personally liable for discretionary actions performed in their official actions. It avoids civil liability for the official but not yet criminal responsibility.

I was reminded also of a theory of politics that I learned years ago. It is the concept that all the population is like a horseshoe. On the right flank are the ultra conservatives. On the other side of the horseshoe are the radical left, be they Democrats, liberals, or communists. In the middle are the rest of us who are the swing voters.

It seems, however, we are losing the base of that horseshoe. Those on the left or right flanks are the extremists. The extremists see only black and white. They are not only certain that their visions is absolutely correct, but they are incapable of even understanding the other side. Those who don’t believe as they do are lesser in every way. Their vision is the only vision.

The middle sees the grays. But of late they have become too complacent. They had time only for their families, their jobs, and the virus. Everything else had to wait. Then came the killing of George Floyd. No clearer vision of police brutality has been cast upon us in years. In the past, body cam images have been secreted away in many cases. This one wasn’t a body cam and was not protected. The country went on a rampage. It included much of the horseshoe base. The president then sent a tweet that must have torn the heart out of all but the most extreme right. When the states chose methods of dealing with the protests in their cities, the president threatened to send in the military, even shocking the generals into replying of its impropriety.

We are being forced to polarize, choose left or right, and that is scary. As German film director Werner Herzog, has pointed out, when a country approaches the likes of Germany of 1930, one set of extremists decides that the other set should be eliminated. About one-third of the nation went with the Nazi party and one-third got massacred, while the remaining third just watched. Many good people didn’t join in, but failed to act to preserve the other third from being killed or sent to concentration camps. That third is the base of the horseshoe.

The news is full of two stories, the pandemic and the protests. The division between the two sides on both issues is frightening. The refusal to wear face masks as a God-given right of freedom is patently ridiculous. But our leader won’t wear one. The right seems to think that the swamp has been drained. Don’t argue with them. They refuse to believe that their president is fallible. At the same time, some of the demands of the Democratic leaders seem more concerned with making Trump look bad than finding the best way to guide our nation out of these two disasters. Our aim should be cooperation, getting the left and the right close enough to have some agreements and some disagreements and not hate each other.

One example of how the two sides are just so far apart is on the latest polls. When CNN ran its poll showing Biden leading by a dozen points, Trump called for the network to apologize for such a misleading representation. The right has Fox and the left has just about all the rest of the media, perhaps why some call these other news services “fake news.”

But so what. Everyone went to bed thinking we were about to have our first female president, and woke up to something quite different in 2016. Polls are polls, but ballots are supposed to be what counts, unless you restrict the methods of voting so not everyone can participate. We need to work on that issue of mailed-in ballots as a group, but it is now politicized.

Need I go on? Those on the two extremes will find everything wrong with the above. Then perhaps one should only talk to the middle of the horseshoe as they will be the ultimate deciders and will tip the balance either left or right. But if some of the two sides of extremists can listen, then we have succeeded. Neither side is all right or all wrong. Can’t we middle-horseshoe people try to calm the extremes? Can we avoid a return to the era of Richard Nixon? Can our leaders stop lying or exaggerating, fess up when they screw up, and work together for the best solution?

Dennis Marek can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com or through his personal email at dmarek@amb-ltd.com.

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