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  • July 2, 2024
  • Chuck Osborne

Threats to Democracy

As we approach our nation’s 248th birthday, we are surrounded by “threats to our democracy.” At least this is what we are told. Of course, in true social media form there are plenty who simply reply, “We are a republic, not a democracy.” 

© DNY59

They are technically correct; we are a constitutional republic, not a direct democracy. Our founding fathers were as suspect of the mob as they were of the monarchy. No one would want to live under mob rule. However, for this discussion I am not so sure that response is very helpful. It certainly isn’t reassuring. Our republic is a democratic form of government and while there are probably some who cynically stoke this fear for their own political gain, I believe we should treat the charge seriously.

After almost a quarter of a millennium, what could actually threaten our country and way of life? I first thought of writing this around Memorial Day. The first Memorial Day (then called Decoration Day) was observed May 30, 1868, to remember those who died in the Civil War. At first it was applicable only to the Union soldiers, but the Department of Veterans Affairs credits Mary Ann Williams with originating the “idea of strewing graves of Civil war soldiers – Union and Confederate” with flowers. We have since added those who died in World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and most recently the gulf wars.

These brave men and women sacrificed themselves for our freedom – for our democracy, if you will. They helped keep this country together as one in the bloodiest war we have ever fought. They protected us from the Germans, then they protected us from the Germans again, and the Japanese. They protected us from the communists, and from terrorists. When one considers the massive threats our democracy has survived thus far, one wonders what great force is out there that could possibly destroy it today?

As I watched the first presidential debate, I could think of only one real threat. On stage stood two men who, if polls are to be believed, almost two thirds of the country wish weren’t running for president. I’m not sure the polls can be trusted, but it seems odd that for months leading up to the primaries we were told repeatedly that a large majority of the country wanted none of the above.

Then the Republicans had the Iowa caucus, and the media made a big deal about Donald Trump winning 51 percent of the vote. From that point on, the Republican primaries were all but over. Less noted was that 85 percent of Iowa Republicans didn’t vote. In other words, Trump won 51 percent of 15 percent; so, for all intents and purposes, 7.65 percent of Iowa Republicans chose the Republican nominee for President.

On the Democratic side it is even worse. Although polls consistently showed that 60 percent of Democrats did not think Joe Biden should run for re-election, the powers that be in the party stopped any serious challenger. They chased out of the party the only challenger with any chance, refusing to put him on ballots. After Biden’s performance in the first debate there is talk about simply replacing him. Not sure how that will be done, but one thing is sure, it won’t be democratically.

For the first time in my life, the Georgia primary voters (regardless of party) did not get a chance to vote for who they thought should represent their party in the presidential election. Georgia is not alone.

On the Fourth of July we celebrate our Declaration of Independence. It always reminds me of something my father would say any time he gave me the freedom to do something: “With freedom comes responsibility.” Voting is not just a privilege in our republic, it is a responsibility of citizenship. It is a responsibility not just once every four years when we elect a president, but every time there is a vote. It is a responsibility during the mid-term elections, the primaries, the school board, and the mayoral elections. If there is a vote in your community and you are a citizen of that community, then you have the responsibility to vote.

We don’t make political judgements at Iron Capital. I am not saying that I am against either candidate. It is certainly possible that had we all showed up and gotten to vote in the primaries that we would have ended up with the same two candidates, but we will never know. Regardless of what Biden chooses to do, the Democrats will have a candidate chosen not by the people, but by party leaders. The Republicans will have a candidate chosen by 7.65 percent of Iowa Republicans.

Our form of government will survive either one of these candidates, as we are not that fragile. However, the one thing it will not survive is the gross lack of participation. If I were in charge for a day, I would make a rule that one could not vote in the presidential election if he or she didn’t vote in the midterm and the primaries. That will never happen, because any politician who proposed such a thing would be accused of trying to suppress the vote, but my motivation would be the opposite. It would be to encourage full participation in every election.

I am proudly patriotic, and I love the Fourth of July. This is the greatest nation on earth, and we are all blessed to call it home. For those who are quick to point out our flaws, I would suggest you not take for granted how rare that freedom has been in all of human history. Liberty is our core principle; it is what we celebrate on the Fourth. With that freedom comes responsibility, and we don’t talk about that second part enough. We would be a better country, and an even stronger republic, if we all participated in our democratic process. At least that is my perspective.

Happy Fourth! God Bless America!

Warm regards,

Chuck Osborne, CFA
Managing Director