Democracy is Fragile, Taking Hard Work and Vigilance

In his first inaugural address, at the start of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln famously said: “We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Unfortunately, the democracy that we love, regardless of our political affiliation, is in jeopardy of going the way of the Roman Empire unless we come together and respect the fair and free election processes at hand. My and my wife’s experiences as election officers for 25 years in the states of Illinois, Oregon and Virginia demonstrated to me firsthand that voter fraud is not a widespread occurrence and is not at play now.

Moreover, as an election officer, you take an oath to protect and execute the election seriously. All participants swear this oath, similar to the oath we take as soldiers.  These processes are bipartisan with little, if any, large-scale abuses permitted due to the numerous checkpoints in the election processes.  Yes, mistakes can be made, but most are minor in proportion to the number of votes cast and counted.

I understand where confusion and doubt can arise.  The entire election cycle seemed to be a never-ending flood of chaos, disinformation, and ill will.  It is natural to feel anxiety if your chosen candidate did not win, and you may be nervous about the future of our country.  But that is why it is critical that the sanctity of the vote and protecting our democratic norms are upheld. No matter who is in power, Americans can still work together to strive for a more perfect union.  But we must have democratic foundation to do so.

Remember the unity experienced in the days and weeks following the September 11, 2001 attacks.  That unity was not Republican, Democratic, or Independent unity; it was “American Unity.” We came together, burying our pettiness and supported one another.  Our nation’s flag was not a Republican or a Democrat, or a Blue or Black Flag. It was and is an “American Flag” —the beacon for freedom around the world.

Unfortunately, the entire world now has an enemy now in COVID-19.  We need to get on with the work at hand in defeating the pandemic. We need unity, not the partisan bickering, and the mean and hateful rhetoric that is occurring now. This is literally a matter of life and death; more and more people will die not only here in the United States, but abroad, due to American’s weak leadership.

If there is one lesson America can learn from this, it is that democracy is fragile, and takes hard work and vigilance. It requires all our participation to protect our democratic institutions, and fair and free elections.  It is time to get on with the new administration, as truly little – if any – material voter fraud exists with a 5 million vote lead by one party.

Let us honor the memories of the generations that fought and died to protect and better our country, not only on the battlefield but also in the fight for social justice and civil rights.  America is strongest when its policies and actions match its ideals.  It is time to appeal to “our better angels.”

–William W. Shugarts III

Vietnam Veteran (1969-1970) 23rd Infantry Division-Americal, 75-year-old Father, Grandfather, Husband, Election Officer Volunteer, Veteran for American Ideals and “Imperfect Patriot”.


Published on July 20, 2020


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