As a career mediator, I’m shocked to hear myself say this, but I fear our polarized country is facing an impasse leaving us no choice but to choose sides and fight.
My job for 30 years was to help people locked in high stakes conflicts find opportunities for compromise through which each party could realize enough of their objectives that settlement was preferable to the risks of losing or the costs of litigation. On a very good day, creative resolutions could be found that left all parties in a better position than before the litigation started. Every once in a while, however, a case would come along in which one party’s actual goal was to destroy the other, financially or perhaps emotionally. When that became clear, I would have to advise the parties of the fact and send them home. No compromise or problem solving magic can entice a party to agree to be destroyed; they have no choice but to fight it out and hope for the best.
Those who are leading and following the movement to overturn the November elections are not asking for a solution to a disagreement on policy or principle. Whether from a passionate but misinformed belief the election was stolen or from motives more sinister, the President’s followers are refusing to accept the outcomes of Constitutionally sound elections and court decisions upholding them. Their concerns have been addressed through recounts and litigation; the accusations of fraud have been answered and found to be false. There is nothing left to say or offer to those who only want Donald Trump to remain in office. There is no legal or Constitutional way to do so.
The attack on the Capitol and promised future violent action seek to overthrow democratic institutions. They are direct attacks on the nation’s 250 year old democracy. Whether the president who refuses to cede power is crazy or sly; whether his followers are misled and believe they are saving the country or are anarchists, white supremacists, and hoodlums, the position they are creating for the country is the same: either capitulate to their demand that elections be overturned, or oppose them with all force necessary to protect the country’s democratic government.
It seems like a very foolish position for the election challengers to force on the country. Their motives are relevant but of secondary importance. Their goal of destroying the country’s constitutional order, whether deliberate or simply de facto, must and will be vigorously fought. If they lose, they will be known as traitors and treasonists.
To say this is an historical moment is an understatement. There is no room now for compromise or equivocation. Leaders and citizens alike must decide which side of this historical position they will be on. Either defend with our voices, our laws, and our votes the Constitutional order on which we base our liberty, or yield to an extra-constitutional authoritarian power grab.