Our Glass Half-Full (or Is It?) Democracy

Soooo…how are we to look at this time, this tumult, this dark collision of forces that seem on one hand to be head-shakingly outrageous and on the other to be the logical and inevitable denouement to Donald Trump’s brawl of a presidency? With the benefit of hindsight, it seems obvious: It was always going to come to this, wasn’t it?

In just four short years, the ex-president seemed to land himself and the entire country somewhere between reality television antics and the deadly goals of a Third World dictator employing every lever of illicit power in a desperate attempt to hoard it forevermore.

The questions haunt our days (and nights). Where are we, and where are we going?

Glass half-full or half-empty, the center holding or splintering, the rule of law abiding or anarchy and chaos ahead?

Whatever your metaphor, we seem poised on some awful precipice in our history, one without any true parallel, and anyone paying even minimal attention can be forgiven for feeling nervous.

It reminds of the question posed to those with high milestone birthdays finally come: “How does it feel to be 90?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never been 90 before.”



Looking back through previous posts here from recent years, I come across torrents of words I and countless others have been pouring out in profusion since those terrible dawning moments in 2015 when Donald Trump turned from sidebar joker in the Republican presidential primaries to Serious Candidate.

(“Could this really be happening? Is this just a bad dream?” “Yes. No.”)

This is my country we’re talking about here, and it has never felt more precious and vulnerable. How dare I turn away?

Every time I have written about Trump since then I have felt torn and soiled but also compelled, fearful I was doing nothing but feeding the beast but just as fearful that ignoring it would come at a huge cost to my conscience—the proverbial clueless fiddler while Rome burns.

Except this is my country we’re talking about here, and it has never felt more precious and vulnerable. How dare I turn away?

And today I espy this passage, from “American Carnage 11-3-2020” (posted as a kind of dark fantasy prequel on July 3, 2020, four months before the election):

“It is simply not reasonable to survey Trump’s life, from his ruthless business career to the devastation he has wrought on the norms of civilized, presidential behavior and discourse, and think he would hesitate to do anything, absolutely anything, to preserve his hold on power, no matter who was harmed and how much the nation was damaged. The only restraint being: Can he get away with it?”

I claim no great genius in making that call. Trump made it all too clear from his very first days on the campaign trail that he would never accept defeat. That if he ever does lose in anything, it is for one reason alone: He had been cheated out of what was rightfully his.

More than three years later, he has stayed true to form. He now faces a nation torn asunder, he and many of his candidates losing repeatedly at the ballot box and in the courtroom even as a cultish but sizable minority becomes ever more devoted to him with each revelation of his depravity and each attempt to hold him accountable for his misdeeds.


He also faces something he never has before: Jack Smith of the Stern Countenance, wise to the ways of tyrants and devoted to the decidedly unquaint notion that the rule of law applies to everyone, no exceptions.

But Smith is not doing this alone. A lot of ground has been trod by the lead-up to the devastating, multiple-count indictments he has served on the ex-president in recent weeks, which recalls another post from this space on September 26, 2021: Only Republicans Can Save America Now.” 

Could it be we have seen just that, at least until now, however winding and cratered the road has been ?



I know, I know—we are a long way from out of the dark woods yet. Most all Republican Party officials (including the majority of his dozen rivals) still refuse to acknowledge, at least for public consumption, any culpability on Trump’s part for his sustained efforts to overthrow the election, the January 6 insurrection, the seizure and refusal to return classified documents, and all the rest of it.

Such a glass-half-empty picture it presents.

But there is another picture in the mix here as well, and upon due consideration, to deny it is to fail to face basic facts. Such as:

• For all the horrors of January 6, the day concluded with a reassembled joint session of Congress meeting late at night to certify Joe Biden’s victory. This happened despite the enormous pressure Trump and his “Hang Mike Pence” rioters put on Trump’s own vice-president to delay certification of the vote.

• Of the 86 judges at all levels across the land who threw out Trump appeals of the 2020 election, 38 had been appointed by Trump, according to a Washington Post analysis. That includes his three Supreme Court appointments, all of whom joined their colleagues in refusing to consider four different appeals the Trump legal team filed to challenge vote totals in battleground states.

• Trump Attorney General Bill Barr, arguably the staunchest (and shrewdest) defender of his boss, finally (and literally) called “bullshit” and  “bogus…stupid…nonsense” Trump’s claims of election fraud, labeling them further as “detached from reality.” Like many other Trump enablers, he has to reckon with his own conscience in going along with the charade as long as he did. But it represents at least a small sliver of light that he, like Pence, like former governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, and former Texas Congressmember Will Hurd, all now contending for the presidency, finally summoned the gumption to tell the truth about Trump, despite the colossus he still represents within the party.

• Governors Doug Ducey of Arizona and Brian Kemp in Georgia strenuously rejected efforts to overturn the close election vote in their states in 2020, assisted by Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger—Republicans and Trump backers all.

• The House Select Committee produced historic testimony from multiple insiders to the election subversion effort culminating in January 6. Ultimately, that record set a towering stage for the criminal indictments that have followed.

• Jack Smith’s most recent indictment places Trump at the center of an attempt to negate the sacred ritual of free elections and the peaceful transfer of power. From all indications, both it and the documents case are strong ones, helped along to a considerable degree by Trump’s own tendency to never stop talking and incriminating himself, no matter how much his attorneys cringe and wish he’d just put a sock in it. (Here’s one of his latest Truth Social posts from Friday: “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!” The implicit threat of retaliation drew a near immediate request from the Justice Department to the judge overseeing the case to limit what Trump can share publicly about the evidence the department is required to provide to Trump and his legal team.)

This is but a partial list of all the decks that had to be cleared for Donald Trump to finally face legal culpability for his actions.

Jack Smith

So let it be noted that no one but Washington insiders would ever have heard of Jack Smith or beheld his no-nonsense manner unless all the aforementioned bulwarks against Trump’s power grab had not held firm.

Will it be enough again? And will convictions on any of the charges result in yet another rejection by voters if, as now seems the case, he will be the Republican nominee in 2024—possibly while serving a jail term?

We don’t know the answers to any of this.

The cases could result in verdicts of innocence or hung juries.

He could be convicted, win the election and then pardon himself and everyone else he pleases come Inauguration Day 2025.

He could be convicted, win the nomination, lose the election and then start all over again with claims of fraud, this time with more supporters in key offices and aided by gun-toting militias more prepared this time to cause mayhem across the land. (This last possibility of him doing everything he can to overturn the election is the one certainty, in my opinion.)

Clearly, we are still living in a perilous time. Were Trump declared the winner in 2024, that peril would turn to almost certain chaos as Trump embarks on the “retribution” he has already spoken of against all his perceived enemies, taking aim at them and all the institutions of government, media and education that he so abhors.

But it hasn’t been easy for him, and will not be moving forward, either. The Founders made it extremely difficult for one person to grab and retain absolute power in our republic. Not impossible, but with substantial roadblocks.

The planks, procedures and protocols of our democracy are formidable, just as they remained through the elections of 2020 and 2022. Yes, it would be foolish to assume they will hold against the assault that 2024 will almost surely bring them.

But judging from both recent and our now long history of democratic rule, it would be foolish to assume they won’t, either.

But we’d better not look away.


Spoken word poetry here by Emily Malina for the National Democracy Institute, recited by her colleague Damali J.


Check out this blog’s public page on Facebook for 1-minute snippets of wisdom and other musings from the world’s great thinkers and artists, accompanied by lovely photography.

Deep appreciation to the photographers! Unless otherwise stated, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing.

Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.

Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: larry@rosefoto.com

Half-full glass by Timothy Valentine, East Bridgewater, Massachusetts  https://www.flickr.com/photos/el_ramon/

Light and shadow by Romain Grossier, Geneva, Switzerland  https://unsplash.com/@romaingrossier

Mountain light by Marek Piwnicki, Gdynia, Poland   https://unsplash.com/@marekpiwnicki

Jack Smith headshot from the public domain

6 comments to Our Glass Half-Full (or Is It?) Democracy

  • Mary  says:

    Great blog post, highlighting why I feel caught in an archetypal, Kafka-esque fog bank. Sigh.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Stiff upper lip, firm resolve, girded loins, hup hup! We can do this!! (I hope…)

      :-) :-(

  • Robert Spencer  says:

    Some time ago Stephen King wrote, “We should recognize that on the day that we are born, our glass is half full. In America your chance to fill your glass the rest of the way up is greater than it is anyplace else on this planet.” Then, again, he once remarked, “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” I wonder where this politically progressive master of horror now stands. Like you, he’d probably say, “Stiff upper lip, firm resolve, girded loins, hup hup!” and then add, “The Red Sox need a closer.” The latter comment helps us keep our sanity.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Liking what I hear of Mr. King, Robert, and if my reading list weren’t already much too ridiculous to discuss, I’d add him to it. And the Giants need some hitting.

  • Jeanette Millard  says:

    Thank you for this, Andrew. I’ve been in a news-muffled world, out of necessity, just reading headlines and watching Pod Save America (check it out!) But I like hearing your e-voice, and I echo what Mary said about the Kafka-esque fog bank.
    I did love the Spoken Word Democracy clip from NDI (which I don’t know) – and I am wondering if I missed the identity of the poet? You are fastidious about crediting people on your blog (musicians, photographers, etc.) but I can find nothing about her. Whose that young woman?
    Thank you, as always, for words that may not change the world, but which keep me lashed to the mast, looking for hope. Jeanette

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Thanks for this, Jeanette, and I appreciate your inquiring about my oversight in naming the poet on the You Tube clip. The poem is credited to Emily Malina, whom you can find info about here: https://www.emilymalina.com/about

      Sounds like she has an interesting background. The clip didn’t identify the person reading the poem, however, so I am going to see if I can drop Emily a note to find out. I also hadn’t heard of the National Democracy Institute before, but I like the sound of it!

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