Ensuring the Survival of Our Democracy


To the Editor:

Re “Our Democracy, Though Resilient, Isn’t Unbreakable,” by Susan D. Hyde and Elizabeth N. Saunders (Op-Ed, Dec. 16):

Yes, President Trump tried to break our democracy and turn the United States into an authoritarian state controlled by him. He failed — because of the safeguards the founding fathers built into the Constitution. The framers were fearful of a rogue tyrant abusing the power of the presidency, as Mr. Trump did over and over during his four years.

We can be grateful that Mr. Trump failed and will be gone in a few weeks. Mr. Trump may have weakened our democracy, but whether that weakening is fatal is up to us.

We now know that it is essential to harden the boundaries that future presidents must abide by and provide specific legal remedies when they fail to do so. We must require the release of tax returns before running for president and that the president’s assets be placed in a blind trust during his or her presidency.

There must be laws that limit self-dealing, executive privilege, “sale” of presidential pardons, and claims of absolute immunity from investigation and prosecution.

The president is “hired by” and works for the American people. The president is not a king!

Barry Sgarrella
Novato, Calif.

To the Editor:

Susan D. Hyde and Elizabeth N. Saunders are right. We cannot allow our democratic institutions to bend so far that they might break in the next crisis. This means that Democrats cannot afford endless internal infighting. We must reach policy consensus and together fight for action.

In the early days of the Kennedy administration, in my minor role at the State Department, my office never emptied of people who wanted me to tell my boss to tell the secretary to tell the president the exact policy to adopt and implement immediately. Everyone seemed to think only in terms of his or her narrow agenda.

Both Democrats and Republicans have to learn to negotiate across the aisle, to reach consensus and act. We all want this democracy to survive. It can be done.

Guy Benveniste
Berkeley, Calif.
The writer is professor emeritus of education at the University of California, Berkeley.

To the Editor:

Re “America, We Have a Problem,” by Thomas B. Edsall (column, nytimes.com, Dec. 16):

While democracy dodged a bullet this election, I am terrified that the Trump loyalists will take it out on those Republicans who stood by the Constitution and the rule of law. If they can replace individuals like the governor of Georgia or the leaders of the state legislatures that stood up to the pressure, the Republican Party could be in the hands of officials who will be willing to alter or throw out votes to ensure that their candidate wins the next time.

I believe that is President Trump’s current plan. The consequences would be the end of democracy.

Dave Fript
Chicago

To the Editor:

In “Biden Calls Trump’s Attacks on Voting ‘Unconscionable’” (Live briefing, nytimes.com, Dec. 14), Michael D. Shear notes that President Trump has refused to concede and has “undermined faith in the country’s democratic system of governance.”

Unfortunately, even after the Electoral College vote, it was easy to predict that Mr. Trump’s refusal to admit his defeat would continue, that it would be belligerent, and one of the most unsurprising “news” items.

In fact, I’d suggest that it’s as certain as the laws of nature that Mr. Trump will go to his grave insisting he won the election. In a landslide.

Few things would make me goosebumpier than to be proved wrong. But I’m not holding my breath.

Kenneth Graham
Columbia, S.C.

To the Editor:

The amazing psychological calming effect of the loser in an election graciously accepting defeat is the connective tissue holding our democracy together. It defines America. President Trump’s belligerent refusal to accept defeat has inflamed millions of his followers.

We have seen disgruntled Americans forming mobs, marching in the streets, attacking election officials and forever dishonoring a hallowed tradition. The reactions are primitive and forever stain our name as a shining democracy. It will quell in time, but at what cost?

Fred Pezzulli
New York

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