Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Alexander: The Assault On American Democracy And The Path Forward

Mark C. Alexander (Villanova), Introduction: Beyond Imagination? in Beyond Imagination? The January 6 Insurrection (West 2022), a book co-written by 14 law school deans:

Throughout our nation’s complex history, the rule of law and our carefully balanced constitutional system has allowed the nation to confront and successfully navigate many unique existential threats. One of the most significant threats in modern times, growing for many years from the propagation of politically polarizing and destructive disinformation, was realized on January 6, 2021.

In the United States, we have long prided ourselves on the peaceful transfer of power after elections. Every four years we hold a presidential election, resulting in a winner. Dissenting voices may object, but the winner is accepted, and the loser moves on. Truth matters, and perhaps more here, in the context of free and fair elections, than in any other. This is the American way. Anything less should be beyond our imagination.

The ongoing legitimacy of our nation’s republic requires us all to engage. As we law school deans train the next generation of lawyer-leaders, we must take stock and double down on the rule of law. This work will not be easy. Fourteen of us have collaborated on this work, writing from our perspectives as legal scholars, as deans of our institutions, and as individuals who have been engaged in leadership in various ways.

This book is not a partisan undertaking. Our cause is the rule of law; our loyalty is to the Constitution of the United States. We support the American people, not one candidate, elected official, or individual. We have attempted to strike a balance and draw some lines. We want to challenge you, the reader, and we sincerely hope that our work contributes to exposing the problems that allowed us to suffer collectively on January 6, and then to promote healing. We speak for ourselves, not for our institutions. We hope we are speaking up for many people and speaking to our entire society about what once was and should always have been beyond imagination, but which no longer is.

Mark C. Alexander (Villanova), The Assault on American Democracy and the Path Forward in Beyond Imagination? The January 6 Insurrection (West 2022), a book co-written by 14 law school deans:

We are at a crucial point in our nation’s history, where we are drifting. In some ways, we can see this moment as analogous to being pulled by a riptide in the ocean. This strong current moves us away from the safety of the shores of our democracy, running out to an endless, dangerous sea. Swimmers caught in the riptide may not even realize what is happening, and then suddenly the shore is far away. Swimming back becomes difficult, perhaps impossible, and the shore—our democracy—is out of reach. The swimmer may try hard, panic, and even exhaust him or herself by trying to swim against the tide, just to be caught up endlessly adrift and drowning. We are in danger of such a fate in our nation.

Our Constitution established an aspirational nation, always working to become “a more perfect Union.” The January 6th Insurrection showed a failure, of systems and of individuals, and prompted a need to confront those failures. Regular elections and the peaceful transition of power are the hallmarks of our democracy; on January 6th, the insurrectionists attempted to stop the Electoral College count and effectively overthrow our system of government. The relentless disregard of, and consequent destruction of, norms made January 6th possible. The solution to the bigger problem laid bare on that day is to return to the commitment to dialogue, to norms that not only permit (and elevate) discussion and debate but require respect.

The Constitution aspires to our becoming a more perfect Union. The First Amendment protects a wide-open, robust public debate. And time-honored values of truth, unity, and love—expressed throughout and across societies over time—can carry us there. It requires a far-reaching re-commitment to where we are going. It requires re-establishing norms of civility and decency and respect. It requires adherence to civic values and actual facts. This is bigger than one man or one terrible day. The battle for the soul and future of our American republic is still ongoing. It is a republic. Can we keep it? Relentlessly pursuing truth on the important issues of that day will help us succeed. Returning to the riptide analogy, such a process and commitment to democratic dialogue will allow us to return safely to shore.

Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink