Opinion: Is our nation still worthy of celebration this Independence Day?
On July 4, Independence Day, we celebrate the founding of our great American democracy. Is the state of our nation still celebratory?
This three-day weekend we celebrate the founding of our republic 246 years ago. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress proclaimed independence and two days later adopted our beloved Declaration of Independence.
Since then, our nation has endured much, and today faces severe challenges. Your columnists, who have been around not quite since the founding (but close), report on the health of the good old USA in the tumultuous political year of 2022.
A very recent CBS News poll revealed 72% of Americans believe “our democracy is under threat.” This is an astounding result because a majority of every demographic shares this concern. Is the country, and our constitutional principles, in jeopardy? Should we be celebrating or grieving this Independence Day?
Pignanelli: “Democracy ... is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.” — Plato
I hereby exercise my constitutional right to be patronizing and self-righteous. Citizens who worry our republic is in danger must spend less time absorbing nonsense from left-wing or right-wing cable television doomsayers. Instead, they should dedicate time reading a book, or at least a Wikipedia entry, on the history of this country. This activity will provide the needed perspective.
We are living in a time of extreme partisanship and societal division. There is much rancor in street protests and social media. But this is a condition that plagues every generation. Americans have a heritage of disagreement and discord, while maintaining a functioning government and durable economy. Yelling and screaming are vital signs of a healthy democracy. Quiet is the domain of authoritarian regimes.
The Jan. 6 committee hearings, just like the Watergate investigations, detail horrendous internal attacks that were thwarted from the inside. The heroes of both controversies belonged to the same party of the presidents under scrutiny.
Our republic and constitutional bedrock principles have never been stronger. Innovation and entrepreneurism continue to expand. Witnessing an obnoxious protest, or hearing a ridiculous conspiracy, provides comfort to those who understand America’s legacy and mission. Read a good history book if you have any doubt.
Webb: There is much hand-wringing and conspiracy-mongering on both the far right and the far left. But the left is almost apoplectic over the emergence of a very conservative U.S. Supreme Court and the very likely prospect of being voted out of power in November.
Our country will survive and thrive thanks to the sensible mainstream middle that will pull the political pendulum back to the center if it strays too far left or right.
The biggest danger our country faces is political overreach by victorious partisans. The Democrats, who just barely won the presidency and Congress in 2020, greedily interpreted their narrow win as a landslide mandate to fulfill every arch-liberal dream. They weren’t successful on every issue, thanks to the Senate filibuster rule, but their agenda alienated mainstream Americans and they will pay for it in November.
Then it will be the Republicans’ turn to govern, although they will be constrained for two years by a Democratic president. That may very well be their saving grace. Otherwise, they may mirror the Democrats’ playbook with an arch-conservative agenda that irritates middle America.
As a mainstream conservative, I welcome a Supreme Court with a more originalist approach to constitutional issues. I’m pleased at the prospect of Republicans in control of Congress. I’m gratified that the pendulum is swinging back. It gives me hope for a flourishing America.
However, if Republicans overreach — and there will be great temptation to do so, especially on issues like abortion and immigration — the victory will be short-lived.
Why should Utahns, especially, observe this July 4 anniversary with joy and pride?
Pignanelli: The state’s dominant political party was recently engaged in convention and primary contests for offices large and small. Accusations that some small group of individuals control politics is a fantasy. Local media is not shy in probing, and sometimes unfairly attacking, the powers that be. The minority party performs the same function and does succeed in certain regions of the state.
Our state and local governments consistently receive awards for transparent deliberations and fair elections. Democracy, along with fry sauce and Diet Coke, flourishes in Utah.
Webb: The founders established a nation of states in which moral people with good governance can prosper. Utah’s mainstream conservative approach to government, with excellent state and local leadership and good citizens, has served the state remarkably well. It’s definitely worth celebrating.
Is there a particular emotion that readers should embrace this weekend?
Pignanelli: Any healthy Utahn living in the 21st century should be grateful for a government, society, economy and support network that are resoundingly strong. Disagreements over policy are needed, and thankfulness for the ability to do so, are imperative.
Webb: We should have a humble, quiet pride in America. For all her faults, she’s still a shining beacon, the hope of the world. We should be proud that our fellow Americans, for the most part, are honest, sensible citizens who won’t tolerate extremism, for long, on either side.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and a semi-retired small farmer and political consultant. Email:email@example.com.
Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah state Legislature. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.