Published April 8, 2023


From Complacency to Apathy: How Democracies Die


     “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …”


     Service members, while on active duty, are reminded frequently that they have sworn an oath to support, not an individual or a political narrative, but the Constitution.  This self-enforced detachment from our political process while on active duty often results in a form of political complacency.  71% of active-duty respondents to a recent Institute for Veterans and Military Families poll believed that although it was their civic duty to vote, only 57% actually did so on a consistent basis.


     This complacency often turns to apathy by the time these individuals leave active duty and become veterans.  More than 18 million living Americans have served in the military.  Research published in the Fulcrum Newsletter in November 2021 found that less than 75% of veterans under the age of 50 actually voted in the 2020 presidential election and that over 20% of the veterans in this population didn’t even bother to register to vote!


     If our most cherished rights can only be safeguarded by a government that is both responsive to, and accountable to, its citizens – how do we explain this large and disturbing number of self-disenfranchised voters?


     Humans respond to and learn from both positive and negative feedback.  We have all witnessed in our personal relationships the importance of honest and open communication in developing trust.  We have also witnessed the crucial role that accountability plays in our relationships.  It is certainly no surprise to discover that when there is no accountability – and even worse – when good behavior is punished and bad behavior is rewarded – the result is less good behavior and more bad behavior.


     In relationships between individuals, a lack of trust combined with the absence of accountability results in divorce – either physically or emotionally.  And what is true in the relationships between individuals is equally true in the relationship between citizens and their government.  When certain political narratives are advanced by the government in collusion with social media and the press – and counter narratives are repressed and de-platformed – trust in our institutions erode.


     The lack of accountability from our elected officials has only increased in recent years.  In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Let the facts be submitted to a candid world”:

1.  Four successive Presidents launched us into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but never asked Congress to declare war, nor did 10 successive Congresses demand that the President honor Congresses’ Article 1 powers and responsibility to declare war.  After disasters and blunders in both wars, we are now following the same blind path into conflict in Ukraine – yet, no one is held accountable.


       2.  The Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton used a foreign third party to fabricate derogatory information about her opponent, and got that information into the hands of the FBI, who used it to knowingly lie to the FISA Court to get a judicial writ to direct the most powerful foreign intelligence collection tools in the U.S.  against her political opponent.  When these facts were revealed, no one was ever held accountable.


       3.  When the Internal Revenue Service Director abused her powers to target conservative non-profit academic organizations, no one was ever held accountable.


       4.  State-funded Universities like Colombia, Stanford, and the University of Virginia are routinely crushing the First Amendment rights of academics with the tacit approval of the government.


       5.  The Loudoun County School Board instituted a policy allowing high school boys to use girls’ bathrooms.  Then, after one boy raped two girls, they covered up the boy’s crimes.  When an aggrieved parent confronted the School Board at a public meeting and demanded his right of redress from public officials, the school board declared him a domestic terrorist and asked the FBI to arrest him.


       6.  The government protects the First Amendment rights of abortion providers, but when violence is directed at anti-abortion groups, they are silent.  Unfortunately, these instances of a lack of accountability for intentionally bad behavior are not isolated examples.  And as a result, too many Americans have already emotionally divorced from their government – a government that they feel is more concerned with gaining or maintaining political power than doing what is right for America.  This emotional divorce manifests itself most frequently in the form of apathy.


     And it is exactly this political apathy that is the greatest danger to our democracy.  We, as a Nation, are in crisis.  The future of America and the vision of a beacon of freedom and opportunity to the world is literally on the line.  If we allow our response to the intentional destruction of the social agreement between us and our government that has united us for over two centuries to be disengagement and apathy then we are doomed to join so many other grand social experiments that have gone before us in the great “ash heap of history.”


     We are not guaranteed happiness – it must be pursued through effort and it must be earned to be appreciated.  We are not guaranteed our liberty – it must be safeguarded and defended through blood and sacrifice or it will soon be lost.  Only our lives are given – and it is up to each of us to ensure that they are lives well lived and worthy of those who went before us.  Get off the sidelines – shake off the apathy.  Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of our country.  One veteran – one vote.