"Where have all the leaders gone?"
In 2007, Catherine Whitney and Lee Iacocca raised that question in the title of a book. Today the need for leadership is far more compelling than it was then.
Our nation is under attack. Not from a foreign power but rather from our own president and his highly charged followers. Jan. 6 may well be another "date which will live in infamy."
This is not about a lost election or a presidential sore loser. The action has gone well beyond that and has very clearly entered into the area of sedition, which is defined as "conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of the state," and this includes its Constitution.
The election of 2020 is over; Joe Biden was properly elected as president of the United States. That is the final ruling of courts at the district, appellate and Supreme Court levels. When the U.S. Supreme Court rules, that is the law of the land. We as individuals may disagree, but that decision is final.
Tragically, this ruling has not stopped the president from crying foul. While not appropriate, that is his prerogative. However, what is not acceptable nor legal is his calling upon his followers to amass in our nation's capital knowing that it will attract private armed militia including the Proud Boys, a neofascist group that promotes violence. No matter how Trump masks his message, the dog whistle is obvious — violence is welcome in this attempt to overthrow the government.
More recently, the president has been attempting to "persuade" elected officials in Georgia to turn aside the votes of the public and "find" the necessary votes for a Trump victory.
This is a clear case of sedition, a federal crime, and it has drawn the support of well more than 150 Republican members of Congress. That alone is frightening, as it means that over one-fourth of our congressional representatives are willing to participate in an attempt to illegally seize government. As if this is not sufficiently serious, the majority of our national leaders remain silent.
Where is the bar association? Some of the leaders of this semi-organized mob are attorneys and their actions give legitimacy to this advocacy of seditious behavior and violence.
But the bar is not alone on the sidelines. They are joined by those we normally look to for national leadership including our colleges, businesses, religious organizations and veterans groups?
And the media has been all too willing to simply treat this as a political event, thereby minimizing its potential for violence and death in addition to the permanent harm to our democratic institutions.
The reason we have a working democracy today is that when our nation was threatened, leaders stepped up and led. They did not hug the convenience of self-interest but rather rose to protect the greater good. Just as far too many elected officials place protection of their personal incumbency over the nation's interests, other sector leaders are doing precisely the same.
The reality that our national interest is greater than self has not been fully accepted by the broad array of our nation's leaders. Hence, our sidelines are full of well-educated observers, while those willing to step into the arena and accept the challenge are all too few.
A democracy cannot persevere unless leaders are willing to lead and place the national interest above all else.
If there is one message that must come out of this attempt to delegitimize our democracy, it is that we must educate our children and our citizenry in civics and history. Knowledge of who we are, warts and all, is vital if we intend to have a democratic future. And this includes the teaching of values that provide the glue that binds us together and incentivizes leaders to step up.
Arne H. Carlson was governor of Minnesota from 1991 to 1999.