CNN recently reviewed some of the history of the “stolen election.” The narrator said something that many of us need to hear. “Trump and his allies could have overturned the election had it not been for the Republican officials who refused Trump’s efforts.” Think about it.

I recently wrote about an extended conversation with a member of the National Democratic Committee who asked for my support in defeating a Republican candidate. My response: “Give me facts. Give me reasons. Do not ask me to vilify a person just because he/she is a conservative.” How about we stop playing the blame game and propose some solutions?

The overreaching of damnation that is easily aroused in us will only perpetuate the evil caused by a demented individual. The founders of this country envisioned a democracy but also warned us of the dangers that can arise within any society. In his call for unity, Ben Franklin emphasized the fragility of our social experiment with the simple words: “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Thomas Jefferson expressed concerns for those who would govern “with moral depravity.” Both men, like so many of their founding contemporaries, were firsthand witnesses to events orchestrated by influential characters whose agendas did not reflect the fundamental tenets of Democracy (with a capital D).

The past 18 months have revealed to us that one clear and present danger to our union resides within. We readily stand united against a foreign danger, but how do we respond when a threat to democracy emerges by way of overzealous ideology within our own borders? History is full of authoritarian regimes that lost elections and took desperate measures to prevent or disrupt the legitimate and seamless transfer of power. In our system of government, claims of fraud can be — and have been — objectively investigated.

The notion of a “shining city on a hill” was originally conceived by the Puritan John Winthrop in a long-forgotten sermon way before our country’s Declaration of Independence. The metaphor was revived by President Ronald Reagan, encouraging us to strive for something sacred yet attainable. But it would require all Americans to embrace a common and consensual ethos: a willingness to sacrifice. This includes those whose hunger for power outstrips any proclivity to play the game of politics fair and square.

It is easy for us to pontificate using idealistic imagery and morality in the name of the greater good. But that offers little when 32 percent of the electorate believes the 2020 election was rigged and fraudulent. Action — including dramatic reform — must ensue. The government, party leaders and community organizations will need to join forces to restore faith in our election system and increase voter turnout. In terms of its citizens showing up at the polls, the United States is ranked 11th among world democracies.

There are a number of recommendations to consider. Shorten the campaign seasons to lessen voter fatigue. Place new and tighter controls on campaign contributions to instill confidence among voters that their voices are as important as those of the very wealthy and big corporations. Move election days to weekends. Replace partisan poll watchers with impartial observers. Require civics courses to be taught in high school with an emphasis on duties of citizenship. Capitalize on America’s technological innovation by creating secure and reliable digital platforms for voting. Address the limitations of our federal government in setting voting standards and rules. And while it would require a constitutional amendment, I propose the presidential term be limited to one six-year period.

Preserving this great experiment that is our American Republic is dependent upon free and fair elections — an election process Americans believe in. Otherwise, the consequences may not be reversible.

Dudley Hafner retired as CEO at the American Heart Association. He lives in Santa Fe.

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