One can argue that the most important moment in American democracy happened when President John Adams (having pushed through his “midnight appointments”) snuck out of town on the eve of Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration.
But what if this peaceful (if impolite) transition of power hadn’t occurred? What if Adams had simply declared that the election was “rigged” and called out the military to arrest Jefferson?
Luckily, we will never know.
Despite frequent cries of “Caesarism” (this was before we could compare our opponents to Hitler) and some very serious ups and downs, American democracy has been blessed with a system that has largely served us well for 238 years.
For the first time in my lifetime, however, people seem to be wondering if the system is self-destructing.