In the days after the Capitol breach, and continuing today, major U.S. media outlets are wringing their hands and shouting that American democracy is on the verge of collapse.

You may infer correctly from my tone that I think this is nuts, but allow me to make my point with this quote from Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan:

“That American democracy is teetering is unquestionable. Jan. 6 is every day now, in the words of a recent New York Times editorial that noted the growing evidence: election officials harassed by conspiracy theory addicts, death threats issued to politicians who vote their conscience, GOP lawmakers pushing measures to make it harder for citizens to vote and easier for partisans to overturn legitimate voting results.”

Atlantic Magazine argues that Republicans will use the “Big Lie” about the presidential election results to overturn the next election. The Atlantic headline: “Jan. 6 Was a Warmup.”

If you watch CNN, which I do, a recurring theme is to beat up on Trump and his presidency. If you watch Fox News, which I do, their anchors are bashing Biden profligacy, the border “crisis” and the handling of the pandemic.

Both networks and major print media are desperately trying to stir up the interest they gained from two disparate audiences during the Trump years. Yet despite their best efforts to keep passions inflamed, a lot of people have tuned out. Ratings and subscriptions are down from the Trump heyday.

What is stoking fear and rage on the other side of the political spectrum are scenes of looting, attempts to defund police and what they see as the Biden administration profligacy.

The national media, though coming at it from different directions, would have you believe this is the end of civilization as we know it. If Chicken Little were on social media, the sky definitely would be falling.

I am sure the sky is not falling and I think The New York Times, Washington Post, Atlantic writers and Fox and CNN news producers must not get out much.

To be clear, Jan. 6 was an aberration that should not have happened and is not likely to repeat, based on jail time being dished to participants and the security reforms at the Capitol. But if you look around the world at other democracies, you will find sharply divided electorates with scary fringe elements: France, Germany and the U.K. come to mind.

Journalist/historian Robert Lubbock has compiled a list of 47 British insurrections since Roman times, 38 since the Magna Carta. And he warns that policies and social problems currently provide “…no shortage of wood waiting to be lit by the appropriate spark.”

Yet somehow the British democracy endures and history suggests that violent insurrection eventually gives way to peaceful accommodation and change.

Yet in those countries today your political beliefs determine the candidates you support, the media you follow and the social media you believe. And there is plenty of ugly maneuvering and occasional violence on all sides to promote change.

The United States has taken longer to reach this degree of division than other democracies. Certainly fringe hatred here has been exacerbated by social media. Still, we now have deep divisions in the U.S. and I am saddened by them.

So what’s my point? It is that civilization is not ending; the sky is not falling and you shouldn’t accept everything you read, watch and discover on social media. More importantly, if the developed democracies are any example, when the next presidential election cycle comes around, you can count on most Americans to do the right thing. There may be a little turbulence, but in the end it is going to be OK.

Have a little faith.


Tom Fenton spent 15 years overseas as correspondent and bureau chief for the Associated Press.

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