Democracy Ousts Another Failed Dictator

I began my life in the dawn of Venezuelan democracy at the start of my father’s Foreign Service career. My memoir THE DICTATOR FLEW OVER OUR HOUSE & OTHER TRUE STORIES: AN AMERICAN EMBASSY FAMILY MEMOIR opens with a propeller airplane passing overhead in the middle of the night as dictator Pérez Jiménez flies into exile.

Sixty-six years later, I have retired to the South Florida county that the loser of the 2020 election calls home. By January 20, Donald Trump — a dictator wannabe — will fly over my house on his way into exile at Mar-A-Lago, his Palm Beach club.

Two dictators fly over my house

My life will be bookended by dictators flying over my house. But the connection is even more troubling, because there is an uncomfortable similarity between Trump and the current Venezuelan strongman, Nicolas Maduro.

What Trump calls fraud, maduro calls democracy

Two years ago, Trump promised to oust Maduro. It is one of the reasons he carried the South Florida vote in the 2020 election.

Fast forward to post-election Trump, who has spent the past six weeks claiming fraud and refusing to concede. Meanwhile, as reporter Scott Smith wrote in his recent piece for the Associated Press, Maduro calls the truly fraudulent Venezuelan elections a win for democracy, Something is very wrong with this picture of two dictators.

  • One was the 45th president of the world’s longest-lasting democracy. The other, the most recent in a series of strongmen who overcame South America’s longest lasting democracy.
  • One has cemented control over major institutions of power and the legislature, and the other one leaves behind him a legislature determined to undermine his successor, a remade Supreme Court, and a decimated executive branch.
  • Both have left a wide trail of unprecedented economic, political, and health crises that threaten their countries’ viability.

American democracy has held

But, in America, the democratic institutions have held. Some 80 Trump lawsuits have been summarily dismissed by the courts, including “his” Supreme Court. Local election officials, the heroes of 2020, ran the cleanest process on record, despite unprecedented turnout and amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The Electoral College aligned its votes with those of the people of their states.

The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago, We now know nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.

President Elect Joe Biden

Two dictators fly over my house, ousted by democracy. Not bad bookends to a life!

Trump must never again be allowed

But, lest we think this is over, heed the words of Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, who warns that Trump must never again be allowed to hold power.

This time around, Trump’s lawless ambitions have been limited by unamused courts, by courageous state and local officials, by a vigilant mainstream press, by a Democratic House, by his own buffoonish leadership and by an ideologically moderate Democratic candidate who won a reasonably large electoral the victory. But these conditions are hardly permanent.

Michael Gerson, The Washington Post

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