The goals of last week’s Constitution Week in Grand Lake, Colorado sound noble, to understand how the American form of democracy came to be and to be educated about it. It was about patriotism, flag-waving, parades, and fireworks, but if you were looking for a balanced understanding of the Constitution and the various applications of it, this was not it. This was a highly partisan event.  The organizers used Constitution Week, just as it has in the past, to advance a political and ideological agenda.

For this year’s event, the leaders stated the focus of the Grand Lake Constitution Week was the evil of socialism.  Not so coincidentally in 2020 the Republican Party strategy is to brand all Democrats as socialists. In recent years featured speakers touted was fear of certain races and the evils of a certain religion. Each of those programs not so coincidentally supported a political agenda of the GOP or of Donald Trump’s  that year whether it was the President attempting to institute a Muslim ban or his dog whistles from the rally podium to fear and loathe brown and black people and “build the wall”. If there was any connection with the Constitution, it was not one the event organizers may have had in mind because the Constitution provides protection of minorities from discrimination, protects freedom of religion, and does not establish a preferred economic system, but a political one.

 Trump’s 2017 agenda was to ban Muslim immigrants and the event speaker touted the horrors of Sharia law. Trump’s original initiative was rejected by the courts because it violated the Constitution’s protection of the freedom of religion.  We often forget the First Amendment to the Constitution bans the establishment of a state religion. When Donald Trump fired up racial tensions and “build the wall’, that year’s event featured a very controversial speaker, medal bedecked Sheriff David Clarke, whose racist remarks became so overt even Fox News fired him as a commentator.  This week Constitution Week organizers presented a panel of three women who were immigrants from China, Cuba, and Sweden, providing their views about the evils of socialism. The original definition of socialism has long been perverted and nuanced. No one on the presidential candidate debate stage or the incumbent in the United States is advocating either Cuban communism or anything that resembles China’s central control of the economy and extermination of dissidents. Socialism did not cause those oppressive regimes, but the lack of strong democratic institutions helped their rise. Those systems were imposed by force by a bloody revolution and followed regimes that were corrupt, autocratic, and governed a population with extreme income disparities.  Democratic Sweden’s system was voted in by its citizens. It may not be our choice, but it was their people’s will. A 2019 worldwide poll ranked Sweden in the top ten happiest countries in the world. (USA was 19th). Conservative columnist George Will has opined that Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders is no more than a democrat seeking to expand New Deal programs. Even Donald Trump has pledged to protect Social Security and Medicare.

The best defense against oppression by dictators is supporting the original intent of the Constitution’s central theme,   to prevent the rise of a tyrant with checks and balances and the rule of law If there is a threat to the Constitution, it is  a wannabe autocrat of a president who is determined to see how much of the Constitution he can stonewall, ignore or workaround to give himself  and his office more “executive” power without interference from legislative or judicial oversight. Raising exaggerated fears of “others” is his strategy to gain support to trample these guardrails of American democracy.   For more, visit