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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: We must remain stalwart in defending civic traditions

I write on the eve of Donald Trump's first State of the Union Address. I expect that he will not stray far from the “presidential” script his handlers will have crafted for him. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind Donald Trump's tone and actions in office on those days he doesn't read from a teleprompter.

Candidate Donald Trump claimed that he could “Make America Great Again." It was an empty boast -- America was already great. The dire reality is that President Trump has damaged and continues to damage our republic's most hallowed institutions and traditions.

America's greatness was and is forged from diversity: different races, cultures and faiths making unique contributions to our potent union. That is why our nation's motto is E Pluribus Unum: “From Many, One." Donald Trump's approach to governing -- disrespect, disrupt, divide -- corrodes this precious American alloy.

American greatness has relied on three vital institutions: a free press speaking truth to power; an independent judiciary impartially applying the rule of law, and honest elections based on the unfettered exercise of an expanding franchise. Donald Trump regards these bulwarks of our liberty with contempt.

For Trump, the media is "the enemy of the people" spreading "fake news.” A respected jurist he disagrees with is a "so-called judge." He believes our elections are rife with voter fraud because he lost the popular vote by 2.8 million ballots.

America's greatness depends upon respectful discussion and debate grounded in truth and reason. Trump debases public discourse each day with insults, vulgarity and outright lies (a.k.a. "alternative facts").

Other presidents felt persecuted by the press (Nixon) and sought to silence protected speech (John Adams, Wilson). Other presidents empowered -- and sometimes pardoned -- senior advisers who obstructed justice and lied under oath (George W. Bush); were venal (Harding), or were treacherous (Jefferson). Several previous chief executives disgraced the presidency and risked blackmail by their philandering and their attempts to conceal it (Harding, Kennedy, Clinton). The Trump presidency threatens America with all these evils.

Restoring the national greatness so damaged by Donald Trump will require citizens to remain stalwart in defense of our civic traditions and system of government. On Nov. 6, each of us can strike a blow for democracy at the polls. Until that day, we must show our patriotism by rejecting and resisting Trumpism with decency and courage.

Randall Burg