It’s no secret that American democracy is in crisis. In fact, it’s one of the few things Americans can agree on.

As an example, a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll put the question this way: Do you believe our nation’s “democracy is imperiled”? The numbers may startle you: 74% of Democrats thought so, 75% of Republicans agreed, and so did 66% of independents.

The surprise is not that the overwhelming majority of Americans see the system is in desperate need of repair — I mean, it seems obvious enough — but that those in the left, right and middle are so closely aligned.

But there’s a catch, which shouldn’t surprise anyone in these hyperpartisan times. Very few people agree on what the actual problem is or what, if anything, can be done about it.

Depending on your perspective — and I’ll be generous in using the term  “perspective” in some cases  — the peril might derive from Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election while  prepared to use fraud and violence in the process. Meanwhile, as he spread not only the Big Lie but also many related smaller lies, Trump helped turn his supporters against a long list of democratically inclined institutions, moving the country in the direction of what can only be called authoritarianism.

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Or — I said I was being generous here — millions somehow believe the peril has come from the Biden administration having, uh, weaponized the Department of Justice to prosecute/persecute Trump on the way to discrediting Biden’s likely opponent in the 2024 election. If that were the case, I guess, it would also be a giant step toward authoritarianism.

Personally, I don’t see how it’s even a close call. And yet, I can read the polls. Despite his four indictments, Trump seems to be running away with the Republican nomination, which can’t be surprising when 7 in 10 Republicans still tell pollsters they don’t believe Biden’s 2020 win was legitimate. And if Trump were to run against Biden again, it’s not at all clear who would win.

But with that in mind, with democracy clearly in crisis, I offer a few glimmers of hope that come from right here in Colorado.

We can start with, of all people, Lauren Boebert. Yes, I know. You could say Boebert is the embodiment of much that is wrong with our system today, but that’s just the point. In 2022, as you’ll recall, she nearly lost her job as representative of the 3rd Congressional District. 

In a Republican-leaning district, Boebert beat the Democrat, Adam Frisch, by a mere 546 votes. If Frisch, who got little to no support from national Democrats, had won, it would have been the biggest upset in the 2022 cycle. 

Afterwards, Boebert, apparently recognizing her problem, promised she would bring down the temperature, which turned out to be her very own version of the big lie. Wherever Boebert goes, it seems to turn into an anti-democratic hotspot, not least because of her determination to bring bogus impeachment charges against Biden. And also, of course, her determination to bring impeachment charges before her former B-word pal Marjorie Taylor Greene could do it.

So, Boebert could have brought down the temperature in relation to the Trump indictments, maybe advising that we should see where the trail of justice leads us. OK, maybe not. What she did tweet, in just one example, was that in “a sane country,” Georgia’s Fulton County DA Fani Willis would be fired for indicting Trump and 18 others on RICO charges. She didn’t stop there.

“But,” Boebert wrote, “we are not living in a fair country. We’re living in a banana republic.”

Can we get a heat check?

Well, a heat check is what we may be seeing in Boebert’s race to defend her seat. Republicans could rise up in the district and dump her in a primary race, where she has at least one legitimate rival. But more likely, she would be endangered if there’s a rematch against Frisch, who has, to this point, a huge fundraising advantage over Boebert.

And there’s a recent internal poll showing Frisch, who is facing his own primary challenge, with a two-point lead over Boebert. The poll was sufficiently scary that the Boebert campaign sent out an email calling the situation “dire.” The respected Cook Political Report calls the race a tossup.

To me, that sounds a lot like democracy — in which partisanship could lose out to the notion of, you know, picking the sane candidate. We’ll find out a year from November.

Meanwhile, I have to address the Ken Buck situation. I’m old enough to remember when Buck was just your normal Biden-bashing, Trump-defending, Freedom Caucusing Republican. But then after Trump’s indictment for keeping and hiding highly classified documents upon leaving the White House, Buck went out of his way to go on CNN to say he wouldn’t support a convicted felon for president, which can’t have helped him in his heavily Republican 4th Congressional District.

He even pointed out the obvious, that Trump “hid documents, you know, purposely putting them in a shower, purposely putting them on a stage. So, there clearly is an intent to hide, there was an intent, that he knew it.”

Yes, Buck, a former federal prosecutor, was defending, well, a federal prosecutor. OK, but now, taking yet another strong stand, he has moved on to defend the judicial system against the right-wing, election-denying crazies running the Republican Party in Colorado while also running it into the ground.

Last month, the state GOP sent out an email, written by El Paso County GOP vice-chair Todd Watkins calling for support of the January 6 prisoners, saying it should be a “top priority” for the GOP, while charging “our government (with) committing atrocities on its own citizens for what are obviously political reasons.”

If that sounds like a fringe viewpoint, sadly, it’s not as fringe as it should be. 

Buck wrote a letter back to Watkins, calling him and others in the GOP out for “disseminating false information” about the treatment of the January 6 prisoners and also the system by which they were convicted.

It’s a tough letter, knocking down one piece of Trumpist disinformation after another, pointing out just how wrong it is to “suggest that these defendants are being singled out for their political views.”

It was a tough letter and it was a pro-small-d-democracy letter. And it made me think that if three-fourths of Americans believe our democratic system is broken — and there is plenty of evidence of that — how many of them are actually trying to do something to fix it?

Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow. Sign up for Mike’s newsletter.

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