The Struggle for the Soul of America: Signs of Hope in the New Year

While 2021 was a very challenging year in many respects, the new year is bringing some hopeful signs of better days ahead for restoring our democracy. When times look bad, it’s good to have reason for hope to keep us all going.

It has been a full year since the violent attack on our nation’s Capitol which killed five people and seriously injured over 100 police officers. More and more Americans are wondering whether those who conspired to overthrow our government will ever be held accountable.

Hope in the Department of Justice

On Wednesday, the day before the first anniversary of the insurrection, Attorney General Merrick Garland assured the nation that, “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law, whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”[1] That means Donald Trump, the conspirator-in-chief, is not out of the woods and may very well be prosecuted and brought to justice.

Hope in President Biden

The next day, President Biden “ripped into Trump’s subversion of democracy and the refusal of most Republicans to stand up to the former president’s lies. In what was by far the most passionate, forceful and effective speech of his presidency, he moved democracy to the center of the nation’s political debate,” according to Washington Post political columnist E. J. Dionne Jr.[2]

Biden declared, “You cannot love your country only when you win…You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.” And he placed the responsibility on “all of us…to stand for the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy…(and) keep the promise of America alive.”[3] Hopefully, Americans of all political stripes will respond to Biden’s call. And it appears that they are doing just that.

Hope in Former Trump Administration Officials

A growing number of Republicans are working to prevent both another Trump presidency as well as more political violence undermining our democracy. Stephanie Grisham, former press secretary in the Trump White House, is helping to organize this effort. In the White House on January 6th, she observed that Trump was “gleeful” watching his supporters attacking the Capitol.[4] Another key organizer, former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff, Miles Taylor, also co-founded the Renew America Movement, a group to support candidates across the political spectrum that identify as being in favor of reforms to strengthen democracy.[5]

Meanwhile, numerous members of former Vice President Pence’s staff are cooperating with the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. They include former chief of staff, Marc Short, as well as his former national security adviser, Keith Kellogg. In addition, multiple tiers of Pence’s staff who were at the White House on Jan. 6 have been “integral” in helping the committee flesh out what happened.[6]

The committee, of course, is the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection. The nation is being well served by its members and their work. Just think where the committee might be now due to Republican obstructive tactics, if House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had kept the rest of his Republican picks on the committee after Speaker Pelosi refused to accept Trump allies Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks.[7]

Hope in former Republican officials

Staunch conservative, Bill Kristol, a former adviser to President Reagan, has formed Defending Democracy Together with other Never-Trump Republicans. The organization is dedicated to defending America’s democratic norms, values, and institutions. It recently hired lobbyists in an attempt to rein in presidential emergency powers, refine the federal government’s war powers and clarify Congress’s subpoena authority.[8]

Even ruthless Republicans like Karl Rove are denouncing the attack on the Capitol and demanding justice. He recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

To move beyond Jan. 6, 2021, we must put country ahead of party…There can be no soft-pedaling what happened and no absolution for those who planned, encouraged and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy. Love of country demands nothing less. That’s true patriotism.[9]

Hope in Liz and Dick Cheney

The only Republican official who participated in the Capitol commemoration of the January 6th attack this past Thursday was Rep. Liz Cheney, Vice-chair of the Select Committee. Ironically enough, she brought her dad, Dick Cheney, along with her. The former vice-president, you may remember, was the mastermind of the Bush Administration and its fabricated justification for the immoral Iraq War.

Here’s what the elder Cheney had to say:

I am deeply disappointed at the failure of many members of my party to recognize the grave nature of the January 6 attacks and the ongoing threat to our nation.[10]

Hope for Democracy

A pro-democracy movement is growing across the political spectrum. The struggle for the soul of America is far from over. Hopefully, this movement will prevail and, as Lincoln pronounced in the midst of the bloody Civil War, our nation “shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”[11]

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at

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[3] Ibid.









The Struggle for the Soul of America: It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn

(My remarks at a solstice gathering a few nights ago)

Two Hundred and Forty-five years ago this week just after the winter solstice on December 23, 1776, Thomas Paine wrote:

“These are the times that try men’s souls… Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

Paine was with George Washington and the Continental Army when they were defeated at White Plains and Forts Washington and Lee in October and November of that year.  Washington’s troops retreated across NJ and into PA. Many were without shoes and sufficient clothing to protect them from the freezing winter. The dejected Continental Army then huddled along the west bank of the Delaware River on the verge of defeat.

But Washington was not about to give up. On Christmas night, December 25, 1776, the General led his ragged army across the icy Delaware River and embarked on a ten-mile march to Trenton, NJ, where they surprised and overcame 1500 enemy troops. A week later, they again prevailed at Princeton. It was a pivotal point that led to the defeat of the British and the birth of our nation.

87 years later, on Nov. 19, 1863, after one of bloodiest battles in our history, in the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln declared at Gettysburg: “that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Now, recalling how our foremothers and forefathers persevered and overcame great diversity so that American democracy might be born and grow, once again our collective survival as a free people is being tested.

We are again in times that try men’s and women’s souls. We are being challenged to the utmost by the COVID pandemic, right-wing voter suppression, a fascist ex-president’s attempt to overthrow our government and global climate change.

So, as the winter solstice ushers in the radiance of the approaching new year, we have the opportunity, perhaps you might say, the duty, to open our hearts and spread the light of peace and love to all our relations, and to contribute whatever we are able, to the work of overcoming this pandemic, protecting our planet Earth and preserving our democratic way of life.

May this begin tonight with each of us.

Bruce Berlin