Gary Horton | Europe Teaches U.S. to Respect Truth, Democracy

Gary Horton

Ukraine has reschooled Americans on what real patriotism looks like. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy himself has rekindled respect for how real leadership acts. It’s a shame it’s taken a tragic war to reawaken America to the “value of our values” and the sacredness of our democracy. But Ukraine has indeed done so, and we owe it gratitude for shaking sense back into our souls. 

But it’s not just Ukraine reteaching Americans democratic values… 

This past weekend France held their own national elections. Emmanuel Macron, a centrist Euro-leader, faced up against right-wing populist Marine Le Pen for the presidential run-off election. This one was full of consequences not only for France, but also for Ukraine, NATO, the European Union and for America.  

Huge implications hung in the balance, as Le Pen is closely tied to Vladimir Putin, is less tied to NATO, and promotes herself in the Donald Trump fashion, albeit with a much higher intellect. 

As in America, in France exists anti-government movement like MAGA. It’s authoritarian in nature and has already taken hold in countries such as Hungary and Slovenia. And plainly, authoritarianism is in full command in Russia.  

Much was on the line in France and for the whole world last Sunday. 

President Macron won reelection by 58.5% to 41.5% of the vote. A substantial win, but not overwhelming. Le Pen’s party made wide overall gains, but not sufficient to win the presidency. 

Where Le Pen’s loss parts ways with Donald Trump’s loss is that Le Pen was gracious and even strategic in her loss. 

Just thirty minutes after the first projection, Le Pen publicly conceded graciously and even joyously. She acknowledged Macron’s win, saying: 

“A great wind of freedom could have blown over our country, but the ballot box decided differently.” 

“The ballot box decided differently.” Oh, what a breath of fresh air. Le Pen honored democracy and the legitimacy of the vote for France. 

No “fake news.” No “rigged system.” No “stop the steal.” 

Her goal was to be legitimately elected, but she lost, and she conceded. Le Pen has no desire to burn down the whole system, ginning up lies upon lies, to grab power away from democracy. Good for her and good for France!  

France and Le Pen remind America about honoring the rules of the democratic game. If you lose, you up your game and try again next time. You honor the democracy above self. 

Tiny Slovenia, a former captured country of the Soviet Union, also held their prime minister election last Sunday. It was incumbent populist, authoritarian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, attempting to win a record fourth term. But Jansa, in fact, lost to the Freedom Movement Party led by party leader Robert Golob.  

Again, no “fake news.” No “stop the steal.” Rather, Janez Jansa quickly conceded once results were evident. “The results are what they are. Congratulations to the relative winner,” said Jansa. 

France’s populist Le Pen and Slovenia’s authoritarian Jansa love democracy and their countries more than winning and power. We wish we could say the same about our sore and selfish losers at home. 

Europe is undergoing a prolonged battle between democracy and populist personality cult authoritarianism. Russia’s lost in a slow slide to a full-on totalitarian state with Vladimir Putin emerging as a modern tsar, dictating a tragic war with an innocent Ukraine. 

Putin fully discredited all independent press as “fake news” and closed all non-governmental news outlets. Here in America, our past president still calls the press fake; still refuses to concede a free and fair election; and still holds his party in a stranglehold, requiring every Republican contender to bend to his mantra of lies undermining faith in our once highly respected democratic electoral system. 

Over and again our last presidential election results were recounted and verified. The “stolen election” remains nothing other than Trump’s Big Lie, dangerously eroding confidence in our democracy.  

Like Le Pen and like Jansa, Trump could have conceded and committed himself to bettering his party for the next go-around. But instead, America’s tortuous ordeal has been solely about Trump’s grasping for power. All about the man and not about the country. 

Be it France or be it Russia? Which way for America? 

Any politician from any party selling lies about stolen elections should never receive your vote. Before party or any one person, the veracity of our vote must be upheld as priority one. Our democratic system itself is more important than any one person’s ambition. 

It is past time we stop these dangerous lies and liars — and support candidates from all parties who stand for truth above ambition, party, or person. 

We are not immune from the fate of some falling nations we see in Europe. To remain the Beacon of Freedom we hold ourselves to be, we must first honor the Beacon of Truth. 

Vote for truth. Reject all lies and liars. Fight for freedom, liberty, justice, all built on respect for truth.  

And let Ukraine, France and Slovenia again teach us the solemn respect that democracy and freedom require from each of us. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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