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As we moved into the new year, I’ve spent time mulling over the challenges it will bring us, as I’m sure many of you have.

Senior Reporter Daniel Smith

Politically, it will certainly be a year of unprecedented situations and changes brought on by them – the upcoming trials of the former president on multiple felony and misdemeanor counts and civil cases over his past behaviors will be a focal point, of course.

It will influence the November election, certainly, and how it all plays out will define who we are – and want to be – as a democracy, as a nation and the role of government in our lives.

I started writing this before we waited for the results of the frigid Iowa caucuses and what they reveal about the state of the divided GOP political landscape.

Historically conservative Iowa Republicans, as predicted, chose Donald Trump over his competition, giving him support of slightly more than 50 percent in a weather-reduced turnout (reported to be 14 percent of registered Republicans). Trump acolytes were phrasing it as a landslide, while others point out nearly 50 percent didn’t choose the former president.

While Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis placed distant third and second, respectively, some critics also pointed out the antiquated caucus process, unlike a primary election, meeting in schools, churches, and other public places for a straw presidential preference poll, is only indicative (by degrees) of the popularity of the party as well as individual campaigns’ strength short-term.

Democrats also caucused Jan. 15, but will vote by mail now through March 5 (Super Tuesday) with results released later that day.

While we still hear some of the same tired extreme-right rhetoric about the ‘stolen election’ of 2020 and all the silly myths that accompany it, there is real concern our election season could see scattered political violence from those zealots who cling to the brainwashed beliefs they’ve been spoon-fed by Trump, his supporters and far-right media like Fox News.

The recent threats to election officials involve several schemes. Among them; investigating the fake electors in some states amid the plot to overthrow the election, so-called ‘swatting’ incidents directed against prosecutors and judges handling the multiple Trump cases are troubling. They serve to underscore the seriousness of threats from electors who’ve been easily brainwashed into believing the conspiracy fallacies.

I shook my head reading an Iowa voter quoted in the New York Times who voiced her conviction that the last election was corrupted by using voting machines; though there’s never been a shred of evidence of that, and that the next election might have to be won ‘coming in the back door,’ whatever that ominously means. Matched with the recent polls showing a small percentage of voters believe violence might have to be a solution to their perceived grievances and you have a real concern over potential Jan. 6-style violence from this minority of true believers who’ve been duped into a cult-like fantasy.

As president, Trump’s attitude of never admitting to being wrong, even in the face of incontrovertible proof, is reflected in the same frozen stance from his sycophants who would seemingly never, ever, face or admit the reality of being fooled by this con artist’s line of fictional bull roar.

I thought to touch on some of the controversy/confusion over media accounts and the unprecedented back and forth about what’s real or fake news in politics in general. That’s a topic for another column on unbiased news coverage versus opinion or slanted news and the public’s need to understand the difference journalistically.

The start of this campaign season, national and state, will at times be overshadowed by the many legal proceedings against Trump, while he tries to delay and obfuscate as much as possible – a well-used tactic. Meanwhile, more members of his legal team have apparently departed.

Now, those who say a civil war could be inevitable, in my opinion, are just trying to convince others of their fevered dream of somehow fighting ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’ or other misapplied McCarthy-era terms they use to try to slander a progressive, liberal democracy that has stood the test of time and conflicts for nearly 250 years.

‘Own the libs?’ Hogwash.

My own take on this is that a vocal and delusional minority of extreme-right voters want their adopted crazy beliefs somehow substantiated and give at least lip service to taking the law into their hands to do so. Yet the lessons from the Jan. 6 attempted insurrection show an overwhelming majority of Americans won’t stand for those kinds of threats to our democracy. An authoritarian/fascist regime will never get its way by force of will and deception. The electorate will firmly reject the idea of a would-be dictator, reminiscent of history’s worst ever, leading this nation away from democracy.

It remains our civic duty to prevent that.