Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

For a retired federal appellate judge who has been a conservative darling of the Republican establishment to say that America’s democracy is on a “knife’s edge” is about as chilling as it gets. 

Judge J. Michael Luttig, an adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence and three GOP administrations, recently offered a blistering condemnation of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to the U.S. House select committee investigating the violence and events that led to it. That day, he testified, was part of a long “war on democracy.” He castigated former President Donald Trump as “a clear and present danger” to our nation’s governance.

But what was remarkable in Luttig’s courageous break from today’s GOP party of Trump puppets was how he implored Americans to really think about what they want from a democracy built on freedom for all, not just a few:

“America is at a perilous crossroads. Who is it that we have become and what is it that America has become? Is this who we want to be and what we want America to be? And if not, just who is it that we Americans want to be? And just what is it that we want our America to be?”

He’s right. Everyone, not just those in power, really needs to think about America’s famous experiment in democracy. And if we don’t like what we see, we need to do something about it. So we offer two indices to guide your thoughts, a Freedom Index and an Anti-Freedom Index:

FREEDOM INDEX (check all boxes that apply)

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

The U.S. Constitution and its amendments, including:

Freedom of speech

Freedom of press

The right to assemble peaceably

The right to petition the government for grievances

The right to bear arms – for a well-regulated (not individual) militia

Open, transparent government

Fairness and equal treatment under the law

Truth, justice and civil debate to resolve issues

A government of laws, not men

Fair elections that promote voting by all

Robust public education

Assistive safety nets, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

Regulated markets that inspire competition and innovation

Protection for the powerless from discrimination

ANTI-FREEDOM INDEX (check all boxes that apply)

Governance that condones secrecy and authoritarianism

Someone else thinking for me


Rewriting the U.S. Constitution to favor some Americans, not all

Diluting the power of courts to redress grievances

A government of men, not laws

Unregulated markets

Conspicuous consumption

No or few consequences for lying, cheating, stealing, greed or sedition


Violence as a means to an end

Preferential treatment and favoritism

Gerrymandered elections and hurdles to voting

No public education system

No social safety nets

No protection from discrimination

Both lists have 16 boxes. If you have a bunch of boxes checked on the second list and few on the first, you might want to question whether you really belong in the United States and share values with generations of Americans who have given their lives for our freedoms.

Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to:

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