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America now has two great adversaries, and we seem to be losing to both.

Most dramatically, since withdrawing from Afghanistan, radical Islam has scored an undeniable victory over the United States. Somewhat less dramatically, but of greater importance, is our soon-to-be-realized loss to China, as the American economy, in terms of gross national product, is surpassed by the Chinese.

But appearances are deceiving. We are actually winning. In each case, America has a secret weapon that is slowly vanquishing our opponents.

In the case of archaic interpretations of Islam, our “weapon” is women. By assigning and rigidly and cruelly enforcing traditional roles to women, groups like the Taliban have chosen to forgo their economic productiveness. Half of the population is economically inert.

In the case of China, our weapon is capitalism. Yes, China has adopted “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” and yes the United States — especially in 2008 — has not always been particularly adept at avoiding capitalistic excesses. But if we get a grade of “C” (pun intended), the Chinese, by that same token, will have earned only a “D.”

In America, market signals must be filtered through a government bureaucracy that is not always attuned to nuance. In China, the filter is even less efficient. In America, small businesses struggle against corporate market giants. In China, small business thrives only in traditional fields.

Consider the world of contemporary art — American contributions dominate. Consider the vitality of the ever-changing world of fashion, again America dominates in comparison to the Chinese or Islamic extremists. In business education, America dominates both. Adaptability of the judicial system? America dominates both. Political cartooning? America dominates both.

And how do our two adversaries relate to each other? The Chinese cruelly “reeducate” tens of thousands of Uighur Muslims. Until recently, the United States, in the Afghanistan forever war, provided the most provocative target for radical Islam. But President Joe Biden, like an adroit jiujitsu artist, has stepped aside. Two of the least stable nations in the world — Pakistan and (now) Afghanistan — are in the Chinese neighborhood. The famed Chinese belt-and-road pathway might need as many guard towers as did the Great Wall of China.

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But before, however, celebrating our likely long-term victories over our two external adversaries, we should realize that, within our own polity, there is, even now, an insidious anti-democracy attack underway.

While the ever-distracting circus in Washington, D.C., goes on, various states are attacking fundamental voting rights. Some might suppose these attacks are limited to voter ID or voting times and places. Yes, these are a part of the situation, but they are not the true danger.

Here is the real crisis: efforts to put in place mechanisms to nullify valid votes. If a malicious secretary of state or, worse, state legislative oversight committee, can decree a block of votes invalid, that state will become fascist.

Whoa! The “F” word?

Surely, this is hyperbole. Come now, let’s not freak out.

No friends, the “F” word does need to be used. Just as we outlasted the USSR and the Caliphate, so will we likely outlast China and radical Islam. Indeed, there is some possibility that they will nullify each other.

But when attempts are made in any state to install an official who can nullify valid votes, we need to wave the bloody shirt and scream bloody murder.

John Palmer lives in Huntington.

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