I Choose Hope for America

President Obama presents Congressman John Lewis with Presidential Medal of Freedom. Image commons.wikimedia.org

It feels as though the Doomsday Clock for American democracy and stability took a swing in the wrong direction these past few days.

Two greed-driven Democrats whose campaign coffers have been swelling with special interest money even though they’re not up for reelection announced they would not support even temporarily modifying the filibuster to allow passage of voting rights legislation.

Thus, they joined 50 Republican Senators in effectively killing the bill. Sixteen of those lockstep-voting Senate Republicans, as President Biden pointed out, were participants in the unanimous 2006 Senate vote for voting rights legislation—signed into law by Republican President George Bush.

The irony is that by definition, a filibuster is “an action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly…”

When the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 came before the Senate, were there any long speeches? Nope. There were no speeches. The minority used the filibuster to cut off debate entirely. Protecting the right to vote wasn’t even worth talking about.

This time, due to an unusual legislative maneuver, when Senate Majority Leader Schumer brings the 2022 bill passed by the House to the Senate floor next week, there will be discussion and a vote.

At least we’ll get a historical record of those responsible for this shameful turn away from the cornerstone of our democracy.

I watched some of the televised discussion when House members were debating the bill. One Republican after another claimed there was no need for new federal voting rights legislation because the turnout in 2020 was the largest ever.

Huh? Why, then, have so many Republican state legislatures rushed to pass restrictive laws?

Republicans know they would not win if they didn’t suppress votes, gerrymander districts, and either lie or remain silent about their former president’s resounding defeat in 2020. As President Biden—and others—also pointed out, how did all these Republicans get elected on the same ballots that the former guy claims were fraudulent?

Their anti-democratic insurance policy in 2021 was to introduce more than 440 bills in 49 states to restrict voting access. These actions are accelerating this year.

And even more troubling, in what the Brennan Center called “a new trend…legislators introduced bills to allow partisan actors to interfere with election processes or even reject election results entirely.”

It’s an ugly anti-democratic duo: vote suppression and vote subversion.

Knowing all this, how do I justify remaining hopeful that we won’t lose our democracy in 2022—or 2024?

I begin with the premise that if we assume we’re “doomed,” we’ve already moved toward that scenario. I’m not being Pollyanna here; our democracy is being tested as never before.

But as the iconic Mister Rogers advised kids when they were fearful, “look for the helpers.”

There are many, and they’re fully engaged. Michelle Obama’s new initiative is one of the most ambitious. When We All Vote is a coalition to register 1 million new voters before the 2022 midterms.

I’ve recently been spending some time on Twitter, where like-minded people meet virtually on Twitter Spaces. I listened in on a couple of discussions about voting rights run by a group of Black activists.

These folks aren’t wasting time bemoaning the setbacks. They are focused, upbeat, and pragmatic.

*Yes, it will be harder than it has to be—than it should be. So we’ll just have to work harder too.

*Yes, it will take time. It’s taken a long time to get to where we are, and this is one more roadblock.

*Educate more people. Get people registered. Counter the misinformation.

*Elect more democracy-loving Democrats to office at all levels.

*Support President Biden and VP Harris—not uncritically—but with appreciation for all the good they’ve accomplished in one year, and concern that those who continue merely to criticize them and the Democrats simply discourage people from voting at all.

If Black Americans, watching this systematic dismantling of their right to vote (which will also disenfranchise young people, disabled people, elderly people, and others) can remain so committed to protecting our democratic institutions, how can I not be hopeful—and work harder too?

Yesterday, I listened to another Twitter Space—this time, hosted by Marc Elias and his colleague at Democracy Docket. More than 850 of us spent part of our Friday afternoon to learn more.

I’ve written about Elias before. He’s the tireless voting rights attorney who’s been responsible for beating back many bad laws—and a number of the former guy’s bogus challenges—for decades.

He’s obviously a very talented lawyer, but equally important: he’s an upbeat person who believes that the courts can still be influential in protecting democracy.

Don’t let anyone tell you that courts don’t matter,” he said. Democracy is on the docket.” (Hence: Democracy Docket.)

One of his most crucial points was:

“It’s important to talk about naming VIOLENT INSURRECTION. Words have consequences.”

The US Constitution (14th Amendment, Section 3) specifically states that anyone found to have committed this act, having violated the oath of office, is prevented from future service in government. Criminal sanctions aren’t required.

Elias hopes the Department of Justice is investigating the members of Congress who have already implicated themselves. But, he says, if DOJ doesn’t do so, private litigation can commence. And I suspect he’s already planning next steps…

He stressed that timely action is needed to give Republicans whose candidates may be barred from serving the time to find new nominees—“so no one can claim at the time of election that they don’t have a candidate.”

Elias also spoke about how superb the new bill that the Senate will debate is.

We can’t give up hope—have to keep pushing the Senators to pass this legislation.”

He sees the Electoral Count Act, which is now receiving bipartisan support in the Senate, as a distraction because it doesn’t address the vital protections against vote subversion in the state and county offices where the votes are counted.

Note: Manchin and Sinema are involved in these discussions. Even if the bill were to include prohibitions against vote subversion, it won’t address vote suppression—and there are concerns that time will fly by and it will never be enacted.

Elias reported good news about the Ohio Supreme Court’s striking down inequitable gerrymandering that had favored Republicans, and he expressed cautious optimism about positive results in North Carolina as well.

His group is suing Texas and Georgia for voter suppression laws and will probably sue Florida.

Okay. So if we’re imbued with hope, should we view the fact that the Department of Justice has charged 11 far-right Oath Keepers with Seditious Conspiracy as good news—because it shows that the DOJ is enmeshed in investigations of violent plots to take down our government…or as bad news—because it shows how deep and broad these plans are and how close they came to succeeding?

With a deep breath, I’m focusing on the four Oath Keepers who’ve already turned and are providing the government with information.

We have had violent plots in the US before. It’s unlikely the former guy will be charged with seditious conspiracy. But based on evidence that’s already publicly available, it’s become possible, maybe even likely, that he and his Congressional helpers will be barred from office.

And if that happens, perhaps we’ll have time to mend our tattered national fabric and stave off the unthinkable loss of our democracy.

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it isn’t worth your time to register and vote. The biggest danger is apathy and an unwillingness to see that there’s only one political party in the US today that is working to protect our democracy. Many current and former Republicans agree.

“We have met the enemy and they is us,” said Pogo. We Americans must prove Pogo wrong.

Are you with me? I sure HOPE so!

Annie

27 thoughts on “I Choose Hope for America

    1. A couple of things to keep in mind about Weimar Germany comparisons:

      In 1933, democracy in Germany had existed for only fifteen years; it had been imposed on the country by its hated enemies Britain and France after the humiliating defeat of Germany in World War I. Naturally, most Germans felt little attachment to it. The present US system of government is almost a quarter-millennium old and was created by early American leaders who are still widely revered today.

      We have the historical memory of Nazi Germany to serve us as a warning of how democracy can be subverted by fascism and how bad the consequences can be. The Germans of the 1930s had nothing comparable in their historical memory to serve as a warning.

      We always should be alert to the dangers posed by authoritarian movements, of course, but these differences are important.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a legitimate comment/question, silverapplequeen. I am emphatically NOT saying “It can’t happen here.” But I don’t think hope is against all odds. I believe we can still fight back nonviolently, and unless you’re making plans to emigrate or going the survivalist route in the desert, I see nothing empowering about assuming all is lost. I trust you plan to vote—in primaries and the general election—or do you think doing so is futile?

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I’ve recently been reading books about parts of Eastern Europe in the aftermath of WWII when Stalin’s troops took over and the Soviets installed spies everywhere. It was a terribly frightening time that illustrates how entire nations can fall under the control of a small minority of unconscionable zealots and how readily a society’s misfits will blindly swear allegiance to any cause that welcomes them in. Knowing that history repeats and seeing the crippled state of our democracy does indeed worry me. But, of course Annie is right. We have to have hope. Even the worst totalitarian regimes were eventually brought down by people who refused to give up on their vision of a better government.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, Carol! And the reverse is also true: some democracies have failed not because of military coups, but because authoritarian leaders used their democratic institutions to slowly destroy these very institutions. That’s why the battle to overcome laws advancing vote suppression and subversion is so vitally important.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I suspect that your “explosive future” isn’t even on anyone’s radar at the moment, including the Prime Minister, who’s not the sharpest pencil in the box and totally lacking in diplomacy. We’re not particularly happy with our PM at the moment, he only got a minority government last fall in what the majority thought of as an unnecessarily called election during a pandemic. I don’t think Canada is on Biden’s radar either, as he has so many other problems to deal with. I think he’s doing the best he can, considering.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. I WISH I could feel hopeful and optimistic, Annie, but I just don’t see how we’re going to get through this without our country being torn apart. The divisions just seem too deeply ingrained to overcome.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I certainly hear ya, Fandango. This hope is a conscious decision, and some days are easier than others. You may want to check out Democracy Docket. People like Marc Elias are doing heroic work, I believe, and they inspire me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Annie, living in NC, I have seen voting rights stripped away and gerrymandering in full view forced upon us by Republican majorities. Courts have ruled these efforts unconstitutional, but it just beget the image of redrawing a retreating line in the sand to see how much cheating is OK. Now, Democrats have done their share as well, but as one judge said it this GOP discrimination is done with “surgical precision.” Or, as one Republican official said in an interview these laws were designed to “kick Democrats’ butts.” His words found their way into court.

    My advice to all. There are those who don’t want you to vote if you will likely vote for the other side. Find out what the rules are and register in a timely fashion. Then, get your fanny to a voting booth and vote cheaters out. These folks have said the presidential election was stolen from the last president – it was not. That has been and still is a Big Lie. With all of the funding, the former president has lost every recount, audit and review. He has won only one out of 65 or so court cases. His efforts have been so abysmal, funders want their money back. Trump cannot lose this election over and over again and still have people believe him – that is the definition of insanity.

    For conspiracy nuts, the biggest conspiracy is staring you right in the face. It is a conspiracy propagated by Donald Trump that the election was stolen from him. It is time for him to man up and admit he lost.

    Keith

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Great, Keith. Marc Elias spoke at some length about NC on Friday. He deemed himself “cautiously optimistic” that the state Supreme Court will overrule the gerrymandering aspect of voter suppression.

      I greatly appreciate your passion and commitment. Our democracy deserves them to help us against the vile onslaught. Thank you!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Annie. Several years ago when I wrote a few state legislators saying the about to be passed Voter ID law was unconstitutional and Jim Crow-like, its author wrote back and ripped me a new one. After my rebuttal, where I shared my concern in a diplomatic fashion, he ripped me another new one (an attorney friend said it looked like you changed roles and he was the raging critic). I finally sent him a more direct retort saying “I am a 54 year old white man, former Republican raised in the South. You and I both know what this bill is all about.” It was ruled unconstitutional after it was passed. By the way, this same legislator had a heavy hand in the gerrymandering changes as well, saying the only reason they had the GOP winning 11 out of 13 districts (in a 50/50 state) is they could not figure out how to make it twelve. I wish I was making this up. Keith

        Liked by 3 people

      2. You certainly got under that guy’s skin, Keith! Amazing to me that he responded. Well, if Marc Elias is correct, that disgraceful legislator is about to get his comeuppance from the NC Supreme Court. I wouldn’t blame you if you wrote him a “Nyah-Nyah” letter, but I know you put your time to better use.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Annie, many thanks. To revel in his gerrymandering cheating was noticed by the major newspapers here. Interestingly, this same legislator was forced to resign a several years later for embezzling funds from his campaign funding. He avoided jail time which was interesting, but some would say he reaped what he sowed being forced to resign. In other words, cheating was not an ethical obstacle for hm. Keith

        Liked by 2 people

  3. H.O.P.E. Have only positive expectations. Hard to do but to lose that perspective, as you say, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it can’t just be expectations alone — it has to be the work that allows our expectations to come to fruition. Have hope. Stay the course. And get busy. Thanks, Annie — for your voice and your commitment.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Have only positive expectations. Oh, I like that a lot, Denise. And absolutely: we have much hard work ahead, and success is not guaranteed. So we have to work harder.

      Thank you!!

      Like

  4. Your “think positive” advice is much appreciated, Annie, but I must confess I’m having considerable difficulty doing that. A Nextdoor Digest website in the Long Island area where I live is peppered with comments endorsing the Big Lie. Here’s hoping that, thanks to Stacy Abrams et al, facts will ultimately prevail over conspiracy theories, and the former guy will get the comeuppance he deserves.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Gail, I can imagine it’s even more difficult when you’re surrounded by the Big Lie. I’m not hopeful about reaching people holding that belief. But there are many others who have decided it’s not worth their time to even pay attention to what’s going on—let alone vote. Persuading them that they can’t just withdraw and let power-grabbing, cynical Republicans use them while offering them nothing is an effort I feel is necessary to undertake.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I begin with the premise that if we assume we’re “doomed,” we’ve already moved toward that scenario

    This is always important to remember. Despair leads to paralysis, which leads to defeat, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nobody ever won a battle by assuming that it was lost and giving up before the battle even began. If you fight back against your enemies, you may lose, but if you don’t, you will definitely lose.

    Liked by 1 person

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