What Democracy Depends On – Oak Park

After last week’s column (“First mad, then get to work”), a few readers asked, “What can we do?” The familiar litany includes: vote, inform (yourself and others), donate, write postcards, knock on doors, join a phone bank, help voter registration efforts, spread the word on social networks social media, speak out against misinformation and misinformation, protest, become an election worker, and finally, write letters to our Viewpoints section.

All are important. Here are a few others:

  • Read Stacey Abrams’ book Our time has comeon the fight against voter suppression.
  • Put up signs on the lawn that say, “Back Biden” and “Save Democracy. Vote Democrat. We have to get creative with our signage.
  • Vote – it bears repeating – and encourage others to vote. It doesn’t matter if you live in a blue state; it is participation that counts. The higher the turnout, the clearer the message to anti-democratic forces (and opponents) is: “We are motivated, we are mobilized and we have strength in numbers.”
  • Speak. Directly appeal to the centre-right people in your life: “Help us save democracy. Please vote only for those who work to preserve and defend democracy. Please vote against those who are so eager to undermine it.
  • Develop an “elevator speech” and use it when the opportunity arises. Here’s mine:

The elections are now different from those that took place before 2020. It is no longer Republicans against Democrats. It’s between those who support the insurgency and overturn legal and clean elections and those who don’t. Whoever supports an insurgent also supports his insurrection.

In this election, one party wants to govern, the other wants to govern. One focuses on short-term reward, the other on long-term benefits. One cultivates superiority, the other seeks fairness. One promotes self-interest, the other aims for the common good. One will destroy this planet while the other will find a way for future generations to live on it.

One worships on the altar of an individual, the other on the altar of social responsibility. One path will lead to ruin, the other to a better country. One of them took an oath to defend the leader of the insurgents. The other took an oath to defend the Constitution.

Both are imperfect. One gave up. The other tries. One has no idea, but the other has a vision.

Which will you choose? Which would your children and grandchildren choose?

Will you reward the Insurgency Party with your vote?

But it’s not just about what we do. It’s also about what we don’t do:

  • Don’t disparage Biden. He has done a great job as president so far (infrastructure, pandemic, Ukraine, strong economy, new Supreme Court justice). Considering the disaster he inherited from the incompetent criminal who preceded him, he has done an extraordinary job, especially given the slim majority he has to work with in Congress. We should highlight and praise his record, not downplay it.

Unfortunately, the pro-democracy coalition I proudly belong to is the most self-destructive group I have ever seen. We’ve just come out of an incredibly successful election, setting records with the number of votes (over 81 million) and turnout (66.2%), solidly beating an incumbent by 51-46% and winning ( barely) a majority in the Senate in electing the two candidates in Georgia, of all places. You would think we would be encouraged. Instead, we’re talking about who should replace Biden in 2024. There’s no one, right now, who can do what Biden is doing. And he doesn’t make so many mistakes.

  • Do not reinforce the idea that the Democrats will be defeated in the midterm elections. You only aid and comfort the anti-democratic forces. It’s bad enough that the mainstream media constantly reproduces this refrain (including, sad to say, NPR). You are helping to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Drop it.
  • Don’t panic. Don’t be paralyzed. Don’t stay silent. Do not abandon.
  • And above all, don’t be a bad citizen. This country already has an oversupply of lousy citizens.

A good citizen is active, not passive. Good citizens love democracy enough to recognize when it’s threatened, learn how it’s threatened, and then find creative, nonviolent ways to defend and preserve it.

You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t already good citizens. What we need to “do” is find ways to become better citizens – we can always be better citizens.

It is a government of the people, by the people, for the people, which must not disappear from the Earth, as Abraham Lincoln, a true Republican, once said.

It is about saving democracy.

If you believe something, believe this:
Right now, our democracy depends on us being better citizens.