America is trapped in a set of interlocking crises, which the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection puts in high relief. Each crisis by itself could be overwhelming, but it is not hyperbolic to say that the multiple simultaneous emergencies present a generational challenge.
The tests of our time are as big as any faced by America from the Revolution to WWII. Either we rise to the occasion with new ideas or we will sink into a civilizational quagmire. The stakes are indeed that high.
The list of crises is daunting. The Omicron variant will kill thousands this winter if the Delta does not. The new variant is simply the next wave of a preventable disease, exacerbated by the Fox TV-induced delusional behavior of 'anti-vaxxers'. It is fair to say that a segment of the population living in an alternate reality is a crisis all by itself.
Inequalities in income and opportunity are a crisis, made extravagantly clear by billionaires joy-riding in their space ships while others die from a lack of insulin. Constitutional rights, long secured by the Supreme Court's dedication to probity, are at risk due to the assertion of extreme legal philosophies. Rising above all this is the threat of climate change, where urgent and transformative action needs to begin now.
One crisis, however, stands out in high profile in the very near term. This is a crisis in the democratic process. The imminent risk to American democracy demands immediate attention, because its resolution is foundational to addressing all the other crises. The seeds of authoritarianism have been germinating for a long time, but the former guy's big lie--that the election results were not accurate--has been adopted by cynical actors in states across the nation. It is important to note that these cynical actors are almost exclusively conservative members of the GOP.
Legislatures in red states across the country are actively suppressing the votes of minority communities. We in MA should not feel immune to the impact of these threats to others’ rights in other places. Our votes in Franklin are devalued by voter suppression in Atlanta. Worse, these GOP extremists are changing the very rules under which the elections are certified. (Who knew that was even a thing before 2020?) These process changes mean that no matter what the actual vote count, GOP legislatures can discard the voters’ choice. Such a power in extremists’ hands will come home to roost in the 2024 presidential election, where Q-Anon--style secretaries of state in places like GA, AZ, PA, and MI will be able to ignore actual votes and submit the slate of presidential electors that they prefer.
There will be no need of an insurrection at the US Capitol in January of 2025, because the coup will happen in state capitols across the nation. The solution to these woes lies with Congress, which can mandate sane election rules for the whole country. Passing such laws with Democratic votes is prevented by the filibuster and the Senate’s timidity in facing the question. The issue should be addressed now, before the new year. This kind of progress can happen only if the filibuster, an old and racist tool designed to prevent progress, is modified.
Protecting our democracy is not partisan issue. Republicans of good will can support voting rights. Citizens of Franklin should demand that Senators Warren and Markey act immediately in ways that reflect the seriousness of the moment. Hardball tactics--for example stripping recalcitrant legislators like Manchin and Sinema of committee assignments, or stalling Senate business until these important issues are considered--may be needed to force the Senate to take action.
The battle is joined in the US Senate. Time is short. 2022 is too late. Please call or write your senators and urge them to do whatever is needed to save our democracy.
|Voices of Franklin: Ted McIntyre on the "crisis in the democratic process"|