Democracy: We Can't Take it for Granted in the 2022 Midterm Elections
Daily my television programs present two major wars going on in the world. Both are frightening. The expressed intent of the aggressors of both is to destroy Democracy and establish an authoritarian form of government. At the time of this writing the Ukraine war is in its 6th week of an increasingly brutal military invasion by Russia’s President Putin. Ukraine’s citizens know that President Putin wants to destroy their Democracy and establish rule by his authority. They are fighting valiantly to keep what they have because they have experienced authoritarian rule and they do not want to go back.
In America the war is not so visible. We do not see a military with missiles, tanks, and bombs destroying homes, hospitals and schools, nor frightened women fleeing with children. Rather, the invasion to destroy American Democracy is more subtle and cunning. It is being eroded by the manipulation of the democratic process. I am one of many Americans who believe that a corruption of the democratic process is in play to replace our current form of American Democracy with a more authoritarian form of government. Race is not the only polarizing issue but it is a major issue.
In this article, I emphasize my perspective that Democracy in America is in crisis and that too many Americans are blind to the crisis because they take our Democracy for granted. Many Americans have not known any other form of government. They notice our form of government less than they notice breathing, living in it as a birth right, a given—eternal and invincible. I hope to heighten the awareness of those who are blind to the danger that we are about to lose a precious gift and to motivate all who value America’s Democracy to work harder to save it.
A brief look at history will place my perspective in a broader context:
I was born in 1934 in racially segregated Johnson County, Georgia. In school we were taught that we lived in a Democratic country and that made us the greatest country in the world. We were very proud to be an American, although in practically all of the southern states of America had locked African Americans out of the democratic process since the Compromise of 1877. This secret unwritten agreement by a bipartisan congressional commission ended the Reconstruction era and the short-lived voting rights given to African Americans by the Constitution in 1870. President Johnson, pressured by a long Civil Rights Movement, signed the 1965 Voters Rights Act which banned racial voter discrimination, making American Democracy more fully democratic by extending the right to vote to all of America’s citizens.
Thus, I view American Democracy to always be in a state of becoming more inclusive of all of its citizens with justice and fairness for all. As our country has become more diverse racially and more responsive to pressure from other marginalized groups it has been moving towards what I call an inclusive Multiracial Democracy with equity or a Just Multiracial and Multicultural Democracy. In my world-view this is an ideal which has not been achieved in any country that I am aware of.
After the 1965 Voting Rights Act, racial inclusion in the political process increased but so did polarization between the Democratic and Republican parties, reflecting the growing political divisions in our society as a whole. These divisions became more visible and severe when Donald J. Trump emerged as a Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 election with a campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”. He won. President Trump’s confrontational style, expressed proclivity for violence and lack of respect for established democratic norms shocked the nation. His open friendship with dictators who were previously considered enemies of democracy, support of a White Supremacy ideology and tolerance for racial discrimination exploded the existing political divisions into polarized camps of Americans. This was an intentional strategy used to undermine the democratic process.
President Trump’s expressed values became the revealed values of many Republicans. The leadership of the Republican Party has coalesced under the Make America Great Again (MAGA) agenda. They have created a MAGA movement which is openly not in favor of a Just Multiracial Democracy. In the 2020 election the Democratic Party’s Candidate, Joe Biden, won. The former President has not yet acknowledged this win, thus no peaceful transfer of power to President Joe Biden. The MAGA Republicans claim that the election was stolen even though all official election sources of both parties say that the election was fair and just. The MAGA members are experts at publicly spreading lies, disinformation and conspiracy stories which keep people confused and unable to recognize true facts. These are major weapons to dismantle democracy.
Voter suppression and the changing of election rules for partisan advantages are also weapons against democracy. In at least 11 states MAGA Republicans are passing laws under the pretext of decreasing voter fraud. These laws make it harder to vote for such citizens as people of color, young people, seniors and those who have mobility disadvantages. The laws also allow them to change the election results when those results do not match their expectations. At the same time, MAGA leaders are promoting the belief among their supporters that voting does not work, thus no need for elections in America. Voter suppression and dismantling elections are deathblows to Democracy.
We can applaud, celebrate and support the actions of protest, advocacy and other forms of resistance that many Americans throughout history and today faithfully work to make this country a better place for all of us. Every privilege we enjoy is fought for by people who make a sacrifice. These people are ordinary citizens and elected leaders, young and old from every race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. They work long and hard to make our Democracy better serve a multiracial society with equity. All of us owe them our prayers, gratitude and financial support.
The November Mid-term Elections this year are critical for the fate of Democracy at the local, state, and national levels of our government. Democracy is the major issue on the ballot. All who value our American Democracy and see the danger of losing it must work harder to save it and continue to make it better. This work requires prayerful discernment, commitment to Justice for all and dedication to act from such values as truth, love, kindness and goodness.
We can join some of the groups that are actively working on such issues as voter preparation and education, voting rights, fair elections, and legislature that strengthens Democracy. We can create small group coalitions around a shared goal of electing candidates who support Democracy. Individually we can work to heighten the awareness of family and friends who may not be aware of the significance of the dangers by sharing information from trustworthy sources. We cannot be silent. We must use our gifts to stay informed, act to support our values and inform others while respecting those who disagree with us.
I believe that most people want a society that values truth, justice, and love for everyone. Our vote must reflect our values for a Just Multiracial Democracy. We must not be distracted by candidates who will appeal to our pocketbooks around economic issues and other hot topics but vote for the ones who best support our prayers for justice and equality for all.
Rita Dixon is a retired clergy woman in Greater Atlanta Presbytery and a former Staff Associate in the Division of Nation Missions of PC(USA).