When Tennesseans go to the polls to cast their ballots in today’s primary elections, it would be nice if they had the security of knowing that their votes were secure from hackers, but they don’t. President Trump hasn’t even fully acknowledged the proven Russian election meddling that occurred during the 2016 election. Worse, his administration has done very little to prevent more intrusion in 2018 and is leaving the bulk of the serious efforts to protect our suffrage to cybersecurity officials in local and state government.
Still, ready or not, this most critical election season will proceed.
With better leadership at the top, the issues up for debate might revolve around nuanced approaches to policies that most Americans generally agree upon, but that won’t happen in this election cycle. Since the president gets his energy from generating fear and distrust within his base, so that his is the only opinion that really matters, political dialogue has sunk to never before seen lows this time around.
It’s staggering to consider that today in America, candidates are actually debating whether trade wars work, if climate change is real or if separating families seeking asylum is a good or bad thing. Are even the merits of a free press up for discussion? Well, a White House reporter was punished last week because a thin skinned president didn’t like her questions. On Tuesday night, CNN’s Jim Acosta was assailed with curse words, threats and middle fingers at a Trump rally in Tampa while he was on the air. Fake news anybody?
Incredibly, politicians can’t even agree on the urgent need to protect our democracy from foreign election intrusion. A far-right faction in the U.S. House of Representatives is attempting to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, evidently for the crime of allowing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election to uncover too many suspicious ties to Trump, his family and his campaign team.
We are now at a point in our democracy where the concept of truth is on the ballot too. Last week, the president topped off his day of spreading disinformation and tagging the free press as “the enemy of the people” by urging the Veterans of Foreign Wars, at their national convention, to “Remember: What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” George Orwell might not have been surprised by that declaration, but a lot of veterans were.
Author Yuval Noah Harari writes in his book, ‘Homo Deus’ that “Democratic elections usually work only within populations that have some prior common bond … They are a method to settle disagreements among people who already agree on the basics.” One of these “basics’ in our democracy is, of course, truth. If truth based on facts, which Trump often disputes, cannot be agreed upon, then the entire framework of our democracy collapses.
Stanford political scientist, Adam Bonica contends that “among advanced democracies, turnout in national elections is a strong predictor of income inequality.” And that “the United States has both the lowest turnout and highest share of income going to the top 1 percent.” He adds that “there are good theoretical reasons to believe the two are related.”
So, not only is our democracy being challenged by an administration that doesn’t seem to believe in the concept, the lack of civic participation by the electorate is allowing Trump’s cabinet of 21st century robber barons to widen the gulf between the haves and the have nots even further.
Protecting our democracy not only depends on electing strong candidates who want more income equality in America and who would provide a check on the president’s worst impulses, but also those who will support initiatives to increase voter turnout. Making Election Day a national holiday, eliminating felon disenfranchisement and updating the technological infrastructure of our voting systems is a good start.
There’s a lot at stake in these 2018 midterms. And there’s no excuse for not showing up. It’s absolutely essential that voters turn out this election season to support our democracy and fight the efforts from within this White House to weaken it.
Pew Research finds that Democratic turnout in midterm primaries has increased 84% from this point in 2014. That’s a good indicator that many Americans are alarmed by what they are witnessing across today’s political landscape and are seeking candidates who will protect the ‘basics’ of our democracy.
So where do you stand? Nothing is more basic than voting. Our democracy is at the crossroads, and America needs your civic participation now more than ever. It’s time to perform your civic duty and vote. We’ll see you at the polls.