A Citizen’s Guide to Saving US Democracy
I asked a politician, an activist and a professor who studies democracy. And there were also some interesting thoughts from Karl Rove.
Barbara Walter is a professor at the University of California San Diego and has published a new book, How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them.
She is among those who warned that the country’s democracy is in a dangerous place.
When I asked her what Americans could do in everyday life to protect democracy, she sent back a thoughtful and long email that I will reduce to a few important points.
“If they did vote, it might change the composition of Congress and break the power of the minority in many places,” said Walter.
“It would be very, very difficult for politicians to refuse to reform our democracy if only three percent of Americans continued to protest on the streets until changes were made,” said Walter. “Americans did this during the civil rights era, when citizens demanded equal rights and freedoms for African Americans and the government responded and satisfied the desire for equality and justice.”
Connect. That last thought caught my attention. Walter shared an excerpt from her book in which she argues that Americans must recapture and mediate public discourse so that we can “get off the path of self-segregating, predatory factioning and restore hope for the long-term health of our country”. She gave examples of local groups around the country trying to get people to talk.
“Americans have begun to see how fragile our democracy is and are taking steps to preserve it,” said Walter. “At the local level – in churches, voluntary associations and grassroots groups – we can come together again and relearn the power of citizenship and the community.”
There are many activist groups trying to get more Americans involved in the political process. RepresentUs is a group committed to fighting corruption at the federal level and passing laws at the local level.
âStay up to date with multiple credible news sources and join the conversation in your community,â Joshua Graham Lynn, CEO of RepresentUS, told me in an email.
âWhen you see your local election officials, school authorities, poll workers and other democracy guards attacked, come to your aid. It could be anything from sending a quick email of support to attending community meetings, âsaid Lynn.
I’m adding here that you can call your local election office and see if there are any vacancies. We know from Steve Bannon that Trump supporters try to fill as many election-related positions as possible.
âDuring this time of heightened fear, it can be tempting to turn off the world. But we really need all hands on deck to make sure our democracy doesn’t collapse, âsaid Lynn.
Don’t generalize. Accept facts.
Being respectful and honest is and should not be partial.
One of the more interesting developments this week was that former Vice President Dick Cheney – once denigrated by the Democrats as Darth Vader – showed up on Capitol Hill to show his support for the January 6 investigation that his daughter’s Representative was conducting Liz Cheney helps.
Stop generalizing about Republicans. Democrats would have to resist the “little habit of exacerbating partisan fault lines by indiscriminately condemning everyone who came to Washington that day.”
Accept facts. He proved the need for the Democrats to separate the Republicans of goodwill from those who stormed the Capitol, and admitted that his own party has more work to do.
I was shocked when I saw these words from Rove:
“I have been a Republican all my life and I believe in what the Republican Party has represented in its best form for decades. There can be no mitigation or absolution for those who planned, encouraged and supported the attempt.” overthrow our democracy. Love for the fatherland demands nothing less. That is true patriotism. “
Respect each other
Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, now a CNN contributor, is a Republican who criticized Trump and ran against him in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.
He recognized the January 6 threat, and when I asked him on Friday what Americans should do in everyday life to protect democracy, he had an answer:
“The most important thing we can do as individuals is Realize the intrinsic worth of everyone else – even people we don’t like, people we disagree with, people we argue with, maybe people who make us so angry that we offend them. ”
I pushed him to see how that would help save democracy.
“Because then people have, you know, we have a number of expectations.”
We then panned into an anecdote that he had to accept a friend who chose not to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
“It’s very frustrating and it makes some of us angry that he won’t. Okay, but basically I care about him and respect him as a person.”
I haven’t followed the link between Covid-19 and democracy and the conversation seemed to excite Kasich, who said there was no superficial answer.
âI know you’re looking for a succinct little line here. I’ll give it to you, âhe said. “Until we all start to see the intrinsic worth of all people, we will continue to erode and have dangers in our culture and in the … strength of our country.”