A democracy, yes or no?

Posted on October 21, 2020

The upcoming election will determine whether the United States of America remains a democracy, at least something like it, or it becomes some form of plutocracy, oligarchy and/or kleptocracy.

If we pursued our nation’s ideals and values, democracy – meaning government of, by and for the people – would be our most fundamental freedom. In fact, the right to vote is the most important freedom in a democracy because it defines democracy.

There was a time when the United States Supreme Court agreed. In the landmark one-man-one-vote case, Reynolds v. Sims (1964), Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote:

Undeniably, the Constitution of the United States protects the right of all qualified citizens to vote, in state as well as in federal, elections. A consistent line of decisions by this Court in cases involving attempts to deny or restrict the right of suffrage has made this indelibly clear. It has been repeatedly recognized that all qualified voters have a constitutionally protected right to vote and to have their votes counted.” [citations deleted]

And, after all, government by the people was the fundamental idea of America. We fought a Revolution against the enactment of laws without representation, which was anathema because “all men are created equal.” Sure, our founding fathers were hypocrites when it came to representation by and for slaves, native Americans, immigrants and women. But we are now broadminded enough to understand that the Equal Protection Clause in our Constitution’s 14th Amendment represents not only good law, but good philosophy and morality, that is:

[Governments shall not] abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

It is all “citizens” and “persons” who must be treated equally, without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, or anything else. And yet, despite the clear meaning of the 14th Amendment and Supreme Court precedents, conservative-dominated Supreme Courts have substantially undermined the right to vote.

Today, voter registration is restricted, voting by mail is under attack, some states have obsolete “for-cause,” witness and signature-matching requirements for absentee ballots, and many have unreasonable voter ID rules. These are all Jim Crow-style segregationist tactics. They are designed to suppress the vote, which should be unconstitutional.

The American right wing has never considered “democracy” to be it’s aim. But now, they’re even saying the “quiet part” out loud.

Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prosperity are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.

That was tweeted by U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) just two weeks ago. Today’s conservatives don’t want democracy, they want the power to determine the meaning of liberty, peace, and prosperity. And they want to deliver those values to themselves by denying them to everyone else.

Progressives, on the other hand, believe the right to vote is a fundamental freedom. And because America ought to be the leading democracy in the world, our election system must be free, fair and accessible to everyone. That’s the choice we face. A democracy, yes or no?