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Democracy Dead or Alive? On Activism and a Retrospective

Democracy crucified
Democracy crucified
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A simple question: if Senators Sinema and Manchin can obstruct a bill that will save democracy from the clutches of fascism, is this a democracy? When one person or two people can destroy it, dictatorship seems likely. Is democracy already dead, as many assert? We all know that in the Senate one vote can represent 350,000 people and another as many as twenty million. We know that in Congress, though Democrats gleaned more than two million votes in excess of Republicans in 2020, that Republicans occupy only 12 seats fewer than the majority party and this is bound to change in the national election this year. Unless--and I am cynical about this optimistic term--unless we enlighten a public fixated on the belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. We are up against it because the red party, the extremist branch of it, is so aggressively active at local levels, with a degree of ingenuity and intensity the liberals and progressives would be wise and foresightful to emulate. Is it too late?

The right wing are also unscrupulous. But if we others tried it, how the their media would slam us.

Not that the devil/angel dichotomy is that blatant. But we mostly lack guns and the willingness to use violence to further our goals. Not that I'm advocating violence but, again, imagination as a crucial weapon, butter over guns. HOW? Take to the streets nonviolently, as some advocate?

I'm not a political strategist. Shall we recruit from creatively focused elements, the way that Wall Street recently recruited physicists? Do artists and poets hold the answers? Can they save democracy?

It's not solely unscrupulousness that's empowering the white supremacists. But close. There's insight into where power resides. Locally. And I associate grassroots activism far more on the blue than the red side. 2010 was a watershed moment where rightwing grassroots activism triumphed massively, with the takeover of 63 seats in the House of Representatives, six in the US Senate, as well as 20 state legislatures. David Daley documents the abundant ingenuity that accomplished these results in his masterful book Ratf**ked.

Re activism, I'm thinking of all the antiwar protests that weren't counterbalanced by those in support of the various wars that have tarnished our recent history. But activism occurs at many levels besides the streets. Remember the smoke-filled rooms? They still exist without tobacco polluting the air. Politics can pollute lethally, of course, beyond backroom conferences.

How to define activism? My view has been all too narrow. The Webster's definition is "a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue."

Democracy entails activism. Which side is more active? What a tragedy that the more effective, successful side is working to destroy it. Democrats will have to work lots harder to reverse what seems inevitable. But white supremacy can't last. It may be overthrown violently. And then what of democracy?

Meanwhile, are those of us alive today doomed to witness its downfall? Will belated ingenuity 10 months before the next general election save the day?

Note: I regret having to dichotomize society in such a partisan fashion. It's simply true that 70 million voters, mostly Republican, opted for Trump in 2020 and a majority of those people believe that the election was stolen from him. Consider that "[a]pproximately 240 million people were eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election and roughly 66.1% of them submitted ballots, totaling about 158 million." How many of those who stayed away were independent or nonpartisan? How many were stricken from voter rolls? How many convinced that their votes didn't count? How many simply indifferent? How many had partisan affiliations? How many didn't? As a recent (but pre-2020) rule, more than 50 percent of Independents stay away from the polls. Many went for Biden by a significant margin in 2020 but many since then have soured on him. For more answers, see Some answers only.

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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