Let’s Make More Of Democracy Than We Have Been
“I toast democracy not alone for what it is, but chiefly for what it may become; not merely for what it has done, but also for what it makes possible for us and our children to do. Its road to the future leads through discussion, reasoning, persuasion, experiment, trial and error. Progressive democracy does not lead through violence, revolts, or armed coercion. It leaves our destiny with no limitations except those which our own minds impose and no pitfalls except those that might be dug by a failing faith. It is our heritage and our hope — and we mean to keep it.”
— Robert H. Jackson, January 19, 1941, keynote speech at a Washington, D.C., gala dinner for the presidential electors.
We live in a time of division, but even in times such as these with partisan strife there is no room in our society for what we saw in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Nor, for that matter, is there room for the baseless accusations of voter fraud that have flown from the lips of President Donald Trump and the team he has assembled around him. That doesn’t mean this year’s election was perfect, nor does it mean there isn’t room for improvement. Our nation has shown itself capable of making significant changes to election laws and procedures when the need has arisen in the past, such as the hanging chad fiasco in Florida in 2000. In the turbulent wake of the 2020 election, there should be discussion on election security, how mail-in voting should be undertaken and ensuring that ballots received through the mail be counted without a weeks-long wait. We must be able to discuss rationally the issues that have been raised during this election cycle so that they can be dealt with. While there isn’t proof of widespread fraud that should prevent President-elect Joe Biden from being seated, there are enough credible questions to merit future discussions.
There must be room for debate about reforms that make the country’s elections more secure without those debates devolving into what we saw this week. People will disagree on policy, but our political discourse has become so venomous that it set the stage for Wednesday’s violence.
That is unacceptable.
Congress did the right thing Wednesday night, returning to session and validating the election of President-elect Joe Biden. We wish the vote had been unanimous or, frankly, that objections to Biden’s election had simply been dropped. Still the most important tasks were accomplished. Congress spoke swiftly and forcefully to certify Biden’s election. There will be a new president on Jan. 20, and no amount of stolen election rhetoric will prevent that. We’re sure voters will remember the representatives who spread that particular brand of rubbish.
Back in January 1790, President George Washington said “The establishment of our new Government seemed to be the last great experiment for promoting human happiness.” We fear that experiment has reached a boiling point. Never in our nation’s history have we seen what happened in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. It’s not too late to change our course. One place to start is dealing swiftly and consistently with any form of protest that turns violent. The reaction to violence in many American cities this summer that resulted in burned buildings, looting and damaged businesses should be the same as the reaction in the wake of Wednesday’s violence.
From the darkness of Wednesday’s riot we can all — Democrats and Republicans and everyone at all points along the political spectrum — resolve to save this experiment from going awry. The villification must end on all accounts. Democrats and Republicans aren’t sworn enemies. They are Americans who have different ideas about how to lift our country to its highest and best future.
We deserve better. Our nation deserves better. As Jackson said some 80 years ago, we toast democracy not for what it is, but what it may become. Frankly, it will be what we make of it. Let’s make something better than what we have seen in recent events.