To Undecided Republican Voters

A recent poll I read stated that 90% of voters in America already know who they’re going to vote for, and nothing will change their minds. So this is directed at the 10% of you who still haven’t decided between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Here’s the thing: America is fragile. America hangs together by a lick and a promise, as the old saying goes – a promise that we all make, because we’re citizens of the greatest country on earth, to uphold our democracy, to stand up for one another, to maintain our Constitution. Our Constitution, as I’ve come to believe in the past year, is only viable so long as we believe in it – and only so long as those who have power for the moment are willing to uphold it. It requires vigilance. It requires honor. It requires diligence.

“. . . we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” Words you might remember from studying the Declaration of Independence at some point in school. This is the last line of the document that officially severed our ties with Great Britain, and cast us into a war for independence. The men who signed it did so knowing they were now traitors to the crown. Knowing that if we lost, they were going to be drawn and quartered. Every single man who signed it knew that – and signed it anyway. They believed enough in the promise of America and its people that they were willing to risk their lives in the effort to see it come into existence.

We have never had consensus about our government. There has always been contention about the size of government, about whether we’re a country or a confederacy of states, about taxes, about industry vs. agriculture, about expansion, colonialism, voting rights – you name it, we’ve argued about it. But in all of America’s history, we’ve never faced a moment like this. We’ve never been this close to losing everything we grew up knowing and believing in.

The Constitution is an amazing document. The pinnacle of the Enlightenment, the product of thousands of years of government experiments, forged in the years after the Revolutionary War when we weren’t sure what we were going to be yet, and written by men who were flawed and knew it. They created a document that could guide us, that could be amended as America changed. And we have amended it. We have interpreted it. And for 231 years, it has guided us and governed us. But it depends on us for its survival.

If you’re a Republican, and you’re wavering, torn about what to do because you’ve always voted Republican, because being Republican is part of who you are – and yet, there is a part of you that hesitates – know you’re not alone. And please know this: the Republican party of today is not the Republican party you knew. Did Reagan, or George Bush, or George W. Bush, advocate racism? White supremacy? Did any of them actively seek to divide the nation, or to destroy it from the inside out? No. They sought to strengthen American, to make us an economic powerhouse, to further our foreign influence, to keep us a world leader.

Trump has done none of those things. Every day, it becomes more clear that he has ties to foreign entities FAR beyond what a president should have. Jimmy Carter famously gave up his farm when he became President, so that there could never be any conflict of interest, no hint of wrongdoing. Trump has, at every opportunity, used the office to his own ends. He has used it to enrich himself by putting up dignitaries at his own hotels, then overcharging the government for it. He’s used it as leverage to further his own business interests. And it’s now clear that not only is he massively in debt, but those debts are to foreign countries. China. Russia. Saudi Arabia. Our two biggest enemies, and one nation that could be an enemy, if the winds blow the wrong direction. Is this what we want? Is this what the Republican party is now about? Selling us out?

Further, Trump has weakened America’s stance in the world. The world no longer looks to us as a leader. That honor has now gone to the trifecta of France, Germany, and Canada. Great countries, all of them – but ever since the Spanish-American War, America’s influence upon the world has been unquestioned. This nation, which won two world wars, put down Nazism, has dedicated itself to fighting dictators and tyrannies since our conception – this nation, our nation, now stands poised to lose it all, for at the moment we have authoritarians, not statesmen.

I’m a liberal Independent. I never liked George W. Bush. I disagreed with many of his policies and positions. But on 9/11, when it mattered most, he was not a Republican president; he was our president. He was our rock. He was our leader. He shared our grief and he rose to the occasion, and when he spoke, we knew that he stood with us all.

Can you imagine, now, Donald Trump in that moment? Can you imagine him standing at Ground Zero, with the fires still raging, the dead still not found, the families still searching, and being what George W. Bush was for us that night? Because I cannot. I can imagine him bellowing and raging at who to blame and who to kill, and how he great he is. That’s all. I can’t imagine him rallying us as a nation to stand together, unified in a national tragedy. Why? Because he’s had that chance, and he’s failed every single time.

Trump has made a mockery of the Constitution. He’s made a mockery of the most sacred office in our land. And he’s brought the GOP down with him. Ask yourself: do you recognize your own party anymore? I have Republican friends (yes, I do!), and one of them voted, for the first time ever, a straight Democrat ticket this year because the Republican party of today is no longer aligned with his values.

Every single person elected for office swears an oath to uphold the Constitution. What can you say about a party that used to care about this, but is now led by people who see the Constitution as little more than a speed bump on the road to authoritarianism? The Republican leadership has enabled a man who dishonors not only Christianity, but also the Constitution that took so many years to draft and has served us so well. The Constitution is an extraordinary document, unique in history. Trump has brought in people to enable him to circumvent – and in some cases outright defy – the Constitution. Miller, Barr – these people have no loyalty to the Constitution or to America, but only to Trump. They swore to uphold the Constitution, but Trump has hijacked that and made it about loyalty to him. And Trump is NOT equal to the Constitution. It’s not about loyalty to the office of the President; it’s about loyalty to him. And that is authoritarianism.

Those are the things I cannot stand for, and cannot forgive. We, the people, have elected people who care not about America, but about power. The Republicans have had leadership – very good leaders, men like Eisenhower, and George W. Bush. Men who were real men. Men who served in the armed forces, who understood honor, who fought for us and would have died for our country if necessary. Men who loved America and did their best to leave it a better place (even if some of those efforts were misguided). It is now up to us – ALL of us – to stand up for America.

Right now, party labels are not important. What’s important is that we are all, first and foremost, Americans.

Vote for America. Vote for democracy. Vote for our Constitution.

Vote for Joe Biden. Not because you’re a Democrat or a liberal or any other label, but simply because you are an American, and you give a damn about the continuance of our democracy.

We’ll figure out the rest later.

For a list of prominent Republicans who are crossing party lines to support Joe Biden, see this article: https://www.newsweek.com/nearly-350-prominent-republicans-voting-joe-biden-1540611 And if I may quote former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, this election “isn’t about a Republican or Democrat. It’s about a person: a person decent enough, stable enough, strong enough to get our economy back on track.”

Is America a Democracy? Only if you vote.

Here we sit. One month away from the moment where the American experiment continues, or whether we go down in a blaze of fascism led by a an orange toddler too stupid to take a pandemic seriously.

I know a lot of people out there – maybe yourself included – find this doomsday scenario farfetched. I am not alone, however. Our system is not just flawed at the moment; it’s almost irretrievably broken.

A democracy is literally the power of the people. WE decide. WE vote. WE elect. WE determine. WE direct. But it’s not that way anymore, is it? Nope, I hear you – we still have elections, you idiot. Of course we still have the power to elect. Stop with the doomsday stuff already, liberal.* Well, here’s the thing. In a true democracy, everyone with the right to vote should have the means and opportunity to vote. Otherwise, it’s not a democracy. And that’s not the case in America anymore.

Take, for example, this week’s action by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Like all states, Texas provides for absentee ballots. However, Abbot issued an order this week limiting the number of drop-off boxes for absentee ballots to one per county. That’s it. Now, let me explain why that’s a bad idea. There are 254 counties in Texas. The largest is Brewster County, which covers more than 500 square miles. (That’s three times the size of Delaware, BTW.) Although the county seat, Alpine, is the only true ‘city,’ the county is broken down into four major school districts and has three ‘census-designated areas’. In other words, it’s a large, extremely rural area where most people have to travel a long ways to buy groceries. Now. In this county alone, how is it possible to have ONE absentee ballot box? How far will people need to travel to drop it off? And – which is Abbott’s point in all this – will they? He’s hoping they won’t.

This is just the latest example of the erosion of voter rights that has been going on for some time – at least 30 years – and is only now manifesting itself. All erosions are unconstitutional. All of them violate the 14th and 15th Amendments, and usually the 19th Amendment, and all of them violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

No, voter suppression is not a new thing, you’re right. It’s been ongoing since just after the Civil War, when the white supremacist South couldn’t stand the idea of black men being equal to them, so the utilized every dirty trick in the book – and some they had to invent – to keep them from voting. Everything from literacy laws (‘read this paragraph of the Constitution to me, and you can vote’), to the infamous ‘grandfather clause’ (if your grandfather could vote in 1860, you could vote), to poll taxes, to out-and-out intimidation, usually by having Klan members in full bedsheets standing outside the voting booths on election day. Today, it’s a lot more subtle; they take pains to make it seem legal. Like Abbott’s declaration, or Florida’s new law stating that nonviolent ex-felons can’t vote unless all fines and fees are paid – thus disenfranchising over 1 million people, most of whom are people of color and/or of low economic status. Some will argue that this is fine. Others will argue that this is a violation of the Voting Rights Act – in essence, a poll tax. Either way, it’s preventing these people from voting. (Michael Bloomberg did raise funds – over $16 million – to pay fees for some of those disenfranchised voters, BTW.)

No. It’s clear the system is broken. And it’s clear that this is a long con – something that’s been in the works for decades, as Republicans slowly erode our rights away. In fact, I’d argue that we stand on the brink – if we’re not there already – of being neither a democracy nor a republic, but an oligarchy. Because partisan courts have turned a blind eye to their tricks, like gerrymandering (which is unconstitutional), or purposely kicking people of color off the voting rolls (Georgia), the people no longer have the power – which is the very meaning of democracy.

Can we get it back? Yes, but it will take some luck, belief, and a long-term, sustained effort – and, to quote Mad-Eye Moody, constant vigilance! We can’t for one second take the eye off the ball. And there are things we can do to mitigate circumstances so that we don’t end up back here again – or at least, so we don’t end up back here again soon – but it will take a real conversation about our democracy, our history, and our future. It will take a real commitment not to power or prestige, but to patriotism. It will take a commitment not to party or partisan politics, but to people. It will take a commitment to America itself.

We can save it. Our first step has to be to vote on November 3. Or to vote by mail. To request an absentee ballot. To VOTE, period. If you’re not yet registered to vote, go register! Every state has a different deadline to register, so check here – https://www.vote.org/voter-registration-deadlines/ – to find out your state’s deadline, or check out your state’s election office (usually part of the Secretary of State’s office).

Let me make a special plea to the 18-24 year olds out there – you will hear your elders, maybe even your parents, tell you you shouldn’t vote because you don’t know the candidates, don’t know how government works, don’t know the issues. DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM. You can become informed. Today, it’s easier than ever. You can make your voice heard. You can determine the kind of nation YOU want to live in. Here. Now. This is your moment. And you Millennials – those of you between 23 – 38? You outnumber the Baby Boomers now. Go register. Go vote. My students can’t wait to get to vote. They’re ready. We are still a democracy, damn it, and your vote does matter.

And if we win in a month, then we have a lot of work to do, a lot of changes to make, to ensure we are never standing here again, on the line between democracy and fascism.

* Also, there are a lot of countries, like China and Russia, which have elections, but those elections are meaningless because there’s only one party, and only one person to vote for. Elections in and of themselves don’t make a democracy; the right of voters to choose, to determine the path forward, is what makes a democracy.