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Saving our democracy

If Americans only care about winning elections, we will lose our right to them.

We must start caring about–and acting on– the beliefs that make democracy possible.

Yes, the institutions of democracy are of great importance. Elections are the keystone and must be honest, held at regular intervals, allow most people to vote, and accept competing candidates. Honest and nonpartisan judges must interpret law objectively. A military must be loyal to the United States, not just a faction, and protect us from coups.

Five democracies died in 2021 alone.

We need media–professional and social–that respects facts. Spin is inescapable–just selecting facts reveals spin. Lies about major issues and persons, however, are an attack on our democracy.

And public education must provide skills that create options for fulfillment and an understanding of the beliefs that make democracy possible.

And shared beliefs are the foundation for these institutions.

We must recognize that all people have the rights we do. Choosing to disobey a mask mandate may put others in danger, but harassing people who choose to wear masks endangers democracy itself. It says others do not have the freedom of choice I demand for myself.

During the last century America has recognized that people who are different from the majority still share our rights. Citizens of color have the right to vote, even those living on reservations. People of different races and/or the same gender may marry. We all may choose to use acupuncture or herbs or prayer alone, rather than mainstream medicine.

As responsible members of a democracy. we must honor majority rule. Yes, I think my new state senator is wrong to oppose all abortions, even those to save the mother’s life. Who will care for the older children after the mother’s gone? But my senator was elected by a majority of citizens in my district and I will respect his responsibilities.

On the other hand, those Idaho legislators who don’t believe federal or state money should fund individuals’ health insurance must respect that the majority of Idaho voters support it.

And citizens of a democracy have to accept compromise as necessary. Most Democrats fighting for the Affordable Care Act opposed fining those who didn’t buy health insurance. Republicans, however, insisted no fine would allow people to put off paying for policies until they were already ill. Similarly, most Democrats opposed including new drilling opportunities for oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico in the recent Inflation Reduction Act. They accepted it to get the necessary votes.

In 1998 the Supreme Court ruled against the President having a line-item veto. A bill is not a collection of separate clauses, but a compromise negotiated by members of Congress.

This past week we learned that 34 members of Congress texted with Mark Meadows’, President Trump’s final chief of staff, about what could be done to prevent Joe Biden’s inauguration as President. In 56 court cases, Trump’s lawyers had failed to produce any of the massive amount of evidence they’d told the public they had, yet Congress members–who should understand court cases–went so far as to ask President Trump to declare martial law to prevent Biden from being inaugurated.

Accepting the will of the majority is the basic principle of democracy. Why even have elections if a person receiving 7,000,000 more popular votes and 74 more electoral votes isn’t elected?

The “rule of law” is also important. Laws are to be written and apply to everyone. They may be rewritten as necessary–Social Security has been amended 100 times– but current law must be accepted as law.

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