The State of Democracy in 2022

Photo courtesy of PBS

Photo courtesy of PBS

At the time of release, this will have come out a day after the second anniversary of the 2020 election. With that marks two years since the most contentious election in US history. For months afterward conservatives and Trump supporters across the country touted the theory that the election was stolen from Trump due to widespread voter fraud on the part of the Democrats. 

That is not true, of course. “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” said a statement issued by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (which Trump signed into law) a week after the election.“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

As we all know, this baseless theory ultimately led to the riot at the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, which was the greatest attack on America’s democratic systems in history. Attacks like this haven’t been seen since the Civil War.

For anyone who tries to deny the severity of the riot, let me put this into perspective. 

Incited by former President Trump, thousands of people broke into the Capitol of the most powerful country on earth and started chanting, “Hang Mike Pence!” to which Trump reacted with approval, according to testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, in front of the House January 6 Committee. 

Photo courtesy of The New York Times
Photo courtesy of The New York Times

A mob of people broke into the Capitol Building with firearms calling for the death of the Vice President of the United States of America. That goes well beyond just some people vandalizing and acting like hooligans. There was even a gallows erected outside the building to hang Pence.

Then-president Trump only encouraged them. “Mike Pence, I hope you are gonna stand up for the good of our constitution and for the good of our country,” he said in a speech on the day of the Insurrection, before the mob stormed the Capitol. “And if you’re not I’m going to be very disappointed in you.” 

In a later Tweet that can only be described as a despot desperately holding on to power, Trump wrote, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”

Furthermore, the people broke into the Senate floor and attempted to steal classified documents and property. They broke into the Capitol with the direct intent of stopping the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Because of the political opportunism of Donald Trump and the ineptitude of Capitol Police, they nearly succeeded. 

It must also be said that despite the enormous amount of political pressure placed on him by Trump and his allies, such as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, Mike Pence acted with more integrity and presidentiality during this fateful moment than Trump had during his entire presidency. After evacuating the Senate chambers, Pence’s Secret Service detail urged him to leave the building, to which Pence said, “I’m not getting in that car.”

I may not agree with Pence politically, but the integrity he showed that day very well could have saved American democracy. By refusing to leave the Capitol, he not only preserved the image of the US government abroad but also effectively stopped an attempted coup. 

Had he left the building, he would have vindicated the crowd’s storming of the building. Pence kept the American

Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Capital Star
Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Capital Star

constitutional order by staying until he had finished his duty of certifying the electoral college votes. In an upcoming memoir Pence writes that Trump’s actions after the 2020 election reached a “New Low.” In a speech to the Federalist Society, he said, “I heard. . . that President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election, but President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone and frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person can choose the American president. Under the constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election.”

So where does this cascade of events leave us today? 

Well, it leaves us at a pivotal crossroads in the grand scheme of history. 60% of Americans will have the choice to vote for candidates who deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election. They’ll also have to contend with a rise in anti-democratic policies such as voter suppression laws. 

Already Republican candidates are preemptively claiming the election is illegitimate. This trend does not seem like it will end any time soon. If allowed to continue, this tendency to claim that an election is fake could ultimately lead to the destruction of democracy itself. If half the political spectrum believes that our elections are illegitimate, then the foundations of our democracy will crumble.

Democracy requires that the will of the people be heard. If so many citizens do not feel like they are being heard no election will be seen as free and fair, even if it is. President Biden was right when he said recently that we are now engaged in “the most significant test of democracy since the Civil War.”

Right here in PA, we have candidates who tried to undermine the constitutional process. 

Gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano was at the Capitol on January 6th and participated in the Insurrection. Along with him, 10 other major candidates across the country participated in the January 6th riot. 

With Trump poised to run in 2024, the threat against democracy lives on. Political violence is on the rise thanks to the flames that have been stoked by Trump and Republican allies. Just this last week there was a direct assassination attempt on the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

A lone assailant broke into her home, demanding to know, “Where’s Nancy?!” the same phrase that was chanted at the US Capitol. Thankfully, she was still in Washington D.C., but her husband was beaten with a hammer and sustained a fractured skull. 

In response to this loathsome political violence, conservatives have defended the attack both directly and indirectly or have spun it in a way to own the liberals without any regard for the fact that the third most powerful official in the country had an attempt on her life.

We are now in a country rife with (and almost overrun by) sore losers.  In a governmental system like ours that requires frequent transitions of power, sore losers cannot be allowed, or else democracy itself may fall. 

For the next upcoming elections not only is abortion, inflation, or national security on the ballot but also democracy itself. We are now in the most important electoral period of our lives. Democracy and freedom are never guaranteed; it is up to every generation to act as the vanguard to protect them. Now, our ticket is up.

So, vote like our democracy itself is at stake. Because it is.