Has it Really Come to This?
By Hal Shepherd
On the one-year anniversary of the insurrection, tens of thousands of Americans across race, place, party, and backgroundshowed up in strength by participating in 350 “January 6th – Day of Remembrance and Action Vigils” across the country.
I find it disheartening that we’ve reached the point where our democracy is so vulnerable we have to hold rallies in support of it. Democracy has long been held as the foundation of our society, such that throughout our history, Americans have fought and died for it. Defending democracy was essential no what matter your other beliefs might be or what political party you belong to – not so anymore.
So, how did we get here? Political experts say that the decline has been ongoing for decades maybe even centuries, but most agree that the culmination of this decline occurred a year ago on January 6th when, as a result of then-President Trumps “Big-Lie,” armed right-wing militants responded with a violent and deadly attack on the Nation’s Capital.
Even before the attack, many GOP political leaders began turning their backs on America’s democratic process during Trump’s presidency. One of the best illustrations of this dangerous lean toward authoritarianism came after the 2020 election when several Republican politicians, including Alaska’s Senator Dan Sullivan and Governor Michael Dunleavy, openly supported and, in Dunleavy’s case, actively participated in Trump’s multiple frivolous election fraud lawsuits.
Because people look to their political leaders for guidance in these situations, the perpetuation of Trump’s ridiculous claims of election fraud by right-wing political leaders and brainwashing by Trump and social media, a significant portion of Republican voters to this day believe that the former president actually won the 2020 election. It was this deliberate effort to keep their base angry and misinformed, along with a faction of elected officials, that incited the deadly attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
One year later, in addition to attempting to block an investigation to cover up their role in the deadline events of January 6, this same faction continues to perpetrate the insurrection mostly at the state level by passing legislation to restrict the freedom to vote, attacking fair voting districts, and quietly preparing future attempts to sabotage free and fair elections.
In Alaska, for example, recent redistricting efforts amounted to nothing more than Republican gerrymandering in order to draw lines making sure progressive candidates could not get elected, or require such candidates to run against each other, or eliminate districts that are traditionally progressive strongholds. As part of the redistricting, the mostly republican members of the state’s Redistricting Board are attempting to give their party another senate seat by awkwardly combining Eagle River with a portion of Anchorage. According to the minority board members, this move is so unconstitutional that they encouraged litigation to overturn it. Then there is Governor Dunleavy’s recent proposal to make sweeping changes to Alaska’s election system. The bill would address the Governor’s “concerns” regarding the state’s voting structure, election security, and redistricting.
The good news is that one year after the January 6 attacks, in response to the GOP’s political tactics to do whatever it takes to get whomever they want elected to congress and the presidency, the pro-democracy movement is waking up. On the one-year anniversary of the insurrection, tens of thousands of Americans across race, place, party, and backgroundshowed up in strength by participating in 350 “January 6th – Day of Remembrance and Action Vigils” across the country. Here in Homer, as part of this effort, 40 brave souls came out on a cold January 6th morning to participate in a vigil at the appropriately named “Wisdom, Knowledge, Love, and Friendship Park” to decry ongoing threats by republican law-makers to dismantle our democracy.
What does the new face of defending democracy look like? First, we must encourage the U.S. Senate and President Biden to pass the following:
o The Freedom to Vote Act - the most significant voting rights and anti-corruption bill in generations will protect the freedom to vote for all Americans, stop partisan gerrymandering, limit the influence of dark money so that billionaires can’t buy elections, and prevent partisan politicians from sabotaging future elections;
o The Protecting Our Democracy Act - a historic pro-democracy-for-all package, will limit the abuse of presidential power and restore fundamental governmental checks and balances;
o The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act - restores and strengthens freedom to vote by federally reviewing any changes to voting rules that potentially discriminate against voters based on race or background;
o DC Statehood - provides an equal voice to the residents of Washington DC and ends more than 200 years of taxation without representation and race discrimination.
The January 6th attack by right-wing militants demonstrates the dangers facing our nation and only further underscores the urgency with which we need to protect and enhance a political system that works for all Americans. The vigils held in Homer, Anchorage, and throughout the country on January 6th are the first step in showing ult-right politicians that we are coming together to protect the rights of all citizens. But most of all, if they are going to try and take away our democracy, it’s not going happen without a fight.
Email your Senators in support of the democracy bills on the Jan6UnityDay.org site via text, email, or social media.