Republicans Allowed White Nationalism To Destroy Our Democratic Contract. It's Time To Write A New One.
The unwritten democratic contract doesn’t work with only one side following the rules.
February 03, 2021 at 2:34 pm
It has become clear we can no longer rely on the Republican Party to hold up its end of the democratic contract. So it’s time to write a new one.
Many are still basking in the glow of the Biden-Harris inauguration, but we cannot forget last month’s insurrection and its aftermath. Hundreds of Republicans in Congress voted for what was once unthinkable — overturning the legitimate results of an election. Together with President Trump, they repeatedly promoted conspiracy theories that instigated a violent mob of white nationalists to attack the U.S. Capitol.
Many headlines the next day labeled the attack an insurrection and demanded accountability. But accountability for the individual rioters, or even the President, is not enough. We cannot truly prevent a repeat of the attack on the Capitol without reforming our democracy. It’s what we, on behalf of the people who mobilized to prevent our system from crumbling, demand.
Make no mistake: the attack on the Capitol was years in the making. It was the logical next step in the Republican Party's decades-long campaign to delegitimize the voices, votes and lives of Black and brown folks. For years the Republican Party and their allies in the right-wing media pushed for partisan gerrymandering, restrictions to the vote and unlimited money in our elections, and then enabled and encouraged a President who violated every democratic norm to challenge his election loss. Thousands of organizers, activists and volunteers — many of them from these same Black and brown communities — are the reason why he couldn’t steal the election outright.
We know there are decent Republican voters, but they have become a minority voice in their own party, drowned out by leadership that fundamentally disdains our democracy. The GOP as it is does not welcome a spirited and principled debate over which policies will provide a brighter, more just future for America. It does not want elections at all. It just wants power, without challenge.
Before the January 6 insurrection, most people didn’t fully realize how close we came to losing our democracy this year. We would not have made it through in November and December without the dedication of thousands of organizers putting in uncountable hours of work over the past four years and especially in the months leading up to Election Day.
It was organizers and communities in Detroit who mobilized hundreds of voters to call out Republicans on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers for their racist attempt to block the certification of results — and get them to change course and vote to certify. As the Trump campaign targeted Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballots, it was local faith and civil rights leaders who launched an effort to monitor the vote count in all 67 counties and beat back unfounded legal challenges in the courts. And as a small, fringe minority chanted “stop the steal” in the streets, organizers deliberately created a joyful celebratory contrast by turning out thousands of people to applaud democracy and demand that every vote was counted.
It is not the few “principled” Republican election officials who saved our democracy, but this grassroots multi-racial movement that did, despite all attempts to thwart it. It is unsustainable for our democracy to depend on these organizers. If we want to survive another election, we have work to do.
If we want to preserve our democracy, we need to overhaul the skewed rules that make it possible for white nationalism and autocratic values to dictate the Republican Party’s agenda and the chances of success in Republican primaries.
The unwritten democratic contract doesn’t work with only one side following the rules. We need concrete, legislative reforms to our democracy, and the new administration has a critical role to play in pushing for them, especially given the Democratic wins in Georgia.
To truly restore power to the people and allow democracy to live up to its ideals, we need President Biden to work quickly with Congress to enact the For the People Act into law to expand access to the vote, fight gerrymandering and reduce the influence of money in politics. He must work to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and push for the Protecting Our Democracy Act to constrain the power of future presidents who deem themselves above the law.
Already, just weeks after Georgia became a battleground state, elected leaders across swing states are working harder than ever to strip access to the ballot in ways that will disproportionately affect voters of color. They are pushing to curb no-excuse absentee voting, prohibit voters from dropping off mail-in ballots at polling places, stiffen identification requirements for mail ballots, tighten standards for signature matching, curtail in-person early voting, and “review” same-day registration and straight-ticket voting. Right-wing media continue to push lies about voting and elections to give cover to these voter suppression efforts. The legislation we’re demanding would do much to prevent these kinds of efforts.
Though the general election is over, threats to our democracy are still very real, and it is unfair to rely on the people who saved our democracy from collapse once again in 2020 to do it every time. If we want to protect this democracy we cherish, it’s time for real changes to the rules that govern it.
Rahna Epting is the Executive Director of MoveOn.
Maurice Mitchell is the National Director of the Working Families Party.