Fight To Protect A Fair Democracy
I voted for Hillary Clinton yet I am responsible for the election of Donald Trump. Why would I assume this responsibility?
More broadly, if Democrats garnered more votes in the 2012, 2014 and 2016 congressional elections, then why did the Republicans win more seats? These facts call into question how solid our democracy is if a continual majority of votes fails to equate with power.
The reasons for this injustice are not great mysteries. In fact, they laid in plain sight. The first is gerrymandering. In 2011, Republicans redrew congressional districts to crunch urban primarily Democratic voters into single districts so the remaining districts were heavily rural and red (e.g., Florida’s 5th Congressional District).
The second is voter suppression. Republicans across the country have passed strict voter ID laws; consider that in certain states you can use a gun license to vote but not a student ID! They have also reduced early voting to suppress the poor and predominantly black voter block.
This is where my responsibility comes into play. Since I was aware of these injustices, surely I protested? Nope, I assumed my Democratic officials would remedy these injustices and that other people would fight the fight. I simply watched my beloved democracy fall apart. So can I really now claim shock at the election of Trump and his brazen assertions of nonexistent voter fraud?
If anything positive comes out of what we as a nation did on Nov. 8, maybe it is this: It woke a majority out of its complacent stupor. I regularly engage my representatives now to let them know that I will no longer allow for unjust power plays to erode our country’s core principles. I am not alone — nearly 6,000 grassroots Indivisible groups have sprouted up in every corner of our beautiful nation with members resisting through phone calls, town halls, protest marches and running for office.
There is more reason for optimism. The state and federal justice systems have ruled the gerrymandering of 2011 to be unconstitutional in Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Virginia and Texas. Likewise, voter suppression has been deemed unconstitutional in several states.
If you are a Republican politician reliant on gerrymandering and voter suppression to be elected, what do you do when the courts rule these practices unconstitutional? Expand your base so you can win elections by receiving a majority of the votes? Or I guess you could reduce the power of the judicial system … but that would undermine the very essence of our democracy so no one would do that, right?
You can imagine my dismay when I read about efforts of Florida Republicans to disempower our justice system. State Rep. Julio Gonzalez and Sen. Keith Perry have filed matching bills in their respective legislative bodies requesting an amendment to our state and federal constitutions that would allow court decisions to be overridden by a majority vote of Congress — meaning they want to remove those precious checks and balances!
Likewise, U.S. rep. Ted Yoho penned his own opinion piece recently where he stated: “Congress can change the composition of the courts, it can withhold funds from the judicial branch, or it can impeach the judges themselves.” One must wonder at what point Republicans will stop trying to undermine our democracy in order to maintain power and will instead focus on broadening their base.
But one promise I make today — I will no longer sit back complacently and wait for an answer. I will fight these efforts in town halls, in the streets, at the ballot box. To Gonzalez and Perry: You require a vote by the people to change our Constitution and I will fight you tirelessly to ensure people understand the undemocratic ramifications of such a vote. To Gonzalez, Perry and Yoho: I will actively fight against your re-election since your actions reveal your lack of respect for our democracy.
Most importantly, I will teach my children to be engaged in their democracy because this is a lesson that must not only be learned but passed on to future generations. We the people have failed our Founding Fathers. They expected more of us. They expected us to protect this beautiful country not just one day every four years but every day we are lucky enough to be a part of it.
I now recognize that our democracy is not guaranteed simply because of a piece of paper that lays out its framework, that the Constitution only defines us as a nation when its citizens stand up and demand that our politicians adhere to its core principles. I now understand what every great politician has preached — that our democracy is fragile and must be protected rigorously and continuously.