The first anniversary of the January 6 coup attempt is a crucial moment for each of us to renew our commitment to American democracy.
Reactionary forces continue to undermine the rule of law and threaten the integrity of our free and fair elections. The right to vote is under threat. Tonight, people will gather in New Haven, Southbury, Stamford, West Hartford, Westport, Windham, and all across the United States to stand up for democracy. Will you be there, too?
A year ago, the former president and his supporters refused to concede a presidential election that he had lost. They held rallies and launched legal actions to build an entirely false story of voter fraud; over and over again, the courts rejected their evidence-free claims of voter fraud. Tragically, it culminated in their violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. As we now know in great detail, the president and some top officials were actively planning to use illegal means to keep him in power despite his electoral defeat.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s detailed reconstruction of Republicans baselessly attempting to overturn Georgia’s free and fair 2020 election results is only the latest in a string of detailed evidence of anti-democratic actions. And today, in 2022, too many local election officials are under threat for simply running elections and counting votes effectively and democratically.
Yet the facts are clear: the legitimate and properly certified result of the election was the election of Joseph R. Biden as U.S. president, and he took office on January 20, 2021.
The United States is far from the first country to struggle with democratic backsliding. In places like Brazil, Hungary, the Philippines, and Turkey, the government’s suppression of opposition parties, free media, and academia; undermining of the rule of law; and denial of minority rights is a direct attack on key elements of a free, democratic society.
But we are not helpless in the face of authoritarian efforts. A clear majority of Americans are committed to the rule of law, a robust media, free and fair elections, and expansive voting rights. And we know what will help protect and strengthen our democratic system.
First, we need Congress to take federal action to better protect the voting rights of all Americans in the face of regressive state laws and voter suppression efforts. Many measures have specifically targeted Black Americans to the detriment of our political system. Enough.
Second, each of us should keep exercising our fundamental constitutional rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Write letters to the editor, post on social media, and talk to family and friends about what needs to be done to protect democracy and voting. Attend public events that advance this agenda. These rights are like muscles that grow stronger as more of us use them.
Third, regularly contact your federal, state, and local public officials and tell why democracy, voting, free and fair elections, and evidence-based policy are important to you. Tell them what legislation you support to protect democracy, like new Congressional action on voting rights.
Fourth, volunteer to be part of our democracy. Be active in civic organizations, get trained as a poll worker for elections, or serve on local committees in your town.
Finally, only support candidates who explicitly reject the lies about voter fraud.
To this day, the former president has not conceded the 2020 election. He continues to peddle the big lie. When the losing candidate will not concede, it is a major red flag in any democracy. Join us on January 6 and beyond to stand up for democracy.
Jeremy Pressman lives in West Hartford.