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Sometimes, we can all get along.


I never cease to be amazed when I watch Bella share a snack with the chickens. It really shouldn’t be possible, but they’ve all learned over time that everyone wins when they get along.

Elections in our country work the same way. When you pick a candidate to vote for, you’re making a political choice. That’s become the entire focus of our elections; the mostly binary, tribal choice between two foes. But it’s the willingness of people with very different views to work together to make our elections happen that we seem to lose sight of. The principle that existed at the founding of the Republic was this notion that everyone—of course our sense of who “everyone” includes has expanded, with first Black voters and then women getting the franchise—should have a voice in electing our leaders.

That was the issue at stake in Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss’s lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, which resulted in a $148 million verdict against him. Freeman and Moss were among the thousands of Americans across the country who take time to work our elections to make it possible for citizens, no matter who they are going to vote for, to exercise their right to vote. Rudy Giuliani, once billed as America’s Mayor, showed definitively that he didn’t deserve that honorific when he worked following the 2020 election to defeat the decision made by American voters.

In closing argument, Freeman and Moss’s lawyer said about Giuliani, “he has no right to offer up defenseless civil servants up to a virtual mob in order to overturn an election.” He exhorted the jury to “send a message.” And they did, with an outsized verdict that evidenced disgust with the way Giuliani treated two innocent women, invoking racist tropes and unleashing the power of the White House against two women who had no way to fight back.

Giuliani wrote in his 2002 book, “Leadership,” that his father told him: “Never pick on someone smaller than you. Never be a bully.” Freeman and Moss’s lawyer picked up on that in closing argument, suggesting Giuliani should have taken his own advice. It’s good advice for us too and a good reminder of how to discuss these issues if politics surface at your holiday table. We all want our candidates to win. But if we’re willing to cheat, and to accept politicians who cheat instead of accepting the will of the voters, then who are we? The right approach is to do everything we can to make sure all of our eligible fellow citizens can vote, to advocate for the ideas we think are best, to help people get informed, and then, quite simply, to accept the will of the voters.

What can you do? Advance that simple proposition: we should all take on the responsibility for making sure everyone who is qualified can vote and then, we should all commit to accepting the outcome of the election. Just like Americans have done for generations with elections federal, state, and local. If anyone doesn’t accept this as the uncontroversial proposition that it should be, ask why Donald Trump, in all of our history, is entitled to different rules.

One response you may hear, of course, is voter fraud. Donald Trump didn’t invent that notion, he just put it on steroids. It was used long before he entered the political fray, as a justification for suppressing the rights of voters, frequently Black voters. We heard that in Rudy Giuliani’s words about Ruby Freeman and Shay Moss when he suggested that a video that showed nothing of the kind depicted them “quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports, as if they're vials of heroin or cocaine," while votes were being counted in Fulton County. It was the kind of shameless appeal to tired themes of racism and voter fraud that some people have continued to rely on to justify Trump’s “win” even after it’s long been disproven.

Why, you might want to ask your doubting uncle, shouldn’t candidates have to compete for Black citizens’ votes, instead of keeping their votes from being counted? Answers to this question are always enlightening, and even if the conversation is difficult, it’s a way of planting seeds for the future.

After the verdict in her favor, Shaye Moss issued a statement. In it, she honored poll workers and others who play key roles in democracy at the local level. “As we move forward and continue to seek justice, our greatest wish is that no one — no election worker or voter or school board member or anyone else — ever experiences anything like what we went through,” she said. If you’re worried about the future, consider putting real meaning into her words and signing up to work the polls. And go one step better, sign up to work alongside a friend or family member with different political views than your own. Make it a Christmas challenge. Give yourselves the gift of participation in our political system, because with it, comes confidence that the system works.

Ruby Freeman was giving her daughter Shaye Moss a gingermint. Rudy Giuliani turned that into fake evidence of massive voter fraud, a notion expanded upon by Donald Trump and accepted by his supporters, many of whom still believe it even though it has been disproven. But people who work in the election process come to understand that it does work—we saw that even with highly partisan elected Georgia officials like Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who went to bat for the integrity of the election process, or Trump’s own director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Chris Krebs, who told Trump and the country in a 2020 post-election statement that it was “the most secure in American history.”

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There are still people who are trying to spread fake narratives about fraud.

Senator Cruz suggested we need a law that makes prohibits noncitizens from voting in federal elections. He was absolutely wrong. In federal elections, the law already provides that only citizens can vote.

Standards for state and local elections are established by those units of government and Washington, D.C. has opted to let everyone who lives in the city vote in 2024 municipal elections. In fact, Cruz had to go back in a subsequent tweet and clarify that “illegal aliens” weren’t allowed to vote in federal elections. The idea that Ted Cruz and Alabama’s Katie Britt should decide who can vote in the District of Columbia’s municipal elections is about as meritorious as letting citizens in the District decide who can vote in Dallas and Birmingham’s local races. But still, people who are smart enough to know better perpetuate myths of voter fraud like this. This type of shock-posting is about as transparent as Trump’s predictable pre-election posts about caravans of criminal migrants approaching our southern border. It’s meant to inflame.

We should all be working to make our elections as safe and as fair as possible. And our elected officials shouldn’t be discrediting them to gain some ostensible political advantage. Our job is to push back when we see that happening. We can make a difference.

If you aren’t already, I hope you’ll consider becoming a subscriber or giving the gift of Civil Discourse to friends as we prepare for the year ahead. Thank you for being here—for reading along, commenting on the forums, and caring about the Republic.

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We’re in this together,



Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance
Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance Podcast
The intersection of law & politics. Chickens & knitting likely to sneak in.
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