Today, Twitter, for a while, marked one of my tweets as “sensitive” and some people couldn’t see it. I wanted to make sure you all saw it, so I’m sharing it here, on Civil Discourse.
It’s actually not my tweet I want you to see, but rather the thread from Mark Jacob.
Mark, who I don’t know, is an ex-editor at the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times and the co-author of eight books on history and photography.
His thread feels important as we head into the final day of the midterm elections, the day the country delivers its report card on democracy. It’s not the price of a gallon of gas or other kitchen-table issues, as important as they are, that should be driving the national conversation. Whether we want it to be or not, democracy is on the ballot. Do we still believe in free and fair elections? Do Americans get to choose their leaders and not the other way around? Now we find out.
Mr. Jacob’s thread traces some parallels between developments in Germany as Hitler came to power and the rise of the MAGA wing of the Republican party. He does not, nor should anyone, try to compare the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime to anything going on in modern-day America. What he does do is detail some of the benchmarks of an authoritarian leader assuming power in Germany and compare them to some developments we are experiencing. It’s a cautionary tale for even those who resist the comparison.
And I’m going to confess, I have resisted. What the Nazis did is far too horrible to reference lightly. But the larger lesson—the lesson about how dictators come to power while people, good people, are looking in the other direction—is important. It matters for us on the eve of this election.
I’d love to feel more optimistic than I do right now. I have hopes that the American people are smarter than the polls suggest and that we understand that country matters more than party. It’s been amazing seeing Barack Obama back on the campaign trail and hard to imagine people ignoring his appeal to our better angels. But we all know that elections are won by the party that gets out the vote, so it’s up to each of us to vote and to do whatever we can to get people we know who have not yet voted to do the same.
We need to be prepared, though, for a tough time. It would be hard to see Republicans win and take back the House, maybe even the Senate, not even two years after they turned a blind eye to a full-scale insurrection staged by the leader of their party. I’m also concerned about the flip side—what happens if there are races where Democrats win and Republicans refuse to accept the outcome. We may see frivolous lawsuits that further undermine people’s confidence in the outcome of our elections. There is the possibility of attacks on poll workers or election officials, and even a recurrence of January 6-type incitement of violence at the state level.
Tonight, Trump announced he’s going to make “a big announcement” next week. Then he compared Nancy Pelosi to criminal gang members because “she impeached me twice.” You don’t have to be listening critically to hear Trump saying people who disagree with him are criminals, which means they should be locked up. A Republican Party that rejected Trump for any of the many appropriate reasons would be a very different Republican party than the one that is headed into election day. Instead, we have to endure this man and his cheesy music.
We need to face those possibilities with clear eyes. I’m a big believer in hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
An important part of civil discourse is being armed with the facts and the patience to refute the chronic disinformation that pollutes our public conversation. We’re going to need to be prepared to do that in the wake of this election. One positive development was the announcement by DOJ today that it would have poll monitors in locations in 24 states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. DOJ has been sending its employees to monitor elections for compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1965 that they are charged with enforcing. DOJ does not determine the outcome of elections, but it does protect their integrity and the physical presence of career employees, who cut across the political spectrum, and will help protect public confidence in the outcome of elections if Republicans choose to contest Democratic wins. The DOJ folks will be authoritative witnesses who can attest to what happened in polling places where they were observers.
In Pennsylvania tonight, there is news that the Commonwealth’s four living governors, three Republicans and a Democrat, have asked candidates to commit to abiding by the results of the election, no matter who wins. The letter asks the candidates to “accept the results” of the election and ensure “a peaceful transition of power.” How did we become a country where this needs to be said? But thank goodness we have people from both parties who are willing to demand that would-be elected officials comply with the rule of law. This is an important statement by former leaders, and it would be nice to see it replicated across the country.
In Georgia, where more than one thousand people who properly applied for absentee ballots never received them, lawyers went to court to protect their right to vote. Today, a Cobb County, Georgia, judge ordered the county Board of Elections and Registration to send replacement ballots to these voters, using overnight delivery, and extended the deadline for the receipt of absentee ballots in Cobb County to November 14.
There will doubtless be more. Our system is hard at work to protect our elections, despite the reports we’ve been reading of efforts to intimidate voters in Arizona and other places. Americans understand that their right to vote matters and are willing to do what they need to do to exercise it. This morning, when I learned my tweet had been flagged, I was momentarily chilled. The notion that, in our country, we are not free to express our views goes against everything we understand about ourselves. This was not that, obviously. You are free to read my tweet and Mark Jacob’s thread tonight. And we need to make sure we do everything we can to keep it that way. Do everything you can to get out the vote down to the wire, and then we’ll be here together to assess the results and where we go from here.
For day-of-election problems, keep this number handy: the Election Protection Hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE. They’re there to help with all kinds of situations.
We’re in this together,
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