By Jim Norman
I’ve been thinking about the Beatles lately and am struck by what geniuses they were. One refrain especially seems to have ear-wormed its way into my mind, and I can’t seem to shake it out: “I read the news today, oh boy…”
So, I’d like to take the opportunity to stretch a little further afield than usual from our Society comfort zone at Larch and North to write about the low state of affairs to which our nation seems to be sinking at a dizzying rate of acceleration. And to do that, I’ll start in Egypt.
Egypt, where, Laila Soueif writes in “The New York Times,” her son Alaa Abd El-Fattah has been imprisoned and tortured for seven years, tried and sentenced many times, and on trial and due to be sentenced yet again, “with little hope for a way out.” He is one of tens of thousands of political prisoners in Egypt, and his crime is that he dared to believe a world of political liberty was possible and dared to try to make it happen.
‘Fix your own democracy’
What can we, who take civil liberties for granted in the United States, do to help? “Alaa’s answer, always, is this,” writes Laila Soueif. “Fix your own democracy. Safeguard it. There’s no better way to help.”
I read the news today, oh boy.
Let’s talk fixing our democracy, as Alaa urges from his Egyptian prison cell. About the scourge of “voter fraud,” a common complaint heard from the political right in American politics in an effort to prove its case that but for such fraud Donald Trump would have easily defeated Joe Biden in the last presidential election.
Not that facts matter for the lunatic fringe that seems to be representative of the vast majority of the Republican Party these days, but The Associated Press took on the claims of voter fraud by examining every potential case in six decisive battleground states, writes Jesse Wegman in The Times.
Dissecting claims of voter fraud
Voters in the six states–Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin–cast a combined total of 25.5 million votes in last year’s presidential election, giving Biden a 311,257-vote margin of victory in those states. Of those 25.5 million votes, 475 were found to be potentially fraudulent. In other words, one out of 53,684, or less than 19/1000 of one percent of the votes cast were identified as potentially fraudulent. And many of those turned out to be not fraudulent at all, involving voter confusion or poll worker error; and many of the very few votes that did turn out to be fraudulent favored Trump.
So, instead of concerning ourselves with right-wing lies about voter fraud, let’s consider the very real threat to our democracy represented by pervasive efforts by that same right wing to abuse our justice and legislative systems to perpetrate profound election fraud.
I read the news today, oh boy.
“Map by Map, G.O.P. Erasing Black Districts,” said the front-page headline in The Times. Republicans, knowing they cannot win truly representational elections, are engaging in a campaign to impose minority rule by redrawing election districts across the country to isolate black voters into a few bizarrely shaped political ghettos, surrounded by politically reliable white districts.
Emboldened by the Supreme Court
The intended result is to pit elected black representatives who have won elections in formerly neighboring districts against each other, assuring that one of them will be eliminated. Emboldened by a Supreme Court that seems not at all embarrassed to be seen as nothing more than a sleeper cell in black robes with the assigned mission of shoring up white, Republican rule in a demographically changing America, Republicans insist that their gerrymandering activities are racially neutral and legal, acceptable actions based on partisan politics.
So, it seems clear to me that we Americans are faced with a four-way choice: We can accept our descent into totalitarian rule by a very few power-mad and corrupt leaders of a powerful minority of lunatic followers; we can despair of ever governing ourselves and accept chaos, instability, and complete anarchy; we can throw up our hands and conclude that our division is irreparable and accept a “two-state solution” for America, or we can repair our tattered democracy by demanding immediate changes in our electoral and representational framework to give us, every single one of us, an equal say in how we are to govern ourselves.
As people who call ourselves Ethical Culturists, we proudly stand for “Deed Before Creed.” Is that a mere slogan, an aspirational goal of perfection that we know is not achievable? Or is it a constant reminder, a guiding light that illuminates a path of action that we must follow? What are we prepared to do, to fix our own democracy?
Jim Norman is president of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County.