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    Clear as the Living Daylights: Democracy vs. Demise

    By Andrea Shorter–

    From where I stand, there is no time to waste not to be definitive, clear, and cut to the chase about the choice before us in this presidential election year: authoritarianism or democracy.

    No build-ups, no message testing, and no soft pedaling to what should be clear and evident by now. We either give in to extend the present tyrannical leadership, or fight like hell for democracy.

    Cynical inclinations suggest that, lest we forget, this is not the first time in U.S. presidential election history that it has been said that “this is the most important election of our time” or for “our generation,” or even for “this century.” While a complete dissolve of a democratic state never occurred, and the republic marched or limped on after each election cycle, history still proves critical results were born from critical elections.

    Thomas Jefferson’s win over Aaron Burr in 1860 led to the addition of the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, which changed the electoral process for president after a breakdown in the electoral college process, and also established a political power shift, exiting the Federalists and entering the Democratic and Republican parties. Abraham Lincoln’s narrow win in 1860 put into motion the fight to abolish slavery, the secession of 11 states from the union, and the dire must-win of a Civil War to restore and save the whole of the United States. Rutherford Hayes’ triumph over Samuel Tilden in 1876 proved the end of Reconstruction, ushering in the terror of Jim Crow laws.

    In the 20th century there was Franklin Roosevelt’s win for an unprecedented 4 terms as president during and through the Great Depression and World War II; John F. Kennedy’s narrow win ushered in a post-war, baby-boomer era opening for civil rights and the space race; George W. Bush’s election over Al Gore as decided by the U.S. Supreme Court; and Barack Obama’s win expressed a critical turning point in America’s readiness for a non-white male as its commander-in-chief for two terms, empowered to do great things, including a hallmark achievement of healthcare reform.

    At each turn, these few fabled accounts of times past of the “most important elections of our time” have yet to face the date with the destiny we have before us now. No U.S. president of any party from Whigs, Democrats, Republicans, or Independents has so clearly expressed his desire, intent, and sheer will to enshrine himself as an authoritarian, tyrannical despot in the way Trump is doing now, right before our very eyes. No U.S. president appears to be under the thumb, tutelage, and umbrage of dangerous dictators, sworn adversaries to U.S. interests, and adversaries to democratic society.

    Every week if not every day, this president finds and sets to execute one more strike against the pillars and posts upon which our democratic institutions are founded, or rely upon, bending, twisting, and contorting them towards his own self-serving ends, chiefly to maintain his presidency at all costs.

    The latest episodes are all but more in the daily gut punch from the Trump assault and full throttle attacks on America. None is more naked than his attempts to dismantle the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Why? According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, of the voters planning to vote for Trump, 15% plan to vote by mail, while Biden is projected to garner a whopping 78% of the vote by mail. Wait, there’s more. Of persons planning to vote early in person (when polling sites open in October), 25% are projected for Trump, and 68% for Biden. For those planning to vote at the polls on November 3, the projections are 63% for Trump and 30% for Biden. Add it up, and we are looking at an overall voter turnout of 50% for Biden, 41% for Trump.

    For the past four decades, Republican voters have been the overwhelming majority of voters by mail. While democratic and independent voters by mail have increased over the past decade, 78% for Biden is more likely an indication of the effects of the pandemic. While voters might very well aim to vote as if their very lives depend on it in this election, no one wants to actually and unnecessarily risk their health and lives standing in line to cast their votes in this critical presidential race. So, registering and opting to vote by mail presents the most practical solution during a pandemic.

    The starkness of 78% to 15% explains Trump’s attempts to demolish the USPS mail delivery processes and systems to slow down, throw out, and delay a whopping overwhelming gale force of votes cast by mail so not likely in his favor. Yes, handing over command of the USPS to his major campaign contributor who has been on a longtime tear to tear down the USPS and reinvent it for profit was likely Trump’s initial interest. An added urgency to dismantle the USPS was likely fueled by the mid-August NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll results and similar indications that vote by mail is the pandemic inspired choice of Democrats, disaffected Republicans, and Independents eager to disinfect the White House of Trump.

    Unless he can lie, cheat, and steal his way to re-election, he is going to lose, and lose bigly.

    If it takes destroying the postal service that Benjamin Franklin gifted to a relatively nascent nation 250 years ago, then so be it. Destruction and disruption of the USPS might very well prove to be the most demonstrable act of voter suppression and interference in the 21st Century—and as instructed by a sitting president to boot.

    One would hope that this strike against the USPS alone is enough to give any thinking person pause about the extremes this man will go to win, and to maintain the penultimate seat of political power. There should be no doubt that this is the most important election of our lifetime, possibly for the future life of our democracy.

    What’s not on the ballot? Anyone’s 100%, all-in enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket. OK, Biden might not thrill some folks. But comparatively much less thrilling? Another four years of a Trump reign of authoritarianism, and tyranny. Which is not to mention that, historically, authoritarians and dictatorships never work out well for LGBTQ people. Just sayin’.

    I am all for the light versus dark, love versus hate mantras put before us by the Biden-Harris ticket. What the world needs now is love sweet love, yes, indeed. It always does. However, as much as I love such well-intentioned, calming sentiment as originally expressed by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, the sheer forcefulness of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries easily drowns out empathetic, dulcet tones, tentativeness for calling things out as they are. We are running against a wannabe dictator, an authoritarian. Take a deep breath. Say it with me.

    Similarly, I am all for continuing to prosecute the case against Trump, and for his ouster. However, as we prosecute, he simply executes; he just does. He just marches on, and intends to along with a Wagner soundtrack for a very, very long time. 

    Trump might be bending the levers of our democracy to near breaking points. But he hasn’t broken our democracy—not yet. Trump knows that only true democracy can stop him. That is why he is hell bent on its destruction. Democracy can and must fight back, and win. It is our only hope. We are our best and only hope.

    As we run into the light, let’s also make sure to be very clear about why this time it is most important than ever that we knock the living daylights out of any possibility of Trump’s re-election: no on tyranny, yes on democracy.

    As the new mantra goes, Plan Your Vote. If you can, vote early. Make sure your friends and family are registered to vote. Booting Trump out of the White House aided by an avalanche of counted vote-by-mail ballots? Poetic justice.

    Andrea Shorter is a Commissioner and the former President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights and marriage equality. A Co-Founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

    Published on September 10, 2020