After Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 general election, I wrote:
“After yesterday, the easy way out is to believe that we are powerless and hopeless. I believe we must follow the road less traveled. This road less traveled requires me to refuse to succumb to hysteria. I stand for the idea of America on whose shoulders I have inspired this nation to embrace, even as it was subjugated by slavery and segregation. This road needs to keep fighting. They didn’t give up on this nation, and neither will I. I won’t allow misogynists, dog whistlers, and purveyors of divisive stereotypes to control the future of this nation.
I write these words because Trump’s election further amplifies the growing chorus of voices who see a monolithic and homogenous United States: a nation more reflective of Ozzie and Harriet than Abbott Elementary. A United States that is holding us back from the promise of an inclusive multiracial democracy.
With every political Nostradamus predicting a massive “red wave” in 2022 I was preparing to write with a similar sentiment. Although the “red wave” in Colorado is not expected to be massive, pundits predict that Democrats in the state House and Republicans are less likely to win a majority in the state Senate. This “red wave” did not materialize, but the question of the meaning of democracy is still relevant.
Then, as now, my fear and anguish was not rooted in an existential hatred of everything Republican or a belief in the inherent righteousness of the Democratic Party. I firmly believe that our republic would be better served by at least two political parties engaging in principled rigorous debate based on facts with a shared commitment to this nation’s democratic institutions. Perhaps naively, even in heated debates with our political opponents, Dr. As Martin Luther King, Jr. preached, I think it’s possible to “find the good” in and out of our adversaries. “Find a good center and fix your attention there…”
The bleak election results I anticipate will further embolden Christian nationalists, white supremacists, fascism crooners and other bigots riding the coattails of Trumpism. In multiple polls leading up to the midterms, voters repeatedly indicated their concerns about the future of democracy. President Biden has made the threat to democracy posed by the numerous election denials vying for office a central theme of his election stump speeches.
Interestingly, some pollsters and pundits dismissed voters’ concerns about democracy, focusing on quality-of-life issues like inflation, gas prices and crime. On election morning, as part of their “Red Wave” coverage, The New York Times published an article titled “Inflation Hurts Democrats at the Polls.” Will it crush them at the ballot box?
While I agree that inflation is a primary concern for voters, the New York Times analysis and other media outlets implicitly assume that voters are binary thinkers, when in fact, this election showed voters’ ability to weigh the importance of multiple issues simultaneously in their decision-making process. However, when a particular narrative is already hardwired, there is no room for nuance.
It’s still early, but some national-level exit polls suggest abortion and the future of democracy are key factors for voters, which may have significantly tempered the much-anticipated “red wave.”
An Associated Press Votcast poll of 94,000 voters nationwide found that if inflation weighed heavily on their minds, 44% of voters said “the future of democracy is their primary consideration.” In the same poll, 60% of voters favored Roe v. Wade expressed anger at the reversal. This discontent translated into electoral victories for pro-choice ballot measures in California, Michigan, and Vermont, and rejections of anti-abortion ballot measures in the deep red states of Kentucky and Montana.
If the current election results go by, electoral rejects were defeated in many of the races in which they were candidates. In states where abortion was on the ballot, voters emphasized that democracy means nothing unless we all have bodily autonomy.
An unknown writer once wrote, “Democracy is a slow process of stumbling toward the right decision instead of proceeding directly to the wrong decision.” The 2022 midterms offer hope that our nation is still stumbling toward the never-ending process of forming a “more perfect union.”
Terrence Carroll is a former speaker of the Colorado House. He is the first and only African American to hold that position in Colorado. He is a Baptist preacher, lawyer and former police officer. He is on Twitter @speakercarroll.
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