By Rabbi Rachel Esserman
Democracy: a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting. (Merriam-Webster)
Imagine a football game where the losing team decides it was robbed because someone rigged the game and then sent its fans to storm the National Football League’s headquarters. Imagine if an owner declared that he could decide the results of any game because he really knew who won and could change the rules to make it happen. Imagine the end of football as we know it. In fact, imagine the end of all sporting events because there’s no point in playing a game where people make up their own rules as they go along.
I realize this example has some of you shaking your heads with exasperation. “I can see that her football example is supposed to represent the January 6 attack on the Congress,” you’re thinking, “but how does that relate to whether Americans still want a democratic government?”
Well, both football and democracy only work if the people involved accept the rules/laws governing them. That also means accepting the outcome of the game or election, even if you don’t like the results. In the past, people who refused to accept their team’s loss were called sore losers, and that was not considered a good thing. After an election, a politician would at some point admit he/she lost and let democracy take its course. That no longer seems to be true for far too many people.
There is an anti-democracy movement spreading across the United States. Those pushing this movement are hoping their party will become the dominant one. The laws they are passing seek to limit people’s ability to vote, especially for those they think won’t vote for their party. Some are looking to allow elected officials to overturn an election for no reason other than they don’t like the results. What they are doing is undermining the very fabric of our country.
What are some examples of these laws? Legislators in Arizona are debating a bill that would allow the legislature to revoke election certification, meaning that they could vote to ignore the will of the people of their state. Legislators in Georgia have passed a bill that allows them to remove election officials with whom they disagree. The Wisconsin legislature is looking to take control of the election process, meaning that its members could decide which presidential candidate will be backed by their state’s electors in the Electoral College vote. And these are only a few of the anti-democracy laws being passed. They don’t include the ones across the country that reduce the number of polling places, particularly in minority areas, because they don’t believe that population will vote for their party.
The American ideal of free elections for all its citizens is one of the wonders of the world. The fact that, for more than 230 years, our presidents have been elected by our citizens, rather than by overthrow of the previous government, brings tears to my eyes. Think of what that means. Really pause for a moment and think about how amazing and wonderful that is. Even when a president was impeached and removed from the White House, no blood was shed. What a remarkable accomplishment! We may not always be able to live up to our ideals, but it is that idea of freedom that brings people from all over the world to our shores. What a horrible thing to watch our democracy die. And if the laws before some state legislatures pass, we may be heading that way.