Just a few days from the midterms, I thought it would be of value to share an audio version of this dispatch from a week ago that articulates 13 thoughts on what I believe, what I value and what I refuse to just let happen. Usually, these audio posts (read aloud by me) are only for paid subscribers. But I hope they all will agree that it’s valuable to make available these largely hopeful thoughts with everyone—to share them as widely as we can. If you are not a paid subscriber, I hope you will be motivated to fully join our growing community—to receive audio posts like this, share your thoughts in the comments sections, and more.
These are challenging times, and the outcomes in the coming days may mean that the months ahead will become more challenging. But I haven’t lost my conviction that the truth will ultimately win out—and however turbulent democracy’s near future may be, it too will survive. Ensuring that happens depends on the commitment of all of us.
I’m currently in Potsdam, Germany for a few days—collaborative meetings with Germans, Japanese, Canadians and a few Americans with university connections who are looking for creative ways to confront the challenges of the climate crisis and related societal dysfunction.
It’s interesting, albeit difficult, to be here right now so close to the midterm elections. But the comments by new colleagues here—making clear their (understandable) disbelief in how fragile and perilous the state of American democracy appears to be—has gotten me to think about what I believe, what I value and what I refuse to just let happen. What follows is a baker’s dozen “No, I’m not” assertions.
1—No, I’m not taking it as a given that the Republicans will regain the majority, even if that’s a historical tendency, even if polls in recent weeks have suggested the tide is turning against the Democrats. Can we really trust the polls? And, by the way, have you noticed turnout for early voting is way up?
2—No, I’m not leaving Twitter, even if Elon Musk has taken over, even if he lets the number one malignant narcissist back on the platform. Do we really want to give anti-democratic, extremist leaders and their radicalized followers free rein without pushback?
3—No, I’m not giving in to cynicism, even if Herschel Walker were to beat Raphael Warnock for Senate in Georgia. The Republicans have fully revealed their hypocrisy and their depravity in their lust for power by nominating Walker. It only underscores their inability to win with people of character. We may be going through a dark period in the struggle for power, but I still believe most Americans long for men and women of character to lead their country.
4—No, I’m not giving up on democracy, even if the Republicans do retake the House or, god forbid, win the Senate. They’ve already told us they’re determined to launch a ton of investigations (Hunter and his laptop topping the list) and start impeachment proceedings on everyone from the president to the secretaries of state, education and homeland security. This will be ugly and exhausting, but they will win in the long run if they convince an exhausted majority to give up the fight. Besides, obvious over-reach will not end well for them when faced with an angry majority finally taking its protests to the streets, especially if they’ve rigged the system to not count the actual votes.
5—No, I’m not accepting that cruelty ultimately will dominate over compassion, even if we have candidates who exploit unwitting asylum seekers (DeSantis), kill dogs (Oz) and attack an opponent valiantly struggling to overcome a stroke (Oz again). We may be battling the rising attraction to autocracy and strongman tactics, but I believe that compassionate leadership ultimately wins out. Note who won the presidency in 2020.
6—No, I’m not giving up on the truth winning out, even though we can see the culture of lying expanding, even in recent days with Arizona’s Kari Lake quick to call the break in to Democrat Katie Hobbs’ headquarters a fake event to make her look bad and Herschel Walker insisting (again) he didn’t pay for any abortions and now multiple women who’ve come forward are lying. I believe most people hate the lying as much as I do.
7—No, I’m not giving up on justice, even if the Republicans win and disband the House Select Committee and exploit their position to try and block the work of AG Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice on the Mar-a-Lago case and Jan. 6 with investigations or even impeachment proceedings. Thankfully, Donald Trump did not succeed in fully politicizing the courts and a multiplicity of cases are moving through the court system.
8—No, I’m not giving up on the media, even if too many journalists have failed to grasp that the existential threat to democracy is the top story and stop covering politics as if this is just another horse race between Democrats and Republicans. Change may be hard—and too many are clinging to old and dangerously outmoded habits—but I’m hopeful the smart ones will eventually come to their senses before the emergency leads to widespread media crackdowns by demagoguing authoritarians.
9—No, I’m not convinced Trump will evade justice once again, even if he’s succeeded at doing so throughout his criminal history. Between the theft of government documents and obstruction of justice at Mar-a-Lago, the Georgia investigation of election fraud, the New York trial of the Trump Organization and even the continuing probe of the Jan. 6 attack, it’s hard to see how at least some indictments aren’t forthcoming and Trump can make a clean sweep of any prosecutions this time.
10—No, I’m not convinced indictments of Trump—from Georgia to New York to Florida to Washington, DC—will lead to a significant outbreak of violence, even if (no, when) he tries to trigger a violent response. There may be plenty of hateful assaults on social media, but beyond the methodical, multi-month project of Jan. 6 when he was still president, have we seen any clear signs that a significant number of his cult is ready to violently take to the streets?
11—No, I’m not giving up on the possibility of holding onto the House and the Senate, codifying Roe, passing voting rights and banning assault rifles. Because massive voter turnout can lead to exactly that outcome.
12—No, I’m not giving up on America because this is far from the first time that the American experiment was in grave danger (see: the Civil War) and the majority has proven before that it’s not about to let the fascists rule our world (see: WWII). And besides, isn’t the American ideal of equality, justice and “We, the People” worth it?
13—No, I’m not giving up on hope because then the losers win. That cannot stand. Period.
What about you?