No one said it would be easy. The Revolutionary War lasted more than eight years as the American colonies sought to extricate themselves from British rule and forge an independent nation. No one said it would be perfect. Not women who didn’t win the right to vote until August 18, 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment—and surely not Black Americans who first won the right to vote with the ratification of the 14th and 15th Amendments after the Civil War and have continued to struggle to exercise their rights with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and beyond. As Frederick Douglass precisely observed in 1865, ““Slavery is not abolished until the Black man has the ballot.”
Throughout American history, the assumption that democracy is a value and system worth fighting for—a sacred idea that distinguishes the United States from tyrannical rule—has been a defining principle. Democracy has been a shared promise, not only for Americans, but for people the world over. If the American dream has provided a vision of a better economic life, American democracy has represented the potential for free people to determine their own fate. It’s hard to overstate how powerful the first three words of the US Constitution are: ”We the People…”
A commitment to democracy is something that I long treated as a given among Americans. Sadly, not anymore. But rather than focus here on the anti-democratic forces that are working aggressively and methodically to end the American democratic project in an effort to get and keep power, I’d like to focus on the ideas and ideals, the values and principles that make democracy and the right to vote worth fighting for. Why does democracy matter to you?
I am hoping that we can fill the comment section with song—with a chorus of thoughts and feelings, experiences and observations—to reiterate and remind each other why democracy and the passage of voting rights matter so deeply. As always, I am grateful for the contributions of everyone here and the opportunity to learn from each other.
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