The Global State of Democracy report, recently released by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), indicated that Donald Trump's questioning of the election results in 2020 is "a historic turning point" both for U.S. democracy and the world, as officials in several countries are emulating his Big Lie.
Being part of the Outside Strategy to promote the passage of the Freedom to Vote Act
On a brutally hot July 18, 2019 in Washington, D.C., we gathered outside the Russell Senate Office Building to express our disgust with the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their asylum-seeking parents. We moved inside and gathered in the building’s rotunda where seventy of us were arrested.
Note the building is named after Senator Richard Russell from Georgia, a notorious racist. He successfully filibustered an anti-lynching bill in the 1930s, and vehemently tried to block historic civil rights legislation in the 1960s.
My next arrest would not happen until November 17, 2021 at the White House with easily many more than a hundred other voting rights activists, including the Rev. William Barber of the Poor Peoples Campaign. I had to be there as I fear that our fragile electoral system is close to being beyond repair. January 6 should be a wake-up call for all who believe in a multiracial, inclusive, and radical movement to make our political system democratic. Today we are threatened by Trump’s Storm Troopers with automatic weapons and Lincoln’s political party which is now a cult. White supremacists in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Brunswick, Georgia and Charlottesville, Virginia used deadly force. These times call for a significant mobilization against the reactionary and racist forces. However, even before the rise of Trump’s cultish movement, real democracy was somewhat lacking.
Donald Trump and George W. Bush were the most recent presidents who failed to win the popular vote. The Electoral College is a farce and a major flaw in the Constitution.
Wyoming has less people than Washington, D.C., but has two senators as does California with 39 million citizens. This is another flaw in the Constitution. Residents of D.C. pay taxes, but are denied representation in Congress.
The filibuster in the Senate allows a minority of 41 senators to determine what legislation gets passed. Unlike the story in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the filibuster is used to prevent progressive For the People legislation to become law.
Gerrymandering across the country has been used to lessen the voting power of minorities, a majority of whom are registered Democrats. An average of 49% of adults age 18 and older reported Democratic Party affiliation or said they are independent with Democratic leanings in the first quarter of 2021, according to a Gallup poll, while 40% of adults identified as Republican or Republican-leaning. Nevertheless, gerrymandering has locked in one-party control in many states.
In 2010, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission enabled corporations and other outside groups to spend unlimited funds on elections. In 2013 the right wing Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Before marching to the White House, we gathered at the Capitol Hilton and heard repeatedly that the elders after a long struggle were able to convince a president and most members of Congress to enact civil rights legislation. Unfortunately, the retrenchment of civil rights is now happening, so the struggle goes on to convince legislators to protect the vote, get money out of politics, end the filibuster, and give voting rights to D.C. residents.
As we marched in resistance to voter suppression, we chanted and heard speakers say the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act must be passed. I really fear that fascism could take over this country, so I had to be at the White House on November 17.
I have lots of experience in risking arrest, but this one was a bit peculiar. The arrestees were not handcuffed, and were given an option – accept a citation and then pay $50 or walk away without a charge. I opted for a citation, and then asked for my day in court. It seems that within 15 days of the arrest, I must appear at a Park Police office and request a trial date. Failure to pay the $50 could result in a warrant for my arrest. Nevertheless, I am duty-bound to appear before a judge in order to cry out for Help. Democracy is on life support, and all believers in the sanctity of one person, one vote should step forward. A civil rights-era song asks this question, “And how many years can some people exist, Before they're allowed to be free?” It seems the answer in Blowing in the Wind.
Max Obuszewski is with the Baltimore Nonviolence Center
Donations can be sent to Max Obuszewski, Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 431 Notre Dame Lane, Apt. 206, Baltimore, MD 21212. Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] comcast.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs