Happy New Year! May your 2022 be (at least marginally) better than 2021 and 2020.
One line that has repeatedly popped into my head over the last five years is from William Butler Yeats: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
I fear that future historians will mark the beginning of the end of the American Era as June 15, 2015, the day Donald Trump descended his gold-plated escalator to declare his candidacy for president, thus beginning his unlikely (or inevitable, depending on which pundits you give heed to) rise to the most powerful office in the world. From that day to this day, the Republican Party (half of America!) has fallen under the sway of an obviously self-aggrandizing sociopath, pathological liar, business cheat, and misogynist (if not outright rapist). Future historians may mark the end of the end as January 20, 2025, the day a MAGA-crazed, QAnon-addled Republican president—perhaps even Trump himself—will be sworn in, bolstered by a Republican-led Congress made possible by extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression laws. We must do everything legally and morally within our power to stop this from happening.
The election of Joe Biden, plus the narrow control Democrats currently enjoy (if “enjoy” is even the right word), have given us a temporary reprieve from the existential threat posed by Donald Trump and the insane goons gaining ground in state legislatures and in Congress. Does anyone doubt that a second Trump term would have seen both him and his sycophants plunging America deeper into bureaucratic corruption, dangerous arrogance, willful ignorance, and further degradation of our civil institutions? Say what you will about Biden’s mishandling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, his wobbly presidency has nonetheless shown a glimpse of the stability we, and the rest of the world, so desperately need. (I’ll grant you, there need to be Congressional hearings on Afghanistan, but you can be sure that a GOP-led investigation will ignore the real issues—tolerance by three previous administrations of corrupt Afghan authorities, failures within our intelligence apparatus, and Pollyannaish reporting by our military on the capabilities of Afghan defense forces—and instead try to heap the sum total of American ineptness over a twenty-year period onto Joe Biden’s shoulders.)
So, what is to be done in 2022 to pull America back from the precipice? In short, vote Democratic. I cannot put it any more plainly. Until Republican voters see that voting Republican now is only enabling the worst of the GOP, and that the only way forward for legitimate American conservatism is to let the Republican Party die, we cannot give any Republican candidate the benefit of the doubt. Not enough Republican officeholders have shown enough spine in the face of Trumpist lies and Trumpist intimidation. If Republican candidates will not full-throatedly concede that Joe Biden won the election, that 2020 electoral fraud is a myth, that Critical Race Theory (while an actual thing in academia) has not and is not an existential threat to the souls of our children, we cannot vote for them.
Voting Republican means handing control of both houses of Congress over to the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Madison Cawthorn, and Josh Hawley come January 2023. (And don’t get me started on the bald-faced, unscrupulous manipulations of Senator Mitch McConnell.) The next two years if the GOP controls Congress will be characterized by legislative stalemate; the hobbling of national policies aimed at finally, finally getting the pandemic under control; the stalling of judicial and administrative appointments that will make the Merrick Garland affair seem like a blip; interference with prosecutions involving the January 6th riot; and the staging of endless kangaroo committee hearings on everything from non-existent election fraud to Biden’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal to Hunter Biden’s laptop. (And you can say goodbye to the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.) In the long run, if you value women’s rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, workers’ rights, immigrant rights, the integrity of school curricula, academic independence, etc., don’t think for a second this nation cannot backslide under the right circumstances.
While voting Democratic is the solution, it is not a cure-all by any means. The GOP civil war is largely over (the MAGA-hats have won, and all that remains is for the 2022 and 2024 elections to cycle out any obstinate never-Trumpers or insufficiently zealous Trumpers), but the struggle within the Democratic Party is still very much in play. While the conservative news media and GOP flacks scream about socialism and BLM and CRT and defunding the police, the truth is that the Democratic Party is mostly moderate, held back in this moment by a few conservative Democrats from red or reddish states. What the Democrats need is not fewer AOCs or fewer Bernie Sanderses, but a couple more seats in the Senate so that the likes of Manchin and Sinema can’t hold up Biden’s legislative agenda; which is, poll after poll has shown, quite popular with likely voters.
So, our New Year’s Resolution for 2022 should be to stand up and defend democracy, and to stand up and defend the Democratic Party. The alternative to (admittedly imperfect) Democratic control of Congress is too horrible to contemplate. And no, I don’t think I’m being a Chicken Little here. I look at the reaction of both Republican leaders and the GOP rank-and-file to the January 6th insurrection, and all I see is either cowardice in speaking out against it, or an eagerness to exploit it in the service of conservative power. (And you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Christianity once. That religion has been replaced by the Cult of Trump and QAnon in the modern GOP.)
The consensus among professional pundits is that the Democrats are going to get a drubbing come November, although God knows why that should be. But it’s not inevitable. We can improve the odds between now and then through a number of means: donating to the Democratic Party and to Democratic candidates; volunteering to canvass or register new voters; marching or peacefully protesting; engaging in “conversational intolerance” when presented with ignorant or bigoted statements; staying in touch with your Senators, your Congressperson, your state representatives, regardless of their party affiliation, letting them know what you expect of them (and, sure, Republican politicians are likely to ignore you, but they’re guaranteed to ignore you if they never hear from you). And vote. Vote in the primary as well as the general election. Vote early if you can. But vote. If the GOP wants anything, they want liberal-leaning voters to despair, to believe that gerrymandering and voter suppression and bureaucratic intimidation will keep some tiny percentage of us from voting. That’s how they plan to win. But a determined electorate can make enough of a showing that it will make it nearly impossible for GOP appointees and officials responsible for certifying election results to claim that the outcome is open to interpretation.
It’s a New Year, which is always a time for introspection, assessment, and a rededication to good habits and personal improvement. In that spirit, there’s still hope that we can someday look back at 2022 as the year we saved American democracy. Let’s make it happen.