Protect the First Amendment
Of all Donald Trump’s abuses of power, the use of unmarked law enforcement officers against American citizens in Portland is the one that makes me want to curl up in a hole or flee. Unmarked LEOs tear-gassing and abducting citizens exercising their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly too closely resembles the Nazi Party’s Brown Shirts, the thugs who helped Hitler come to power through disruption and intimidation.
To hear this president then say he is supporting law and order is a blatant example of what George Orwell called out in his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language: “Political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.”
Using Democracy to Save Democracy
It’s easy to go silent with hopelessness. Thanks to help from a friend in Chicago, however, I have new hope. She told me about the Movement Voter Project, a non-profit that provides financial support to grassroots organizations in underrepresented communities. They build support around issues that make a real difference in a community’s well-being, like childcare, minimum wage, healthcare, community space, trash collection – the list goes on.
These community organizers promote democracy at its roots: government by and for the people, not for powerful politicians far away. Most of the organizations MVP supports are in underserved communities, communities of Blacks, Indigenous and People of Color. These are people who have been disenfranchised by systemic racism, often as the result of deliberate efforts to suppress their right as American citizens to vote.
Voting is the foundation of democracy.
It is these very citizens whose votes could turn the upcoming election if they turn out to vote. Don’t believe me? This New Yorker article explains better than I can how voters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, could decide the next presidential election. And this New York Times article explains how strategic activism in the swing states could secure a regime change. And that’s exactly what the Movement Voter Project is hoping to accomplish by funding community activism in the states where it matters most: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Arizona.
Protests are important, but taking to the streets only goes so far. And recently, the protests have provided a frightening opening for what looks like what Michael Steinberg, a professor of history at Brown University, calls “a kind of strategic experience for fascism.”
Saving Democracy with Votes
One way to try to rescue our imperiled democracy is to have fair elections. Since community organizers can’t knock on doors during the pandemic, they are canvassing by mail and Internet to help make sure everyone who is registered to vote can get to the polls and have their vote counted. If those whose votes have been suppressed can vote, we can right our democracy and return power to the people.
I want to help. That’s why I’m sending money to MVP. I hope you will, too.