By James Moore
“We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” – Thomas Jefferson
There are certain electoral orthodoxies that have sustained our American republic through even the most difficult of times. They were designed to create a process that delivers to the electorate candidates with competing ideas on how to solve challenging issues, not just form a more perfect union, but to improve their states and local communities. Solutions to problems were debated and prospective office holders were assessed for their experiences and capabilities to perform every job from president of the United States down to a Texas county hide inspector, a job, which, created in 1871, was only abolished fifteen years ago when voters decided it was a tad irrelevant in the twenty-first century.
See? Democracy works.
I am not sure we could find a consensus in 2024, though, even to rid ourselves of the hide inspector. Intellectual arguments about who is the best candidate and what is the correct idea for fixing our problems seem not to help with our decisions. Americans no longer listen to each other because our electoral process has become nothing more than an airing of grievances. Discussions, if that’s what screaming at each other on cable TV can be called, regarding the economy and education and taxation and the environment lead mostly to greater partisanship. Our anger offers the only guideposts and they have led, of late, to the wilderness of disaffection and anger. We are either mad about the border and Greg Abbott’s wall and razor wire or we are angry at the sea of unstoppable immigrants, and that’s just one example of our separations.
A wise friend recently described this phenomenon to me as a grievance-based electorate. The antipathy between the races seems not to have abated and down here in Texas, offices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion have been legally banned by the state. Helping people close the opportunity gap caused by racism does not make sense to the conservative segments of the population controlling the lawmaking processes. Forty such measures have been introduced around the country to end DEI on university campuses while Florida, Tennessee, North Dakota, North Carolina, and Oklahoma have already joined Texas by enacting such laws. Too many Whites on the right are convinced that minorities, and particularly immigrants, are consuming opportunities and government resources, a notion that is patently nonsensical. Ask who’s framing your new home, or who picked those strawberries in your refrigerator, or cooked your last burger, or mowed your lawn and trimmed your bushes. Check and see if those faces are white.
I am not sure how we get past these emotions to conduct our country’s business like adults instead of angry punks looking to pick a fight. Don’t we have a right to a certain amount of anger? Sure, it can be used to motivate but there is a frighteningly long list of grievances. It’s hard to believe that in Trump’s party the majority probably still believe climate change is a Chinese hoax to harm the American economy. Younger voters have a right to their anger that the world they inherit might be an environmental dystopia because we were unable to agree on policies that constrained use of fossil fuels. Ready access to guns, meanwhile, continues to enable crazed souls to randomly kill and ruin lives and gun safety laws die almost as fast as human victims. No amount of blood has prompted real change, and there will be more blood.
While it might sound to the inattentive like overstatement, our national election this year is about a competition between authoritarianism and democracy. Trump has made clear who he is and what he wants to do if he is handed back a terrible, swift sword. He will wildly swing and slice through government institutions, individual rights, courts of law, and seek vengeance on anyone who has ever opposed his rule, and that’s how he sees himself, as a “ruler,” not a public servant. No dictator serves for only a day. Everyone who casts a ballot has enough information already just by breathing the air of this country to know what their choices will mean to its future, and you ought to be motivated further by the fact there are probably still 70 million Americans who want Trump back in office.
There is some reason for optimism. Democrats have won almost every special election since the 2022 midterms. Those wins included a stunning victory in Wisconsin, an historically 50/50 state, which was a double-digit election margin for a Democratic seat on that state’s Supreme Court. The pro women’s rights wins in Kansas and Ohio have also shown the power of turnout, and, yes, anger at government invasion into personal lives. A Republican seat in the Maine legislature, a solid district Trump won handily, elected a Democrat with an 18-point swing. Democrats also put to death the short-lived presidential aspirations of Virginia’s Republican governor Glenn Youngkin who was using off-year elections to regain GOP control of his state’s assembly. Instead, the Virginia GOP lost seats, and he’s holding off writing his inaugural address.
Stopping Trump is not the only reason to vote for the Democratic candidate for president. Joe Biden’s list of accomplishments includes record low employment, a massive infrastructure deal that has led to better roads and bridges and harbors and new rail projects to improve means of transportation. His policies have checked inflation and delivered a record stock market along with more than 14 million new jobs in just 30 months in office. His inflation reduction Act capped the price of insulin for millions of Americans struggling to pay for diabetes medications and has saved Americans billions by reducing co-pays and negotiating prices for prescription drugs. Also, in the first year after signing into law his CHIPS and Science Act to bring semi-conductor production back to the states, companies had invested $166 billion into new facilities and production to make the total $231 billion since his administration took office.
There is, of course, the disconcerting matter of Biden’s age, but we don’t get to vote on that. Nature holds the gavel and the president sees himself as the only real chance to make certain Trump is not re-elected. Voters, though, are concerned the president has passed his “sell by” date. Even if that matter can be overlooked, there remains the problem with Democrats and their messaging. They are not good at connecting the dots, offering clarity on Biden accomplishments and why you should cast your ballot in his direction for positive reasons. If you can’t, though, voting against Trump is more than sufficient.
Hell no, she won’t go!
Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently shared her thoughts on motivations for voting with a small group of her state’s citizens. She simplified the election by suggesting to her audience that, “We’re all on the ballot next year.” Instead of thinking about the candidate you are going to support, which can be a bit abstract, consider voting transactional. Vote for your self interests. You are on the ballot along with your friends and your spouse and your children and your neighbors. Vote for women’s rights and the right of people to love anyone they want and for regulations that will reduce climate change so your children can live in an ecologically safe world after you depart. Vote for health care and humane immigration laws and gun safety measures to reduce the wanton killing. Vote for more money to educate children and adults and less for weapons and military adventurism. Because if you don’t cast those votes for yourself and your interests, others will vote and the result might be that not only did you lose the election, you might have lost your country.
And you had the chance to save it.
This article was originally published in Texas to the World.
James Moore is the New York Times bestselling author of “Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential,” three other books on Bush and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, as well as two novels, and a biography entitled, “Give Back the Light,” on a famed eye surgeon and inventor. His newest book will be released mid- 2023. Mr. Moore has been honored with an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his documentary work and is a former TV news correspondent who has traveled extensively on every presidential campaign since 1976.
He has been a retained on-air political analyst for MSNBC and has appeared on Morning Edition on National Public Radio, NBC Nightly News, Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, CBS Evening News, CNN, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Hardball with Chris Matthews, among numerous other programs. Mr. Moore’s written political and media analyses have been published at CNN, Boston Globe, L.A. Times, Guardian of London, Sunday Independent of London, Salon, Financial Times of London, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. He also appeared as an expert on presidential politics in the highest-grossing documentary film of all time, Fahrenheit 911, (not related to the film’s producer Michael Moore).
His other honors include the Dartmouth College National Media Award for Economic Understanding, the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television News Directors’ Association, the Individual Broadcast Achievement Award from the Texas Headliners Foundation, and a Gold Medal for Script Writing from the Houston International Film Festival. He was frequently named best reporter in Texas by the AP, UPI, and the Houston Press Club. The film produced from his book “Bush’s Brain” premiered at The Cannes Film Festival prior to a successful 30-city theater run in the U.S.
Mr. Moore has reported on the major stories and historical events of our time, which have ranged from Iran-Contra to the Waco standoff, the Oklahoma City bombing, the border immigration crisis, and other headlining events. His journalism has put him in Cuba, Central America, Mexico, Australia, Canada, the UK, and most of Europe, interviewing figures as diverse as Fidel Castro and Willie Nelson. He has been writing about Texas politics, culture, and history since 1975, and continues with political opinion pieces for CNN and regularly at his Substack newsletter: “Texas to the World.”
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