I fell silent last week
I was silent (struck dumb) last week over what I was hearing. I’m an old white guy who lost my balance as I took in the news and considered where we are.
I heard a U.S. president put his racism on full display as he challenged four legislators, four women of color, to go back from where they came. They include: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts. That may be appalling but what stunned me was the silence that followed. Washington Republican leaders cloaked themselves – hid – in their silence. Being silent is not what I expect from the Republican leadership.
What is heard is a shocking silence.
Trump called into question the patriotism of these four as they, in their respective ways, exercise their constitutional right to dissent and call upon Americans for improvements. It’s an odd bit of logic given that Trump’s branding of Make America Great Again(MAGA) is a criticism of America and a call for change.
Silence threatens our nation’s soul
George Conway, wife of Trump’s senior advisor Kellyanne Conway, plainly says, “Trump is a racist president.” His article in the Washington Post reveals his own anguish as he came to realize the racism of his president. He observes:
By virtue of his office, he [Trump] speaks for the country. What’s at stake now is more important than judges or tax cuts or regulations or any policy issue of the day. What’s at stake are the nation’s ideals. It’s very soul.
Washington Republican leaders are not alone in their silence. The Republican senators from my home state (Oregon) decided it was acceptable to leave their seats and hide in other states. They didn’t want to fill a quorum so a vote they did not favor could not be called. The senate chamber, in their absence, was silent.
I’ve never had a job wherein I could be AWOL and still have my job upon my return. I expected more from our state Republicans. Absence and silence are not part of their job descriptions.
Silence is not just reserved for racism
My frustration is not just with these Republicans. I’m also disappointed with most of Oregon’s legislative Democrats as they recently voted for the National Popular Vote bill. It’s a bad idea, as I’ve often noted in this blog space. In one vote each of these Democrats defied the U.S. Constitution, ignored the sovereignty of our state in presidential elections, and put all Oregon votes at risk of non-representation. Further, these votes were acts of willful ignorance for the truth and impact of their stance was made known to them.
U.S. stands for the United States, which includes of US!
Nobody has an excuse to be silent
But legislative leaders are not the only ones who are silent. Where are our nation’s faith leaders? What are they saying? Or have we – the nation’s congregation – become numb (and dumb) to admonishments for us to protect our souls, to build stronger characters, by emulating models we’ve long revered? Are we silent too?
If you are a member of a faith, of any stripe, and support such racism, misogyny, or exclusion, you’ve not learned the lessons offered. If you’re of an atheistic bent you still should be able to recognize right from wrong, the moral vs. the immoral. If you cannot recognize this, I suggest you look to better role models which are abundantly available in our midst, throughout our history, and even in our literature of fiction.
Silencing our votes is un-American
And yet, this blog space is devoted to a single concern: voting fairness and inclusiveness in presidential elections. For almost 200 years we’ve been lulled into a state of unconcern as we allow elections to silence large blocs of voters.
We readily recognize voter suppression when people are turned away from the polls. Usually, we find such practices abhorrent because it is not inclusive. It is not in keeping with our American values.
What we fail to recognize is that viable presidential ballots are also not represented because of the use of winner-takes-all vote counting in every state. We disregard the silencing of some 46% of the votes cast in every election. Though this reality is in plain sight, we remain silent as we suppress these votes.
Who are we cutting out with such vote suppression? The simple answer is: every demographic you can name. If you cast a vote that doesn’t matter, is not represented in your state, it simply means you did not vote in accordance with most of the voters in your states. You fall into some kind of minority.
Your vote – your voice – remains effectively silent. It’s an American travesty.
Equal Voice Voting gives voice to silent voters
Equal Voice Voting (EVV), if used, would include all votes and make every one of them matter and every state be heard. It helps the nation when we are no longer silent. You may not be one to write letters or make phone calls or march in protests to make your voice heard. But your vote is a way to speak – to not be silent.
You and I may not agree on issues. Still, as an American citizen eligible to vote, your voting voice should never, for any reason, be silenced.
I survived an appalling week and have emerged no longer silent. None of us should be. Speaking up nurtures one’s soul.