Opinion: What we can do to help save democracy in 2024

Yesterday marked the start not only of a new year, but also a terrifyingly high-stakes ride for America — slightly over 10 months to the presidential election of 2024.

Trump is leading in the polls by a slim margin. Even more remarkably, more Americans disapprove than approve of Biden’s efforts to improve the nation’s infrastructure, and more believe that Trump “has a vision for the future” than believe Biden does.

Polls this long before an election have little or no predictive value, but they do suggest that over the next 10 months, Biden and his administration must get across a clear message of Biden’s vision and accomplishments.

What can the rest of us do between now and the election to help save American democracy?

Ten suggestions:

1. Become even more politically active. For some of us, this will mean taking more time out of our normal lives — up to and including getting out the vote in critical swing states. For others, it will mean phone banking, making political contributions, writing letters to editors, and calling friends and relations in key states.

2. Do not succumb to the tempting anesthesias of complacency or cynicism. The stakes are too high. Even if you cannot take much time out of your normal life for direct politics, you will need to organize, mobilize, and energize your friends, colleagues, and neighbors.

3. Counter lies with truth. When you hear someone repeating a Trump Republican lie, correct it. This will require that you prepare yourself with facts, logic, analysis, and sources.

4. Do not tolerate bigotry and hate. Call it out. Stand up to it. Denounce it. Demand that others denounce it, too.

5. Do not resort to name-calling, bullying, intimidation, violence, or any of the other tactics that Trump followers may be using. We cannot save democracy through anti-democratic means.

6. Be compassionate toward hardcore followers of Trump, but be firm in your opposition. Understand why someone might decide to support Trump, but don’t waste your time and energy trying to convert them. Use your time and energy on those who still have open minds.

7. Don’t waste your time commiserating with people who already agree with you. Don’t gripe, whine, wring your hands, and kvetch with other anti-Trumpers about how awful Trump and his Republican enablers are. Don’t snivel over or criticize Biden and the Democrats for failing to communicate more effectively how bad Trump and his Republican enablers are. None of this will get you anything except an upset stomach or worse.

8. Don’t decide to sit this election out or vote for a third-party candidate because you don’t especially like Biden and you’re tired of voting for the “lesser of two evils.” Biden may not be perfect, but he’s not the lesser of two evils. Trump is truly evil.

9. Demonstrate, but don’t confuse demonstrating for political action. You may find it gratifying to stand on a corner in Berkeley or Cambridge or any other liberal precinct with a sign asking drivers to “honk if you hate fascism” and elicit lots of honks. But this is as politically effectual as taking a warm shower. Organize people who don’t normally vote to vote for Biden. Mobilize get-out-the-vote efforts in your community. Get young people involved.

10. Don’t get distracted by the latest sensationalist post or story by or about Trump. Don’t let the media’s short-term attention span divert your eyes from the prize — the survival of American democracy during one of the greatest stress tests it has had to endure, organized by one of the worst demagogues in American history.

I cannot overstate how critical the outcome of the next 10 months will be to everything we believe in. And the importance of your participation. We must win this. And then continue to do the work of making our democracy and economy work for the many, rather than the few at the top.

— Robert B. Reich is a columnist with Tribune Content Agency.


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