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Until Now We Never Voted On Whether We Wanted A Democracy Or Not

This morning, NY Times writer Jonathan Wesiman reported that 71% of all voters believe that democracy is at risk "but only 7 percent identified that as the most important problem facing the country. Americans face more immediate concerns: the worst inflation in 40 years, the loss of federal abortion rights after 50 years and a perception that crime is surging, if not in their communities then in cities nearby. But another factor is dampening people’s motivation to save America’s representative system of government: Some have already lost faith in its ability to represent them.

Wisconsin would seem like a state where concerns over democracy feel pressing— especially in this western swath of the state. The House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack uncovered text messages indicating that Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican seeking re-election, wanted to hand-deliver a slate of fake Wisconsin electors to Vice President Mike Pence that day to overturn Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s narrow victory in the state.
Derrick Van Orden, the fiercely pro-Trump Republican running to succeed Representative Ron Kind, a moderate Democrat who has represented much of western and central Wisconsin since 1997, was at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
And Wisconsin, perhaps more than any other state, is suffering through the erosion of democratic ideals already. Though virtually every elected statewide officer here is a Democrat, extreme gerrymandering of state legislative maps has given Republicans near supermajorities in the State Senate and House. At best, Democrats enter the state elections in November hoping to perpetuate the stalemate by re-electing their governor, Tony Evers, said Michael Hallquist, a Democratic alderman in Brookfield, outside Milwaukee.
But that democratic erosion may have sent many of Wisconsin’s citizens on a downward spiral of feeling powerless, apathetic and disconnected as one-party control becomes entrenched.
...[Mandela] Barnes, Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, clearly senses that the issue is not his ticket to the Senate. As he spoke to supporters, he did make the case that Mr. Johnson was a threat— “He personally attacked our democracy”— but only after criticizing Johnson’s support for a tax break for the wealthy, his efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, his opposition to Medicare negotiating prescription drug prices, his embrace of Wisconsin’s newly relevant 1849 abortion ban and much more.
If Barnes had to choose the top two issues driving voters to the polls, he said later, he would pick inflation and abortion.

The candidates Blue America has endorsed for Congress this cycle have told me that they’re campaigning on a combination of issues— from basic economic issues to the GOP trying to take away not just Social Security and Medicare but also our our rights, starting with the right to Choice.

With many states already in the thick of early voting— surging early voting— we are absolutely in crunch time. And, by the way, huge turnouts aren’t just happening in Georgia (with 519,300 votes having been cast as of Friday, compared with 304,800 in the same period in 2018, up a whopping 70%) but also in North Carolina, where absentee ballot requests are up 114%, and Florida (up 50% compared to 2018). As of Friday, Michigan had received 1,765,000 ballot requests, of which 641,800 had already been returned. In 2018, just 346,000 voted by mail during the entire election. Nick Corasaniti reported on Saturday that “election experts say the signs suggest overall turnout will be strong… Election Day has become, and will most likely always be, election month.”

Nationally, 5.5 million voters had already cast their ballots by Thursday (me included) and that 51% are Democrats and 30% are Republicans. So what’s driving Democrats to the polls so strongly this cycle? I asked Derek Marshall, the Blue America-backed progressive running in the San Bernardino suburbs. He didn’t hesitate for a moment:

“We've heard it on the phones, at the doors, and in the community, voters of all parties are upset about Jay's role in the attempted overthrow of our democracy. Jay Obernolte voted against the certification of Pennsylvania and Arizona in the 2020 election, against the investigation of January 6th, and then even after hearing some of the findings of the January 6th investigation, he is still proud to have Donald Trump's endorsement. Voters throughout CA-23 are upset, and no longer want a representative who doesn't believe in democracy and the American voter. Unfortunately, this isn't the end of Jay Obernolte's bad decisions as Congressman. Jay has put his party over his constituents as he continues to vote against protecting people and their rights when he voted against the Violence Against Women Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and continues to support the effort the ban abortions. In Washington, I will fight to ensure we have equity and equality in our community and across the country. We need to protect people's right to vote, to their reproductive health, and we need representatives who are not bought and sold by corporations so we can end the price gouging and rein in corporate greed.”

One of the closest races in the country is in a newly drawn Oregon district that goes from the suburbs south of Portland all the way out to Bend. After handily beating a Blue Dog incumbent and corporate shill in the primary, Jamie McLeod-Skinner is taking on MAGA Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer, a wealthy self-funder. Kevin McCarthy’s SuperPAC has spent an astronomical $4,383,975 smearing Jamie while the DCCC has spent less than half of that amount in the district.

“Across my district,” Jamie told me yesterday, “voters of all parties are upset with the DC Republican role in the attempted coup. While we may disagree on some policy issues, we agree that we need to protect our democracy so we can address the challenges that we face— rebounding from the COVID-economy, protecting our reproductive and voting rights, and ensuring a livable planet. We need representatives who are not bought and paid for by corporate PACs so we can end the price gouging and rein in corporate greed.”

The U.S. never voted to make the country a democracy. But in 14 days we’ll be voting on whether we want to remain one or not. These House candidates are all in on democracy. All of them have Get Out The Vote operations that last minute contributions will greatly benefit. Up for helping out?

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