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How Do We Win the War Here at Home?

With every passing day, it looks less like we have one nation divided by differing political beliefs and more like we have two warring countries battling each other within shared borders. One side represents and seeks to preserve the United States. The other seeks to destroy it. 

If the goal of the GOP is, as it appears to be, to gut our democracy, to disenfranchise massive portions of our population, to impose the views of the minority on the majority, to attack principles like tolerance, that no individual is above the law, and equity, to literally reject reality and demonstrable facts and embrace an alternative reality founded in lies and dangerous to the health of the nation, our environment, our ideals and our standing in the world, then we have left the realm of political debate. 

A third of eligible U.S. voters seem committed to this toxic agenda. Worse, their views and their leaders seem to be growing ever more extreme. They reject rational debate, mutual understanding, and compromise. They embrace confrontation, obstruction and destruction. 

Their view, like that of extremists worldwide, is zero-sum nihilism. Either they get their way or they will destroy the whole thing. Their movement is funded by the greed of an elite that sees the extremists as the populist engine to drive their narrow agenda of self-enrichment. 

This elite lives in a bubble so removed from the rest of society that it hardly matters to them what the state of the lives of the rest of us might be. They operate above and beyond the reach of the law and see politicians as useful idiots and government as a needless constraint on their power. They don’t believe that less government equals more freedom as those they fund preach. They believe less government equals more freedom and more wealth for them and that’s all that matters. 

The question we face is what we do about it. The divisions described here have grown worse for forty years. They are manifested not just in the decay of political discourse in the country and the dysfunctionality of our system, but in grotesque inequality and suffering. 

Clearly, while some of the extremists glibly speak of civil war, that is not an option. But neither is politics as usual. We are where we are because one side has embraced scorched earth tactics of insurrectionists while the other clings to the illusion that old norms of behavior can work. No, it is time those who seek to preserve and defend and continue the struggle to perfect the U.S. adopt new tactics that acknowledge the gravity of the threat we face and the tactics of this very real enemy within our borders. 

Vast aspects of our system are based on an assumption of common interests, of good faith, of shared principles and of a common view of reality. All of those are breaking down because one side rejects or ignores or is oblivious to them. 

Other elements of our system are antiquated–like the way the Senate grants disproportionate power to the less populous states or the way the electoral college does likewise–and being taken advantage of by the minority to impose their will on the majority. 

To combat this, we must reform our system. Ultimately, we must recognize that the Constitution of the U.S. is flawed and in need of some serious updating. But to be able to act on that, the majority must first find a way to maintain their rightful voice and role. 

Cognizant of the risks inherent in what the founders called “tyranny of the majority.” While protecting against that, though, we must recognize the country was founded to reject the idea of the tyranny of a small, over-empowered minority with wildly divergent views and values. 

At the core of this battle is preserving the mechanisms by which the views of the majority are expressed–voting and the processes within our government institutions. The opponents of democracy recognize the centrality of these mechanisms. 

That’s why they have focused on perverting and undermining them via voter suppression, gerrymandering, campaign finance laws that give the rich more power, and packing the courts. And it is time those who seek to preserve the country recognize the centrality of all these areas. 

Preserving voter rights and eliminating the filibuster at least in cases where those rights are at stake are today the front-line issues in our battle to win what is in effect, a kind of Civil Cold War within American society. These are existential issues. 

Democrats, all democrats–big D and small d–must open their eyes at this moment and recognize that we are at the precipice of losing everything we value in our society because we have deluded ourselves for too long about the nature and threat posed by today’s extremist GOP. 

If we do not choose to defend voter rights now, if we do not reform the filibuster to allow that, if we do not then work to build our pro-democracy majority and frame the threats we face from the opposition accurately, then we will lose what generations have fought for, without a shot being fired. 

Yes, it all sounds very dramatic, like something that would happen in another era or a faraway land. That sense of it could not happen here has however been the best defense of those devoted to making it-the end of our democracy-happen here and now. 

And now is the last moment we have to open our eyes and recognize the urgency of this moment, the gravity of the threat we have, and the value and irreplaceability of what we now stand at risk of losing. 

 

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