We had two powerful demonstrations in our nation last week. One was lawful, orderly, tedious and impressive. The other was destructive, unlawful, with no clear purpose.
The first was the US Senate runoff election in Georgia. In case you missed it, two Democrats got elected to the Senate in a state that has only elected Republican Senators for the last twenty years.
How did this happen? Pretty simple, really, but awfully hard to accomplish: turnout. Almost as many Georgians voted in the runoff as in the general election in November. Twice as many voted as in the last runoff election in 2008. Georgians showed up at the polls, cast their ballots, actively participated in this representative government.
The state of Georgia ran this runoff election according to their rules; they followed their laws. About half the people’s candidates lost; about half had their guy win. I’m sure there’s disappointment and elation. But the outcome should be seen as a win for us all, if we have any hope for our Republic.
I don’t find this encouraging because “my side” won. It’s really not about whose side wins, it’s about this Republic working for our citizens.
The effort was incredible. Getting people interested in voting, aware of the choice before them, then getting them to the polls or to fill in their absentee ballot is hard work. It takes a lot of organizing, a lot of effort. The effort was made, and the results rewarded the effort.
Yes, the margins were slim, but the outcome was clear.
Doesn’t a turnout like that just thrill you? Doesn’t such voter engagement restore your faith in our Republic?
If not, then maybe you found the second demonstration more meaningful.
For weeks right wing Trump supporters have talked about “occupy the Capitol” on unregulated, fringe social media sites. President Trump even set the date, January 6th in a tweet he sent out December 6th calling for a “big demonstration” in the Capitol. He knew then, and his followers figured out soon enough, that this date would be when the Electoral College Votes would be certified by Congress.
I’m sure the crowd was encouraged by the actions of many, our President in particular. I can’t help but think that the wave of Republican elected officials who tried to support one state (Texas) suing other states about how they ran their elections also egged the crowd on. For elected Republicans to abandon one of their fundamental beliefs, state’s rights, to support a demagogue surely signaled that the crowd was correct in their adulation. Heck, even Idaho elected officials jumped on board: Governor Little, both Congressmen, many legislators suddenly needed to follow the roar of a crowd.
State Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was a man with integrity in the face of this furor. He refused to add Idaho’s official imprimatur to this blasphemous document. Boy, did he catch it. But if you’re not making somebody mad, you’re not really standing for something, are you?
Can you imagine Idaho being sued by Oregon on how we run our elections?
As the crowd formed on Pennsylvania Avenue, our President, Donald Trump, called for them to march up to the Capitol. “I’ll be with you”, he promised.
You’ve all seen the videos of the Trump, Confederate, Gadsden (even Idaho) flag waving crowd as they pushed into the US Capitol building. You’ve seen the pictures of the posturing, pissing and selfie-taking mob.
So, you need to be thinking right now how these two demonstrations touched your heart. If the boring slog of talking to neighbors, or strangers about the importance of their vote doesn’t touch you, then I must say, I fear for our Republic. If instead you were roused and supportive of the riot trying to disrupt our legal processes, maybe this Constitutional form of government just doesn’t suit you. We need to be deciding, each of us.
Dan Schmidt is a family physician who lives in Moscow. Dr. Schmidt, a Democrat, served in the Idaho state senate from 2010 to 2016.