Our Greatest Strengths May Also Be Our Greatest Weaknesses.

Since its inception, the US has been celebrated for its guaranteed freedoms: Most notably the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to own a gun, and the freedom to choose our leaders no matter how flawed and unqualified they may be. But those freedoms come with a cost.

Under our Constitution, profiteers and ideologues such as Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and the mysterious Q are free to distribute a torrent of half truths, mistruths, and outrageous lies intended to divide us and to weaken our nation. As a result, there are no shared truths. Not even the need to deal with the horrors of a pandemic has been able to pull us together. Far too many have been willing to take the word of pundits and politicians over that of caregivers and scientists. Even after nearly 350,000 deaths, they continue to believe the pandemic is a hoax. By refusing to wear a mask, they are making a political statement. And they are convinced that vaccines have been created as a way for the government to track them or, worse, poison them.

White supremacists, white nationalists, and other hatemongers hide behind our freedom of religion to discriminate against those of other religions, colors, cultures, and sexual preferences. They even use their religions to deny women the freedom to control their own bodies.

The gun lobby uses the 2nd Amendment and fear tactics to expand gun ownership. Not for hunting. But for “protection.” This is despite the fact that more gun owners are likely to be shot with their own gun than to use it for self-defense. And despite the overwhelming number of gun deaths enabled by easy access to guns. Further, as hate and division have grown, millions of Americans have assembled arsenals with the expectation of using them against their political “enemies” and their own government!

As for our “free” elections, consider the fact that many American citizens are routinely denied the freedom to vote. Especially those Americans of color and those living in poverty. They have not only been victimized by reduced polling places, reduced voting hours, and the purges of voter registrations. Many have been required to take time away from work and drive long distances in order to obtain necessary voter IDs. And one need look no further than the chaos created by Donald J. Trump to see the consequences of electing greedy, unethical, and unqualified government outsiders.

It’s not hyperbole to state that our freedoms may also lead to our nation’s demise.

The question is: How can we address the weaknesses of our system while maintaining our Constitutional freedoms? How can we prevent the liars, the unethical, the profiteers, and our enemies from using our own Constitution against us, especially now that our Supreme Court has been politicized?

We can end division by, once again, demanding that media report the truth. That could be accomplished by a return to some form of the Fairness Doctrine, which required radio and television channels to operate in the public interest by clearly labeling opinions and separating them from the news. The same rules could be applied to all other media.

We could also take the politics out of religion by enforcing current laws that take away tax exemptions for churches that routinely engage in political activities. We should also tax churches that collect millions in donations, permitting their pastors to live in mansions and travel in private jets.

We can address our gun problem by instituting national gun laws, including universal background checks and red flag laws. We should also end the sales of military-style weapons, such as AR-15s, AK-47s, 50 caliber sniper rifles, and large capacity ammunition clips which add to the killing power of mass shooters. And we should conduct buyback programs to recover those already in our citizens’ hands.

Finally, we should reform our electoral system by eliminating the Electoral College, by instituting universal voter registration, and by standardizing elections from state to state. In addition, we should demand that anyone running for national office submit to extensive background checks and release all financial information, including 10 years of tax returns.

Do I think any of this will happen? No. But if we don’t make any changes, it’s pointless to continue to spend trillions on national defense. Before any external enemy can destroy us, we will likely destroy ourselves.

Why Republicans Should Lose. And Lose Bigly.

Set aside most Republicans’ embrace of divisiveness, violent militias, Qanon and its wacko conspiracy theories, and their head-in-the-sand approach to the climate crisis. The reason you should spurn the entire Republican Party is its blatant attempts to deny millions of American citizens the right to vote.

For more than 20 years, the party has launched an all-out attack on the voting rights of people of color and the poor. It began by raising questions about the integrity of our election process on the heels of the party stealing the 2000 election in Florida. Yet the GOP had the audacity to claim that there was widespread voter fraud throughout the nation. Acting on that claim, the Bush administration ordered an investigation which found that intentional voter fraud was non-existent.

Nevertheless, many GOP-controlled legislatures began limiting voting rights to only those who had a photo ID. And, rather than make the IDs free and easy to obtain, the legislatures not only set fees for them. They limited access, often forcing poor Americans without drivers licenses to take time off from work and travel many miles to obtain the IDs. The IDs had the effect of denying voting rights millions of Americans.

In 2013, a Republican-driven lawsuit against the federal government (Shelby Co v Holder) led to a US Supreme decision that weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965, claiming that federal oversight of state election rules was no longer necessary. Almost immediately following the decision, GOP-led states dramatically reduced the number of voting centers in areas that are predominately black. At the same time, they reduced early voting periods and voting hours. That caused voters in those areas to wait in lines twice as long as their white counterparts.

In Arizona, Georgia, and other Republican-controlled states, the legislatures have ordered a purge of registered, but infrequent, voters. That act alone almost certainly put a Republican in Georgia’s governor’s mansion, instead of the more popular Democrat.

More recently, Donald Trump his Republican Party, in an attempt to undermine the 2020 election, have argued that the election is rigged and raised concerns about the safety of mail-in ballots, saying that mail-in voting is an opportunity for Democrats and China to commit election fraud. At the same time, Republican-appointed members of the governing board of the United States Postal Service and Trump’s Postmaster General have delayed mail service by removing dozens of mail sorting machines and hundreds of mailboxes. They have called for armed militias and white supremacist supporters of Trump to show up at the polls in large numbers as “poll watchers” – an obvious attempt at voter intimidation.

In Florida, the Republican Secretary of State has defied a voter-approved referendum by refusing to restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences until they pay all costs associate with their crimes while making it almost impossible to determine what those costs might be. The Republican governor of Texas has ordered that there can be only one voting drop-off box per county, thus making voting even more difficult for those living in large cities.

In Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and other states, Republicans have resorted to extreme gerrymandering which allows Republican officials to choose their voters rather than voters choosing their representatives. Administration attempts to rig and cut short the Census are also intended to impact redistricting in order to create more districts that are safe for Republicans.

As if all that isn’t enough, Republicans have continued to bombard voters with disinformation to create fear and confusion. They have embraced Russian interference and disinformation campaigns. And, I believe, Trump’s performance in the first debate was intended to cause numerous voters to become so disgusted with politics that they stay home on Election Day due to the reality that voter suppression always benefits Republican candidates, since the majority of Americans support Democratic policies.

The only solution to such tactics is to vote. Vote as if the future of our democracy depends on it. Because it does.