Dear President Biden,
Rousing, righteous speeches can be terrific catalysts, and lines like
“I’m not saying this to alarm you. I’m saying this because you should be alarmed.”
are clever and catchy. Such lines might just give some people the poke they need to move out of the “I’m not sure how bad these GOP voting laws really are” cognitive space to “oh my, if POTUS is saying I should be alarmed about all this then I guess I should be alarmed.” We do tend to incline our ears to those in authority so when you say we should be alarmed, at least a few more of us might just sit up and take notice.
There is however, a however, and it is that if talk isn’t backed up by a credible action plan, any increased attention or energy that talk might have generated will dissipate just as quickly as it was ignited. This pattern may not be as predictable as the sun setting at night and rising in the morning, but it’s rather human nature that even if something is quite dire, if there’s no clear plan to address it, we are good at plugging our ears, so to speak, and yelling “la, la, la” over and over. When we feel powerless to effect change, most of us are very, very good at carrying on as if everything is just fine. We do it with all sorts of things – global warming, systemic racism, gun violence – and we are gonna do it with voting rights.
So, sir – what the hell are you DOING about the blatant, in our faces all day, every day, assault on democracy?
We simply can’t have you sounding catchy alarm bells and then pretend it’s ok that you just clam up when it comes to a plan. If you want people to rally in support of democracy against the hundreds of voter restriction and election rigging bills GOP state legislatures are promulgating, you’ve got to step up and give US a clear sense of what you are prepared to do about it. Otherwise, it’s like the local fire chief standing across the street looking on as smoke starts billowing out of the windows of all the houses up and down the block and telling those within earshot that they should be alarmed while standing by and doing nothing, summoning no one, to deal with the cause of the smoke. Such a fire chief would be fired in a heartbeat, wouldn’t they?
If one were to adopt a less generous, perhaps dispassionate, perhaps cynical, view of what is happening, one might just begin to wonder whether the big D Democrats don’t secretly agree with the all caps GOP that it behooves the bottom lines of their patrons to let voting rights slip, to let democracy slide further toward oligarchy and autocracy. I mean why else would you not step up and get real about the damn filibuster? Why else would you not prioritize this with a 3 or 5 or whatever step plan to push back against what Trump and McConnell and their ilk are up to? If we follow the old adage to follow the money, where would it lead us? Hmm?
Sir, we need a plan. We are alarmed. We are freaked out. We are scared. We know that if the current instantiation of the GOP gets their way on the voting rights front, we not only won’t have a democracy, but we won’t have any chance – at all – of addressing the dire existential threats bearing down on us. I know you can’t keep the moon from wobbling and you can’t actually save us from ourselves, but I think that if you articulated a practical plan to stem the GOP tide of voter restrictions it would help us avoid the worst.
May we be safe from all those damn existential threats.
May we insist on practical action to address said threats.
May those who need to, muster the strength to displease the oligarchs to save democracy.
May they accept that they really can’t have it both ways.