Democracy is falling apart. The ground beneath our feet is shaking as members of Congress openly condemn their compatriots, defend usurpers of justice and democracy, and support the most insidious forms of hatred and supremacy. On the second anniversary of the Capitol insurrection, it is important to note just how much democracy has changed, and also how much of that power to change, lies in our generations’ hands.
I turn 18 this year, and to think, in some small way, that my thoughts matter, and can influence and affect change in my government is truly powerful. For a long time, I have felt profoundly powerless. I know, logically, there are things I can do to make my voice heard, but sometimes, oftentimes, it feels like there is no effective outlet for me to express my opinions, my emotions and my convictions. I have felt powerless and without a voice, especially as democracy is shattered by its differences, and fissures in liberty have been widened.
The past few weeks, maybe even years, have been marked by breaches on democracy, on constitutional rights being stripped from their constiuency’s grasp. Recently, the 118th House of Representatives was unable to start their procedure because Republicans could not elect a Speaker of the House. It took 15 different voting procedures and countless partisan concessions before the Republicans finally agreed on Kevin McCarthy. While many agree that this was a success where democracy and compromise finally prevailed, it only succeeded because McCarthy had to make concessions with the Freedom Caucus, a group of radical, far right Republicans including Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, and Marjorie Taylor Greene. These Republicans that support Trump, have endorsed the January 6 insurrectionists, and advocated for the reversal of Roe v. Wade. McCarthy had to concede positions of power to these elected officials who held up important government proceedings, because they were unwilling to agree on partisan partnership and to induct a relative moderate as the Speaker. He agreed to a rule allowing a single member of Congress to initiate a vote, and placed a member of the Freedom Caucus on the House Oversight Committee.
Just a few years ago, none of these politicians would have even been elected, let alone allowed to hold up congressional proceedings because they are unwilling to compromise, a core part of American government. Conceding to the Freedom Caucus’ claims and demands, a group standing in the face of democracy and liberty, is abominable.
These negotiations with the very people that supported the January 6 insurrection are inconceivable, but again, these people were elected by voters in their states. Nothing seems to carry as much weight, and what we thought were moral standards, lines not to be crossed are far in the distance. It’s disheartening to see how easily our society can be distracted, how the public eye can shift so quickly from one scandal to the next in a matter of hours.
In spite of all these unending encroachments on civil liberty and justice, there is a way forward, a path to the future. Do we give up, throw up our hands, and declare our world unlivable, unchangeable? Is it forever and infinitely hurtling towards a point of no return? Or, and it’s a bigger, more momentous effort to undertake, do we strive towards change that we ourselves can effect? Can we make our voices and convictions known through voting and electing officials that represent the voices of a new generation?
With my official induction into American democracy on the horizon, the end is in sight. I will see my California senators and representatives and know that I registered, I went to a polling center, or sent in a ballot, and made my opinion known. When a piece of legislation is sponsored by one of my representatives, or my preferred candidate comes into office, I will be able to know that I casted my vote into a sea of opinions, in a democratic nation. I can sign petitions as a registered voter, and attend election conferences and rallies and know that those politicians are vying for my vote. I feel empowered knowing that there is a reality where I can make a difference.
I’m not 18 yet, so I don’t technically get a vote, but as soon as I do, I want to be active, to be informed, and opinionated. We should not gloss over the atrocities of the past, but instead learn from it, and use the tools we have at our disposal to effect change. That’s my vote.