Let's start with a theme that's at the core of both, whether we're talking about our domestic challenges or the situation in Ukraine: Disinformation. One thing that has been clear after one month of the conflict is that Putin has used an array of lies and falsehoods to justify his brutal invasion of a sovereign country. He's counting on people worldwide to believe this fake information. This isn't new at all for his regime, but perhaps what we didn't expect is that he would find allies within our own country—and even in Congress—to support his lies.
We have folks right here at home who are accepting Putin's narratives, rather than supporting our republic, its interests, and its values. The real question is: Why? Unfortunately, Putin and Donald Trump seem to operate from the same playbook, and both are willing to use lies to assault free and fair elections and democratic institutions. This includes Trump's peddling of "the big lie" to drum up support for more restrictive voting laws and, of course, to justify a physical attack on our nation's capital.
Trump lies to serve his own interests, and Putin does it to undermine the western powers. Taken together, they constitute an all-out war on democracy. The real danger is, their most fervent supporters will believe anything that either of the two autocratic strongmen say—without using their own critical thinking skills to verify or, especially in the case of Russia, simply not having access to correct information. But the stories and images of their suffering neighbors are sure to get through eventually, just like the horrific images of January 6th, 2021. The generation-defining question now is: Will those horrific images motivate folks to seek more facts, stand up for the truth, and take action where needed to push back against authoritarianism?
So far, here at home, we aren't making much headway. On the Select Committee investigating the Trump Administration and their involvement January 6th, we really know little more, as inquiries continue and Ukraine obviously dominates the news. Their work is important because they will document who did what, when that action was done, how those actions were coordinated, and who provided the leadership that brought about the tragic happenings at the U.S. Capitol Building that January 6th. With those facts, individuals at all levels can be held accountable and our system takes a very important step to survive. But how all this informs voters and their resulting actions at the polls in November will be what heavily influences the status of our democracy in the longer term.
The huge disappointment to date is no action at the national level on solid Voting Rights legislation. Democrats have gone almost silent on the topic and maybe given up. This inaction has been further elevated to crisis level because of all the continued state legislation that has passed. Many states now, including Kansas, have new laws being proposed to limit the time and ease of voting, making it their clear purpose of limiting some populations' access to help increase positive results for those pushing such change. The ultimate is the move of three states allowing the party that controls the legislature to declare fraud and change the results of the public vote. All this action could negate any hope of 2022 being a good year for our American democracy.
Then hearing the National Republican Party officially call January 6th, 2021 “civil discourse” blows my mind. I know some people would say in real terms my mind was blown decades ago, but this is unbelievable. Landon, Eisenhower, and Dole have to be turning in disgust in their graves. Given the National Republican Party has now for the last two Presidential elections chose to have no (zero) party platform positions, one has to assume this statement gives us at least some hint where they stand.
Democracy is clearly running amok when political parties work to change the Constitution to enhance their own political advantage, when blatant gerrymandering is tolerated and advanced by either party, and when access to voting is clearly designed to favor more positive results for those who had the political muscle to write the law.
What motivates me to speak out? My grandchildren and what their future might be like—and also the real possibility of pissing away what the Greatest Generation sacrificed for and all those who followed in their footsteps (active-duty and veterans).
Our Founders made clear to us all that we would have to fight to sustain democracy. The question now is: Will we step up? Will we the citizens wake up, accept the fact we have real risks to our democracy, and become more willing to take appropriate actions?
What can we do? Take this seriously. Learn more, read, listen, be willing to speak up, share your concerns. Make it clear you are going to vote on saving our democracy and work to help candidates who understand how important this is. Support candidates that seriously back democracy and the rule of law—and not just in words but in their deeds. All this, we should be able to agree upon. This is not deciding tax policy, immigration reform, or dealing with climate change. Supporting our democracy should be pretty easy if we understood the need.
I close with this thought: If the wonderful people of Ukraine, dying by the hundreds and risking everything, can continue on fighting to save their democracy, surely we can all take this challenge we have much more seriously and take our own actions.