In the 1976 film Network, a TV newscaster named Howard Beale announces on TV: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” He’s irate, angry with the state of the world, and he tells his viewers: “I want you to get up and yell ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.’”
I re-watched Network recently, and Howard Beale’s words have stuck with me. Until now, I’ve written very little about politics, but the current state of things has pushed me to finally speak up. Like Howard Beale, I’m mad as hell, and I don’t think I can take this anymore.
TWO KEY POINTS:
- THE OVERWHELMING IMPORTANCE OF VOTING
Much of our country is now in the grip of—or is moving toward–minority rule. State legislatures like that in Texas have assumed minority control, and they are dictating their desires to the entire state, whether the majority agrees with them or not. One example is their outrageous legislation banning a woman’s right to choose, a right that was until June enshrined in the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court for nearly fifty years.
How can we escape this move toward minority rule? Lawsuits have been filed, and activists have been clamoring for the U.S. Congress to act, to protect the rights of the majority and thereby protect democracy in our country.
While these lawsuits proceed in the courts, and while the GOP members of Congress sit on their hands, let’s focus on what WE CAN DO. Every voter in this country must VOTE. Nothing will change until the majority exercises its right to vote. We urgently need to energize voters to vote—even where voting is hard. Turnout is vital.
Many of us are enraged by the new restrictions placed on voters by the minority-dominated legislatures. These restrictions, primarily directed toward voters of color, can also diminish the voting rights of older voters and the disabled.
What can we do? We can–and we must–encourage all of these voters to vote. And we need to get them to the polls. If that means that we need to organize a battalion of vehicles to transport them to the polls, then we should do that. If that means that voters must deal with the unfair restrictions placed upon them by the new rules, then that’s exactly what they need to do. Until the unfair rules change, they need to follow the rules.
It may not be easy for everyone to vote, but we need to emphasize how vital it is. Let’s tell voters: Don’t go to the polls expecting short lines or people handing out bottles of water. Be prepared for long lines of voters like you. Bring water and food from home while you wait. If you’ve been able to use a mail-in ballot in the past, don’t assume you can use it now without following whatever draconian rules have recently been enacted.
Why? Because you need to follow the rules if you’re going to change anything. Specifically, to change the people elected to the legislature and the other elected positions that are up for grabs. Even if you’re in a gerrymandered district, go out and vote. Lose a day’s pay if necessary. Wear the most comfortable shoes in your closet. Bring an umbrella if the forecast is for rain. In short, do whatever you need to do to exercise your right to vote
The new Texas laws, passed by a legislature dominated by members who do not represent the majority of citizens in their state, make Texas the “poster state” for minority rule. We need to keep Texas in mind when we encourage people to vote anywhere and everywhere.
I’m encouraged that many groups and individuals are taking steps to promote greater turnout. Increasing enthusiasm and higher voter registration numbers, especially among women, are immensely encouraging signs.
- MAKING SURE YOUR VOTE IS COUNTED
We have an even greater challenge: Confronting those who advocate that we do not honor the outcomes of rightful elections. These candidates and others will not commit to honoring the will of the voters. Win or lose, they want to proclaim victory and remain in power forever, creating a one-party state.
We need to do whatever we can to clamp down on this alarming trend.
These “election deniers,” who have falsely claimed that the ex-president won the 2020 election, appear up and down November ballots throughout the U.S. Many are contending for local and state offices, like the state offices that run elections–the secretaries of state–that are frequently ignored by the electorate. They have the potential to wreck the orderly administration of elections throughout our country.
I’m especially disturbed by these efforts to undermine local elections because I have relevant personal experience. For decades, I worked as a fair and unbiased precinct worker, poll worker, and election judge, and I’m appalled by what’s happening in our country right now.
In 1975, I moved to Wilmette, a North Shore suburb of Chicago, with my husband and one-year-old child. At first, I didn’t have a job as a lawyer or as a law school professor (both of which I’d previously done), and I had no other meaningful employment outside the home. Because I had a lifelong interest in politics, I immediately searched for ways to get involved in politics in Wilmette.
It turned out that Wilmette was embedded in a largely Republican part of Cook County. Village officeholders were chosen in nonpartisan elections, but other officeholders, such as our member of Congress, faced highly competitive elections.
Wilmette was in New Trier Township, which covered much of the North Shore, and I came across the New Trier Democratic Organization, filled with energetic Democrats who hoped to get more Democrats elected locally, statewide, and nationwide. I allied with NTDO, volunteering to work in my precinct to elect Democrats in the November 1976 election. In the beginning, I went door-to-door to learn who was likely to vote for Democrats. I would then mark up a publicly-available list of voters and give it to my precinct captain, helping to get Democratic-leaning voters to the polls on Election Day. Soon I became a precinct captain myself.
Even after I was hired to teach at a downtown Chicago law school, I chose to work part-time only, primarily to spend time with my children but also to be able to pursue other interests. My darling husband (always supportive of whatever pursuit I chose) was a university math professor who could work on his math at home and otherwise had a flexible academic schedule, and he would often assume responsibility for our children.
So I continued to devote time to volunteer efforts related to electoral politics. I eventually worked my way up to sit on the NTDO executive committee. (More about that—and our pivotal endorsements–another time.) Although I generally supported Democratic candidates, I respected Republican candidates and officeholders and those who worked to support them.
Two of my favorite efforts were 1) serving as a poll worker, monitoring the proceedings at an election site on Election Day, and 2) serving as an election judge, working as one of the two parties’ judges, checking in voters and tallying up votes at the end of the day.
Politics in Wilmette remained highly competitive, but this competition never interfered with the orderly conduct of elections. On the contrary, everyone worked smoothly together, and I always felt welcome wherever I worked. Even in the most Republican-dominated part of town, I enjoyed sitting beside and chatting with Republican judges. Those of us who represented both parties at the polls respected each other and got along remarkably well.
The contrast with electoral politics in 2022 is enormous and truly frightening. If the election deniers take over running local and state elections, they will not respect their opponents. They will not tally votes fairly. They will attempt to work toward their goal of a one-party state.
If they win, what will politics be like for our children and grandchildren? Will our democracy survive? Or will tyranny triumph?
Please become aware of election deniers running for office in your community and work to defeat them. The prospect of their running future elections is horrifying.
As Timothy Snyder has stated in his book, On Tyranny, if we are to avoid tyranny, we must tell everyone: “Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.”
We must “defend our institutions” and do all we can to “beware the one-party state.”
Finally, Snyder has challenged all of us: Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny.
This is why I want you to get mad. This November, voting is more important than ever before. We need to get out there and vote. To help others to vote. And when we vote, we need to oppose those who would undermine our freedom. Our democracy hangs in the balance.