Where do Americans Go From Here?
Storming the Capitol and What to Do Next
*Disclaimer: I’m dipping into politics today because I have to speak up about the travesty that happened last week. We will return to your regular non-political mind gushes next time*
Yep, that happened. I was at work when I found out about the storming of the Capitol Building. One coworker found out around the same time and we briefly commiserate over the sheer lunacy of American citizens breaching one of our nation’s most important buildings before having to rush back to work. I spoke to one of my other coworkers about it between customers. He had not heard and the look of terror on his face floored me. At that point we knew nothing, but it was all I could think about. There I was, standing behind a register, checking people out, and people were just shopping like it was any other Wednesday. It was surreal.
How did we get here?
There are people who believe the election results are fraudulent. I hadn’t actually heard of any proven cases of fraud in the 2020 election, or even any cases with substantial proof that had yet to play out in the courts, so I decided to double check. I visited the Heritage Foundation’s website because if there was anyone who would substantiate the claims of a stolen election, it’s a conservative think tank. On their website, they have 1,308 proven cases of voter fraud. I was surprised by this number until I realized that this is for their entire database that starts in 1979. None of these were for the 2020 election because no cases have been proven. President Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, even said that the election was secure, so did the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. My personal favorite was Karl Rove though. If there is any vetran Republican who knows how to deal with election fraud, it’s him (Check out the Washington Post article on this here). Add to that the dozens of bogus lawsuits that Trump’s lawyers have brought to court only to be dismissed and the picture is fairly clear. Joe Biden won the presidency. (They have won a couple of cases based on legal issues, not fraud, but these have not come close to garnering Trump enough votes to change anything)
I would also like to add a bit of my own personal logic at this point in time. Trump and his allies have been going on about election fraud since they won in 2016. That means that there were four years to increase security, four years to recruit people who would watch the elections carefully. So, people were incredibly vigilant, but nothing can be proven? Logic would indicate that there's nothing to find.
So what happened?
Some people don’t believe any of that. Some of those people, at Trump’s behest, came to the Capitol to protest the certification of the electoral college result. That’s fine. Protests are protected and should be. He then instructed them to go down to the Capitol Building and show their strength (https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trump-tell-supporters-storm/). Welp, they did… Goodbye peaceful protest. Five deaths later, and right now the information that we have points to a police officer bludgeoned to death by a fire extinguisher, destruction of property, discovery of firearms and pipe bombs, and our Congressmen and women hiding in secure locations. I’m anxiously awaiting the results of the report on why the building was so easily breached, and awaiting more arrests. I am particularly interested in the associations of the people who will be arrested.
So what now?
Now is the time to act! Write a letter to your representatives. Join a political movement that will help strengthen democracy (Ranked Choice Voting is my current project). Talk to family and friends - and please remember the “talk” portion is key. Check out what your elected officials are doing. You can’t truly hold them accountable if you don’t know how they vote.
What I Want to See
Reforms, reforms, reforms. If this event doesn't show you that our democracy is in trouble, I don't know what will.
Curtailing executive power: This is not explicitly directed at Donald Trump, but he certainly showed everyone that the checks and balances of our system were based more on norms than laws and instead of chiselling slightly away at the other two branches like his predecessors, Trump broke out the sledgehammer. The balance of power exists for a reason. Also, make impeachment a more viable alternative. It should be easier, not incredibly difficult to impeach someone. This is the person in charge of our country. They are not above the law and if they act as such, they should be held accountable.
Election reform: Getting the money out of politics is a no brainer. The people we elect spend too much time fundraising and kissing babies when they should be representing our interests. Many countries place limits on how long a campaign can run. I would be interested in some restrictions in this area. Then there’s ranked choice voting (ranking the candidates to ensure the winner actually has more than 50% of the vote. Check out fairvote.org or rankthevote.us for more information). This simple change to our election system eliminates the spoiler effect. Studies show that it decreases negative campaigning and increases diversity of candidates.
Social media: The rise of an unregulated internet has led to the massive spread of disinformation. Disinformation spreads more quickly than information (MIT Study). It's usually sensationalized and feeds into the biases we already have. We need to regulate these platforms. I don’t know the answer, but there are definitely some good ones worth taking a look at, like holding them to the same standards as broadcasters or maybe invoking those nifty antitrust laws and breaking them into smaller parts. We could also eliminate microtargeting for ads.
The media: Thought they would escape attack? Of course not. The news should be news and not an endless stream of spin on the same topic by different anchors. Some of what is on MSNBC, Fox News, and others is not news and should be labeled as such. The 24 hour news cycle started polarizing us well before social media.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know one thing: You want to protest? That's your right. You want to storm the Capitol Building to disrupt democratic institutions? That is not only unacceptable, unlawful, and dangerous, but an affront to the democracy that they claim to be trying to save. Now is the time to lawfully make our voices heard and improve this country.