If you listen to the politicians and the pundits, there is lots of discussion about America being “back.”
Usually, they use this phrase as a shorthand for things like
- back on good relations with allies;
- back as a partner in NATO and the Paris climate accords;
- back to some of the norms we were used to, like regular press briefings, and a president that doesn’t knowingly lie multiple times a day.
Those are all Good Things, and like everyone else, I am certainly glad to see those things return.
But are we “back” as a democracy? Are we back to even the America of 2015?
In a word – no.
Here is a short list of just some of the ways that the United States is still not “back”:
- In many states, we do not have the voting rights we had in 2015.
- In 2015, we did not have a whack-job conspiracy theory that had more adherents than some religions.
- We also did not have to worry about death threats against everyday election officials.
- If a violent mob had attacked the Capitol in 2015, we would not have had one major party downplay the attack and say it was time to move on.
- And, if that attack had succeeded in breaching the Capitol’s defenses, we would immediately have had a bi-partisan commission set up to investigate what went wrong.
- In 2015, we did not have retired generals calling for a military coup of the duly-elected government.
- We did not have official ballots and voting machines handed over to random third-party companies with no chain of custody for a fake audit.
- And finally, we did not have seasoned, experienced elected officials who refused to accept the results of the previous election, and instead promoted the Big Lie, threatening the very democracy and Constitution they had sworn to protect.
No, we are not back … not in a number of ways that really matter.
Will we get there? We don’t know.
And that’s the biggest way we are not back. In 2015, we were naively confident that our democracy would never fail, that we were not like those “other countries.”
Now we know that it can indeed fail. And as we struggle to rebuild our democracy, let us never be naive again. Let us be determined to not just “get back,” but to instead get better, get fairer, get stronger.
That’s the “back” we need to aim for. That’s the “back” we need to insist on. And that is the “back” that should be the goal of every American, no matter their party: to realize the full vision of our democracy, and not just things being “normal” again.
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