Democracy is at its most fragile during times of war, terrorism, and elections. The United States just happens to be at a crossroads of all three. With constant war being funded in the Middle East in large part by the United States, and the post 9/11 world surveillance and the close of the 2020 election drawing near the Democracy of the United States of America is fragil. While American Democracy is at a crucial point, we, as voters and citizens, can bring it back from the brink. America is caught in a battle not just for the White House, but other down ballot races, like the Senate, House, and races for Governor, school board, county commission, and the State Houses. People have already started pouring out in droves to vote either by mail or in person. This is in part fueled by the pandemic but also because of the state of American Democracy.
In my small Massachusetts town of Mansfield we had 45 people turn out to hold signs for candidates and issues on our ballot this November. In an Article titled For democracy to survive, it requires civic engagement Hollie Russon Gilman says “Civic engagement is not just for creating better policies but also for reinvigorating democratic practice” She continues to say “this is an underlying condition of our current political dysfunction” (Vox.com). Civic engagement does not always mean going to an organized stand out or working on a campaign but simply just voting. Voting is the most basic way to be civically engaged and help protect against democratic erosion.
We held this reason for a very specific reason though. It was not just to support a slate of candidates, but to push back against a group that came to the town a week prior. A week before the Blue Wave Standout there was a rally hosted by America Backs the Blue. The rally itself also helped protect against democratic erosion because more people were getting involved in the process. The issue members of the community took was with some of those in attendance. Members of the Aryan Nation. According to the ADL the Aryan Nation is “s one of the country’s best-known enclaves of anti-Semitism and white nationalism” the document by the ADL continues and says “the organization also incorporates neo-Nazi themes; its founder and longtime leader, Richard Girnt Butler, openly adulates Hitler”. Hitler and his Nazis led to a massive pushback against democracy in Europe and saw the world’s largest democratic erosion ever.
To push back against erosion we held this standout. We supported candidates that openly oppose alt-right groups like the Aryan Nation as well as candidates that support and defend American Institutions. This type of civic engagements goes a step beyond the voting booth. This involves going to meetings of local groups and committees as well as being affiliated with campaigns. People need to be willing to reach this level of civic engagement for democracy to really work. If people do not vote and do not support candidates then a very small and faithful minority of people, like members of alt right groups like the Aryan Nation, would be able to dominate elections. We have seen this before. In years with lower voter turnouts. According to the University of Pennsylvania, in 2016 only 138 million Americans voted, or 58%. In 2008 61% of registered voters voted. This shows a trend that exists in American Democracy, and it is a decrease in voter engagement. In 1900 about 75% of registered voters voted, and in 1880 over 80% of registered voters voted.
This year I expect the voter turnout to be high. This is not just because the amount of people who have voted early but the number of people who have been involved. The race for my congressional district saw nine candidates and my municipal elections saw a higher voter turnout, and more contested race than it has seen in decades. People are voting and people are being involved, at least in Massachusetts. A similar standout for down ballot races in 2016 saw only about 20 people attend. This is a pushback against democratic erosion, and against a president and group of people that are trying to target democracy and push American Institutions to their breaking point. Civic engagement like the Blue Wave Standout in Mansfield will be the vanguard against a system on the brink of destruction.