On November 3rd (and in the weeks leading up to that day), more than 81 million Americans voted for Joseph R. Biden to be the president; netting him 51.6% of the popular vote and 306 electoral votes . They cast their votes in a free and fair election, run by over 51 decentralized and highly unique systems each with their own set of rules, processes, and administrators.
Upon realizing that he had lost, did former President Trump acknowledge defeat and gracefully begin the transition? No. According to reports, he was already looking for ways to declare victory before the results were known, and as it became apparent that he had lost, he sought instead to invalidate votes cast by mail (necessary due to his own refusal to address the ongoing pandemic) in key states that voted for President Biden. He called on the Supreme Court, Republican state legislatures, and his own Vice President to overrule the will of the American people.
When all this failed, he incited his supporters to invade the United States Capitol and disrupt the counting of electoral votes, an act of insurrection that ended a streak of 160 years of peaceful transition. For his troubles, he became the only president in American history to be impeached twice.
It would be tempting to say such an anti-democratic rot ends with Trump, but the simple fact of the matter is that it does not. It deeply pervades the Republican Party, whose officeholders have either pretended to be ignorant of his depravity, coddled it, or openly supported it. How else are we to explain Republican silence here in Rhode Island? How do we explain Rep. Patricia Morgan, who told The Providence Journal, without providing any evidence, that “there was election fraud,” due to mail balloting?
How do we explain Rep. Justin Price, who participated in the protests outside the Capitol and claimed that the insurrection was instead a false flag attack by “Antifa” instead of organized and planned by well-known far-right supporters of the President? In response, progressive Democratic politicians called for Price’s expulsion
Rep. Evan Shanley (D-Warwick), in an op-ed in The Journal, calls for everyone to have an open mind, and to listen respectfully to each other. But he puts the onus to listen on Democrats:
The state representative in question [Price] has indicated he did not enter the Capitol or otherwise participate in an insurrection. Unless evidence suggests otherwise, his assurance will have to do.
But there’s a question we should be asking here. Why did it happen? What brought so many people to the point where they looked at what President Trump was selling and said that man speaks for me and addresses my needs and concerns — so much so that some even took up arms and participated in an attempted coup?
…It involves sitting down and actually finding out why these people feel so threatened. What brought them to this impasse? Do they feel that the America they know is slowly disappearing? Do they feel that their wants, needs and concerns are not being addressed? That they no longer have a voice? The only way we can find that out is to sit down and talk to them.
If we chose to cast them aside because we vehemently disagree with their views, then they in turn will cast us aside.
“…They in turn will cast us aside.” They have already decided to do that. They marched on the Capitol seeking to overturn a free and fair election. How much respect should we give such behavior? How much respect does the Representative think should we give those who believe that President Biden and most of the Democratic Party is part of a Satanic cabal of pedophiles who drink human blood? How should we respond to people who hear President Biden’s call to drive white supremacy, racism, and nativism from to body politic and think “he’s talking about us!” We can hear people, listen to their concerns, and then recoil in horror!
There’s an idea of the “cordon sanitaire” in politics – that some ideas and political positions are just too beyond the pale to be given any ground in politics. You may not be familiar with the concept, but if you’re a progressive in RI politics, you’ve experienced it. A cordon sanitaire has effectively been used to keep liberal and progressive positions from getting a hearing on Smith Hill.
These positions; policies to address racism, poverty, and climate change; have, until recently, been cast as too radical to be given the time of day in Rhode Island. But these are the positions that have motivated local organizing for the past four years, driven perhaps the largest mass demonstration in modern history in RI, triumphed in the state’s Democratic primary, and ultimately won the 2020 elections across the country. The very name of our state has been changed due to such positions! It’s time Rhode Island Democrats listened to the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party and actually act on such demands.
I have no great desire to hear more of the thoughts of those so locked in their own ideological echo chambers that they can grow to believe the most vile of conspiracy theories and support violent overthrow of our government for a raving misogynist. Not when I take a look around this state and see no such calls from politicians of Shanley’s political persuasions to take a moment and listen to those in our state who struggle with a raging pandemic; rising unemployment; delipidated, scarce, and expensive housing; and a worsening climate leading to more chaotic and harmful weather.
These are the Rhode Islanders that should be listened to first, these are the people who put the majority of the General Assembly in power. We have heard enough in the past four years from the red-hatted minority who view us as inherently illegitimate, dismissed us out of hand, and whose only motivating policy demand is “owning the libs.” We have actual policies to enact, actual needs to address.
I hope the Representative is listening.