The disorienting year that was 2020 ended with a “Big Lie.”
It was the latest iteration of white supremacy, asserting massive voter fraud even though there is no evidence to support such claims.
This thinly veiled white supremacist hoax was spoken widely, with a building cadence and growing chorus, despite the lack of any evidence. It led to a literal lynch mob attacking and taking control of the United States Capitol.
People died because we were following the rules of the United States Constitution, not because we weren’t.
If you believe in your heart that you would have ridden the bus with John Lewis or crossed the bridge with Martin Luther King, Jr., then lace up your marching shoes.
You didn’t miss the civil rights movement; you are just living in the next phase of it.
I’m glad Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, and Adam Kinzinger stood up for democracy in that moment when the peaceful transfer of power was violated. None of them have previously invested much in fully actualizing democracy and protecting voting rights and access to the ballot box.
They got converted to the deep cause of American democracy as the doors were being smashed. I’ll take deathbed conversions. Let’s see what they do now.
More than that, let’s see what we will do now. Each of us.
All legislation rests upon our fundamental organizing document, the United States Constitution.
There are major areas of public policy where there is room for great debate: the role of government in the economy, education and healthcare; how to protect and defend our nation; how to deal with huge infrastructure needs and the like.
The United States Constitution (still yet to be fully actualized) makes it clear that the core principles of one person, one vote, and democratic representation of the people, by the people and for the people, are not up for debate or renegotiation.
They are the foundation. Our responsibilities and legacy as citizens are to protect that.
Legislation that enables and protects these fundamental rights is how we protect and defend the Constitution.
The insurrection has two fronts now, and each of us have direct ways to join the fight for America:
- Voting rights protection and ballot access that counters efforts at voter suppression, exclusion and intimidation.
- Redistricting at every level following the 2020 census that either crushes genuine democratic representation or promotes it.
“The Big Lie” is continuing as a multi-headed serpent slithering through statehouses.
Now, Republicans in 35 states have introduced some 165 bills to restrict, contract and disable voting rights and ballot access. The pretense is a further spiral on the “Big Lie.”
If you consider yourself Republican, it is especially vital that you identify and make clear where you stand on these fundamental American issues.
Trump filled receptive peoples’ heads (read – mostly white people scared of change) with disinformation and baseless claims 24 hours a day on television channels and social media platforms.
They orchestrated the distrust they now claim as the basis for restricting access to the ballot under the guise of the prevention of mass voter fraud.
Such mass voter fraud does not exist according to the Department of Justice, CISA within Homeland Security, the FBI, some 60 court cases thrown out by judges for lack of evidence, and 50 state processes of checks and balances and recounts conducted by duly elected officers of each state.
In 35 states, voting rights and reasonable access to the ballot for all eligible voters, are under threat.
The 2013 Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder Supreme Court decision stripped away protections in the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The 2021 redistricting processes that go from the city council level to the congressional level create opportunities either for more representative government than we have today, or less.
If you were transformed by the insurrection, then there are direct ways to join this phase of the civil rights movement.
- Track legislation in your state regarding voting rights protections and voting rights restrictions.
While marketed as “election security” measures, this is what the “whites only” signs look like today.
How to do that? Start with the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that tracks legislation regarding voting and redistricting.
- Identify organizations in your state that are working to protect voting rights and ballot access.
Look to the organizations that are led by the people whose right to vote and fair representation is most at risk. This means organizations led by people of color.
Join them. Stay informed by them.
- Donate money to national, state and local organizations that work on these issues.
- Educate yourself.
Write the story – with your life – that you will tell to your great-grandchildren when they ask, “In 2021, what did you do?”
Whatever effort and honor we attempted to offer up in our grief when Congressman John Lewis died in the year 2020 pales in comparison to the honor we impart to his memory by what we do now.
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series. Part one is available here.
An Alabama native and mother of three sons, Hiley has a BA in history, a Master of Divinity, and is a former Kellogg Foundation National Leadership Fellow. She lives near Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Todd Heifner.