Vote like our democracy depends on it … because it does


With mid-term elections looming before us, media experts are speculating about how residents of “fly-over country” will vote.

Is America’s heartland peopled with folks who have nothing better to do than argue about farm equipment? Are we gullible or skeptical? Do we value truth over fiction? The answer lies within you. We all have our “brand loyalties,” but when it comes to politics, what values underlie our shared belief in the Holy Grail of self-governance?

The embodiment of that belief is the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming that all people are created equal. The U.S. Constitution, describes a democratic framework to achieve and maintain that equality. At the heart of that framework is a system of free elections in which We the People periodically elect legislators and other officials to represent us in the enterprise of self-governance. Representatives elected to federal office confirm their commitment to be bound by the results of their election by taking an oath of allegiance to uphold the Constitution.

But pursuit of democratic self-governance has recently been severely challenged. In the aftermath of the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a stunning 147 members of Congress, embracing treasonous lies about widespread fraud, voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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Domestic tranquility suffered major setbacks with NPR reporting 309 mass shootings by the Fourth of July of this year. The Supreme Court, substituting ideology for reason, betrayed basic human rights by denying bodily autonomy for women. A concurring opinion opened the door for further federal intrusion in marriage and reproductive rights.

These challenges to our democracy inspired the president to appeal to Americans to rescue the “Soul of America.” His words, resonating from a pulpit bolstered by the powerful symbols of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, urged Americans to “speak up, speak out, get engaged, vote, vote, vote.”  A former secretary of Labor summarized the issues at stake in the coming election: “The essential political choice in America … is no longer Republican or Democrat, right or left, conservative or liberal. It is democracy or authoritarian fascism.”

Only two mechanisms are available to alter the course of our democracy: amendment of the Constitution itself, and your vote for representatives who will create laws reflecting how you wish to be governed. Of these constitutional options, amendment is a slowly enacted remedy that has been successful in extending equal rights, abolishing slavery and establishing women’s right to vote.  The more rapid and direct mechanism to deal with the current crisis is simply to “throw the rascals out” in November’s mid-term elections.

George R. Spangler, Ph.D.

George R. Spangler, Ph.D.

Your secret vote expresses your own private conviction of how you would want your elected representative to vote on your behalf. Would you vote to invalidate Electoral College results in the absence of any evidence of election fraud? Would you vote to arrest a thief who admitted to stealing hundreds of government documents from the White House? Would you vote to deny a man or woman the right of autonomy over their own body? Would you vote to spend school tax money on arming teachers and training them to defend their classrooms? Would you vote to have a “morality police” vetting the public school curriculum or the books in schools and public libraries? Shadows of all of these issues are on our November ballot. The question remains, can your vote determine whether we live in a democracy or an autocracy?

The answer should be a resounding yes. Our August primary and special elections have already begun to answer some of the questions above. The voters in the “fly-over” state of Kansas voted overwhelmingly (69%) to preserve their state’s constitutional protection of a woman’s right to choose abortion as an option in her own pregnancy and reproductive future.

The choice of democracy or autocracy confronted citizens of the Weimar Republic in 1933. By any measure of “civilization” they chose badly, destroying their fledgling democracy and replacing it with the principle that “the Führer’s word is above all written law.”

The choice, this time, is yours: What color is your tractor?

Our democracy depends on your vote.

George R. Spangler, Ph.D., is a University of Minnesota professor emeritus of Conservation Biology, retired in beautiful southeast Minnesota’s karst country.


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