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A participant holding a sign at a march celebrating the defeat of President Donald Trump in Manhattan on November 7, 2020. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

2022 Should Be Seen as the Year for Democracy

We are, surely, in a fight over whether the will of the people will be the law of the land. It was brutal in 2021, and it is likely to get uglier in 2022.

One hundred and fifteen years ago, on Jan. 1, 1907, the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to his wife, Clara:

"And now, let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things."

The elite proponents of gerrymandering and voter suppression know they can't win honest elections, and that fact horrifies them.

Rilke was a delicious wordsmith, and these are some of his finest phrases. But we ought not imagine that his call for a deep embrace of the new year as a moment of hope and opportunity was merely a romantic notion.

We should begin each new year with a faith in its possibility. That's especially necessary in the year that is just now beginning.

The year that passed on Dec. 31, 2021, was weighted down with compromise, concession, cynicism and, of course, a coup attempt. Add on the lingering threat posed by COVID, and the new threat of inflation, and 2021 can easily be recalled as one big disappointment.

Until we remember that the coup was averted, and a new president and Congress turned the ship of state back in the direction of responsible governance.

The turn was, to be sure, clumsy and incomplete. Yet it holds out the prospect that we might ultimately achieve the promise of economic, social and racial justice, sustainability and peace.

Those may seem like distant goals at this point, when the wreckers of democracy are busy gerrymandering maps, implementing voter suppression schemes and proposing to have partisans override the rules for conducting free and fair elections. We are, surely, in a fight over whether the will of the people will be the law of the land. It was brutal in 2021, and it is likely to get uglier in 2022.

So why be hopeful?

Because the opponents of democracy would not be fighting as hard as they have been if they thought that the future belonged to them. The truth is that they are desperate. They know that they are losing.

In 2020, for the first time since 2008, Democrats won the presidency and control of Congress. Joe Biden's popular ballot margin over Donald Trump exceeded 7 million votes, and the Democrat who proposed a new New Deal won five states that had gone to Trump just four years earlier.

One of those states, Wisconsin, has over the past four years seen progressive Democrats win not just the presidential balloting but races for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer and a U.S. Senate seat. In addition, progressives have won two statewide contests for the Supreme Court—including one that upended a right-wing incumbent.

The elite proponents of gerrymandering and voter suppression know they can't win honest elections, and that fact horrifies them. They fear a politics they can no longer control on behalf of their own selfish and narrow interests. They are terrified that democracy might deliver a more just and equitable future. But that is the future we should fight for, with hope and determination in 2022—the future when we can demand, and achieve, necessary, serious and great things.


© 2021 The Capital Times

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