Today I'm worried about the survival of our democracy. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

This Election Is About Whether US Democracy Can Endure

It's not really about policy preferences or even issues. There is only one huge existential question.


Coming into the home stretch before the 2022 midterm elections, I feel different than I've felt in the days before every election I've witnessed or participated in over the last three-quarters of a century.

Before, I've worried about Republicans taking over and implementing their policy preferences--against political rights in the dark days of Joe McCarthy's communist witch hunt in the early 1950s, against civil rights in the late 1950s and early 1960s, against Medicare in the mid-1960s, for smaller government in the 1970s, for tax cuts for the rich in the 1980s, for a balanced budget in the early 1990s, against universal health care in the late 1990s and early 2000s, against LGBTQ rights in the 2010s.

My friends, we owe it to generations before us who fought and died for democracy and the rule of law, and to generations after us who will live with the legacy we leave them.

Today I'm not worried about Republicans' policy preferences. Today I'm worried about the survival of our democracy.

I'm worried that a majority of Republican candidates are telling voters, without any basis in fact, that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

I'm worried that if elected, many of these Republicans will make it harder to conduct elections, allow or encourage endless audits of election results, and even refuse to sign off on them.

I'm worried that Republicans have been spending millions to recruit partisan poll workers and watchers who could disrupt the counting process or raise false claims about it. (Michigan Republican secretary of state nominee Kristina Karamo rose to prominence as a Detroit poll watcher who made false claims about election fraud.)

I'm worried that thousands of Trump supporters have been calling their local election offices requesting all kinds of public records, often using suspiciously similar wording, leading election officials to believe this is a coordinated effort to prevent them from holding an election.

I'm worried that violent thugs are on the prowl, and that Republican leaders--starting with Trump--have been quietly encouraging them. (Speaking on a conservative radio talk show on Tuesday, Trump amplified a conspiracy theory about the grisly attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul Pelosi, saying "Weird things going on in that household in the last couple of weeks." Other Republican candidates are joining in this cruel, baseless, disgusting taunt.

Most of all, I'm worried that Americans are losing the trust that a democracy needs in order to function--trust that even though we may not like the outcomes of particular elections, we feel bound by them because we trust the democratic process.

The biggest question hanging over the 2022 midterm election is not a policy. It's not even an issue.

It is analogous to the question we as a nation faced in 1860, as we slid into a tragic Civil War.

It is whether our democracy can endure.

The extraordinary, abominable challenge we now face--one that I frankly never imagined we would face--is that the Republican Party and its enablers in the media and among the monied interests appear not to want American democracy to endure.

As Joe Biden said last night, "Democracy itself" is at stake in the upcoming election, and he appealed "to all Americans, regardless of party, to meet this moment of national and generational importance."


My friends, we owe it to generations before us who fought and died for democracy and the rule of law, and to generations after us who will live with the legacy we leave them--to get out the vote next Tuesday, to vote out the traitors and liars, to renounce the party that has forsaken the precious ideal of self-government, and to vote in people who are dedicated to making our democracy stronger and better.

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