COMMENTARY: Democracy Hangs in the Balance – VOTE ACCORDINGLY - Across this nation, Americans are witnessing a breakdown of democratic values sweeping the land. That is clearly in evidence by the loss of personal freedoms, attacks on our electoral process, disregard for the rules of law, rising crime rates and senseless gun violence. Nowhere are concerns for the future more valid than here in Tennessee where recent FBI data now ranks this state as having the 3rd highest rate of violent crime, robbery, aggravated assaults and homicides. Fortunately, the November 8th election provides Tennessee voters an opportunity to change those frightening statistics by electing sensible government with a new governor along with state and federal legislators. Around the country other states will be doing the same, the results of which will decide which political party has majority control over the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
This election will be definitive in determining the values, direction, and type of government American voters wish to have and which political party they feel best serves those interests. It’s not mere hyperbole to state that now more than ever, democracy is on the ballot. However, equally concerning is Tennessee’s poor record for voter participation – 46th worst in 2020 – as highlighted by an abysmal 17% voter turnout in the August midterm election. Such voter apathy may well come back to haunt Tennesseans since according to analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, it can be expected that should MAGA-Republicans maintain legislative control in Southern states, particularly those with diverse racial populations, more restrictive voting laws will be enacted in an effort to decrease voter turnout among those most likely to vote for Democrats.
With that in mind, it’s important to note that despite the fact that 62% of Americans remain in favor of abortion, Republican lawmakers, beholden to their far-right religious base and emboldened by their success in outlawing abortion in half the country, have now set their sights on making criminalization of abortion the law of the land. Therefore, the outcome of November’s election will be critical to protecting the lives and well-being of millions of Americans, men, women, and children alike since passage of the legislation needed to restore reproductive privacy and freedom of choice hinges on the election of a Democratic congressional majority.
So what can we expect should a Republican majority take control of both houses of Congress? Undoubtedly in typical fashion they will continue obstructing whatever bills Democrats might propose, regardless the benefits to the American public. Additionally, we shall see ongoing attempts to “stack” the judicial system and the Supreme Court with unqualified, but like-minded conservative judges. However, their first order of business will likely be the disbanding of the January 6th Committee and the dismissal of further investigations, accountability and/or prosecution for those responsible in attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election. There is also a cockamamie scheme to impeach President Biden for unspecified “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
More disturbing are Republican threats to cut the programs at the heart of our social welfare system: Social Security and Medicare. Republicans have also said they would pass a law to make the 2017 Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate entities permanent, which economists say would further exacerbate inflation. Then there are ongoing threats to refuse to raise the debt ceiling serving as a cudgel to enable the “reform” of Social Security and Medicare including increasing the age of eligibility. And sadly, should they achieve a legislative majority; Republicans are also signaling withdrawal of support for Ukraine.
It must be remembered that this GOP, nationally and locally, aided by Fox News, continues to cast aspersions on the sanctity of our electoral process by clinging to and promulgating the Big Lie that Joe Biden stole the 2020 presidential election, despite widespread and definitive evidence to the contrary. Reflective of an increasing atmosphere of social and political intolerance are legislative attacks on Tennessee’s LGBQT community by extremist Republican legislators helping to foster and foment the anger and hate-mongering fueling radical white supremacists as seen by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s recent ranking of Tennessee as 2nd highest nationally for number of hate groups.
All of which increases the importance of who will be Tennessee’s next governor. Governor Bill Lee is campaigning for reelection on the basis that he has helped Tennessee families. That seems remarkably disingenuous when one considers that Tennessee’s lack of gun safety laws have resulted in a firearm mortality rate which is 10th highest nationally. Indeed Everytown reports that guns and gun violence are the leading cause of death for Tennessee children and teens. Lacking sensible gun control, those numbers will continue to skyrocket.
Under this administration, aided by an extreme ultra-conservative legislature, the well-being of Tennessee families has garnered scant attention since NoKidHungryTN reports that more than 19% of children in Tennessee live in “food insecure” homes. World Population Review figures for 2022 rank Tennessee as having the 10th highest rate of poverty and the 2nd highest number of minimum-wage workers laboring for $7.25 an hour – not figures to be proud of. Also alarming is the fact that while Tennessee families struggle to feed, house and educate their children as a means to escape a life of poverty, this governor is committed to creating a religious autocracy which includes siphoning off tax-payer dollars from our public educational system to for-profit charter schools emphasizing a conservative “Christian”curriculum. These are just a few of the reasons why it’s critical for Tennesseans to vote in this election.
Early voting runs from October 19 through November 3rd. Election Day is November 8th. Voter information can be obtained at GoVoteTN.com and at the League of Women Voters’ nonpartisan website VOTE411.org. Vote as if your life depended on it. It very well may.
Above Commentary Submitted by: Chloe Cerutti, Murfreesboro, TN