Democracy is fragile, and if not cared for, it can fail. Recent events such as the January 6th attack on the Capitol and efforts to spread the Big Lie about the 2020 election results have left American democracy on shaky ground. Despite what one might hear on cable news or read online, here are three reasons we should be optimistic about our democracy.
Reason 1: Record voter turnout
The 2020 election saw a record 159.6 million Americans turn out to vote. Never in the history of our country have so many people voted in an election. A variety of factors made this turnout possible, including expanded vote-by-mail options, massive “Get Out the Vote” campaigns, and the faith each voter had that their vote would count and could be the difference.
Yes, after the election, belief that the vote was free and fair went down among some groups, but this was caused almost entirely by the election lies spread by the former president. With Trump gone and the growing recognition that the 2020 election was secure, beliefs that the election wasn’t free and fair can be remedied.
Efforts to suppress the vote will sadly continue, but the resolve and the strength of those defending the right to vote has only grown. We should have every reason to believe that more and more Americans will continue to head to the polls, knowing their vote will count, and by doing so, strengthen our democracy.
Reason 2: America has been through worse democratic divisions
America’s history is full of moments that put our democracy on edge. Slavery, the Civil War, lynchings, the Know-Nothings, and so many other terrible events put our country’s democracy at risk of collapsing. While democracy faces serious threats today, few compare to some of the worst moments our country has already experienced.
Despite many of the violent and racist divisions of our country’s past, our democracy has not only survived but gotten stronger. This strength is derived from the difficult work thousands of Americans have been engaged in, such as ending slavery, expanding the right to vote, and creating a more free and fair country. Our country has its challenges now, but if history is our guide, we will overcome these challenges and come out stronger.
Reason 3: America can change
Being able to change is what makes America so special. Our Founding Fathers knew our country would continually change and better itself. For this reason they instituted a process for amendments to be added to the Constitution.
Think back to the Black Americans and the women who fought for their right to vote. The hard work of these regular Americans started small, but eventually their work led to several amendments being added to our Constitution, making our country more equitable and free. To create a better country, one doesn’t need to be president or extremely wealthy. The beauty of the United States is that change can be led by regular Americans.
Part of the reason our country’s democratic shortcomings seem so evident is that they are on display for the entire world to see. While authoritarian countries do whatever it takes to limit or silence criticism, putting on a facade that all is well, the U.S. has the privilege of showing the world that a democracy with hundreds of millions of people, with various ethnicities, races, and languages can thrive.
The point is clear: yes, our democracy may be on shaky ground, but it can get better. We, as Americans, have every right to be optimistic about the future of our democracy, so long as we continue to stay engaged in the work of making it better.
Follow this link to see how you can help make our democracy stronger!