A week after Election Day, it’s apparent that American democracy is as sick as ever, and any hoped-for vaccine remains a long way off. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I keep thinking about the importance of history–how we got to this point, why Trump continues to attract so many white voters, and why the details of the past matter if we ever hope to create a more perfect union.
I’ve been considering writing an essay on this subject all week, but then I remembered that I had already done so back in 2018. Covering much of the above terrain, it begins:
“Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. is not now and has never been a democracy. . . . The antidemocratic composition of the Senate and the Electoral College are just the clearest testaments to our unequal past. White Southern and rural men still cast votes that count more heavily than those of urban, coastal voters.
“With the nation’s demographics in flux and open white supremacy resurgent in the body politic, any hope for a new multi-ethnic democracy in America must grapple with the nation’s true history. . . . Only direct, open discussion of our racial past and present will allow us to create wide-ranging new measures to promote equity—the key ingredient that allows people of all backgrounds to engage in a functioning, multicultural democracy.
“Counter-intuitively, this sweeping work begins with building democratic relationships within and across ethnic lines, through countless individual conversations on doorsteps, in living rooms, and at local community centers. The current attacks on democratic institutions are but symptoms of a deeper disease: the lack of full civic participation by the nation’s ordinary residents.”