Sunday Reflections: We Promised Them Democracy
It is now 19 days since the 2020 presidential election here in the United States of America. For many teens, this was their first chance to vote, and vote they did. By November 1st, more than 10 million youth in Gen Z and Millenials had already voted. And those youth voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden (with a few exceptions among key demographic groups like white men and women).
And although there is a lot to be discussed about this data, it’s what happens next that I want to talk about. You see, I am a person who told teens everywhere that they should vote and that their vote was their voice and it mattered because we are a democracy and that is part of what makes America, well, America. But there are a lot of people working hard to discount their votes and make people like me into liars.
Here we are 19 days later and there have been 33 court cases attempting to throw out a lot of people’s votes. In particular, the incumbent president and his party seem to be attempting to throw out the vote in areas that voted specifically in high numbers for Joe Biden. He is trying to nullify the votes of over 10 million young voters because they weren’t for him.
But it’s not just our youth, our Black citizens are having their votes challenged and cast aside as well. In Michigan, the incumbent president is seeking to throw out the vote because of the city of Detroit, which has an overwhelmingly Black population. He is also challenging specifically two counties in Wisconsin and those counties are, as you probably can figure, overwhelmingly Black as well. Racism is alive and well in America, as we have seen in the rising rates of violent hate crimes in the United States over the last four years. Racism and white nationalism have gotten so bad that the American Medical Association has declared it a public health crisis.
It’s 19 days later and we’ve seen the incumbent president call up representatives in Michigan and invite them to the White House to discuss the Michigan vote. Pictures circulated online of these representatives downing expensive champagne at the Trump Hotel. Michigan is now requesting to delay certifying their vote by 2 weeks. It turns out that the will of the Michigan voters, especially the Black voters, may be thrown out and the Michigan GOP is willing to let democracy burn while they hold the match in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other.
Meanwhile over in Georgia the hard work of grassroots organizers like Stacey Abrahms meant that Georgia voted Blue for the first time in decades. Republican leaders in Georgia accused Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of trying to ask them to throw out votes. It’s important to note that these are Republicans, strongly in favor of Trump, who appear to be standing up for democracy. But as I write this protests are happening and a third recount has been asked for. This recount will come, once, again, at the expense of Georgia tax payers who like the rest of America are struggling financially in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. As I write this, more than 250,000 Americans have died and others will face life long health complications we are just starting to learn about.
In Pennsylvania, there is an attempt to throw out ballots and challenge them there as well. The case was dismissed by the judge as having no evidence. As I write this there is discussion that the incumbent president and his team will take this challenge all the way to the Supreme Court. So if this happens then the fate of democracy will be left in the hands of 9 people, 3 of whom were appointed by the incumbent president in the past 4 years. One of whom was appointed just weeks before the presidential election despite the fact that the Senate wouldn’t even consider a Supreme Court judge 8 months before the 2016 election because it was “improper”. So the fate of democracy rests in the hands of 9 people.
9 people may ultimately get to decide who will be the president of the united states moving forward in 2021. There are 331 million people living in the United States.
All of this is playing out very publicly. The incumbent president keeps tweeting about it. New media and social media platforms have risen up to share these claims of rampant voter fraud that have not been proved by any evidence whatsoever. And a generation of teens born and raised with devices in their hands can see it all happening in real time.
And our teens can see it all happening. And they are dismayed. They feel betrayed by people like you and I who told them that democracy mattered. And they are struggling mental health wise with the dual issues of living in a deadly global pandemic and being a part of one of the most contentious elections in my lifetime. They look at us and think, you sold me a bill of goods and it has broken me. And I’m not sure they are going to trust us, the adults in the room, for a very long time.
I’ve been carrying around my own anxiety about this election and what looks like the demise of democracy and an overthrow of the will of the people. But what really haunts me late at night is the look of betrayal and terror I see in the teens that I told to go out and vote because their vote was their voice and that their voice mattered. Whichever candidate those teens voted for, the adults in the room are making it hard for them to trust the process with the way they are handling the outcome. And if no one trusts the process, in which members of both parties and outside observers have called one of the most secure elections in our country’s history, then how does democracy continue.
I’m especially angry and heartbroken to see our country and those in charge of it sending yet another message to our teens of color, our Black teens in particular, that their voice doesn’t matter and their votes shouldn’t count. Racism is alive and well in America and it is indeed a public health crisis.
We promised each generation of kids a democracy, I hope we will honor our promise. I can’t imagine what will happen if we don’t to entire generations of our youngest and most vulnerable youth. We shouldn’t be willing to sacrifice our democracy or our youth so that a few key players can maintain wealth and power. In the end, nobody will win.
Filed under: Sunday Reflections
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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