Vote like it’s a national emergency, because it is

It’s a mantra every election: Vote as if your life depends on it. I’ve written it myself in numerous columns over the years. But this election I want to say something different: Vote like it’s a national emergency. 

In 2016, Pennsylvanians, Michiganders and Wisconsinites ceded the election to Donald Trump and what became the MAGA GOP. Hillary Clinton lost the election by a mere 77,000 votes from those three states (while winning the popular vote by three million due to the bizarre, pro-slavery, winner-take-all anachronism of the Electoral College). But in those same states, over 800,000 voted third party or write-ins, with a substantial number of Democrats also voting for Trump.

While campaigning, Hillary Clinton warned repeatedly that the federal courts were at stake. She also said in a New York Times interview, “I’m the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse.”

Hillary declared Trump “Putin’s puppet” in a 2016 debate, while stating that Russia had “engaged in espionage against America,” delineating hacked websites and disinformation campaigns that have only grown stronger in the time since. Hillary also said that Trump wouldn’t concede the 2016 election if he lost. Then in 2020 she warned, “if Trump loses, he won’t go ‘silently into the night.’”

If only she had been wrong. 

Fast forward to now and that political apocalypse she warned of is a dawning reality. We have three Trump conservatives on the Supreme Court and dozens more in the federal courts. Roe has been overturned after 49 years. Gay marriage could be overturned and sodomy laws could be reinstated. There are hundreds of anti-LGBTQ laws being promulgated in the states by the GOP, books on LGBTQ issues, abortion and race are being banned. 

The 2022 election may very well be the last one in which voters have a say, if the Democrats lose the midterms and Republican leadership decides not to certify the 2024 election if a Democrat wins. 

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has already threatened investigations into Attorney General Merrick Garland (who Democrats, conversely, say isn’t acting strongly or quickly enough against Trump) for the Department of Justice’s investigations into Trump and his cohort’s involvement in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. McCarthy and other GOP have alluded to starting impeachment proceedings against President Biden. 

Trump — still under investigation for his role in the January 6 insurrection and for taking classified documents when he left the White House — has asserted there will be bloodshed and the nation would face “problems … the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen” if he is indicted. 

Trump continues to claim he was re-elected in 2020 and that massive voter fraud skewed the results of the election, a claim that has been refuted by his own former attorney general, Bill Barr. Yet Trump just made the statement again on his social media platform Truth Social earlier this week. His staunchest GOP supporters, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, tout the Big Lie, as do GOP candidates like Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano.  

On October 30, Rolling Stone magazine published an investigation into Mehmet Oz’s Pennsylvania Senate campaign with the headline: “Dr. Oz’s Campaign Is Stocked With Jan. 6ers.” In the story, one staffer, Lee Snover, described as Oz’s campaign coordinator for Northampton County, “attended the Jan. 6 ‘Stop the Steal’ rally on the mall and said she walked to the Capitol that day but did not trespass on Capitol grounds. ‘I got to the Capitol steps,’ she told Lehigh Valley Live that day. ‘The only violence I saw were the police teargassing patriots for no reason.’”

Neither Snover nor Oz’s campaign responded to requests for comment from Rolling Stone. Oz and John Fetterman are now in a virtual tie for the seat now held by Republican Pat Toomey. Yet Oz and Fetterman are at opposite ends of the political spectrum.

On November 2, it was announced that President Biden plans to deliver a speech near the Capitol that evening. The speech will focus on “preserving and protecting our democracy,” according to the Democratic National Committee, which is organizing the event. Biden will also address “the threat of election deniers and those who seek to undermine faith in voting and democracy,” the DNC said. 

Former president Barack Obama has stated, while campaigning for Democrats, that it’s not enough to elect Democrats at the top of the ticket. Democracy is at stake in the midterms, Obama said.

“We need to elect good people up and down the ballot. Across the country, some of the folks who tried to undermine our democracy are running for offices that will oversee the next election,” he said. “And if they win, there’s no telling what might happen.”

Obama and Biden are not wrong. In Pennsylvania, Mastriano was one of those promoting the fake electors scheme in the state legislature in 2020. Mastriano has said that as governor he gets to decide the vote and vowed to decertify voting machines in counties where he suspects the result was rigged. The Trump-backed GOP gubernatorial candidate has proposed moves that could create election “chaos,” experts say

“The biggest risk is a secretary of state just saying, ‘I’m not going to certify the election, despite what the court says and despite what the evidence shows, because I’m concerned about suspicions,’” Clifford Levine, a Democratic election lawyer in Pennsylvania, told the Washington Post after Mastriano won the primary. “You would start to have a breakdown in the legal system and the whole process.”

In Arizona, Kari Lake has refused to say if she will accept the election results Nov. 8 if she is not the winner.

Many say if they had it to do over again, they wouldn’t have written in Bernie Sanders in 2016 or voted Trump as a protest. But that disastrous election result will have repercussions for years to come. The Trump-laden judiciary maintains its control over Americans most vulnerable to discrimination and civil rights abuses — LGBTQ, people of color and women among them. 

Trump and his cohort have also altered the political landscape in other ways with the repeated manufacturing of distrust in the electoral processs. The entire tenor of national politics has shifted, with an increasingly violent tone from the right. As historian Max Boot wrote in the Washington Post after the Pelosi attack, “Don’t blame ‘both sides.’ The right is driving political violence.” 

That is where we are just days from the election. All I can say to you is we are in a state of national emergency. LGBTQ people, Black and brown people and women are all in the literal crosshairs of the right. Vote as if your lives and democracy depend on it. Vote as if we are in a national emergency — because we are.

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