This White, Gun-Owning, Southern Debutante’s Heart Still Hurts; But Wait, It Gets Worse
“I got fury in my soul
Fury’s gonna take me to the glory goal . . .
. . . Save the people! Save the children! Save the country!”
— Laura Nyro, “Save the Country”
Another letter to the world:
Back in the dark ages, when we had a pre-caller-ID, wall-mounted landline in the kitchen and “Seinfeld” was playing on TV while I prepared dinner, the phone would ring, and I would answer. What I said next was the subject of family hilarity.
Many evenings, a political fundraiser would be on the other end of the line, as we were on the lists for both Republicans and Democrats, owing to our white, upper-middle-class demographics and my own liberal-leaning nonprofit support.
This is how the conversation would go:
Them: Hello, I’m calling for the Tennessee Republican/Democratic Party. . .
Me: Let me stop you right there. I hate you all.
Them: Excuse me?
Me: Yes, I hate you all. Republican, Democrat, whoever. The people who should run for office, don’t, and the people who should NOT run for office, do. You don’t care at all about us citizens, only about getting re-elected, so, like I said, I hate you all.
Them: Uh, ok, sorry, goodbye.
The poor caller couldn’t get off the phone fast enough, and my husband and daughters and I would laugh and laugh.
After awhile, the calls tapered off. There were probably call sheets somewhere with “Do Not Call. Crazy Woman” written on them in red.
That said, that was also back when I felt that I had the luxury of “hating them all.” Whoever won, I thought, they were all well-intentioned people, and America would end up being okay.
Not so today. I still feel that the system is broken — all the way around, in a Romeo and Juliet “all are punished” kind of way, and I do not presume to solve it. I’ll leave that to the new generations who are not interested in the “wait your turn” or “we’ve always done it this way” attitudes of old geezers like me and my contemporaries.
(Gen Z is set to be both the most-educated and diverse generation in history. I hope their search for authenticity and truth in the world of “alternative facts” will lead us to a more just and equitable future. But I digress.)
While I will leave the problems with our election system to others (2/3 of the country not voting, the broken electoral college, no viable third parties, the way races are financed by PACs and “dark money” which corrupts politicians, etc.), on this specific issue of a democracy in peril, I do feel I need to sound the alarm.
For all the faults of the Democratic party, I still feel about them the way I used to about most moderate politicians — that they’re well-intentioned, good people. As for the Republicans, I am alarmed that they have veered sharply away from the Republican party I used to know, and are marching dangerously in an anti-democracy direction.
PAST IS PROLOGUE
When I last dipped my toe into the waters of Online Opinion World, before the last presidential election (see article from October of 2020, HERE), I outed myself as a privileged Southern debutante; a former occasional Republican voter; a gun-owning, duck-hunting, gun control advocate; a sexual assault survivor (a charming little story for another time); a Planned Parenthood advocate and clinic escort; and the “radical liberal” of my social set.
I told my friends that if they intended to vote for Trump, it would hurt my heart and trouble my soul.
I pushed the button to publish, slightly fearful of the reaction, but was hugely gratified by the outpouring of support and agreement I received, with over 7.5k views.
Election Day came and went, and after a seemingly interminable four days of vote-counting, on Saturday, November 7, 2020, Joe Biden was declared the winner of the Presidential election — by over seven million popular votes and an electoral college victory of 306 to 232. All major news and governmental sources (including the Trump-supporting Fox News) confirmed the election.
Hooray, huzzah, and amen three times!
That Saturday night, my husband and I drank champagne with another relieved couple, and I could almost hear strains of “Happy Days Are Here Again” in the air. “Now,” we said, “life can get back to normal.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, and stopped paying much attention.
That is, until about the end of December, when I became much like Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton, when he sang, “So what’d I miss?”
What I had missed, unfortunately, was a whole freaking lot.
Petulant Trump had refused to concede, stamping his feet and clinching his tiny hands,, when faced with being fired, refused to go.
I did not know then — as we all know now — what Trump had in the works. From his foreshadowing at the Presidential debate of refusing to concede if he lost (“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.); to the creation of “The Big Lie” (emphasis on “lie”) even before Election Day happened; to his actual refusal to concede when he did lose (and he absolutely, positively, did lose, by a substantial amount); to the frivolous and fruitless lawsuits (61 out of 62 losses, with the single win being on a technicality); to his loss of an appeal to “his” Supreme Court; to the coordinated and premeditated fraudulent elector scheme; to the threatening phone calls to states’ election officials; to rallies where he repeated “The Big Lie”; to pressuring his own VP Mike Pence to change the lawful vote; to actually assembling and commissioning a mob to attack the Capitol and the lawmakers within it — I had no idea what jeopardy our democracy was in.
I was taking down our Christmas tree on January 6, 2021, with the certification of the Electoral College votes playing on the news in the background, when things in Washington began to go south. Our family gathered around the TV, not believing the horror we were witnessing. But there it was — an attack on the Capitol — and on American Democracy itself.
A FINAL WORD ON TRUMP
We know from the investigations of the bipartisan January 6 Select Committee of Congress, that the Insurrection was not a spontaneous outburst, but a carefully-planned, multi-part plan to overthrow our government, led by Trump and those who would illegally keep him in office.
An attempt to overthrow an election had never taken place in our nation’s history. Trump was the one and only cause of January 6th. The J-6 committee has proven this, using — almost exclusively — testimony and evidence from Republicans and Trump loyalists.
Add antisemitic online posts, Nazi salutes at his rallies and even racial slurs against a former cabinet member, and Trump’s lawlessness continued unabated. On his way out of office, he absconded with reams of Presidential documents including “Top Secret” files dealing with nuclear secrets of allies and enemies. And then he lied about it.
Republican party members refuse to repudiate Trump for even the most anti-American transgressions, which brings me to . . .
REPUBLICANS vs. DEMOCRACY
In 2020, my fear and warning was about Trump himself. This time — alarmingly — I direct my fear and warning against these Republican party members themselves. They are complicit, and are toeing the authoritarian and nationalistic party line. Have you watched “The Walking Dead”? It feels like these Republicans are a zombie horde, shuffling toward the rest of the population, hoping to eat our brains and devour our freedoms.
My over-optimistic hope that these Republicans in Congress would do the right thing has been quashed time and time again. Maya Angelou’s quote, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time,” has never been more true.
Here are a few ways these Republicans have become more authoritarian and less democratic:
Capitalizing on the politics of grievance — Us vs. Them
— Fear and hate are two of our biggest motivators. The Republicans try to gin up fear of crime — especially by Black and Brown people — to make White nationalism, and “White Replacement Theory”(a made-up fear-mongering atrocity) more palatable to White voters.
— Fun Fact: Per capita murder rates are 40% higher in states won by Trump than in those won by Biden.
Embrace of authoritarianism
— The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has invited Viktor Orban, the autocratic prime minister of Hungary, to speak at their conference as an honored guest.
— Some Republicans, and their media partners on Fox News, have actually praised Russia’s Putin and his unprovoked war against the heroic Ukraine, and have said they want to eliminate Ukrainian aid.
Refusal to Condemn the Eminently Condemnable
— I watched Republican Sen. Rick Scott tie himself into knots on “Face the Nation,” refusing to repudiate Marjorie Taylor Greene’s outrageous lie (at a Trump rally) that “Democrats want Republicans dead, and have already started the killings.” To condone this kind of rhetoric is beyond dangerous, and silence is acceptance.
— I remember when having a girl who wasn’t your wife sit on your lap was enough to scuttle your political career (sorry, Gary Hart). Now, paying for a girlfriend’s abortion (she’s got the receipts) and holding a gun to your wife’s head earns you the adoration of the anti-abortion Republican party and prompts them to give you many millions of campaign dollars. As Dana Loesch (former NRA spokesperson, current conservative radio host) said, “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.”
— Republicans have repeatedly downplayed the January 6th Insurrection, doubling down on the “peaceful tourist visit” or “must’ve been Antifa” horse hockey. They refused to vote to authorize the Jan. 6 committee to investigate that heinous day (with the exception of the courageous Kinzinger and Cheney).
— Republicans acquitted Trump at his second impeachment (except for 7 brave Senators), even while making speeches condemning him (McConnell, Graham, McCarthy).
— Nationwide, 299 Republican nominees running for offices of all types and importance have denied or questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.
There is a quote, attributed variously to Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Goebbels (Hitler’s propaganda minister) that “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
They don’t call it The Big Lie for nothing.
ROEVEMBER HITTING TOO CLOSE TO HOME
All of this has led me to decide, in Tennessee (and maybe you feel this way in whatever state you’re reading this from), categorically, I cannot support any Republican for any office.
In my world, which is largely populated by women I love, the real-life importance of reproductive and women’s rights surpasses many of the other important issues (the economy, climate change, gun control, etc.) any day.
In June, when the Supreme Court took away the Constitutional right to abortion, the lives of American women were upended.
This is, for the record, the first time that the Supreme Court has taken away or restricted American rights, rather than expanding them. Justice Thomas also signaled a willingness to eliminate other rights, including those of same-sex marriage and contraception (yes, really).
My daughter told me of a friend in Nashville, who has undergone two in vitro births already, who was advised by her doctor to move her remaining frozen embryos to a facility outside of Tennessee. One friend asked, “What if my daughter-in-law had a dangerous pregnancy, or a non-viable fetus?” “She’s out of luck,” I answered.
I see TN Governor Bill Lee’s touchy-feely ads about how great things are in Tennessee, and how much he’s done for women’s health and families, and my mouth hangs open in disbelief. Tennessee is 37th in the country in healthcare access; 41st in poverty; 44th in education spending; 10th highest in property crime rate; 3rd highest in violent crime rate. If Tennessee had adequately funded its forensic labs, a particular rape kit would have been processed in less than a year, and a violent rapist would have been arrested. Instead, that monster remained free, and murdered my daughter’s friend in Memphis in September.
Yeah, that’s how great things are in Tennessee, Bill.
My decision not to support any Republicans includes, I’m sorry to say, cases in which I know the candidates personally.
I know they’re perfectly nice people. But that perfectly nice young man whose family I know well — and like — is a Republican in the Tennessee state legislature, which could be voting on iterations of our state’s draconian abortion law, recently triggered into effect. If a legislator wanted to amend that law to allow exceptions for rape, incest, and life and health of the mother, which are reasonable things, I cannot trust this young man to buck his Republican party in favor of Tennessee’s women, and vote for that amendment.
I cannot trust the lovely and smart woman I know on the Shelby County Commission to look out for any women’s rights issues that might come before that commission, because she also is a Republican, and even voted against funding for nurse-midwives for prenatal care at a local health care center. Perhaps that was because that center used to perform abortions, back in the dark ages — three months ago — when they were still legal.
To make things worse, Republicans have already announced their intention — if they regain Congressional control — to pass a national ban on abortion. Without the Constitutional safety net of Roe vs. Wade, this is a real possibility. The only way to protect the right to choose is to “codify Roe.” The only way to “codify Roe” is to have enough Democrat legislators — in both houses of Congress — to make that happen.
Again, when they show you — or tell you — who they are, believe them the first time.
Do you ever have a dream where you know that the monster’s coming, and you’re running around trying to warn people about that monster, but they just dismiss you with the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head?
Over the past year, I’ve had three in-depth conversations with friends, in which I told them I had an existential terror that we are on the verge of losing our democracy. All three scoffed at me and said I was overreacting. No monster here, they said.
This has happened before, so I disagree. In 2016, when I would talk to friends who were going to vote for Trump because they “just didn’t like Hillary,” I would say this: “I have two words for you — Supreme Court.” No one believed me. How could it be that bad? they reasoned. (My darling son-in-law has since apologized, saying he truly didn’t think that things would be so bad, or that three justices would be appointed, or that they would lie about Roe to Congress in their hearings.)
I believe we are at an inflection point for freedom and the threat of a tilt towards autocracy.
The Washington Post’s Editorial Board recently implored the public to vote for “the most fundamental principles” of democracy itself.
Do you care more about your short-term comfort and financial interests, or the long-term survival of our democracy? “A republic, if you can keep it,” said Benjamin Franklin when asked what form of government the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had created for America. The only way, I believe, that we can “keep it,” is to vote for people who will safeguard our rights — and at this juncture, it appears to me that all of those are Democrats.
This article has not been comfortable for me to write. But if I did not do it — write a piece that will doubtless lose friends and make enemies for me — I would feel that I did not give my all to save American democracy.
Republicans have told you they will cut Social Security and Medicare. Believe them.
Republicans have told you they will oppose more aid to Ukraine. Believe them.
Republicans have told you they’re going after abortion rights on a national level. Believe them.
Republicans have told you they’re going after single-sex marriage and other personal rights. Believe them.
Please, friends, I implore you, vote for the people who will expand your rights, not take them away.
To parrot my letter from two years ago, if you vote for any person who would take us backwards, it will hurt my heart and trouble my soul.
Choice is on the ballot.
Our rights are on the ballot.
Democracy is on the ballot.