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Will Democracy survive the assault already occurring?

That is the question. At stake: whether or not we will continue to have a democracy.

That reality lies behind this truth; we need the Voting rights bills stalled in the United States Congress to be passed. Now. There is no higher priority for our Republic than the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the For the People Act, and the Freedom to Vote Act. Without federal protection of our democratic elections, the extreme right will continue to carve away at the very marrow of our democracy.

A couple weeks ago, a reader shared a message from one of the Republican 2022 candidates for the Colorado U.S. Senate seat held by Michael Bennet. It was an amazing message of double-talk — blaming the Democratic party leadership and all democrats (referenced as socialist communists) as well as those Republicans who haven’t caved to Trumpism, for all the ills of the country, right down to the local level.  In his words: “I’m working overtime to ensure all our conservative values, especially Election Integrity, are no longer ignored or glossed over by the failed establishment insiders who got us in this mess in the first place.”

Really? What mess would that be?

Do you mean the one where there was no election fraud and President Joe Biden was legitimately elected as our president by millions more votes than his opponent and a large electoral college margin?

Do you mean the one where the last president and his supporters have propagated lies about the integrity of our elections and the results of the last one, which has been hailed as “the most secure in American history.”

Do you mean the one where the last president and his supporters staged a multi-pronged effort ending in a violent coup on Jan. 6 that threatened to destroy our democracy — the one a certain Senate candidate from Colorado attended? Or by “mess”, do you mean you failed  to overthrow our government and you’re pouting that your dictator of choice hasn’t been installed as a new authoritarian U.S. government hiding behind words like “patriot”, “freedom” and “integrity?”

Readers are welcome to say we are over-reacting. But after conferring with several fellow journalists, the sense among us is that the Jan. 6 insurrection was a dress rehearsal for what could come next.

The reality is that there is only one “side”: there is democracy — and then there are those who are actively promoting authoritarian rule under the guise of “freedom” (for them, not anyone else) while wrapping themselves in our flag.

At stake is nothing less than the foundations of American democracy. Do not count on the current party system. A reported 30 million Republicans already have their heads in the sands of extremism.

What possesses formerly respectable conservatives and much of the leadership of the Republican party to cower before former president Trump? Is it his endorsement, as he just gave to extreme-right District 3 Representative Lauren Boebert?

At the state level they are actively attempting to dismantle America’s voting system, violating the Voting Rights Act, stripping Secretaries of State of their authority over elections and replacing local election officials. If they were children, we would say they are generally acting like undisciplined foul-mouthed, spoiled brats who get their kicks by interrupting the grownups who are actually working on governing.

Then there is the fantasy aspect of the destruction of democracy. The nonsense that is QAnon might have begun as a lark — a replacement for a ridiculous fantasy game played on FourChan, which got replaced by Eight Chan (now Eight Kun). The fantasy is a “big tent conspiracy theory” that falsely claims that former President Trump is facing down a shadowy cabal of Democratic pedophiles. No one knows who runs it, although it appears there are five anonymous people who post the cryptic messages and another 15 or so who run the back-end tech.

The conspiracy theories of a fantasy game got taken over by political power aspirations  when two guys named Jim and Ron Watkins got involved, then someone in the Trump White House got interested (bets are on Mike Flynn). The goal; subverting the facts about America’s election system to seize and retain power for a would-be Messiah figure (according to QAnon).

The QAnon phenom has grown; from an online game, to a few local demonstrations, to massive rallies,  then to a significant percentage of Republicans. Its believers now populate the halls of Congress in the likes of Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Loren Boebert. Just for the record – this is NOT real. It’s as make-believe as Mickey Mouse.

Bless the Gen Z’s for coming up with a satirical counter-effort (to the ‘stop the steal’ and ‘let’s go Brandon’ chants). Their satirical”Bird’s aren’t Real,” is sweeping the country as a rally and online protest against the QAnon fantasy world.

The surreal nature of this coup-interrupted is further reinforced by the fact that white nationalists are thrilled that the mainstream of Republicans (whatever that is these days) have picked up their angry rhetoric. What came to light on Aug. 11, 2017, when a crowd of torch-wielding white nationalists marched across the University of Virginia campus, chanting slogans like “blood and soil” and “you will not replace us,” before attacking a small group of counter-demonstrators, is now being mainstreamed. At the time we were shocked. But while the organizers of that march and the next day’s “Unite the Right” rally were recently made to pay for their racist violence, the beliefs that animated them are now being spread by conservative pundits led by Fox News hosts.

Trump and his minions are in the midst of purging the Republican party of those who support democracy. He is assembling folks who would do what Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp wouldn’t do in Georgia… overturn election results.

Last week, highly respected journalist Chris Wallace announced without warning that he is leaving Fox News. He gave no reason. Perhaps he got tired of being one of the few real journalists left there, in what has become not journalism, but a conspiracy marketing juggernaut.

The viral, pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory is sucking ordinary, formerly non-political Americans down a rabbit hole of venom and hate, where they call all of us who pay attention to facts and reject cults as “subhuman”, and claim it won’t be hard to kill us because after all — we aren’t human.

As fact-based journalists, a core tenet of our Ark Valley Voice mission that ‘truth has a voice” now includes covering democracy — right here at the local level. Just as The Atlantic has pledged to do on the national level, we believe there is one side here. It is democracy and upholding democratic convention. The other is authoritarianism. We can’t cover this as if one side is equivalent to the other side. They are not.

Elections happen locally, county-by-county all across this country. Votes come into county clerks, precinct by precinct. The people working there and volunteering are your neighbors and friends. China isn’t there. Neither is Italy, neither are fire-breathing child eaters. The vote counts roll up to the states, and the states certify them and they roll up to the Senate where the Vice President as head of the Senate confirms/accepts the results.

If we don’t do something RIGHT NOW to protect this precious thing that is democracy — we could lose it. As a journalist with a background that reaches back to the arrival in this country of the Puritans, this land, flawed as it is — has always been about adhering to the Rule of Law to ensure what the Constitution enshrined — a government of, by, and for the people. That means all of us, not a grievance-driven uncompromising greedy minority.

The reality is grim. Who is going to reach the people being turned into extremists, who are hardening their minds to fact and truth? It is not the national media — those who are or are becoming extremists are outside the reach of the national media. IT IS HERE, locally, where we journalists have to beat the drum of democratic order and democratic freedoms. Frankly, this hasn’t traditionally been our job.

But if not now, when?