Uniting to Protect Democracy for All

Like most of you, I’m still processing what happened yesterday at the U.S. Capitol. I was glued to the TV. Horror. Disbelief. Sadness. Resolve.

In my year-end reflections, I promised that I would not use the word “unprecedented” to describe current events but… what we saw yesterday was unprecedented. I’ve had a long-held passion for politics and government. As a sophomore in high school, I introduced the Reverend Jesse Jackson during a presidential campaign event. When I interned for U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, I would sit for hours in the Senate chamber gallery watching with awe, pride, and respect the mundane but necessary steps of parliamentary procedure. I wrote my senior thesis analyzing the differences between unified and divided government. I loved politics. I could never have imagined the U.S. Congress being stormed and overtaken in an attempted coup.

And today… I’m sickened by the behavior of the President, his enablers, the rioters. I’m afraid when I listen to the words of the insurrectionists who vow “we will be back.” I cannot ignore the disparity between the overwhelming show of federal force at the BLM protests in DC following George Floyd’s murder and yesterday, when rioters smashed their way into a federal building and disrupted the constitutionally guaranteed transfer of power that has always been peaceful.

It was with a slight sense of relief that I woke up this morning to see that DC was quiet and that Congress had certified the election of Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris. But make no mistake: this crisis is not over.

What must we do next? I don’t know. We’re in uncharted territory as a nation. How do we get through the next 13 days, and then the next 13 weeks, the next 13 months? Where are we 13 years from now?

The immediate answer is obvious. The President must stop his fear-mongering, stop inciting insurrection, and demonstrably commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

And then we need to use our individual and collective voices and power—as leaders at foundations, companies, and nonprofits—to reassert healthy governing norms for our democracy. We cannot sit quietly on the sidelines as authoritarian and anti-democratic forces trample facts and the rule of law. These are not just partisan or political differences, but a widespread threat to our democratic ideals. 

There are no simple solutions to complex problems—we say that all the time to clients. And there will be no simple solutions to this—we need to examine the social determinants of democracy, you could say. But perhaps the answer starts with a simple confession that we are all worried, isolated, and yearning for a community that seems on the far side of a vaccine, an economic recovery, and a healed nation that serves everyone, including people who have been historically marginalized and excluded. We cannot wait for that future to arrive. We have to work together to bring it into being.

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