[2022 has been a lot. A lot a lot. So for my annual Year in Review series, I wanted to focus mostly on somewhat lighter, pop culture kinds of topics, with just one much more serious exception. Here’s to a better year to come!]
On what’s not new about the latest attacks on our elections, and what is.
As I traced in this Saturday Evening Post Considering History column, white supremacists and reactionaries in America have long—if not indeed always—sought to suppress the vote and interfere with free and fair elections. Not sure I need to say much more about that—that column is very much the tip of the iceberg (and only focused on violent suppression, which of course has been complemented by so many other forms over the centuries, as well as right freaking now), but I hope it makes clear just how much both the right to vote and the practice of democracy itself have been consistently threatened and targeted throughout American history. An thus, as I wrote in another recent Saturday Evening Post column, how much the activists and communities that have struggled and sacrificed to secure, keep, and practice those rights deserve our collective memory and celebration.
So the fact that both the 2020 election specifically and our electoral process more broadly have been under assault throughout the last two years, and certainly throughout 2022 and the lead-up to the midterm elections, is not in and of itself new nor particularly surprising. But I would argue that there are a few key components of this specific attack, the Big Lie, that are in fact both new and hugely destructive. That starts with the fact that the attack originated with an elected official, and the most prominent and powerful elected official in the country at that. As a direct result, many of those who have continued to propagate this attack are themselves either already elected officials or have been seeking office at the time, with many of them seeking precisely roles that would allow them to influence future elections. And as a corollary to those factors, but I would argue as the most striking and destructive element of all, these attacks have not been nearly as couched in the usual fake narratives (worries about voter fraud, for example), but have been far more overtly and directly dismissive of the very idea or goal of free and fair elections themselves.
So yeah, the Big Lie is both an echo of the worst of American history and some brand new devilry. Fortunately, many of its advocates were defeated in those midterm elections; but of course its most famous advocate has announced that he is once again running for office, seeking to participate in the same system and democracy that he and his allies and supporters have worked so tirelessly to undermine and destroy. Which is to say, as I transition to next week’s New Year’s series, politics and America in 2023 are likely to be just as dominated by the Big Lie as was 2022. La lucha continua, my friends.
December Recap this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Other parts of 2022 you’d reflect on?