I put my Oregon ballot in the mail today. It felt good to vote. Ever since I was eligible to do so, I haven't missed voting in any election.
Per usual, I voted for every Democratic candidate because I believe more strongly in what Democrats stand for, than in what Republicans do.
But this year there was an extra reason for me to fill in the box next to people belonging to the Democratic party: I'm deeply worried about Republicans wanting to subvert our democracy.
That's never happened before in my 50+ years of voting.
Until 2022, Oregon and the United States as a whole had two major parties who disagreed on important issues, yet stood together in supporting free and fair elections, the rule of law, and orderly transfers of power regardless of which candidate won an election.
Sadly, those days are gone. Hopefully they will return.
At the moment, though, polls show that most members of the Republican Party don't believe that Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president of the United States, even though there's no evidence of substantial voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Worse, Republicans have nominated hundreds of candidates across our nation who subscribe to Donald Trump's Big Lie that the election was stolen from him. Many of those candidates are promising to view any election that Republicans don't win as fraudulent, echoing the cries of the insurrectionists on January 6, 2021.
Scary. Really scary.
That's why, when you cast your ballot in the November midterms, you aren't just voting for candidates. You're also voting to decide whether the United States slips into authoritarianism or remains a democracy.
In the October 24-31 issue of TIME magazine, Jon Meacham has a piece called "Lincoln's Lesson: How Our Greatest President Saved Democracy." Here's how it ends, with lessons for today.
The work of a democracy is to lead a sufficient number of individuals to share a moral vision about power, liberty, justice, security, and opportunity in the hope that people -- and peoples -- might be in closer harmony with the good.
As a multitude of individuals, a nation possesses a collective conscience -- one that is manifest in how that nation chooses, through the means of politics, to view rights and responsibilities.
In the 1860s, war was required to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice. That is the great fact of the American story: secessionist white Southerners chose to fight and to die rather than surrender an aristocracy of race.
The Civil War, Lincoln told Congress in 1861, "presents to the whole family of man the question of whether a constitutional republic, or democracy -- a government of the people by the same people -- can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes."
The battle of the third decade of the 21st century is, for now, of a different scale. But we have already seen attempted insurrection, and many adherents of one of our two major political parties refuse to accept the legitimacy of the 2020 election, setting the stage for subsequent denials of reality as soon as next month's midterms.
While the Civil War era, therefore, is not a precise analogy, we would be derelict in our duties as citizens if we did not reckon with what Lincoln reckoned with: the often self-sacrificing demands of decency and of democracy.
On that March Monday in 1861, Lincoln spoke to the ages:
"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
The words are immortal, as are angels -- but Lincoln teaches us even now that those angels will not take up the cause unless we do too.