Suppression in Georgia: How to Move Forward
April 2, 2021
Over the past eight years, MAP has worked to build a political culture in which more voices are heard: across lines of ideological, racial, and geographical difference. We believe our democracy works best when we can create inclusive conversations about how to solve problems, and we are proud of the 1,600 Future Caucus members across the country who model that commitment to bridge-building every day. Unfortunately, the bill Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law last week and the events surrounding it show us show us just how far we still have to go to build a democracy that works for all.
Proponents of the bill argue it will strengthen democratic institutions and restore trust in our democracy. And while provisions like the expansion of early voting access in most counties do create more opportunities for voters to cast a ballot, many other provisions appear to limit access for Georgians trying to vote. Moreover, the legislation sped through both chambers and was signed by the Governor in a single day. The final result is a package that has created more public distrust than trust, in equal parts due to its contents, lack of an honest deliberative process, and failures in transparency.
Furthermore, a key component of a healthy and vibrant democracy is the ability to voice dissent. In her attempt to express disapproval for the bill, Rep. Park Cannon was handcuffed, arrested, and forcibly removed from the Georgia Capitol building. The arrest of Rep. Cannon — a member of MAP’s State Future Caucus Network — underscores the chaotic and disturbing circumstances surrounding the manner in which this bill became law, and MAP firmly condemns her arrest. These events were unfortunate and preventable, and a democracy which seeks to shut out voices of those who disagree is not the democracy MAP and its members stand for.
Disagreement in a democracy is real, and successful elected leaders can create better laws precisely because of the presence of differing perspectives. But to, at best, discount those perspectives in who gets to participate in creating new laws, and at worst, to legislatively silence certain voices by making it harder to participate in our democracy (or using the police to eliminate dissenters!) is a disservice to Georgians and Americans everywhere.
In our diverse and politically polarized country, building an inclusive democracy is our only solution. It brings us closer in our communities, helps us to understand other perspectives, and accept our differences. Most importantly, it aids our elected leaders in making well-informed decisions that will positively impact their constituencies. Constituents must trust their elected officials to represent their needs and wants. In cases like these, where political expediency is prioritized over long-term inclusion, there is one result: the unfortunate severance of the public’s trust in governing bodies.
Efforts to engineer democratic outcomes for partisan gains are short sighted and damaging in the long run to all Americans. Georgia is not the only state to engage in this type of effort — it is just the most recent. But MAP has seen proof that a new generation of leaders can champion the idea that when more people are included in our democracy, we can build a better future for everyone. Bipartisan efforts like HB1047 introduced by Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-MD) and SB250 introduced by Senator Dale Kooyenga (R-WI-05), are just a few examples of ways in which younger legislators have put that idea into practice in legislatures. Even more so, relationship building efforts like the Future Caucus codify ways to institutionalize the idea of “team of rivals” — positioning elected leaders not as adversaries but as teammates who have different but valid opinions to make complex decisions together.
Leaders like Rep. Cannon, who have spent years engaging in Future Caucus spaces and working to create connections with colleagues across the aisle, know the value of an inclusive democracy. We stand with her and all Future Caucus members who are working towards a future in which that inclusive democracy is a reality.
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