Op-Ed By: John Zody, Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party
Last Wednesday was the saddest and angriest I’ve been in more than two decades of involvement in American politics. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw windows being broken out of a building where I used to work and an angry mob chasing police officers and hunting down former colleagues and Members of Congress. It was a domestic terrorist attack against the United States.
What happened at the U.S. Capitol last week was beyond words and is no joke. Secure perimeters were breached. People were injured or killed, including one police officer, and it wasn’t hard to see that this crowd was treated a lot differently than crowds at Black Lives Matter protests last summer. The comparison is haunting and that notion warrants consideration from every single one of us.
But, something else alarming has happened. The Trump supporters who violently stormed the Capitol last week were intentionally lied to by some Republican elected officials, including many within the Indiana Republican Party. Voters were lied to for political gain, and now our democracy is paying the price because some Americans have become radicalized by unpatriotic, dishonest politicians who refused to tell the truth.
The last time an insurrection against the United States took place was during the War of 1812. And since last week’s violent attack, Trump-Pence supporters are still trying to stop our democracy from working, I’ve heard lots of discussion and even more questions about what really happened, and why. One of the most critical was ‘is this the beginning or the end of something’?
Well, that’s up to us, Hoosiers. The decision about what is next is ours to make. Democracy isn’t a joke, and we can do something to help protect our cherished American values.
Consistently, Indiana ranks at the bottom in voter registration and voter participation. That’s according to the 2019 Indiana Civic Health Index Report. In recent years, Indiana’s highest ranking in voter registration and turnout was just 37th – that’s at the bottom of states. Yet in 2017, we ranked second in views regarding “social, political and local issues” being posted online according to the same report.
Why the disparity? Perhaps, it’s just our natural affinity as Hoosiers to inherently trust one another and our politicians to uphold their constitutional duties and American values. Perhaps, Hoosiers prefer to focus on our friends, family, and community even when the political rhetoric gets hot. Perhaps it’s a lack of time – you can post on social media anytime, but due to our short polling hours and limited voting by mail, exercising this right anytime is not an option for many of us.
We aren’t given the opportunity to vote and participate in our state like we should. Our voting laws are among the strictest in the nation. During this global pandemic alone, Republicans flat-out refused last fall to make voting easier in the November election — even though we’d reached agreement to do so in the primary. The inaction by Republican leaders was intentional, and it created a level of voter suppression that forced Hoosiers to choose between protecting their health and well-being or exercising their Constitutionally-protected right.
There’s a vacuum of leadership that’s left the Indiana Republican Party as time and again it appears they’d rather take orders from party leaders in Washington, D.C. than listen to the will of voters.
Leaders confront responsibility – they don’t run from it, and every single one of us can be a leader. We can all step up and do more to protect our democracy and engage one another in constructive dialogue and civic action. We can confront our responsibility to do the job someone once called the most important: that of citizen.