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A Memorial Day for What

Updated: 5 days ago

Memorial Day is ostensibly a time when we reflect on the sacrifices it takes to protect and maintain a flourishing democracy, with parades, speeches, and public celebrations from political figures around the country and across the aisle. Despite the ubiquity of celebrations, and soaring rhetoric, the sad fact remains that many in power would like nothing more than to s​trip Americans of their ability for self-governance. There are guilty members from both political parties, however, this is clearly an practice which Republicans pursue with far more zeal. 

It's no coincidence the conservative party is at the forefront of trying to block citizen-led Constitutional Amendments: Republicans recognize that their agenda and policies are deeply unpopular, and when the people are allowed to decide on legislation, or even the general direction of community development, the choices are deeply at odds with their conservative agenda.

We have seen Republicans undermine democratic norms and their constituency’s policy choices for years, like in Florida, where the Republican legislature made every move possible to prevent the restoration of voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals, despite over two-thirds of the state voting to affirm their fellow Floridians right to vote. Republicans have recognized for years, however, that as the active voting population increases, the relative power of conservatives decreases, and rather than changing course to represent the people, they’d rather silence them.  

These anti-democratic, authoritarian activities continue through to this very day, threatening the principles of freedom and representation upon which our country was (in theory) founded. Below is a (non-exhaustive) list of some of these nefarious activities taking place this election cycle:

In Arizona, an abortion rights initiative has obtained enough signatures to appear on the November ballot. In response, Republican legislators are trying to change the state’s ballot initiative rules to make it harder for future measures to qualify for a vote. Specifically, they want to change the signature threshold from 10-15% of votes cast statewide in the last governors race, to 10-15% of votes in everyone of the state’s 30 legislative districts, a much heavier organizing lift.

In Missouri, Republicans introduced a bill attempting to make it harder to pass citizen-led ballot initiatives ahead of a measure to enshrine abortion rights in the upcoming election. Thankfully, Democrats successfully managed to filibuster the bill.

In Mississippi, Republicans in the legislature have once again rejected legislation to restore citizens' ability to introduce ballot measures. Citizens of the state had this right stolen from them three years ago by the conservative state supreme court, after a ballot measure for cannabis decriminalization was successfully put on the 2020 state ballot, and then approved by over 74% of voters. In response, the Republican mayor of Madison sued to block the initiative, and in 2021, the court ruled in the favor of the mayor, voiding not just that initiative but all citizen-led ballot initiative processes. Every year since, Republicans have blocked legislation to restore this right to their constituents.

Finally, in Louisiana legislators have advanced a proposal HB 800 to call for a convention to change the state’s Constitution. Concerningly, the bill has few oversight mechanisms and would be led by a partisan committee. The fate of this legislation is still undetermined.

These efforts are only the tip of the iceberg, and are merely the latest examples of the country-wide onslaught of authoritarian, anti-democratic measures which conservative politicians are undertaking to ensure that the will of the people can be stymied and blocked in favor of powerful interests and minority rule. A country of silenced and disenfranchised citizens, ruled by an unrepresentative minority is not the type of country those we honor on Memorial Day wanted.

There are powerful, entrenched interests working very effectively against positive change. But simultaneously, we also see that there are continually organizers and activists working to change the rules and create a more representative and equitable society. Political organizing won’t do it alone, to create change, we need economic organizing as well to push back against the powerful special interests that gum up the works and silence the voices of our citizens. So, join us each Tuesday in growing solidarity so that Memorial Day’s in the future can truly honor the sacrifice of all those who have struggled for a freer country. Don't shop on Tuesday!

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