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[COMMENTARY] Holiday Distractions 2021: Did Many Forget About Democracy?

[COMMENTARY] Holiday Distractions 2021: Did Many Forget About Democracy?

As if this holiday season marked by distractions of a Christmas tree shortage, supply chain issues, and COVID surges could not get odder, a hopeful seller recently put the world’s most expensive ugly Christmas sweater on the market for almost $40k.

(Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)

This latest entry into citizen distraction is yet another indication that people are not paying as much attention to the crumbling U.S. democracy as they need to be.

President Joe Biden hosted a virtual Summit for Democracy to engage world leaders on how to combat the global attack on democracy. While talks about democracy are good, many worry that the talks will translate to little effective action against the warning signals.

The hearings on January 6 Capitol protests continue to unveil a movement that may have threatened the future of America. While many watched with horror as the events unfolded on January 6th, arguably as a body politic, for many that horror is not sustained.

Pew Research found earlier this year that Americans found the prosecution of the January 6th rioters to be very important. By September that sentiment had already started to decline.

As 2021 draws to a close, Congress still has not passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the January 6th Commission is moving at a glacial pace with constant obstructions, and people are still making claims that the 2020 election was stolen without facing repercussions for their lies. Yet many  Americans are united on support for the voting rights protection act.

To have a healthy democracy there must be free elections, active civic participation, and trust in the electoral system. There also must be an engaged, educated, and participatory citizenry.

Many around the globe and in the U.S. still embrace the ideals of a representative democracy. However, faith in a democratic system actually being attainable is waning. And those that wish to see an end to our democratic system, however imperfect, are banking on that instability and subsequent apathy.

This attitude demands to not proceed with the assumption of  “business as usual.” Norms of ethics and decency have crumbled, the rule book is dead, and the people and corporations working to fundamentally undermine democracy are not playing the same game.

Democracies are healthy for people, institutions, and corporations.

The democratic judicial system is witnessing unprecedented threats toward election officials and volunteers, yet few arrests have been made or charges filed.

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Education systems are threatened as many work to erase realities about American history, race, gender, and sexuality. School boards and systems drive these changes and many parents claim it is their right to set school curriculum.

To protect democracy, individuals can vote. When encountering narratives that are anti-democratic, they can also speak up.  Getting involved with organizations doing the work such as Protect DemocracyIndivisible, or Free Press will also help.

Heading into the second pandemic holiday season and New Year, many are tired and easily distracted by the onslaught of good and bad news. But stepping back and failing to protect democracy is not an option now or ever.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Ziff, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Sociology, Co-Director of the Community Research Center at the University of Indianapolis, and a Public Voices Fellow through The OpEd Project.

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