Remember November 9, 2016. That was the day that you had made a resolution that demagogues would no longer have a chance of being elected to the highest office in the country. Well, so far you’ve succeeded, but if you haven’t been paying attention for the past nine months, democracy is in danger, and simply sharing your political news and views with friends is a pretty poor defense against all out tyranny.
Just consider the Republican caucus of the Pennsylvania State Senate. Only Republicans on the Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs voted this week to subpoena the Department of State for all voter records, including partial Social Security numbers and drivers’ licenses. Upon questioning, committee chair Chris Dush could not put a price tag on this investigation, implying that the entire Senate budget could possibly be used to pay the cost.
Only Republicans impersonated other people (both alive and deceased) during the 2020 election, and a postal worker lied to Federal authorities about witnessing his supervisors backdating ballots; yet the state senate would rather collect personal information about you and spend your money than investigate real fraud or fix our infrastructure.
While senate Republicans are busy dismantling democracy in Harrisburg, local Republicans are fighting their culture wars in various school board meetings around the state. It was therefore interesting to see the Central York School Board ban the story of a freedom fighter who put her life on the line against the Taliban. Last year, the board voted to keep Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, along with many other books concerning racial identity, racial diversity, and racism, out of the curriculum. By creating such a list, the board in effect seemed to allow books from authors holding an opposite point of view. The ban was supposed to be temporary, as materials were reviewed, but it has been over a year with no movement by the board to take a final vote. What can you do about it? You can help to make some calls this Tuesday, September 21, from 5:30-7:00 PM, to elect a more progressive school board in the Central York School District. Sign up here.
What would also help would be a statewide policy regarding voter education and registration in the schools, since young adults in many of these school districts would like a say in the policies that affect their very lives. We have been starting small, however - pushing for a policy in the various school districts for the time being – particularly in Philadelphia.
Here is what we are recommending:
Write an email to the board. Here are some points to mention. Choose as many points as you would like from the smorgasbord below, and then cut and paste in an email.
· Democracies are most successful when all eligible voters vote.
· What are the objections to such a policy?
· Only 20% of eligible 17-and-18 year olds are registered to vote in Philadelhia.
· Students can take power for the first time on issues that affect them directly, such as firearms, tobacco, school funding, environmental racism.
· Such a policy should be relatively inexpensive to implement.
· Statewide efforts to place limits on democracy (i.e., voter ID, limiting ballot boxes, voting hours, etc.) need to be addressed by providing opportunities to enfranchise more eligible voters.
· Voter education in schools are the perfect antidote to baseless rumors and conspiracy theories.
Here are the email addresses of the members of the Philadelphia Board of Education.
Mallory Fix Lopez
Reginald L. Streater
You can also testify before the School Board of Philadelphia. The board meets once a month. The schedule for the next meeting is September 23. To register, go to: tinyurl.com/PhillySchoolBoardSpeaker.
Or you can write a letter. For the Inquirer, (Inquirer.Letters@phillynews.com) Max 150 words.
Write an op-ed. For the Inquirer, Op-eds are reviewed by Erica Palan (firstname.lastname@example.org). Max 650 words
Whatever you decide, please do something this week and in the weeks ahead, to protect democracy.