116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It feels like the pain is never ending in this state—and in this nation at large. Over the course of the last couple of weeks, the right to bodily autonomy for people with uteruses has been stripped away amid a formula crisis, the privacy that comes with seeking necessary medical care has been threatened, the separation between church and state has been blurred, the safety protections that come with common sense gun laws eradicated. I’m tired. And yet, the fight for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—rights we as Americans were promised in our Constitution—is far from over. And so, the exhaustion that I feel, alongside my fellow women, queer folk, people of color and others, is a moot point, because there is much work to be done.
For many, it feels as though the fight is hopeless. Voting doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things with how the electoral college is set up to contradict the popular vote and favor rural, mostly conservative populations, with how gerrymandering and voter suppression is perpetuated time and again to disadvantage marginalized communities in favor of enabling white privilege and the elite. That this country is slipping back into the 1960s, a pre-Roe v. Wade reality when violent racism was accepted by most in positions of power, segregation was even worse than it is now, poverty and unemployment were on the rise, women experienced sexual discrimination at staggering rates—the list goes on.
But the 1960s were also an era when counterculture and civic engagement reinvigorated society. A decade characterized as one of the most tumultuous and divisive in American history, the 60s saw the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and antiwar protests and the emerging "generation gap." So while it may feel like nothing is ever going to get better, it is important to remember that we the people still have the power to decide our own fates.
Fear and a sense of hopelessness is how the Republican party continues to hold on to their power and influence as of late, combined with the continued exploitation of the filibuster and “a destructive, sectarian style of partisan politics,” as The New York Times Magazine puts it.
The Democratic Party is no shining beacon of hope either, as it continues to fail voters time and again. Financial Times U.S. national editor And columnist Edward Luce breaks down why Democrats are so bad at politics: microtargeting, among other things, spreads the party too thin across multiple groups. “Fighting for ordinary Americans is a far harder sell when your marketing is tailored to so many different ones,” he says. “When everyone is a priority, nobody is.” As a result, incompetence reigns. For the Democrats to succeed, compartmentalism needs to be put to rest in pandering to and targeting their voters, because it’s getting them nowhere.
As for battling the fear and hopelessness that plagues people who need protections the most, that begins with returning to some surefire paths that have been tested before and succeeded, starting with the Supreme Court. What SCOTUS is doing is undermining its very legitimacy. Recent rulings by the highest court in the country have directly disregarded the wants and needs the American public has expressed, and clear set precedent, spitting in the face of the people who are most at risk to literally die by their decisions—and here are the facts to back it up: 61 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to the Pew Research Center. Eighty-eight percent of Americans want background checks on all gun sales, according to a May Politico poll. Three of the Court’s recent decisions have eroded “American legal traditions intended to prevent government officials from promoting any particular faith,” according to Reuters. And that’s a statement supported by a majority of Americans, “as two-thirds of U.S. adults (67 percent) say the Constitution was written by humans and reflects their vision, not necessarily God’s vision. And a similar share (69 percent) says the government should never declare any official religion,” according to the Pew Research Center.
What’s next on the docket for the Supreme Court is the right to contraception and same-sex marriage, according to Vice President Kamala Harris.
Despite the struggles that come with the broken voting system we have in place, voting doesn’t hurt anything. So, be sure to still head out to the polls for every election, whether it’s your local town election or the big presidential one. Throwing your hands up at a broken system isn’t going to change anything. It’ll only further enable corruption and fearmongering.
The American people do have power. They just have to figure out how to use it. And Iowa is a part of that. My first column for the Gazette rightfully pointed out that “where Iowa was once recognized as nice for its progressive ideals with civil rights pioneer Edna Griffin in 1948 (who preceded Rosa Parks), The Des Moines Human Rights Commission in 1951 (which preceded LBJ’s Civil Rights Act of 1964) and legal recognition of same-sex marriage in 2009 (which preceded Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015), it is now recognized by outsiders and short-term residents as a place of complacency, where discrimination and prejudice are tolerated in favor of supposed cordiality.”
What should really be happening is a return to tactics that clearly worked for the American public. Among these are Congress and the executive branch’s ability to strip the Supreme Court of jurisdiction over everything but its original jurisdiction and increase or decrease the court's size, under the Constitution.
It’s time for change—and now.
Nichole Shaw is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org