Celebrate now, but gird for the counter-attack
Kansas voters shocked the nation in the August election, resoundingly rejecting a state constitutional amendment that would have turned back the clock on women’s rights, bodily autonomy, and abortion access.
Of course this is cause for celebration – but guardedly so.
The hallmark of wide swaths of our country is an unwillingness or inability to accept defeat graciously. If you think the folks who are trying to bring you forced pregnancies, compulsory religiosity, and other oppressive and un-American ideas will take their ball and go home to sin no more, you’re mistaken.
Ever hear of the “lost cause,” as in the lost cause of the Confederacy? According to journalist Jon Meacham, Edward Alfred Pollard concocted this term less than a year after the Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox.
“Because the war itself was lost, and the war over slavery had been lost, that the South should not reengage in a force of arms, but it should engage in a battle of ideas where the enemy was declared to be the forces of centralization centered in Washington,” Meacham said in a speech several years ago. “It was an animating narrative that urged those who harbored a deep belief in white supremacy to give them hope to continue to fight.”
And continue to fight they have.
People still fly the Confederate Battle flag here in the Free State of Kansas out of some misguided belief that the flag remains merely a symbol of heritage. The man who designed it said differently. The vice president of the Confederacy said differently. The seceding states said differently as they left the union.
We even saw that blasted flag when another group of Americans (though seemingly of similar lineage), unable to accept defeat, attacked the Capitol Building on January 6 of last year. Thousands of them, some heavily armed, descended on the seat of democracy in the world and tried to overturn an election.
This, after judges laughed out and/or tossed out more than 60 of court cases claiming fraud in the 2020 Presidential election.
Frighteningly, wide swaths of our fellow citizens still believe someone rigged the 2020 election in favor of President Biden.
Our congressional delegation – except for Rep. Sharice Davids – voted to overturn the 2020 election.
None of this anti-democracy sentiment is new. After the largest, multi-racial group of Americans turned out to vote Barack Obama into office, these same forces responded with voter suppression laws in no fewer than 17 states aimed directly at the new, voting majority of women, people of color and young people.
After Davids unseated an incumbent in her congressional race in 2018, Susan Wagle, then the president of the state senate, announced that voting district boundaries could be redrawn to ensure that neither Davids nor any other member of her party, could ever win that seat again.
And earlier this year, that actually happened.
All of these experiences should teach us a lesson – namely that we should bet on a bitter response rising out of the trouncing that extremists took the night of August 2.
That’s a big part of why our politics have grown so extreme. Sore losers employ evermore extreme measures to win when they can’t win on the merits.
But the key word here is losers. Losers continue to fly the Confederate Battle flag. Losers storm the Capitol.
And losers suppress the vote. After the tidal wave of turnout, don’t be surprised if some legislator here wants to bring back tools reminiscent of, if not identical to, the “guess how many jellybeans there are in the jar” or “how many bubbles are on this piece of soap” registration used in the past to deny Black citizens the vote.
So, if you’ve been celebrating, party hard. Rest. Then get ready.
The counterattack is definitely coming.