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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Smith: What really matters

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Any psychologist who works with the court system will tell you that eyewitness testimony is tricky for both the prosecution and defense because people view the exact same incident from completely different vantage points. Those differing perspectives often serve to distort reality, even when people are attempting to be honest.

Taking such reality distortion to the next level, we live in an age wherein people are enamored of telling “their” truth — objective facts be damned. While this phenomenon is generally associated with left-leaning people, there is at least as much warping of facts on the right. All this has put millions of Americans on edge as we approach next week’s midterm election.

The only thing that Democrats and Republicans seem to agree about is the fact that the stakes in this election are very high — though their reasoning tends to be vastly different. Having achieved their decades-long goal of overturning Roe v. Wade, Republicans no longer need to bring up abortion. Instead, they are laser-focused on inflation, crime and immigration. They hammer away on the price of everything from gas to milk, painstakingly recount the details of horrific murders (particularly in urban areas) and gleefully exalt Southern Govs. Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott for “exposing the hypocrisy of the libs” by shamelessly (and perhaps illegally) transporting undocumented immigrants to the North.

Of course, Roe is on Democrats’ minds for the opposite reason; the Supreme Court’s overturning of a constitutional right after nearly 50 years is something few thought they would ever experience. And, to be sure, Democrats are also very concerned about the economy; mortgage rates don’t care whether there is a “D” or an “R” after one’s name. But the most important concern for at least a plurality of Democrats is the precarious state of democracy itself. We are enduring the greatest assault on African Americans’ right to vote since the Civil Rights Movement.

Republican legislatures across the country have passed extremely restrictive laws. Not to be outdone, the Supreme Court is highly expected to finish suffocating what remains of the Voting Rights Act when it rules on Alabama’s Merrill v. Milligan case.

It is extremely difficult for me to be as concerned about inflation as I am about the disenfranchisement of African Americans. The recent images of Black people in Florida being handcuffed for voting — after the state told them that they were eligible — are seared into my consciousness.

Conservative politicians and pundits have been critical of those who believe, as I do, that our democracy is teetering on a precipice. Admittedly, I’m solidly middle class, so I worry less about filling my tank than Americans who are not situated as comfortably. But even if that weren’t the case, I’d rather be stranded on the side of the road than barred from the ballot box. It is beyond disingenuous to pretend that they would not be arming themselves to the teeth if their right to vote were being challenged.

This leads me back to a point that millions of Americans either cannot understand the link between voting and their economic status. As many others have pointed out, voting against one’s own economic interests has real-world consequences. (Simply look at the average salaries, health care coverage, educational attainment and overall standard of living in states that have Republican-led legislature.) Yet, millions of low-income Americans do exactly that. Repeatedly.

For example, consider the Trump-era passage of a $1 trillion tax cut that overwhelmingly benefits billionaires and millionaires. That tax bill put a few hundred dollars in most people’s pockets — even as it will add tens of thousands of dollars to our individual tax liability in the not-too-long run.

Voting is a right that, shamefully, is not guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Beyond being a right, it is a moral imperative. Conscience should demand that we all make the moral choice.

Larry Smith is a community leader. The views expressed are his own. Contact him at larry@leaf-llc.com.

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