Democracy is on the ballot every single day

By Mark Jacob

There’s a contemporary view that we shouldn’t describe people as “bad” but instead should describe them as “people who make bad choices.”

As we approach an election in 15 months that may well decide whether authoritarianism snuffs out American democracy, let’s look at the choices people are facing and the bad choices they’re often making:



The brave choice: Call out serial liars, and use the word “lie” when a politician is repeatedly stating obvious falsehoods. Do your duty to the public by sounding the alarm about the fascist threat to our democracy. Don’t pretend this is normal.

The cowardly choice: “Both-sides” everything. Give equal weight to truth and lies to maintain the appearance of “fairness.” Treat Republicans and Democrats as equally honest or dishonest despite the facts. Avoid the word “lie” and use soft, cutesy language such as describing Trump’s dishonesty as his “casual relationship with the truth.”



The brave choice: Reject fascism even if it means not getting re-elected. A few Republican politicians such as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — whose views on policy issues are clearly right-of-center — have kept faith with democracy by defying MAGA authoritarianism.  

The cowardly choice: Wring your hands in private, fully realizing that your party’s leaders are corrupt and dangerous, but parrot their outrageous lies in public so you keep getting re-elected. Lie, lie and lie some more. Go with the flow, even if it’s flowing toward the sewer.



The brave choice: Fight through disinformation to tell the truth and deliver the services that people deserve from their government. Keep faith with the values of democracy. Get things done.

The cowardly choice: Act like Republicans. 



The brave choice: Stand up for academic freedom and against book banning. Insist on teaching the history of systemic racism in America because, yes, there is such a thing. Keep insisting that gender studies and racial studies are legitimate areas of research. 

The cowardly choice: Knuckle under to politicians. Be so concerned with fundraising that you let right-wing donors make crucial policy decisions. Punish Black scholarship, as Texas A&M recently did. Select Sean Spicer as a visiting fellow, as Harvard did to reward him for lying to the public as Trump’s press secretary. Keep Fox News propagandist Maria Bartiromo on your board of trustees, as New York University has done.



The brave choice: Tell other followers of your religion how Trumpism conflicts with your religion’s ideals.

The cowardly choice: Tarnish your religion by associating it with Trumpism. Tell other followers it doesn’t matter if Trump is a con artist who cheated on his wife with a porn star because, after all, he supports the movement to force non-believers to live by Christian principles. Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffrees said right-wing Christians back Trump “because of his biblical policies, not his personal piety.” Former Energy Secretary Rick Perry described Trump as God’s “chosen one.” 



The brave choice: Insist on a diverse workforce and corporate responsibility on issues such as climate change. Follow the example of Disney by refusing to knuckle under to political pressure from fascist politicians like Ron DeSantis.

The cowardly choice: Keep paying off lawmakers to support policies that are good for your business but bad for the public’s health. Donate money to support authoritarian politicians, as the NBA’s Orlando Magic did with DeSantis even though the NBA is overwhelmingly Black and DeSantis wants to cover up America’s history of racism. 



The brave choice: Campaign for pro-democracy candidates and get out the vote. Act like the the survival of our system of government is at stake, because it is.

The cowardly choice: Do nothing.

Mark Jacob, a former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune and co-author of eight books, is a consultant for Courier Newsroom.