Political Fragility and the Fight for Democracy
Updated: Sep 27, 2020
They came to the streets in droves, with the inspiration of democracy in their eyes to face an aggressive regime.
Belarus is in a state of turmoil, fighting to regain what is considered to be a human right. The right to vote.
When democracy rises, the opportunity for political participation by the population increases. When voters have a deep understanding of how their political system works, they are quick to stand up when their rights are at risk of being stripped away.
The uprising in Belarus began after the rise of an opposition party to the longtime president Lukashenko who has been in power since 1994 (1). Like many post-Soviet countries, the nation is caught in a rivalry between the West and Russia. In August, elections were held for president, but afterwards there were accusations of a rigged election. A huge opposition movement has erupted in the aftermath, leading to the arrest of several opposition leaders in an attempt to silence a growing movement.
In many post-Soviet nations, voting is considered a privilege that needs to be protected. When the general public fears that it is not, protesters take to the streets. But the same does not happen in the USA. Why?
The documentary film All In: The Fight For Democracy produced by Stacey Abrams explores the history of voter suppression in the US. Abrams ran against current Georgia governor Brian Kemp in 2018, losing a controversial race plagued by long wait times and countless uncounted ballots. The film argues that compared to other western democracies, the United States lags behind, ranking the worst in voter turnout (2). Abrams argues that the reason for such low political participation is that most Americans do not understand our political system.
The message of the film is direct and firm: get out and vote. Like many other democracies, both old and new, our ancestors fought for our right to vote. The film pressures us to vote, because it is a right and it has true impact. Yet there continues to be a recurring theme of voter suppression. The film meticulously outlines the history of voting rights and voter suppression. From the signing of the constitution to the 2016 election, it uncovers how each major advancement for voting rights is a mask for a mountain of counter-policies and legislation designed to hollow out these rights.
The film brings up the question of why Americans have not come out against the clear voter suppression which is occurring across the country. From gerrymandering congressional districts to voter ID laws, each of which strips voters from having the impact which the electorate holds. The answer lies in the understanding of our system and the visibility of these laws. Shedding light on our misinterpreted illusion that all Americans have equal access to the polls. It is a rallying cry for Americans to stand up against repressive government policies.
As citizens in Belarus rally against a repressive government characterized by voter fraud and suppression, it becomes clear how fragile democracy can be when the rights of voters are stripped away. Voting remains an important and vital aspect of modern democracies. In countries where voting is an important part of society, any attempt to take away the right is met with outcry. This sentiment, sadly, has been lost within American society, which has allowed states to pass laws which limit our access to the polls, in particular the access for minorities.
As we near election day 2020, a new set of voting challenges have come to light. From Covid-19 to major postal service delays, there are several barriers which limit our ability to participate in democracy. Our outrage must re-emerge in order to regain full and equal voting rights for all Americans - regardless of race, socio-economic status, or the ID we carry around in our pocket.
Find more information on registering to vote here!