For years now, it’s been hard to be a citizen. Cynical and corrupt people appeared to be succeeding in using modern media tools to bamboozle and subvert the political desires of normal, rational folks. In short, it has seemed as if there’s no penalty for lying, deception, and outright lawbreaking.
I have wanted to believe that ordinary tools of government — representative democracy and prosecution of lawbreakers — could somehow bring back a little balance.
And for one day, yesterday, the forces of democracy won. It was the most encouraging day in national and international politics that I’ve seen in a long time.
Encouraging things that happened yesterday
Here are a few things that happened on December 6, 2022.
- Donald Trump’s corrupt company was convicted of criminal fraud and tax evasion. For years now, we’ve read news articles about how Trump’s company broke financial rules, paying its executives in expensive off-the-books perks like school tuition and playing fast and loose with property valuations to evade paying its fair share of taxes. Yesterday, finally, there were consequences for this corruption. Twelve ordinary jurors voted to convict the company. And this may be the beginning of a chain of corruption convictions for Trump’s businesses.
- A cynical electoral ploy backfired in Georgia. Republicans in Georgia nominated a terrible candidate for the Senate. Former football star Herschel Walker, from all appearances, is an idiot. He had trouble stringing together sentences, wore a fake police badge as a credential, fathered multiple children out of wedlock, and paid others to get abortions — hardly the attitudes of a true conservative. But he was Black, endorsed by Trump, and talked about Jesus a lot. “We’ll win over some Black moderates and Trump fans and attract some religious conservatives with a candidate like this, and that will be our edge,” Republicans apparently thought. But Georgia voters actually listened to the candidates and instead voted for incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock, who is also Black, by three percentage points. Warnock is articulate and as a preacher, apparently knows a thing or two about faith as well. A better Republican candidate could probably have won this seat, as Republican Brian Kemp did in the election for Georgia’s governor. But Georgia voters have restored my faith in democracy by voting in Warnock rather than reflexively pulling the lever for the idiot that Trump backed.
- Ukraine is beating back the Russian invasion. In February, Russia invaded the sovereign nation of Ukraine. If the world is to remain a sane place, countries with big armies can’t just invade their neighbors on a whim. While the Western world has put sanctions in place on Russia and armed the Ukrainians, the Russians have continued to fight, bombing civilian installations including playgrounds, apartment buildings, theaters, and hospitals. Now Russia is attempting to destroy Ukraine’s energy grid to keep Ukrainians freezing and in the dark. But yesterday, Ukraine showed it could use drones to hit back at air bases within Russia. Ukraine has now reclaimed half of the territory it lost early in the war. Each day there is more hope that Russia will lose this war, which would be a positive sign not just for Ukraine but for the idea that military invasions of sovereign nations must fail.
- Beijing responds to protests and backs off rigid COVID lockdowns. China is a totalitarian state that exercises total control over its citizens. Protests rarely succeed; those who participate are at great risk as the state uses facial recognition to identify them and punish them. But after millions of citizens protested harsh COVID-19 lockdowns put in place by China’s dictator Xi Jinping, things have started to shift. In major cities like Guangzho and Chongqing, the government began to allow people back to work and relaxed testing restrictions. The government will never admit that protests worked, but these actions show that even in China, there are limits to the government’s ability to force unpopular rules on a billion people.
- Germany cracks down on far-right insurrectionists. German officials arrested 25 people in a far-right group plotting to overthrow the government. The group they belong to sounds a lot like the insurrectionists in the U.S., with members adhering to QAnon ideology.
I believe in democracy, the rule of law, the Constitution, and rational leadership. In recent years, that’s seemed like a forlorn hope, as clearly corrupt people won elections, totalitarian regimes punished democracies, and voters divided into hostile, polarized camps.
But yesterday, the worst and most corrupt elements of the world we live in had a very bad day. And rational citizens, persistent prosecutors, and diligent judges did their jobs.
It’s way too soon to declare victory against corruption and cynicism. But for the first time in a while, I have some hope for the world.