Editorial; Democracy matters more than getting your way

CLARIFICATION: A quote in this editorial has been modified from the originally published versiion using an ellipsis to replace words that may have left the impression that state Sen. Darren Bailey participated in the insurrection attempt in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. To be clear, he did not.

A few days ago, we provided a not-too-subtle thrashing to Democratic leaders in the Illinois General Assembly for their gerrymandering in the latest closed-door remapping of the state's legislative districts. Despite promises he would demonstrate integrity and veto maps created under such conditions, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the partisan maps on Friday.

Ultimately, gerrymandering is an assault on the tenets of democracy, a cynical attempt by partisans to maneuver around voters, and we said as much.

"Where's the commitment to democracy here in Illinois?" we asked.

The response we received from a few progressives - not an outpouring, but a handful of comments - was disappointing. Some of the same people who we suspect have decried the threats to democracy posed by Donald Trump's refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election seemed to be fine with eroding democracy if the erosion favors their party and their ideology.

"I don't understand your desire to have the Republicans in this state have a say - especially with Republicans such as (downstate State Sen.) Darren Bailey, and the (U.S. Rep. Mary) Miller from Danville ..., " one critic said. "Until the GQP acknowledges reality, I want nothing to do with them."

Look, it is not a matter of whether Republicans have a say or for that matter, whether Democrats have one. It is whether the people do.

We feel the need to shout this: You either cherish democracy or you do not.

Democracy is not a fashion when it moves in favor of your political viewpoint but OK to be discarded when it becomes inconvenient.

Democracy matters above all.

That has to be the message in response to Trump and the Orwellian fantasies promoted on his behalf: Whether you are conservative or liberal, democracy matters even over policy. It matters more than whether you get your own way.

Progressives appalled at Trump's authoritarian overreach have to understand that too.

Frankly, it is a message that must be embraced by all Americans. (Thankfully, we do not think most centrists need the reminding. They get it. If only more of them were heard.)

The danger here is not just from a far right that seems ever more accepting of authoritarianism, but also in the response from a far left that argues to fight fire with fire.

You don't fight wrong with wrong. You fight wrong with right. What was it Michelle Obama said? "When they go low, we go high."

That's not naive. That's a sacred principle, a road map to the shining city on the hill. If we get to the point where power politics is not just the norm but the overarching goal, we fear for the future of the great American experiment.

All of us have ideals. We all work on behalf of objectives for our country, things we believe would make the world a better place. But we cannot allow those objectives to obscure the greatest ideal: Democracy, a government of the people.

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