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Opinion: Expressing the essence of democracy

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Monica Tranel is running for Montana's new U.S. House seat.

In my family, Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, was a holy day of obligation, ending the Christmas season. My dad, who had been a candidate for the seminary, told us that “epiphany” was made up of the root words “epi” — essence — and “phanos” — expression. Epiphany, or Jan. 6, was the expression of the essence of Christmas — the day we understood the meaning of Jesus.

On Epiphany in 2021, we understood clearly the essence of the outgoing administration. Power — its own power — was elevated above all else, even American democracy.

The 2020 election should have been one to celebrate. The largest number of Americans — in over 100 years — cast a ballot in our presidential elections. The clear winner picked by the majority of voters (7 million more) and the majority of electoral votes (74 more) was President Joe Biden.

Rather than conceding a fair election, an administration obsessed with power called it “stolen.” Bizarrely, this claim was advanced in Montana. We saw the largest Republican victories in our history, winning control of all five statewide offices for the first time. Not one elected Republican forsook office because of “fraud.” And there was none, as measured by Republicans across the country.

Fixated on staying in power, the outgoing administration made a concerted effort to reverse 38 electors, the number needed to overturn Biden’s victory. Undeterred by the Constitution, which does not provide for “decertifying” electors after they cast their ballots, strong-arm tactics were asserted in Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Steve Bannon called state legislatures the “center of gravity” and thanked his viewers for staging protests at legislators’ homes.

Shameless lawsuits were filed to stop certification of the election results, all failing on the merits. These abusive tactics, used to advance power at any cost, were rejected as “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process” and sanctions were imposed against Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell for filing them.

When those efforts to stop the transfer of power failed, the outgoing administration encouraged a violent attack against our capitol and elected officials. In the immediate aftermath, partisan leaders called the attempted coup “horrendous,” but then refused to investigate it.

The obsession with retaining power, at the expense of democracy itself, resulted in Republican legislatures in 19 states, including Montana, making it harder to vote. Fourteen states, controlled by Republican legislatures, now let partisan bodies overturn future elections they do not like. Former generals warn of a potential coup in 2024.

These efforts are anti-democratic and anti-American.

The two Olympic teams I was on were invited to the White House following the Olympics. In 2000 our White House visit was at the end of November — after the election but before the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore. The tension was palpable. People marched down halls engaged in fierce conversations. When the decision was issued, Gore responded with a clear concession. “Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it.” Gore cited Sen. Stephen Douglas telling Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated Douglas for the presidency in 1860, "Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I'm with you, Mr. President, and God bless you."

Voting — having our voice counted — is the essence of democracy. Mark Jan. 6, 2022, by calling on Congress to pass federal voting rights laws that will guarantee that each American’s vote and voice counts. This Epiphany let’s express the essence of democracy. Let’s ensure that the will of the people will continue to abide.

Monica Tranel is a candidate for Montana’s U.S. House seat MT-01.

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