January Resolutions for Your Democracy

By Angela Liptack, DTC Vice Chair

The year 2022 opens with mixed news and unwise acceptance of a “new normal.” Though the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, fast deployment of effective vaccines has saved lives and helped stabilize our healthcare system, economy, and daily routines. Our mild mid-winter weather is “weird,” but not obviously catastrophic. In Hartford—and thankfully, for the past year, in the Executive Branch in Washington—our government is led by public servants who work to deliver on democracy’s promise.

Given these realities, our New Year’s resolutions might set a low bar (“smile at strangers”—above masks, with friendly eyes). However, this month’s historical milestones give reason and inspiration to reach higher:

  • January 7th marks the one-year anniversary of Congress’s certification of the election of Joseph Biden as the 46th president of the United States, approximately 15 hours after the start of a historic assault on the U.S. Capitol, the goal of which was to overturn a verified valid election.
  • On January 11th, suffragist Dr. Alice Paul’s birthday, Ridgefielders might pause to recognize this activist and lawyer who lived in our town for several years. She endured imprisonment and forced feeding to secure, barely 100 years ago, the right to vote for U.S. women (19th Amendment, ratified 1920). 
  • On January 17th, a national holiday, all Ridgefielders are invited to attend the 26th annual event (2:00 p.m., the Ridgefield Playhouse) honoring slain civil rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., born on January 15th.

These three milestones have a common element: leaders who believe that, despite great headwinds and flaws, democracy can better deliver “liberty and justice for all” than any other form of government. They are not owned by any single political party. They are evidence that America’s democracy endures, in part, because courageous, principled people didn’t stand by silently. They acted.

This year, on January 6th, Ridgefield Democrats urge all to think of the U.S. Capitol Police who put their lives on the line one year ago to defend the seat of our democracy. Though outnumbered, their dedication, skill and quick action helped avert what could have been serious injury or death for multiple members and staff of Congress—of both parties—and also of then-Vice President Mike Pence. 

We also number Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney among the defenders of democracy. Cheney is a vocal, full member of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. She stands virtually alone, vilified within her own party, the subject of constant harassment for following through on her declaration that, “When a threat to our constitutional order arises, as it has here, we are obligated to rise above politics.” Read here her eloquent words about this effort. 

Liz Cheney took an oath upon being elected to Congress, as do, notably, persons who apply for U.S. citizenship. These oaths include the requirement to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” If those of us who were entitled to U.S. citizenship at birth were to take the naturalization oath as seriously as new U.S. citizens do, would that not require us to act—particularly in 2022? 

There was no “off year” for those on whose shoulders we stand—not for hunger-striking Paul forcibly fed raw eggs in jail, not for King gunned down in a Tennessee motel, and obviously not for the U.S. Capitol Police when physically attacked by people wearing military-grade combat gear and waving Confederate flags. 

The 2016 and 2020 election results suggest that filling out a ballot is not enough. It’s time for ambitious New Year’s resolutions to act more intentionally for democracy. Ease into it by joining one of the many virtual or outdoor vigils on January 6th, most sponsored by organizations that welcome—and train—volunteers for efforts to strengthen our democracy nationwide. Then, if you don’t already, commit to attend and ask questions at an upcoming Democratic Town Committee or town board meeting, at a public hearing in Hartford, at a Town Hall with Ridgefield’s state or federal legislators. It’s one way to learn about—and hold accountable—those who will make (or break) the everyday mechanics of democracy. 

The year 2022 is pivotal. Much depends on what happens on local election boards, in newsrooms and state legislatures, and with voting practices. As you make your New Year’s resolutions, think about what you will say to your children and grandchildren a year from now, in January 2023. Most especially, how will you account for your actions between now and January 20, 2025, if—on that Inauguration Day—the person who stands before us swears, but has no intention, to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic”?