Cancer starts small. One tiny cell has a bad instruction, causing it to reproduce out of control. It divides, and creates another malignant cell which then divides again and so on. The power of exponential growth takes over and soon there are millions of copies of the bad cell. At this point, it may begin to be noticeable to a person through some minor pains or strange sensations, but there is likely no real sign of a serious problem. Then the tumor gets bigger and bigger; the person starts to feel sick and calls the doctor who runs tests and delivers the bad news.
Hopefully the tumor is still contained and can be cut out and destroyed soon. If it has spread too far, it may be too late and the patient will die.
The cancer that has infected our country also started small. This cancer —governing through fear, division, polarization and obstructionism—began when a handful of Congressman began an approach of non-compromise; obstructing actions in our legislature more vocally and stubbornly than in the past.
The cancer grew as the courts allowed bigger and harder-to-track donations from special interests and corporations to flourish. Those donations flowed to the obstructionist representatives, reinforcing their strategy to hold the government hostage for fringe policies that even the voters who elected them didn’t approve of.
But like the body’s own defense mechanisms, gerrymandering and voter suppression began to prevent these frustrated voters from removing the obstructionists, and the cancer became ever stronger. It continued to grow, fed by conspiracy theories, populist promises, and lies, and was given a brand new pathway to spread easily through social media.
It then grew explosively in the form of Donald Trump.
President Trump isn’t the original cancer; he is the metastasized cancer attacking the brain of the body politic, where it is now harder to reach, enabling it to infect and spread wider and faster. Lies and discord are now the daily norm. Policies based not on data but on gut feelings and revenge for perceived transgressions are now the modus operandi. Discrediting key and critical functions that support and sustain democracy—like the media, courts and justice department—has become commonplace.
To be fair, there are some who argue that Donald Trump is doing good things for our country. Since we live in a democracy that is built on freedom of thought and expression, they have the right to share those opinions, and have many important and strong points to make.
However, this is like arguing that cancer is great for losing weight. While it is true that you lose a lot of weight when you have cancer, you also often die, so it is not an effective weight-loss strategy. This cancer now spreading is in the process of killing democracy, and is not worth any potential policy. As John McCain, the Republican Senator from Arizona, recently wrote, “We have become incapable of doing our jobs, dealing with big problems, and even fulfilling our most basic legislative duties… The system our founders built was not intended to function this way.”
Beating cancer is hard. Survivors often say it is the hardest thing they have ever endured. It is usually accomplished by surgery to cut out the tumors and then a bombardment of the body with just enough poison to kill the cancer, but not enough to kill the person.
We need to do the same for the government in this country. It first starts with surgical removal of obstructionist and divisive officials and saying no to candidates who support and feed the cancer. For that, we all have to vote—that is how we hold our representatives accountable for acting against us all for their own gain. The recent elections in Virginia and New Jersey were a great first step. Alabamians have an unprecedented opportunity to continue the surgery tomorrow in their special election for Senator.
Next, we need to elect new and constructive candidates. For that we all have to vote in all of our local, state, primary, special and federal elections. There are more than enough of us to swamp the cancer, and destroy it forever, but we all have to vote. Which means we all have to register to vote, and often overcome obstacles created by the cancer to prevent us from voting.
Cancer sucks. It forces you to drop everything and focus on it to save your life. But if you don’t, you will probably die. We run that risk in our country today.
We need to vote whenever and wherever we can to cut the cancer out at all levels. Register today at Rockthevote.org and make it a New Year’s resolution to vote in 2018 to remove the cancer from our country. Only then can we get back to effective government and a reasonable conversation about solving problems to create a better future for everyone —where we all have great opportunities to succeed while having compassion for all people and all points of view.