By Chris Gardner

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“All men are created equal”, is the most universally profound political ideal in history. Our forefathers gave us democracy, “one man one vote”, as the tool to reflect this ideal and “to form a more perfect union.”

We have refined democracy through constitutional amendments to allow former slaves and women to vote and to provide for direct election of senators. The great grace of our democracy is, if it is fair, it depends merely on our consent for its authority. The capacity to express our ideas as neighbors should be protected zealously for to lose it will most certainly be to reap the whirl wind.

There are challenges to our democracy. The Electoral College allows presidents to be elected without a majority vote, disenfranchising millions of voters in two of the past five presidential elections. Gerrymandering creates unfair election advantages. The structure of the U.S. Senate creates a power bias toward small-state voters. Seemingly neutral voting restrictions disproportionally suppress voting among identifiable groups of citizens to the advantage of their proponents. Money in politics, cable news, and sophisticated internet techniques allow voters without a discerning curiosity to be hoodwinked to the ends of their manipulators.

The biggest threat to our democracy is merely the failure of many citizens to vote, which is often encouraged by the subtlest of conspiracies manipulating our cynicism, ignorance and apathy, otherwise known as “I don’t count, I don’t know, and I don’t care”.

These flaws create governing anomalies like we see today where agendas are ruthlessly pursued which a majority of Americans did not vote for. It is possible, maybe even likely, that these manipulations of democracy are motivated, as they have been historically, to defend and enhance the privileges of a relative few of our citizens.

Most profoundly these flaws could and will dilute our confidence in democracy, which would be a human tragedy of incalculable consequence.

Yet there’s good news. By committing to casting our vote no matter the inconveniences or obstacles put before us we can overcome the biggest threat.

We each have this direct power. There are no insurmountable barriers to voting. Though some try to make voting more tedious, we need no new laws, no additional political authority, nor any constitutional amendments. We just need to vote and encourage and help each other.

Take the “One More Vote!” pledge. If you don’t vote, begin now by registering. If you do vote, find someone to help vote and start now. All necessary requirements can be met but it may take some work, obtaining documents and standing in line.

And there’s more good news. HR 1 the For the People Act has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. It corrects many problems. Making Election Day a holiday, requiring early voting and same-day registration improving voting convenience, creating nonpartisan commissions to control re-districting eliminating gerrymandering, reinstating provisions of the voting rights act providing election protections, providing campaign financing transparency and all candidates to disclose tax returns shining light on dark money and motives, and addressing other issues for the health of our democracy.

We need to support this act. It will take a while to pass, but we can get there and use our support to inform each other of the threats to and solutions for a healthy democracy.

In the longer term we need to begin the constitutional process of providing for the direct election of the president.

I do not believe in the hero leader who will save us, but I do believe in you. The solution to the missteps of democracy is more democracy because it is self-correcting.

If we each treat our right to vote as our necessary democratic responsibility we will bend “the long arch of history toward justice”, and those five little words, “All men are created equal,” will remain the living beacon for humanity they have become.

— Chris Gardner lives in Bend.