I believe most Americans are in denial about the extent to which an authoritarian Republican Party is actively seeking to destroy our democracy. I am grateful for the reprinted Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial "Democracy under attack in Wisconsin" (Jan. 3), which warns that "Donald Trump's repeated lies about the 2020 election over the past year have put our democracy at grave risk, but he has not done this alone."
Wisconsin, as the editorial made clear, is a frightening case in point but it is part of a much broader orchestrated initiative. The New York Times editorial on New Year's Day noted: "Over the past year, Republican lawmakers in 41 states have been trying to advance the goals of the Jan. 6 rioters — not by breaking laws but by making them. Hundreds of bills have been proposed and nearly three dozen laws have been passed that empower state legislatures to sabotage their own elections and overturn the will of their voters … . [T]he Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends." It also warned: "No self-governing society can survive such a threat by denying that it exists."
Similarly, George Packer writing in the January/February 2022 issue of the Atlantic warns: "There is no easy way to stop a major party that's intent on destroying democracy. The demonic energy with which Trump repeats his lies … and Republican politicians around the country try to seize every level of election machinery — this relentless drive for power by American authoritarians is the major threat that America confronts."
There are many vital issues that I and others care about but resolving them depends first and foremost on defending our democracy and defeating authoritarianism.
Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Minneapolis
The article on computer-drawn legislative maps illustrates just how ingrained gerrymandering is in our system ("Technology levels playing field for legislative maps," Jan. 2). The courts say that political gerrymandering is a problem (I agree), and the courts say they want districts that are evenly populated, as contiguous as possible and compact (sounds like a perfect criteria). And they want maps that don't deny the rights of any minority community or divide communities with shared economic, cultural or economic heritage (sounds like mandated gerrymandering to me).
In a hypothetical state with eight voting districts, and a population that is 75% white, 15% Black and 10% Hispanic, should each district be 75% white, 15% Black and 10% Hispanic, or should 75% of the districts have white majorities, 15% have Black majorities and 10% have Hispanic majorities? No matter which you choose, you will have chosen gerrymandering. You may have chosen good gerrymandering or you may have chosen bad gerrymandering, but rest assured, you chose gerrymandering.
Our objective should not be acceptable gerrymandering; our objective should be no gerrymandering. Choose the map that is the best trade-off between containing even populations and appearing contiguous and compact and nothing more. It might not be fair, but it will be unbiased.
Jack Kohler, Plymouth
Thanks for naming the problem
Regarding "Let's put the Christianity back into Christian politics" (Opinion Exchange, Jan. 1.)
Thank you, Robert K. Vischer, for putting a label on the cognitive dissonance I have been struggling with these past five-plus years. It's a huge relief to be able to let go of the unease I'm left with after voting for a candidate who does not completely line up with church teachings. For me, the means do not justify the ends if the means do not comply with the Biblical values I have been taught since childhood.
Susan Handy, Eden Prairie
Vischer's opinion piece deals with only one small aspect of the polarization that has infected American society. He states, "Christian nationalism is about power — to be won and wielded against external threats." To be clear, I am not defending Christian nationalism. Politics is dirty business, and Christians should be very cautious with their public involvement. But let me ask, is no other group seeking power? Whether it is the Democrats, Republicans, progressives, Black Lives Matter, antifa or unions, every effort is directed at gaining power. The writer also posits, "When Christians refuse to recognize the possibility that our political tribe is capable of evil, we are denying the reality of sin." The only way the writer can reach his conclusion is to use the Bible as the dictionary for sin. Be it the Ten Commandments (Exodus), the golden rule (Matthew), or any other relevant portion of scripture, when he or any of us uses Biblical standards, it is demonstrably clear that evil is capturing American society, not just Christian nationalists.
Regardless of our religious or atheistic beliefs, America's values are in decline, we have lost the art of tolerance and forgiveness and replaced them with selfishness and resentment. Unfortunately, it will take more than politics to suffuse Biblical standards into basic human values.
Philip Peterson, Edina
I agree with Vischer that Christian nationalism can be a harmful thing as witnessed in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but if Christian extremism can be dangerous, how much more dangerous is the left-wing extremism that resulted in riots and looting in 140 U.S. cities with property damage in the billions of dollars? The Jan. 6 attack lasted for part of one day and was carried out by approximately 1,000 people. The rioting following George Floyd's death lasted for much of the rest of 2020. According to Wikipedia, at least 14,000 people were arrested by the end of June 2020. Rioting after Jacob Blake's shooting in Kenosha, Wis., resulted in damage or destruction of at least 56 businesses and caused more than $50 million in damage, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The left-wing extremism that caused the riots is similar to the Christian nationalism that caused the attack on the Capitol. The right-wing rioters believe that the 2020 election was stolen; the left-wing rioters believe that the U.S. is a white supremacist nation where police officers are allowed to murder Black people with impunity.
The attack on the U.S. Capitol is concerning because some of those involved were calling for killing politicians whose views they disagree with and because they were trying to overthrow the valid election results. I don't want to minimize the seriousness of that outrage, but it should also concern us that thousands of left-wing extremists destroyed the property and livelihoods of thousands of innocent people. Extremism is potentially harmful no matter which side of the aisle it comes from.
James Brandt, New Brighton
Even if you've tried before, try again
After reading the article in Friday's paper about the shortage of blood donations, I wanted to share my story ("Blood supply in 'urgent mode,'" Dec. 31). I donated blood once about 25 years ago and fainted afterward, so I concluded that I was a poor candidate for donating and never tried again. Then recently, upon hearing about the shortage, I thought I should give donating a second try. I've donated twice now at Memorial Blood Centers, and it is super easy! I told them I fainted the first time I ever tried it, so they kept me in the chair for a bit longer afterward and brought me cranberry juice. Then, I got to go relax in their lounge with free snacks! Chex Mix! Cookies! More juice! Overall, it was painless and really quick. The actual donating part took less than 10 minutes. I don't know what I was afraid of, as it really is an easy way to give back to the community and maybe save a life. I plan to donate again as soon as I am able (they reach out at the appropriate time to schedule the next visit).
I would encourage anyone who is considering it to give it a try! You will feel so good and happy afterward, and the staff at Memorial Blood Centers are very appreciative.
Cindi Thompson, St. Louis Park
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