Our Democracy Is at Stake in 2020 and Young People of Color Are Paying Attention

Aditi Juneja and Preston Mitchum
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Photo: Shutterstock

Congress held public impeachment hearings last week on whether President Trump abused his power to enlist a foreign government in smearing his political opponent. While some may see this process as far removed from their day-to-day lives—a parade of old white men being accused of crimes, defending other old white men who may have committed crimes, or attacking those speaking out against the administration—a recent poll shows that young people are paying attention and disapprove.

Sixty percent of those 18-34 believe that President Trump “abuses the power of his office,” and 67 percent of young voters think the President “believes he is above the law.” Young people know that what he’s doing is wrong because the impact is tangible, severe, and largely falls on the most marginalized people in our country. The behavior of Trump and those in his circle are part of a pattern of abuse that directly impacts people of color, young people, and LGBTQ+ people.

The president’s call for other countries to interfere in our elections is part of a long history of powerful people undermining free and fair elections in this country. Let’s not forget that black Americans and women had to fight for their right to vote and, even today, that right is not assured. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has been accused of using his power as the then-secretary of state in 2018 to make it more difficult for African-Americans to vote and thus win his election. In Florida, then-Gov. Rick Scott oversaw the results of an election that made him a senator, during which he made unfounded accusations of voter fraud and tried to have law enforcement seize ballots. In both states, the voters most impacted were voters of color. In Texas, legislators are targeting younger voters, particularly those of color, and making it harder for them to vote.

The president’s threats towards a whistleblower are similarly out of the authoritarian playbook—a direct attempt to grab power. This is the same attitude we saw on display when the president issued the emergency declaration to fund his border wall by redirecting military funds, rather than go through Congress. This wasn’t just a violation of a theoretical idea of checks and balances, but was also a violation that has a real, tangible impact on communities along the border, including in El Paso, Texas. We have also seen the president implement policies that impact young people of color, including policy changes that would take away healthcare and transgender rights.

Like dictators around the world, President Trump has used the power of the presidency to retaliate against media organizations like the Washington Post or CNN and try to quash dissent. From April Ryan to Abby Phillip, the journalists he lashes out most violently against are journalists of color, in particular, black women.

If the president will go after those that have political power in this country, imagine the reverberations felt by those who are marginalized. And the decisions he is making are those that young voters feel strongly about, including immigration, racism, and reproductive justice.

It’s clear with all these violations of law that President Trump needs to be removed from office; however, that is not enough. In order to restore the guardrails of our democracy, Congress must pass reforms to ensure that the harm he has done to our governmental system can never be repeated. Lawmakers must insulate law enforcement from political interference, prevent the White House from creating false records or spreading misinformation, stop the president from abusing the pardon power and protect our elections. Only then can we begin to ensure that the power in our democracy lies where it truly belongs—with the people.

As we watch the daily barrage of abuses of power from this White House as it faces the scrutiny of impeachment, many young voters look to the 2020 candidates with one simple question—what are you going to do to make sure that this can never happen again?

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Aditi Juneja is an attorney with Protect Democracy. Preston Mitchum is the Policy Director with URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity.

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