Alaska’s U.S. senators must act to help save our democracy

January 2022 marks the one-year anniversary of the greatest internal threat our democracy has ever faced: A carefully planned attempt to overturn a presidential election, which included plotting from high-ranking officials and unleashing a violent mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol. Thanks to the courage of a few people, ranging from then-Vice President Mike Pence to election officials in many states, that insurrection failed. But the threat is even greater today, because the supporters of the insurrection are working to occupy and corrupt the key positions of power in election administration, with the clear goal of anointing Donald Trump as president in 2024, regardless of vote totals. Alaska’s Congressional delegation has both the power and responsibility to help preserve our democracy against this assault by authoritarians.

I want to start by thanking members of the delegation who courageously did the right thing at the right time when our democracy was under threat last year. Right after election results came in, Congressman Don Young and Sen. Lisa Murkowski recognized Joe Biden as the duly elected president, even if he was not the candidate for whom they voted. A peaceful transition of power is elemental to a democracy, and they supported that transition of power because they recognized that democracy itself is more important than the short term power struggles between political parties or factions within parties.

Most importantly, all members of Alaska’s delegation voted to certify the results of the election, despite a blatantly dishonest attempt by Trump and his allies to block certification and seize power illegally.

Following the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, Sens. Dan Sullivan and Murkowski condemned the traitors who attacked the Capitol and assaulted police officers. Congressman Young correctly said, “We must send a clear message by bringing the perpetrators of violence to justice, and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law.”

Over the past year, however, the dangerous effects of anti-social media and extremists within one faction of the Republican Party have amplified the attack on our electoral system. Unfortunately, some members of our own Congressional delegation have shied away from defending democracy, and have pandered to extremists who would dismantle our fair system of elections. For example, Sen. Sullivan initially refused to give a straightforward answer on who won the presidential election, and his refusal to state what he knew was true only empowered anti-democracy extremists who wanted to overturn the election. When members of the U.S. House of Representatives did their job and conducted a thorough investigation of the insurrection, some organizers of the insurrection ignored subpoenas in violation of the law. Congress correctly voted to hold those perpetrators in contempt, but Congressman Young voted “no,” attempting to shield organizers of violence from an appropriate and necessary investigation into the insurrection.

On behalf of the Anchorage NAACP, I ask our congressional representatives to honor their oath to the Constitution, and from this moment forward commit themselves to defending our democracy. There is nothing “conservative” about a banana republic-style attempted coup d’etat, and Republicans should condemn those who would attempt to seize power through a coup. Sen. Murkowski was correct when she stated in a recent interview that threats to our democracy have grown in the last year, and that preservation of our democracy must be our highest priority. Every member of our Congressional delegation has a critical role to play, today and every day through at least the 2024 presidential election, to ensure that our democracy survives.

Tragically, there are cynical politicians who will pander to violent extremists, and Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka’s appalling support for the false narrative espoused by the terrorists who assaulted the capital should compel any responsible person to oppose her candidacy.

We have never faced an internal threat like this before, and we can only defend democracy against authoritarianism by working together.

We must insist that both of our senators, Murkowski and Sullivan, vote in favor of the proposed voting legislation: the Freedom To Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Democracy matters!

Kevin McGee is president of the Anchorage NAACP.

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