Jim Shultz is the founder and executive director of The Democracy Center, a nonprofit that tackles issues of social, economic, and environmental justice, and serves as a global advocacy adviser to UNICEF. He is a co-author and co-editor of Dignity and Defiance: Stories from Bolivia’s Challenge to Globalization (2008), the author of the memoir My Other Country: Nineteen Years in Bolivia (2020), and writes opinion columns for the Lockport Union–Sun and Journal. (July 2020)
As we face the unprecedented circumstance of a presidential election during a pandemic, the right to vote by mail has a new urgency in protecting Americans’ fundamental right to cast a ballot. But as the disappointed candidates for school reform learned in June’s vote-by-mail test drive in Lockport, New York, safeguarding voting and winning elections are not the same thing. Letting people vote from the comfort and safety of their homes may well entice the participation of a good number of those 100 million Americans who sat it out four years ago. But for those determined to use that vote to pry Donald Trump from the White House, it may only mean that the job of persuading those new voters will become all the more urgent.
On the day that our granddaughter was born, I decided it would be nice to buy and save a copy of the day’s local paper, Lockport’s venerable Union-Sun & Journal, so I stopped in at Walgreens and picked up a copy. Its editorial page contained a ridiculous column by a local professor calling on Congress to hold up the national budget until funding was secured for President Trump’s Mexican border wall. Niagara County, for which Lockport is the county seat, voted for Trump over Clinton in 2016 by a margin of 56 percent to 38 percent. So I spent my first evening as a grandfather angrily typing out a response column, and sent it to the paper. Shortly after my article was published, I sat down for a coffee with the editor, Joyce Miles, and that was how I stumbled into becoming a left-leaning opinion columnist in Trump Land.
The end of Morales’s historic presidency has the quality of one of those inkblot tests in which everyone sees what they want to see. The global left, from British Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn to an assortment of foreign intellectuals, immediately denounced what had happened as a military coup, linking it in the public mind to the old, familiar scenes of tanks rolling into South American capitals. Those who have long hated Evo declared it a blow against the evils of socialist dictatorship. But if I learned anything in my time in the country, it is this: nothing is simple in Bolivia, and such was the case with the turbulent political career of Evo Morales.