As Unitarian Universalists, we believe each and every person has inherent worth and dignity, and that we are all radically connected to one another and to the earth. We believe pluralism and diversity are sources of incredible richness, and that every community has the right to safety, stability, and freedom. We believe each person deserves a voice and a vote, and that true democracy is an expression of the agency and self-determination that are an essential part of all of us.
In this critical time, our Unitarian Universalist faith compels us to show up fully in service of democracy, and to fight for a world in which all people are free and thriving. These elections are not just a choice between candidates; they are a referendum on our most foundational values.
As we head toward the end of voting tomorrow, November 3, uncertainty is palpable. Already, voter suppression and intimidation are rampant; nationalist and white supremacist factions, along with state agents, pose direct threats to both marginalized communities and movements for justice; disinformation campaigns seek to sow doubt about our electoral system’s trustworthiness.
We know that more work and collective action to protect democracy and election integrity will likely be necessary in the days, or even weeks, ahead. While it is heartbreaking to acknowledge these realities, we must honestly name the landscape we are navigating in this pivotal moment, and find courage in knowing that we have been preparing to meet this moment with clarity and skill for months, years, and generations.
To show up for justice and democracy, we will need to lean on spiritual practices that can help us access the wellspring of courage, resilience, and commitment that will sustain us. We will also need to be focused and nimble, ready to take action quickly if called to do so. To that end, we offer the following counsel to Unitarian Universalist individuals, congregations, and organizations:
- Normalize that trustworthy election results will take time, and that democracy is worth waiting for. The ongoing pandemic has shifted “election day” to “election season” in 2020, and by Tuesday close to 100 million people will have already voted early or by absentee ballot. The unprecedented number of votes cast before November 3 means that vote counting will take time—not because anything is amiss, but because of the groundswell of people exercising their right to vote safely. Make an effort to emphasize that our electoral system has integrity, and that we must not accept any results before all votes are counted fairly and transparently.
- Exert pressure to ensure that all votes are counted. Contact your Board of Elections, Secretary of State, and other elected officials letting them know that they must ensure a free and fair election, making sure to count every ballot. Should officials or candidates attempt to announce results before all votes are counted, or to invalidate mass numbers of legitimate ballots, be prepared to engage in and support demonstrations, strikes, or other forms of direct action to exert pressure.
- Find your role and take your shift. In order to ensure that we ultimately see election results that have integrity, it will be crucial to maintain ongoing public pressure and to clearly signal that the people will not be placated by anything less than full transparency and fairness. This could take the form of mass protests, a general strike, coordinated advocacy efforts with elected officials, and more. Take time now to discern your own role in supporting these pro-democracy tactics, whether it be participating in a direct action in the streets, cooking meals and providing personal protective equipment for protesters, joining a phone or text bank to encourage people to contact their elected officials, or coordinating a rapid response fundraiser to support organizers in your area. Connect with trusted groups like Election Defenders to find many ways you can take action, regardless of your circumstances, capacity, and abilities.
- Leverage the power and the resources of your community. We have what we need to support one another and our movements for justice. Take time to map the assets of your congregation, and be prepared to generously respond to asks for material, infrastructural, and human support from pro-democracy organizing in your community. Connect with your local mutual aid network, or organize your neighbors to respond together in your local context. Donate to local bail and legal assistance funds, and to frontline organizations in your area led by impacted communities.
- Make time for spiritual practice, self-care, connection, and joy. Sustaining a coordinated pro-democracy movement for many days, or even weeks, will take mass numbers of people who are committed enough to take shifts, and keep coming back over time. To do this, we will need to be rested, grounded, and connected to our hopes for the kind of world we are struggling to breathe into being. Get some sleep, hydrate, eat, take your medications, move your body, connect with your loved ones, wear warm clothes if it’s cold, take precautions against COVID-19 and other seasonal illnesses. Carve out time every day for prayer, meditation, singing, self-care routines, debriefing with trusted spiritual companions. Practice gratitude, vent your anger and fear, cry. Repeat regularly.
Our Unitarian Universalist faith calls us all to show up boldly, generously, and courageously in the struggle to defend and deepen our democracy. We each have a role to play, in relationship with one another and with all people who share our commitment to liberation. Let us meet this moment together—let us be realistic, resilient, and ready.