The Declaration of Independence, adopted 246 years ago this week, has been many things through the years: A call to arms, a statement of purpose, an appeal for help, a treatise on humanity, an inspiration to the oppressed, a warning to tyrants.

But this July 4, with our democracy under threat and the direction of our country in question, that astounding document must once again become a statement of common purpose. Otherwise, the entire American project is in doubt.

That project was born in Philadelphia in 1776, and it is remarkably simple: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It was also radical. The idea that government derived its power from the people — that human and civil rights were inherent, not subject to the whims of tyrants — transformed the world. It helped spark revolution and grant autonomy across the globe, from Haiti in 1791 to Kosovo in 2008 and beyond, and gave affirmation to the civil rights and women’s suffrage movements here in the U.S.

The story could end there, with Americans in general agreement about the philosophy of our country, the same one framed out in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776: A government consented to by the people, with majority rule determined by free and fair elections, and minority beliefs protected along with our inherent human rights.

That’s the message that persuaded 13 separate English colonies to set aside their different agendas and points of view and come together as the United States.


It is, we hope, the same way most Americans believe their government should be structured today.

But it may not be. No doubt it is an ongoing struggle to preserve voting rights as certain jurisdictions work to limit ballot access based on party and race. Particularly in the South, where voting is frequently made difficult for Black citizens, and particularly after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act.

But the attempts to restrict voting have grown more aggressive. Republicans in conservative areas, including elected officials and election workers, increasingly see any votes by their political adversaries as illegitimate. They feel empowered to do what they can to make sure they aren’t counted.

It all culminated in the effort to steal the 2020 election by Donald Trump and his supporters, not only through the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but also with their schemes to use fake electors or “found votes” to keep Trump in power, despite the fact that he lost the election.

In the months since that event, the lie of a stolen election has become an article of faith among Republicans. Some of these conspiracy theorists are running for positions of authority over coming elections, with the purpose of succeeding where they failed in 2020.

They are not being shy about their aim to install Republicans in office, whether the votes go their way or not. The question is whether there will be enough Americans in the right places to put a stop to them and keep our elections from becoming a farce.

Can we again unite under a common purpose and idea — that all of us are created equal, and there is a place for all of us under the same flag?

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