MEMORIAL DAY MESSAGE: What Americans can learn from Ukrainians and President Biden about “fighting” for democracy

Forward Progressive
4 min readMay 29, 2023

This Memorial Day, I want to share a few thoughts about what “fighting” for democracy means to me.

If we want to truly understand what it means i think we need to study the brave people of Ukraine currently fighting back against the forces of evil with their weapons, words and work to come together and stand up to tyranny.

Today, I also think of the brave men and women who fought back the rioters on January 6th and in some cases made the ultimate sacrifice.

Unfortunately, the misguided Americans that attacked them thought that by storming the capitol building they were the ones “fighting” for our democracy.

And that is the problem with our democratic discourse right now. Instead of coming together for the common good like the Ukrainian people we’re too often blindly following orders from grifters or people without a plan like conscripted soldiers in the Russian Army.

Every one of us who says they care about our country’s future needs to understand that when you live in a democracy, violence and destruction and division is not the answer.

As long as you have the power to vote and have your voice heard, even if it isn’t easy to exercise that power, you hold the most important weapon to achieve democratic change.

The tragedy of that day is that people followed the outrage of ONE MAN who said the election was stolen rather than the VAST MAJORITY of democratically-elected and appointed leaders from the U.S. Supreme Court including three Trump-appointed justices, to the Trump-appointed Attorney General to Republican Senators and even the Republican Secretary of State in Georgia who proved it was a scam on audiotape.

After 9/11, a Day of Service was established to turn that day into one of celebration of America as one unified community. In 2024, I think 1/6 should become a Day of Democracy where we celebrate voting and building peaceful means to move forward as a unified community.

But most importantly, we need to heed that lesson on a daily basis and talk more about “building” democratic coalitions instead of “fighting” other Americans like we’re warring tribes.

Regardless of your politics, I think it is evident that President Biden understands this and that is how he passed several pieces of bi-partisan legislation over the past two years. And as of today he seems to have successfully negotiated a budget deal before we hit the debt ceiling.

But he doesn’t just set that example by doing his job in Washington. He often speaks in public about how UNITED as Americans there is nothing we can’t do. And his campaign preached the importance of unity with Joe’s Campaign Code which discussed the importance of values like empathy and kindness.

And lets not forget that President Obama rocketed to stardom when he talked about how there are no Red States or Blue States just the UNITED States of America. And during his presidential campaign he declared that “Yes We Can” create change if we Respect, Empower and Include.

So, on what may be the eve of Ukraine’s counter-offensive where they will come together to destroy the forces that are literally attacking their democracy every day, I suggest that we come together here to begin a counter-offensive of peaceful democratic coalition-building here at home against the forces of anger and hate regardless of what ideology they’re selling.

You can start by reading or listening to books like “How Minds Change” by David McRaney which studies persuasion techniques like deep canvassing that encourage activists to conduct more authentic two-way conversations with voters that emphasize listening and learning from the public not just preaching to or shaming them.

And after spending some time digesting how important engaging the public to “build” coalitions is I think it will change your perspective on what “fighting” for democracy really means in a democratic system.

I mean consider this, last year I saw tons of activists declare they were ditching twitter and its megaphone to reached millions of Americans simply because they didn’t like the new ownership. Granted, the ownership has been seriously erratic but it is not in the best interest of your cause if you unilaterally surrender a platform for democratic discourse without a true fight.

If you don’t like the way a democratic platform is run then defend it and don’t surrender your voice then declare yourself a hero for taking such a “principled” stand.

Think for a second. If Vladmir Putin offered Volodmir Zelensky just 5 minutes to speak to the Russian people on State TV do you think he would hesitate to take the opportunity to get his message out and build support for his cause?

The opportunity to be heard is the most important weapon in a fight for democracy.

That’s why Joe Biden, Barack Obama and almost every elected official in America is still on twitter.

So, it doesn’t matter how you do it but on this Memorial Day I recommend thinking about how you can build coalitions and getting out of your comfort zone to engage with people and ideas whether you like them or not.

That is how you can truly “fight” for democracy in America in 2023 thanks to those who made the ultimate sacrifice so the peaceful voices of the people can be heard.

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Forward Progressive

Jim McBride is a former VA Dems Chair Candidate and Founder of Blue Victory War Room and “Keep Virginia Blue” War Room briefings on events.democrats.org.