Despite all the damage that “evil” does to the world, evil does have one important redeeming effect: it provokes the Good to rise up in opposition.
Here’s a story from the recent elections in North Dakota that illustrates this nicely:
In a Senate race in 2012, a Democrat had won a very close election. The votes of Native Americans were very important for giving her that victory.
The Republicans of North Dakota noticed the role of Native Americans in their defeat. So, in order to make their already-likely victory in 2018 still more certain, the Republicans in the state legislature passed a measure that would make it pretty much impossible for a great many Native Americans to vote.
In that measure, the Republicans didn’t say anything about Native Americans, of course. Making their target explicit would lead to their work being quickly overturned as unconstitutional. You can’t just baldly take power away from a category of people.
Instead, those North Dakota Republicans came up with a clever trick to accomplish the same thing. They said that every voter must have a full street address. They knew that a lot of Native Americans, living on reservations, do not have any such address, and never did.
So the effect was the desired one: disenfranchising this particular group of American citizens — silencing a voice whose right to be heard at the ballot box is supposed to come with citizenship — in order to weaken the Republicans’ opponent in the coming electoral battle for power in the U.S. Senate.
This Republican voter suppression was a national story. Along with giving the Hispanic citizens of Dodge City, KS, no place within reach to vote, and with coming up with registration shenanigans to prevent a lot of African-Americans from voting in Georgia, the way the Native Americans in North Dakota had been effectively and deliberately disenfranchised was one of the main national stories about people being robbed of their voice by people willing to cheat in order to win power.
The outrage was national, but it was local as well. Strenuous efforts were made by people on the ground in North Dakota to move super-fast to meet the requirements of that voter suppression law the Republican-controlled North Dakota state legislature had passed. What they had done was indefensible in terms of basic American values.
That outrage kindled a great many Native Americans – and some others –into action. The evil brought forth a powerful opposing force from the other side. In response to this voter suppression law, the number of Native American votes far exceeded their turnout in any previous election.
We can infer from the numbers that many Native Americans who would have usually stayed home were provoked to fight against this attack not only to defend themselves but also a set of values that represent the Good. Their outpouring strengthened also the things under attack, like justice, and respect for the rules, which are designed to let the voice of the people, not some people’s insistence on having power, govern who gets power in America.
And one more delicious image for this rising of justice in the American system. The Republican state legislator who drafted that voter suppression law, targeting Native Americans, was defeated in his bid for re-election. The Democrat who defeated this Republican – this Republican legislator who did politics like gangsters did turf wars — was a Native American woman.
Nonetheless, when it came to North Dakota’s U.S. Senate contest, that race did go to the Republicans, as was to be expected in this very red state.
But that same welcome rising up of the good — in response to the offensive sight of a blatant pattern of misconduct – was displayed in the national results of the 2018 elections: in the most national part of this year’s electoral picture – the elections to the House from all the 435 congressional districts — the voters’ shifted power from one political party to the other by the largest popular margin in American history.
Activated by the outrageous sight of a President running roughshod over the rule of law, and a Republican Party that had chosen to protect that President (rather than protect the Constitutional order they’d sworn an oath to defend), a substantial majority of the American people elected a Democratic Congress to act as a check on that lawlessness and corruption.
It is an encouraging sign that — once it has become clear to people that power is being wielded in evil ways — a lot of them will rise up to fortify the force of Good to overcome the force that darkens and breaks up our world.
Therein lies our greatest hope: that the sight of evil awakens people’s passion for the good.
Andy Schmookler — who was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia’s 6th District in 2012 — is a prize-winning author whose series “A Better Human Story” can be found at www.abetterhumanstory.org.