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Vu’s View: We Can’t Let American Democracy Crumble

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Vu’s View: We Can’t Let American Democracy Crumble

Baoky Vu. Photo provided to Decaturish.

Vu’s View is a new column on Decaturish that aims to be unvarnished and is intended to help elevate the level of understanding that will help our community tackle the challenges we face.  It will run twice a month and offer a unique perspective on economic issues. At the minimum, it aims to combat the dangers of apathy. 

Nearly 50 years ago, my family boarded a C-130 transport plane in the cover of darkness as part of the American evacuation in the waning days of the Vietnam War. Eight days later, on April 30, Saigon fell and the Republic of Vietnam was no more.  

As a 7-year-old, the events of that fateful day are seared in my memory.  We had headed to watch American cartoons at the outdoor movie screen on Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base.  As children my age huddled with family members in anticipation of the nightly entertainment, the voice over the PA system solemnly announced the Fall of Saigon.  Soon, there was a hushed silence, followed by sobbing among the adults.  For my parents and their contemporaries, their former way of life had simply ended.

This singular event likely was the genesis of my political consciousness. Having been involved in the world of politics for some 30 years, I’ve been a witness on occasion to some “interesting” events as well, including being at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, a surreal moment in time for someone aligned with the Bush-Romney-Ryan wing. Given this past heavy dose of involvement in Republican Party politics B.T. (before-Trump), I simply chose to take the path of truth as the GOP has evolved into a cult of personality.  

Our world is no stranger to power-hungry leaders who strip citizens of their rights and established governments of their standing. We escaped it in Vietnam. We are witnessing it in Ukraine. And here at home, unless we get it back on track, our democracy risks being lost to authoritarian rule.

Since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine began, I have watched in horror as the brave Ukrainians have been subjected to unimaginable terror at the hands of a power-hungry oligarch. Putin’s war is not just against the people – it’s against the fundamental principles of democracy. 

As a Vietnamese-American whose birth country has not had a free election since 1975, I’ve always cherished the sacred right to vote afforded to every American adult. My family, like millions of others over the years who have reached America’s shores, voted with their feet in fleeing communism and totalitarianism.  

It was my pride in American democracy that inspired me to accept a Republican-appointed role on the DeKalb County Board of Elections. But in 2021, after 12+ years proudly serving DeKalb County voters, I was terminated by my Republican Party colleagues. My refusal to lie about voters’ selection of President Biden over President Trump got me censured for “serving the interests of [myself] over all DeKalb and Georgia Republicans and the Republican Party overall.” Choosing to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law is an inconvenience in today’s Republican Party.

The events that took place a few weeks later on Jan. 6, 2021, were shocking to the core of any true American patriot. But the truth is, the Jan. 6 insurrection was only one part of a much larger effort to undermine democracy that began before the 2020 election and continues today. MAGA Republicans continue to spread the Big Lie to sow distrust and discredit future elections. They’re passing laws in state legislatures across the country that give Big Lie politicians the final say over election results. They’re making it harder for people to vote by limiting early voting and mail-in ballots. And they’re removing civic-minded citizens from election administration positions in favor of political hacks who are more willing to lie to get the outcome they want, the will of the voters be damned.  Premised on the Big Lie, such legislation has given license to the intimidation of election officials, poll workers and well-intentioned volunteers.

And instead of fighting to defend our democracy, GOP leadership across the land, from Josh Hawley to Ted Cruz to Georgia’s own Burt Jones, continue to put party over country. Healthy democracies cannot survive on a diet of lies and grievances, much less cowardice, from their elected leaders. 

Of particular concern is the increasing influence of what I call the Trump-Putin Republicans – people who swore an oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Green, but refuse to denounce Russia’s attacks on Ukraine and even blame America for Putin’s aggression. Americans need to know that alternative media outlets with rogue and questionable sponsors over the years have spent billions of dollars in the disinformation campaign within our shores, with the assistance of these elected officials.

The cult of personality that has come to define the Party of Lincoln and Reagan has become a threat to American democracy, and even to rational discourse. Former President Trump has turned the Republican Party into a movement that rejects true conservatism and America’s founding ideals in favor of conspiracy theories, anti-science rhetoric, and outward hostility toward the rule of law. 

If there is a teaching moment from all of this, it is that we simply cannot afford to be mere spectators in the process of democracy. 

Our nation’s challenges demand that we have a healthy and lively discourse. If we truly think that our ideas of a compassionate form of capitalism and limited government are truly better than those of our Democratic opponents, then we must use the art of friendly persuasion to achieve success, not violence and intimidation. 

American Democracy is worth fighting for, and I know I do not stand alone.

Bao Ky Vu has lived in Atlanta for over 40 years. In 1975, his family left Saigon prior to the collapse of South Vietnam to Communist North Vietnamese forces, resettling in Australia before returning to the United States in 1977. A graduate of Georgia Tech and Georgetown University’s MBA Program, he served as Commissioner to President George W. Bush’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders from 2001–2004. Governor Nathan Deal appointed Vu to the State Board for the Technical College System of Georgia in 2015 and he formerly served as Vice-Chairman of the DeKalb County Board of Voter Registration and Elections. He is a graduate of Leadership Georgia Class of 2008.