By SUSAN LEHMAN | BIGTENTUSA
“America is still a place of possibilities, a beacon for the world, a promise realized—where the power forever resides with ‘We the People’. That’s our soul. That’s who we truly are. That’s who we must always be.” President Joe Biden
In 2019, six middle-aged women, with diverse political backgrounds, and collectively raising 25 children in the suburbs, convened around a kitchen table to establish BigTent. For the sake of our children and grandchildren’s future, we refused to tolerate another four years of divisive rhetoric, manipulation, and a blatant disregard for democratic principles. We held the belief that, irrespective of party affiliations, there existed a sufficient number of voters willing to unite in defense of American democratic values. We had faith that we could establish a program capable of closing the gap by promoting tolerance and education through thought-provoking speaker series, collaboration with top grassroots organizers, and a readiness to venture beyond one’s comfort zone to gain new perspectives. By working together and building bridges, our community could overcome the challenges that threaten our unity.
Three years in, our tribe has grown to 4,000 members, we’ve hosted 150+ virtual events, penned over 50k letters, texted countless voters, made 5k+ phone calls, and today we stand proudly as an integral part of a nation-wide, diverse pro-democracy coalition. But we have much more work to do.
In Tempe, Arizona, last week President Joe Biden spoke about American democracy at the dedication ceremony for a new library, named for the late Arizona Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
“Today,” he warned, “democracy is … at risk. Our political institutions, our Constitution, and the very character of our nation are threatened. For centuries, the American Constitution has been a model for the world, but in the past few years, the institutions of our democracy—the judiciary, the legislature, the executive have been damaged in the eyes of the American people, and even the eyes of the world, by attacks from within.”
“I’m here to tell you,” Biden continued, “We lose these institutions of our government at our own peril…. Democracy is not a partisan issue. It’s an American issue. History has brought us to a new time of testing. All of us are being asked right now: What will we do to maintain our democracy? Will we put partisanship aside and put country first? I say we must and we will.”
This is the core tenet of BigTent: democracy isn’t about picking sides. It’s bigger than any party or group. Our foundational belief emphasizes that the principles of democracy must transcend party lines. It’s imperative for everyone, regardless of political party, to come together to uphold and champion these values. Our community’s shared commitment makes BigTent unique and vital in today’s political landscape.
As Biden reiterated in his speech,
“Democracy means rule of the people, not rule of monarchs, not rule of the monied, not rule of the mighty. Regardless of party, that means respecting free and fair elections; accepting the outcome, win or lose. It means you can’t love your country only when you win.”
Regrettably, an extremist MAGA movement has gained significant influence within the Republican Party. This movement often diverges from democratic principles and norms. It does not share the basic beliefs of our democracy. Among their “truths”: they call out the press as “the enemy of the people”, they look at the rule of law as an impediment, and foment voter suppression and election subversion.
Biden does not believe “every Republican,” adheres to the MAGA extremist ideology and, neither do we at BigTentUSA. But, he said:
“There is no question that today’s Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA Republican extremists. Their extreme agenda, if carried out, would fundamentally alter the institutions of American democracy as we know it.”
And so, Biden provides a challenge for the whole country to answer, when he asks,
“Where do we stand? Do we still believe in the Constitution? Do we believe in…basic decency and respect? Do we understand the threats to our democracy?”
President Biden’s unwavering commitment to the Constitution and American democracy serves as an inspiration, and we recognize the importance of echoing and reinforcing our dedication to these values as well.
- We believe that the defining feature of our democracy is our Constitution.
- We believe in the separation of powers and checks and balances and that debate among political parties does not lead to disunion.
- We believe in free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power.
- We believe there is no place in America for political violence.
- We denounce hate in all forms.
- We believe every president should be a president for all Americans and should “use the Office of the President to unite the nation.”
- We believe that the job of a president, is to “deliver light, not heat; to make sure democracy delivers for everyone; to know we’re a nation of unlimited possibilities, of wisdom and decency—a nation focused on the future.”
- We believe that the real heroes of the story are the American people.
Concluding his speech in Tempe, Biden warned,
“Democracies die when people are silent, when they fail to stand up or condemn the threats to democracy, when people are willing to give away that which is most precious to them because they feel frustrated, disillusioned, tired, alienated.”
BigTentUSA offers a space to be heard, to learn and to act. We call on our neighbors, friends, and family to take action. No matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, we must prioritize our democracy above all else. Let’s come together ‘under the tent’. Let’s put aside our political differences, forge alliances, and remember that most of us stand firm in our belief in democracy and are ready to defend it. It’s our duty to the next generation to ensure they enjoy the same freedoms we do. Subscribe to BigTentUSA
About the Author:
Susan Lehman is president and co-founder of BigTentUSA. She has a B.A. degree in Political Science from Duke University; Masters in Public Policy from the University of California School of Public Policy, Berkeley; and a J.D. from Pace School of Law. She began her career as a legislative aide to several congressional representatives in North Carolina and San Francisco.