Our Time Is Now: Book Note

Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America

Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America by Stacey Abrams

Through the lens of her campaign for governor and the voter organizing prior to and subsequent to that contest, Stacey Abrams looks at democracy in the United States, finding it both wanting and worth fighting for. That democracy is flawed by design and from the beginning is evident to any who read history, as she neatly summarizes:

“Though the Founding Fathers gave a nod to universal equality in the Declaration of Independence, they abandoned the aspiration by the time they penned the country’s organizing documents. Let me be clear here: the codification of racism and disenfranchisement is a feature of our lawmaking—not an oversight. And the original sin of the U.S. Constitution began by identifying blacks in America as three-fifths human: counting black bodies as property and their souls as nonexistent.”

Voting rights are fundamental to democracy, and the denial of voting rights has continued from the founding documents to the present day. Vivid stories of her own parents’ experience in asserting those rights and of today’s denial of voting rights, especially (though not exclusively) to Black voters show the urgency and immediacy of the continuing battle for voting rights. Without the vote, participation in democracy is impossible. That is both her thesis and the struggle to which she urges readers: “Our Time Is Now is my longer, more complicated answer to how we can frame and revise voting rights and the architecture of American democracy for the current age.”

The past four years of Trump presidency, and before that the 2013 Shelby decision eviscerating the Voting Rights Act of 1965, have dramatically and dangerously weakened voting rights and the fabric of democracy. While both Trump’s attack on the 2020 election, from the big lie to the violent attack on Congress and the Capitol, and continuing legislative efforts to restrict voting rights across the country have happened after the publication of this book, Abrams saw them coming.

“Part of the challenge is external: a pervasive, systemic process of stripping the right to vote from some and building obstacles to access for others. The power of voting is real, as are the policies that mute the humanity of our fellow citizens like Trump’s screeds against people of color and a political financing system that preferences the white, old, and wealthy. But the threat is also coming from inside the coalition itself: citizens grappling with racism, sexism, homophobia, and poverty are the least likely to trust in or utilize their votes.”

A more insidious danger comes from the corrosive impact of constant lies and attacks.

“When I think about the next generation of elections, my deepest fear is that we are going to face not just voter suppression but that the more insidious part of voter suppression will take effect and people will believe that they no longer count. When people self-select out of participation, that is actually a much more effective consequence because increasing difficulty is one thing, but making participation seem irrelevant has a much more pervasive and permanent effect.”

Our Time Is Now is not just a description of the powers arrayed against us, but also a call to action and a resounding affirmation that the forces of fascism and racism can and must be defeated. Abrams offers a call to action, with confidence affirmed by the victory of two Democratic Senators in Georgia this year.

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