In November, voters across the country and here in North Carolina finally got the chance to exercise one of our most fundamental rights: the right to vote. For months, pundits and the political class told us that people wouldn’t turn out to defend our rights, like access to reproductive rights and the right to choose who leads us. MAGA Republicans campaigned across North Carolina to take away those rights, confident that they would triumph, have a decisive victory and overwhelming mandate in the House, and take back the Senate. And most egregiously, many of them campaigned on taking away our right to choose who leads us, supporting former president Trump in his criminal conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

But Americans proved them all wrong.

Democracy was on the ballot, and democracy won. November 8 showed that when Americans understand that our freedoms are under threat, we act decisively to protect them. North Carolinians saw the election as a choice between freedom and extremism and voted for freedom.

We heard the antidemocratic message from Trump and MAGA Republicans and rejected them. We saw that MAGA Republicans and election deniers continued to not only push false claims about the 2020 election but also pose threats to future elections, the future of democracy, and many of our most fundamental rights and freedoms.

Exit polls show Americans focused on democracy and protecting their rights to abortion care as motivating factors for heading to the polls. Americans rejected Trump and MAGA Republicans’ dark and divisive view of the country and voted for freedoms: the freedom to choose our own leaders, the freedom to access abortion and make other decisions about our health, and other freedoms promised by the Constitution. More than two-thirds of voters said democracy in the United States was threatened. And a majority of voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

In North Carolina, Democrats defeated January 6 participant Sandy Smith and Trump protégé Bo Hines in toss-up House races. While those victories should be heartening to anyone who cares about democracy, the threats are far from over. North Carolinians chose election denier Ted Budd to serve in the U.S. Senate, and voters elected a conservative majority to the state supreme court. These losses are devastating for our democracy, but we must not grow weary. Our democracy is worth fighting for, and we will never give up on it.

Every member of the Republican leadership of the 118th Congress and at least 159 members of the incoming Republican House majority are election deniers, including at least three new members who personally participated in protests at the Capitol on January 6. MAGA Republicans have made it clear that instead of solving the kitchen table issues that Americans care about, they will do everything in their power to wage a political war against President Biden and Democrats. They will continue to do whatever they can to take away the rights we all fought for on November 8.

And their leader, former president Trump, has a wide swath of criminal investigations, both into his business and into his own conduct. So far, he hasn’t faced any sort of accountability for his actions.

At every turn, Trump has attempted to avoid accountability and prosecution for these many crimes. In Donald Trump’s decades of public life, he’s lied, cheated, stolen, and even incited violence, skirting accountability at almost every turn. This has gone on long enough. No one is above the law, not even former presidents. The response to Trump from the courts must be clear: running for president is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. The courts must hold Trump and his co-conspirators accountable for their crimes. The American people did our part. It’s time for the Department of Justice and the Judicial Branch to do theirs. 

Bobbie Richardson is the chair of the NC Democratic Party.

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