The Fourth of July commemorates a courageous, extraordinary day, when the architects of our nation laid the first stone in the foundation of American democracy. In the nearly two and a half centuries since, our Independence Day has come to stand not only for that timeless bedrock, but also for every brick, beam and pillar Americans have marched and bled to build atop it.
Our democracy rose up from the ground when we ended slavery and ratified the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. It rose higher when women fought for suffrage — and won. It was fortified when a lawyer named Thurgood Marshall persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down “separate but equal” and blaze a trail for opportunity in Brown v. Board of Education. And when our nation opened its eyes to the viciousness of Bull Connor and the righteousness of the Freedom Riders — and responded with outrage, and a new Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act — we built it stronger still.
Title IX. The Indian Self-Determination Act. The Americans with Disabilities Act. Marriage equality. DACA. Black Lives Matter. Brick by brick — and, all too often, against long odds and violent opposition — the American people have labored to expand the scope, strength and meaning of American democracy. There has always been a push and a pull between our founding ideals and the forces of inequality. But Independence Day is a celebration of our persistent march toward greater justice — the natural expansion of our founding notion from “all men are created equal” to “all people are created equal and should be treated equally throughout their lives.”
That pursuit of a more perfect union has been thrown off course in recent years — and no one bears more responsibility than President Donald Trump. Every day, he finds new ways to tarnish and dismantle our democracy — from baseless attacks on our voting rights to the use of military force against Americans protesting peacefully for racial justice. He has systematically gone after the guardrails of our democracy: the free press, the courts, and our fundamental belief that no one in America — not even the president — is above the law. He has made it clear time and again that he won’t hesitate to tear apart our most cherished democratic structures for an ounce of personal gain. And that corruption of our founding principles threatens everything this nation has worked so hard to build, blighting our ability not only to elevate our values, but also to lead the world.
Democracy, after all, is more than just the foundation of our society — it is the wellspring of our power. It is the defining American quality, the one which sustains our moral authority to keep the peace, drive progress, and marshal nations to work together to take on global threats. Rebuilding and expanding our democracy are essential to the long-term vitality of our nation. That’s why, as president, I will take immediate action to reverse the damage Donald Trump has done to our core democratic rights and institutions.
That starts by protecting our most sacred right: the right to vote. I will restore the Voting Rights Act — and fight to eliminate shameful barriers to voting that the Republicans have put up in recent years, ensuring that Americans in every neighborhood can participate in person or by mail on Election Day or during early voting windows. I will pursue new laws to safeguard our elections from malicious foreign actors. And I will seek to root out once and for all the corrupting influence of dark money by calling for a constitutional amendment to eliminate private dollars from federal elections.
To ensure that our democratic values are able to rise to new heights, I will take decisive steps to strengthen our foundation. That means immediately reversing Trump’s cruel and counterproductive asylum, travel ban, and family separation policies — and reaffirming our innate identity, reflected in our Constitution and emblazoned in the Statue of Liberty, as a nation of immigrants. It means fighting for — not conspiring against — the independence of our judiciary and the freedom of our press. It means rooting out systemic racism from every area of society it infects — from unfairly administered COVID-19 recovery funds, to laws that perpetuate racial wealth gaps, to health disparities, to housing policy, to policing, to our justice system and everywhere in between.
We must demonstrate to the world that the United States stands ready to lead again, not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. That example — of a broad and broadening commitment to democracy — can and must be the most powerful force of influence in the world. November’s election will decide whether we will leave the house of democracy built by generations of architects and activists to decay, or whether we will come together as one nation to build it up, stronger and higher than it has ever been before.