(Northern Rockies News Service) It's July 4th, a celebration of the United States' independence. It's also an opportunity to look at the state of the country's democracy.
This is a midterm election year, but many are still focused on the 2020 election, which some have claimed - without evidence - was "stolen."
Alicia Abbott, a program outreach coordinator with the Idaho 97 Project, said one unfortunate side effect of rampant misinformation is that some voters have tuned out.
"We've let misinformation about election results and public health run amok," said Abbott. "And now, we are living in an era where people are very apathetic; they are overwhelmed with how much contention there is in the scorched-earth politics."
The Idaho 97 Project formed in 2020 in response to contentious public health meetings about COVID-19 to combat disinformation about the pandemic.
According to a recent Yahoo survey, nearly 60 percent of Americans think the U.S. is becoming a less democratic country.
Abbott said Idaho is no stranger to extremism. She said it's a bellwether for some of the extreme tactics, especially at local government meetings, that have spread across the country.
So, she said she's also convinced it can serve as model for how to push back against these anti-democratic forces.
"So, we all need to be very vigilant about recognizing dog whistles and conspiracy theories," said Abbott. "And really holding our elected officials accountable when they're repeating and forwarding disinformation."
As the congressional hearing on the January 6 insurrection continues, Abbott said she's been struck by the way election officials in some states were treated in 2020.
She said one thing Idahoans can do to help defend democracy is support these officials.
"Stand up for those public servants who are coming forward and ensuring that our political process is safe and secure," said Abbott. "We cannot continue to allow our public servants to be attacked the way they have been."
Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.