Former President George W. Bush on state of elections, ‘Our system works pretty well’

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Former President George W. Bush urged Americans to vote and take part in the political process. 

“The interesting thing about elections and democracy is that it enables our democracy to heal.” 

He made his remarks as part of a four-hour long discussion called “Elections – A More Perfect Union” at his Presidential Center at SMU in Dallas Wednesday afternoon.      

The former President acknowledged the lack of confidence people have in our elections system right now, but said it works.

“The truth of the matter is our system works pretty well. We have a large complicated country with a variety of interests and states and yet we’ve been pulling off elections for quite awhile.” 

The George W. Bush Institute took part in a polling project five years ago and found that nearly seven in ten Americans thought our democracy is weaker, and the Institute’s leaders said they want to change that and to boost confidence in our elections system. 

During the event, the Republican Chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in Phoenix, Bill Gates and the New Mexico Secretary of State, Maggie Oliver said during a panel discussion that elections administrators have faced increasing threats. 

Gates said he and his family had to stay someplace other than their home January 6th of last year. “We spent the evening at an Airbnb in Scottsdale because that’s what we were advised to do. There was a guillotine set-up outside the Arizona capitol that was for the Board of Supervisors.”  

Oliver said, “I spent all of the Christmas holiday between Thanksgiving and January 6th, basically 2020-2021, somewhere other than my home in Santa Fe because I was doxed. My picture was placed on a website with a target over my face.”  

Former President Bush didn’t mention the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th or former President Donald Trump who claims there was widespread election fraud, despite elections officials’ strong denials and a lack of evidence. 

Bush said elections provide legitimacy to those elected and a peaceful transfer of power, and he quoted former President Abraham Lincoln. “The ballot is stronger than the bullet. Pretty relevant these days. I hear a lot about today’s political environment. A lot of angst around the country, people are really worried, they don’t like the anger, they don’t like the finger pointing. They expect better, and if you’ve got a problem with that, the key thing is to vote.” 

Condoleezza Rice, a former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor for former President Bush also spoke during the event. “Elections are the only way that the people can express themselves. Whenever I hear ‘Well, elections don’t equal democracy, I say that’s absolutely right, but without elections, you can’t have a democracy. So I think we have to recognize that what we are doing with elections is to allow people to have voice.” 

During the conference, Gates said there is not systemic fraud, but individual cases of fraud in elections that are prosecuted. 

The President of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Ken Hersh said it is important to support the nation’s institutions, including the elections system. “We should not storm them, nor attempt to tear them down. Our institutions have survived for nearly 250 years despite the ebb and flow of public opinion. Our founders have designed a living framework capable of changing, adjusting, and healing.”  

Holly Kuzmich, Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute said, “We think it’s important to talk about those issues and talk about how we can strengthen the integrity of our elections across the country.” 

The Bush Institute’s leaders said they believe what will boost confidence in the elections system is if more people are engaged and take part in the process. 

The Institute sponsored the event along with the Partnership for American Democracy, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Karsh Institute of Democracy at the University of Virginia. 

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