Sad Times for Voters in America

From a Google Image Search – LA Times

Next week you will most likely hear a lot about voting rights, unless there is a new crisis that turns all heads in another direction. Chuck Schumer, Majority Leader of the Senate with a tiny Democratic majority and Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House with only a slightly larger majority know that Republicans have the states who are loyal to them trying to rig voting in favor of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, Republicans had control during a census year, so they get to draw the new voting districts. Some states have appointed supposedly bipartisan oversight committees in their counties to try to prevent extreme gerrymandering, other states have done no such thing. 

Nineteen states have passed over 200 laws to restrict voting procedures backed by Democrats to make it easier for people to vote. None of the voting easements passed by Democrats are intended to rig voting in any way. Expanding absentee voting during a pandemic allowed people to vote without facing infection, and in some cases possible death. Drop boxes also helped with the physical distancing required and the difficulties public transportations options were experiencing. More polling places and early voting made crowds and wait times in line smaller helping reduce the possibility of passing along infections. These worked so well that it seems sensible to continue them, except in the case of more absentee voting where those votes are often not counted until days after election day to give time for postal delivery of votes mailed by the proper deadline. Absentee voting laws need some work.

Republicans, who still claim that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen, say that now that there is a vaccine for COVID the new methods for voting are not necessary, even as they refuse to wear masks or get shots. They say these alternative ways to vote offer too many opportunities to cheat. But Democrats say that there was little to no cheating in the last election and even private and partisan Republican audits did not find the illegal votes they hoped to find. The stories were wild, votes being brought in by taco trucks in bundles and unloaded in precincts, with no evidence other than impossible to decipher photos by Republican poll watchers who were avid Trump fans. All evidence, and studies have been comprehensive, tells us that there was a free and fair election in 2020 even though it was easier to vote.

All attempts to make it more difficult for working people, families with children, people without reliable transportation, older people to vote are unnecessary. New voting options did not make the election invalid or politicized, beyond the brainwashing already done by right-wing media and Donald Trump.

One new attempt by the Republicans is problematic, however. In case the campaign to stop new ways to vote is not enough to ensure a Republican victory, then people like Raffensperger, Secretary of State in Georgia and Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shayne Moss also in Georgia must be replaced by election workers who support Trump or who are strong partisan Republicans. These current election workers have been threatened and harassed, their personal data such as their addresses exposed, and shouting demonstrators have appeared outside their homes making it difficult for them to leave.

Replacing poll workers who take a pledge not to be partisan with clearly partisan right-wing poll workers could do more damage to our ability to trust that our elections are free and fair than all the other measures combined. Republicans watch national reactions, and they delight in taking their state laws at least one step too far, then they sit back and watch the rise in temperature in the Democratic Party. Then they “own the libs” again because they know Democrats will not be able to find enough votes to undo these rigged state laws.

I always say that the Republicans can obstruct in Congress and stuff the courts because they did their homework. I don’t always say, but often imply, that the homework they did was nefarious, that it involved figuring out ways to keep a minority party in power. Republicans were beloved by big business and the wealthy for the party’s economic policies, and by evangelicals for Republican conservatives now tarnished reputation as a watchdog over morality, a party of Americans who still went to church and were ostensibly believers.

Republicans formed secret webs of organizations full of rich oil, gas and coal industry leaders and wooed state governments, even writing laws that were passed in state legislatures. They formed an alliance with Evangelicals who violated their 501c status as tax-exempt entities to learn and digitally organize everything about Republican voters and then to use that information in pamphlets and from pulpits and over radio and later TV stations to put the information they collected to use for their own purposes, which were all about keeping Republicans in power. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act shows how successful this Republican campaign to own government has been, and the preponderance of facts shows that it was an organized campaign.

So, when I try to decide if the numbers in Congress look the way they do, with such tight margins between the two parties, if they look like that by accident or by design, I am not talking about short term strategies like one rigged election. I am taking into consideration the undemocratic and yet very effective long-term plan of a party that saw itself on the verge of being out of power for a very long time and refused to accept the idea that in a democracy the majority rules. Interesting that when Georgia managed to elect two Democratic Party Senators to Congress, two other Democrats turned against their own party to allow the Senate to continue to obstruct every Democratic attempt to fix voting or bring about a better economic balance in America, especially for workers. The pandemic pointed out the societal weaknesses that affected working Americans most and the Democrats wrote bills to try to fix this.

But 2-2=0 is interesting math. Do Republicans pay Manchin and Sinema to obstruct, do they promise money for their states? Does the Democratic Party unfortunately just happen to include two Senators who think like Republicans and who now have the deciding vote that will either obstruct Democrats from proceeding or allow Democrats to take the lead? Whether by accident or design, there does not seem to be a way forward for Democrats on a Voting Rights law. We can only hope some really creative thinking that stays within the parameters of the Constitution will give us a miracle, because weaponizing poll work is one step too far. We will not be able to trust our elections.

Republicans have been pulling America to the right for at least a decade and probably more like three or four. They don’t want to give up any ground. They don’t want to take any steps back. They can smell total victory. They will own the liberals and America will be governed as Republicans see fit. But we will not be a democracy if they achieve their ends in this way. The Republicans cannot allow Democrats to pass federal voting laws, especially now that the right-wing has found ways, beyond swaying voters opinions, to reach down into local voting procedures and make sure America never has free and fair voting again. They suspect that if elections are free and fair they will lose. Their behavior suggests they should lose. For Republicans even an insurrection was not too far. 

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