SAVING OUR DEMOCRACY, PART 1

Image by Aaron Burden @aaronburdon; found via unsplash.com

NOTE: While we are becoming accustomed to the idea of a “normal” president doing presidential work, we must not be complacent. I would be happier simply writing uplifting posts. But the battle to return the Trumpian Republican Party to power is in full swing–in both the national and state legislatures, and in the Supreme Court.

As American historian Heather Cox Richardson points out, this is not–must not be–a partisan issue. Much of the material in the recent column I’ve reprinted below may be familiar to you, but I read her work regularly, and the sense of urgency in this one is unusual. It appears just as the Supreme Court seems ready to further gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act and to permit an Arizona legislative effort to overrule the electors whom the people choose.

I began to emphasize the passages I felt were most important by using the bold font–but found I was bolding just about every paragraph. (I’ve deleted a couple of her notes that didn’t reprint legibly and left her subscriber information at the end in case anyone is interested.)

In subsequent posts, I plan to reprint other opinion pieces or discuss varying aspects of this critical issue. I hope you’ll stay with me, as we informed citizens are essential to the maintenance of our democracy. And the time for us to engage is right now.

———————————-

Heather Cox Richardson from Letters from an American
heathercoxrichardson@substack.com

March 1, 2021

This morning, conservative pundit William Kristol wrote in The Bulwark what a number of us have been saying for a while now, and it dovetails cleanly with the current Republican attempt to suppress voting.

Kristol warns that our democracy is in crisis. For the first time in our history, we have failed to have a peaceful transfer of power. The Republican Party launched a coup—which fortunately failed—and “now claims that the current administration is illegitimately elected, the result of massive, coordinated fraud. The logical extension of this position would seem to be that the American constitutional order deserving of our allegiance no longer exists.”

“So,” he notes, “we are at the edge of crisis, having repulsed one attempted authoritarian power grab and bracing for another.”

Claims that American democracy is on the ropes in the face of an authoritarian power grab raise accusations of partisanship… but in this case, the person making the claim is a conservative, who goes on to urge conservatives to join behind President Joe Biden to try to save democracy. Kristol warns that “a dangerous, anti-democratic faction” of the Republican Party “is not committed in any serious way to the truth, the rule of law, or the basic foundations of our liberal democracy.”

Kristol’s call is notable both because of his position on the right and because he warns that we are absolutely not in a moment of business-as-usual. Perhaps because it is impossible to imagine, we seem largely to have normalized that the former president of the United States refused to accept his loss in the 2020 election and enlisted a mob to try to overturn the results. Along with his supporters, he continues to insist that he won that election and that President Joe Biden is an illegitimate usurper.

This big lie threatens the survival of our democracy.

At the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference this weekend in Orlando, Florida, Trump supporters doubled down on the lie that Biden stole the 2020 election. From a stage shaped like a piece of Nazi insignia, speakers raged that they were victims of “cancel culture” on the part of Big Tech and the left, which are allegedly trying to silence them. To restore fairness, they want to stop “voter fraud” and restore “election integrity,” and they want to force social media giants to let them say whatever they want on social media.

In the Washington Post, commentator Jennifer Rubin said the modern conservatives at CPAC had no policy but revenge, “resentment, cult worship and racism,” and no political goal but voter suppression. It is “the only means by which they seek to capture power in an increasingly diverse America,” she notes. A poll showed that “election integrity” was the issue most important to CPAC attendees, with 62% of them choosing it over “constitutional rights” (which got only 48%).

Trump himself packaged this lie in words that sounded much like the things he said before the January 6 insurrection. He claimed that he had won the election, that the election was “rigged,” and that it was “undeniable” that the rules of the election were “illegally changed”—although none of his many court challenges stuck. He attacked the Supreme Court in language that echoed the attacks on his vice president, Mike Pence, that had rioters searching him out to kill him. “They didn’t have the guts or the courage to make the right decision,” Trump said of the justices.

The purpose of this big lie is not only to reinforce Trump’s hold on the Republican Party, but also to delegitimize the Democratic victory. If Democrats cheat, it makes sense to prevent “voter fraud” by making it harder to vote. “We must pass comprehensive election reforms, and we must do it now,” Trump said.

Republican reforms, though, mean voter suppression. Currently, Republican legislators in 43 states have introduced more than 250 bills to restrict voting. They want to cut back early voting and restrict mail-in voting, limit citizen-led ballot initiatives, and continue to gerrymander congressional districts. Arizona is trying to make it possible for state legislatures, rather than voters, to choose the state’s presidential electors. Rather than try to draw voters to their party’s candidates by moderating their stances, they are trying to win power by keeping people from voting.

I cannot emphasize enough how dangerous this is. We have gone down this road before in America, in the South after 1876. The outcome was the end of democracy in the region and the establishment of a single, dominant party for generations. In those decades, a small body of men ruled their region without oversight and openly mocked the idea of justice before the law. A member of the jury that took only 67 minutes to acquit Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam for murdering 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 famously said, “We wouldn’t have taken so long if we hadn’t stopped to drink pop.” White men dominated women and their Black and Brown neighbors, but their gains were largely psychological, as the one-party system created instability that slowed down economic investment, while leaders ignored education and infrastructure.

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a lawsuit concerning Arizona election laws. The case is from 2016, when Democrats argued that two Arizona voting laws discriminated against Hispanic, Black, and Indigenous voters in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibits laws that hamper voting on the basis of race. The laws called for ballots cast in the wrong precinct to be thrown away and allowed only election officials, letter carriers, household family members, or caregivers to return someone else’s mail-in ballot. A violation could bring a $150,000 fine. The court’s decision in this case will have big implications for the legitimacy of the restrictions Republican legislatures are trying to enact now.

Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to shore up voting rights with H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021. This sweeping measure would make it easier to vote, curtail gerrymandering, make elections more secure, and reform the campaign finance system.

They are also proposing the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, H.R. 4, which would restore the parts of the Voting Rights Act the Supreme Court gutted in 2013 in the Shelby v. Holder decision, limiting changes to election laws that disproportionately affect people of color. After Shelby v. Holder, a number of states immediately enacted sweeping voter suppression laws that disproportionately hit minorities, the elderly, and the young, all populations perceived to vote Democratic.

Neither of these bills will pass the Senate unless the Democrats modify the filibuster rule, which permits Republicans to stop legislation unless it can muster not just a majority, but a supermajority of 60 votes.

Today the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of Judge Merrick Garland for Attorney General. Garland is noted for supervising the prosecution of the men who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1995, hoping to topple the federal government. In his opening remarks to the Senate Judiciary committee last week, Garland vowed that, if confirmed, he “will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6—a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.” He promised that he would follow where the investigation led, even if it went “upstream” to those who might not have been in the Capitol, but who nevertheless were participants in the insurrection.

The vote to move Garland’s nomination to the full Senate was 15 to 7, with Ben Sasse (R-NE), Mike Lee (R-UT), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Kennedy (R-LA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) all voting no.

With the exception of Sasse, all those voting no have signed on to the big lie.

—-

Notes:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cpac-trump-election/2021/02/27/669c1ab2-791f-11eb-948d-19472e683521_story.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/03/01/jordans-false-claim-that-pelosi-denied-request-national-guard-troops/

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/28/trump-gop-cpac-voter-integrity-restrictions-471831

https://www.vox.com/2021/2/28/22306318/trump-cpac-2021-speech-election-lies

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/01/trumps-biggest-cpac-lie-unmasks-vile-truth-democrats-ignore-it-their-peril/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/01/worst-kept-secret-conservatism-has-no-values/

https://indivisible.org/resource/democracy-reform-john-lewis-voting-rights-act

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/supreme-court-arizona-voting-rights-case/

https://indivisible.org/resource/democracy-reform-john-lewis-voting-rights-act

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/senate-committee-advances-garland-nomination-attorney-general-n1259139

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/03/01/cpac-stage-nazi-symbol-hyatt/

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I am eager for your comments.

Annie

18 thoughts on “SAVING OUR DEMOCRACY, PART 1

  1. A very useful and insightful post. I have reposted. I live in Ireland and blog on all matters relevant to technology and society and believe strongly that the problems in the USA will spread worldwide in due course unless checked. I believe the issues are fundamentally caused by unconstrained technology being used for profit not for advancement of civilized society. My blog today is closely related – I tell the story of how someone I worked for, a guru and polymath now passed, gave us some guidance – he said, “Are we at the mercy of technology? Or can we channel it to our own ends? If not at the mercy of technology, are we at the mercy of human nature?” My post is at davidsprott.blog
    Keep up the good work, David

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’ll be most interested in this post, David. I’ve written on the same topic. Thanks, and welcome to annieasksyou; I’m delighted to have you join me.

      I thin it’s worth noting that anti-democratic forces have been rearing their ugly heads worldwide for some time now.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not sure when the Republican party started turning rancid. Maybe with Newt Gingrich. In any case, I am appalled by the huge numbers of Republicans who refuse to, or are unable to, see reality. These people are strange and misguided and dangerous. It’s as though they are a mutant species.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Newt was a big factor in making politics ugly and partisan, but these strains have been part of the American story for a long time. Our challenge is to find a way to minimize the impact of misinformation and conspiratorial beliefs and expand the numbers of people who view basic reality through a similar perspective.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I can’t get passed January 6. It has been with me every day since. It is horrifying to know that it could happen again. What kind of reason could someone have for advocating this? What kind of elected officials would encourage this? I’m aging as I type.

    I have this image of mostly white men in meetings to come up with ideas to disenfranchise those who wouldn’t vote for them… crafting and plotting ways to take away the Peoples right to vote. AKA -cheating, AKA – the only way they can win?

    This side against side situation is wearing me down. I just have to have faith (meditate), that the current, legitimate administration keeps the pedal to the mettle and leads and governs and PREVAILS.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Keep that meditation going, Fred. I don’t want to be a downer—I do believe we’ll get through this. But there’s so much effort going into suppression that I feel an aroused citizenry is essential to combat it.

      I promise to return to happier topics very soon!

      PS: I liked your pun!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Like the witches hunched over that kettle,
        Their conspiracy theories they peddle.
        The work to divert,
        So we must keep alert,
        And stay at the top of our mettle.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. What it boils down to is, we can keep either full-participation democracy or the filibuster. Not both. Keeping one will mean sacrificing the other. I hope the leadership puts it in those terms to Manchin and Sinema.

    The voting-rights bills are the right choice for the next priority after the covid-19-relief bill. And the Democrats need to be ready to fight like hell for them. This exemplifies my view that the party needs to get the big stuff done now or else it will lose Congress in 2022. Black voters are the most important single part of the party’s base. If the party won’t do everything it can to protect those voters’ right to vote, it’s failing them, and will have a hard time motivating them to turn out for the next election.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I emphatically agree with everything you’ve said here, Infidel. The House passed HR 1 yesterday. The battle begins now.

      But Manchin is really full of his sense of power. When Bernie threatened to attach a filibuster provision to the COVID relief bill, he shouted: “Jesus Christ! What about NEVER don’t you understand?”

      There’s talk of some modification of the filibuster that might be acceptable. I am counting on Biden et al to use every tactic imaginable bc I think it’s evident that our democracy hangs in the balance—nothing less.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t realise how much I had enjoyed not having wall-to-wall coverage of trump until I saw clips of the cpac event. It genuinely felt like a trip back to some godforsaken tinpot dictatorship fifty years ago. He’ll obviously tease running again for the next three years as well. 😔

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, how I’d love to never see that man again. Unfortunately, his ability to tap into America’s craziness may outlive him. Just as we’re making real headway against COVID, governors trying to be like him are opening up their states of any restrictions. I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but trump and Melania were “secretly” vaccinated before they left the White House. The mind reels…

      Like

    2. After 4 years of watching increasing levels of despotism, there’s no longer any doubt that Trump is like an Energizer Bunny beating his own drum and can do no other. But batteries do eventually wear out. I take heart from knowing that Fred Trump suffered from dementia and that his golden boy shows many signs of heading that way.

      Like

  6. Great piece, as always. Agree that this is no time for complacency. A moment of elation, perhaps, a huge sigh of relief post election, and now, it’s back to work. On to part 2 of this post, which I see you just put up. . .

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I appreciate your analysis Annie, here and in part II as well. Who would have thought 5 years ago I’d be regularly happy to hear what Bill Krystol has to say? There are many decent Republicans and in addition to pushing the Democratic effort to get rid of the filibuster, we should also think about how we strengthen the voice of reasonable conservatives. Ultimately, our country needs more than just one functioning party at a time.

    Like

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