It Would Be So Un-American If It Wasn’t So Historically Popular

The article’s subtitle is “Republican lies about voter fraud are giving way to naked grasping for power”. From Joyce Vance for MSNBC (links in the original):

We’re living in a time where one political party openly believes it’s more important to win elections than it is to let Americans choose their own representatives in free and fair elections. And whether they’re going to get away with it is shaping up to be one of the most important issues the country faces.

The Supreme Court isn’t a venue where you typically expect to hear the quiet part said out loud. But that was what happened Tuesday, when an attorney for the Arizona Republican Party, Michael Carvin, advised the court that provisions that made it easier for eligible Americans to vote put “us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats.” He was implicitly characterizing laws that make voting more difficult for likely Democratic voters, often people of color, as the difference between winning and losing elections.

Carvin was, of course, not the first person to say out loud what has become increasingly obvious to anyone paying attention: Republicans’ support for laws that make it more difficult to vote has little to do with their boogeyman — voter fraud — and everything to do with winning elections despite the will of the voters.

The former president did the same when he told “Fox & Friends” last March that Covid-19 mitigation proposals that included provisions that made it easier for more people to vote safely would mean “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Historically, restrictive voting measures have been justified as necessary to keep a shadowy group of people who are allegedly intent on casting fraudulent ballots from stealing elections. But those people never seem to materialize, and we’ve watched that narrative implode over the past few months as claims of fraud in the election were definitively rejected in over 60 lawsuits.

Similarly, after the 2016 election, [the winner of the Electoral College] established a so-called Election Integrity Commission to prove the existence of “widespread voter fraud.” It was forced to shut down just months into its work when it was unable to find evidence to substantiate that claim. Still, the fraud lie is routinely used to burden minority voting rights.

This happens despite the conclusion by the Brennan Center for Justice, based on the data, in December that “voter fraud is extraordinarily rare and our system has strong checks in place to protect the integrity of our voting process. These are the facts.”

It was in this landscape that the Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, in which Democrats sued Arizona under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The plaintiffs argued that a policy that kept otherwise lawful ballots that had been cast in the wrong precincts from being counted, as well as a law that broadly restricted people from having other people turn in early ballots for them, amounted to unlawful voter suppression. The court seemed inclined to approve both of the Arizona provisions; the Court of Appeals had ruled that they unfairly burdened Black, Latino and Native American voters.

When the Supreme Court issues its ruling, what’s really at stake is whether its holding will affect more than just the Arizona provisions. Brnovich gives an increasingly conservative court the opportunity to adopt a standard of proof in Section 2 cases that would make it easier for Republican legislatures to enact policies that make it more difficult for people of color to vote, simply by claiming they are guarding against voter fraud. Brnovich might result in a strict test that would apply to future cases — like those that may need to be brought if some of the more than 250 bills Republicans have offered to restrict voting pass in their legislatures.

It’s clear that Republican operatives and legislatures have adopted voter suppression through restrictive legislation as a political strategy. Now that a lawyer has confirmed before the Supreme Court that it’s really just about winning elections, what’s a constitutional republic to do?

It’s probably too much to hope that the court will have a moment of righteous indignation. This is an even more conservative court than the one that gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg accused the majority of taking away the umbrella that protected us in the middle of the rainstorm because we were still dry while using it.

It seems like it would be easier to go out and compete for votes with attractive policies and ideas than to engage in complicated legislative shenanigans and expensive litigation, but some Republicans seem to be as afraid of voters as a kid headed home to his parents with a bad report card.

So the only real solution to protect the right to vote is for the Senate to pass the For the People Act, which the House cleared Wednesday night, and for both chambers to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Those laws would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act and remove barriers that make it difficult for eligible people to register and vote. If passed, they would restore the mechanism to challenge unduly restrictive state practices.

Unless the Supreme Court does something unexpected, this is the only path forward.
Otherwise, next year and beyond, a party that controls its state’s legislature can impose rules that make it confusing and difficult for some people to vote. It can create an array of last-minute changes and restrictions that defeat your right to vote, for instance by changing your polling place and rejecting your ballot if, unaware, you go to the previous one.

While your choice of whom to vote for may be political, the right to vote itself isn’t. Instead, it’s a fundamental right that defines who we are as Americans. In part, the story of America has been about expanding groups of people who can exercise the franchise. We celebrated the 100th anniversary of women’s gaining the right to vote last year. Important parts of our history are about people who persisted in demanding the right to vote and the dignity that comes with it for Black people, including the Selma march and the use of dogs and fire hoses against protesting schoolchildren in Birmingham. If we become a country where the right to vote can be restricted through political machinations, then who are we?

People who are afraid of the results of elections in which everyone who is eligible to vote can vote are people who don’t believe they have a good case to make to the voters — people who think they’re going to lose because they haven’t governed well. In the words of the lawyer in the Brnovich case, “Politics is a zero-sum game, and every extra vote they get … hurts us.” But voting is about our rights, not about gamesmanship. Elections should be decided by the people, not by slick efforts to make it harder for some people to register or vote.

The Sharp Divide in American Politics

I used to view American politics as mainly a struggle between capital (big business and the rich) and labor (the rest of us). That conflict still exists, but I think it’s more helpful today to see our politics as a fight about democracy.

Their side wants fewer people to vote. Our side want more people to vote. 

From Greg Sargent of The Washington Post:

Amid the stream of delusion, depravity, malevolence and megalomania that characterized D____ T____’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, one message should be regarded as arguably more important than all the others combined.

It’s this: The former president told his audience that the Republican Party’s success in coming years depends, in no small part, on its commitment to being an anti-democracy party.

T____ didn’t say this in precisely those words, of course. But that message blared through all the background noise like a loud, clanging alarm bell.

This will require Democrats to redouble their focus on passing their big package of pro-democracy reforms as soon as possible — and to be prepared to nix the legislative filibuster to get it into law. It may be tempting to dismiss or ignore T____’s deranged rantings, but Democrats should see this one message as an actionable one.

As expected, T____’s CPAC speech doubled down on the big lie that the election was stolen from him — and then some. . . .

But embedded in that big lie was an unintentional truth. It was revealed when T____ uncorked an extended riff suggesting that [his party’s] future prospects depend on what he called “election reforms.”

“Another one of the most urgent issues facing the Republican Party is that of ensuring fair, honest, and secure elections,” T____ declared. “We must pass comprehensive election reforms, and we must do it now.”

By “election reforms,” T____ actually meant a redoubled commitment to making it harder to vote. We know this, because he said so: He went on to declare that Democrats had used the “China virus” as an “excuse” to make vote-by-mail easier.

“We can never let that happen again,” T____ said. “We need election integrity and election reform immediately. Republicans should be the party of honest elections.”

This is absurd (Republican legislatures also facilitated vote-by-mail) and full of lies (the election’s legitimacy was upheld in dozens of courts). But that doesn’t change its underlying meaning, which is unambiguous: T____ lost because voting wasn’t hard enough; Republicans must push as forcefully as possible in the opposite direction; this is “urgent.”

The rub of the matter is that all across the country, Republicans are acting on exactly this reading of the situation. [These actions] include sharp cuts to early voting; restricting vote-by-mail in numerous ways; and in the most extreme cases, proposals to allow state legislatures to appoint presidential electors in defiance of the state’s popular vote.

Meanwhile, in numerous states, Republicans are gearing up to use this year’s decennial redrawing of electoral maps to entrench extreme gerrymanders. They have openly declared that this will help them win back the House in 2022 . . . .

Crucially, these efforts are increasingly animated by the same lie about the election’s illegitimacy that T____ told at CPAC. [It’s] their excuse to continue entrenching anti-democratic and anti-majoritarian advantages wherever possible.

This simply requires Democrats to pass the For the People Act in the Senate and House. It includes numerous provisions that would make voting and registration easier; curb restrictions on voting and vote-by-mail; mandate nonpartisan redistricting commissions; and restore voting rights protections gutted by the Supreme Court.

Democrats [must also] be prepared to end the legislative filibuster when Republicans block the package in the Senate. Yes, Democrats face major obstacles to this in the form of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).

But a case must be made to those holdouts that Democrats cannot allow Republicans to grind their agenda to a screeching halt — in the face of multiple short and long term crises facing the country — through the exercise of minority rule, facilitated by what has become yet another cynically-wielded tool of counter-majoritarian obstructionism.

“The Big Lie about 2020 is built on an ugly truth: T____ and the Republican Party have turned their backs on our constitutional vision of government of, by, and for the people,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told me in an emailed statement.

“You heard it from T____ himself,” Merkley continued. “We’ve got to get the For the People Act signed into law ASAP so the next elections are decided by the will of the voters, not rigged by corrupt politicians.”

Democrats keep telling us that the prospects for civic renewal in the wake of T____ism’s continued degradations — and the [right’s] ongoing slide into authoritarianism — depend on making government and democracy more functional and responsive. If they really believe this, that imposes obligations on them to do just that. . . .

Taking this idea seriously requires acting where possible to prevent the [Republicans’] increasing radicalization from further wrecking our democratic system. We know exactly what this will look like. T____ just told us so himself.

Unquote.

It might not be possible to get all fifty Democratic senators to agree to abolish the filibuster. But there are other options. This is part of a January article from The Hill called “Senate Democrats Leery of Nixing Filibuster”:

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said that he supported going back to the talking filibuster — a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”-style change that would let senators block a bill or nominee for as long as they could stay on the floor discussing it . . .

One idea floated by Democrats is trying to get an agreement to enact smaller rules changes that would leave the 60-vote legislative filibuster intact when it comes to ending debate on legislation, but make it easier to move bills on the Senate floor.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who is supportive of filibuster reforms, [said] that outright nixing the 60-vote legislative filibuster was not going to happen in a 50-50 Senate, given opposition from some of his Democratic colleagues: “Let’s figure out ways [to reform Senate rules so] that the minority doesn’t control the place every single day”.

White Christian Supremacy Is A Prime Motivator

I didn’t check his math, but Dana Milbank of The Washington Post highlights the importance  to the Republican Party of White evangelical voters:

White evangelicals are only 15 percent of the population, but their share of the electorate was 28 percent, according to Edison Research exit polling, and 23 percent, according to the Associated Press version. Though exit polls are imprecise, it seems clear that White evangelicals maintained the roughly 26 percent proportion of the electorate they’ve occupied since 2008, even though their proportion of the population has steadily shrunk from 21 percent in 2008.

This means White evangelicals turned out in mind-boggling numbers. Because they maintained their roughly 80 percent support for Republicans (76 percent and 81 percent in the two exit polls) of recent years, it also means some 40 percent of Txxxx voters came from a group that is only 15 percent of America.

White evangelicals have, in effect, skewed the electorate by masking the rise of a young, multiracial and largely secular voting population. The White evangelicals’ overperformance also shows, unfortunately, why the racist appeal Txxxx made in this campaign was effective. White evangelicals were fired up like no other group by Txxxx’s encouragement of white supremacy.

A Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate who now runs the Public Religion Research Institute, Robert P. Jones, argues that Txxxx inspired White Christians, “not despite, but through appeals to white supremacy,” attracting them not because of economics or morality, “but rather that he evoked powerful fears about the loss of White Christian dominance” . . .

The Republicans’ Southern strategy stoked White resentment for decades but never as overtly as Txxxx did. White evangelicals responded passionately: Pre-election, 90 percent said they were certain to vote, and nearly half of those voting for Txxxx said virtually nothing he could do would shake their approval. There was little evidence of differences among White evangelicals by gender, generation or education.

They are, as a group, dying out (median age in the late 50s), and their views are hardly recognizable to many other Americans. Majorities of White evangelical Protestants don’t see the pandemic as a critical issue (they’re less likely than others to wear masks), believe society has become too “soft and feminine,” oppose same-sex marriage, think Txxxx was called by God to lead and don’t believe he encouraged white supremacist groups.

White evangelicals have become, in essence, an offshore island, one whose inhabitants are slowly but steadily distancing themselves from the American mainland. The fading Island of White Evangelica will, eventually, lose its influence over America. In the meantime, its existence points to an unfortunate, larger reality. There is vanishingly little that Democrats (or Republicans, for that matter) can do to persuade voters to switch sides, because race, and views on race, are the most important factors determining how people vote. Add to the White evangelicals’ turnout the votes of the smaller proportions of White mainline Protestants and Catholics with high levels of racial resentment, as defined by the American Values Survey, and you’ve accounted for the bulk of Txxxx’s coalition.

I was startled this week when, during a conversation with a prominent figure in Democratic circles, he blurted out to me: “People who want to live in a white supremacist society vote Republican. Those who don’t vote Democrat.” That’s hyperbolic, of course. Democrats are frustrated that four years of chaos and calamity and herculean efforts and expenditures by Democrats did so little to dent Txxxx’s share of the vote.

But his exaggeration contains a grain of truth. Americans are deeply, and for the moment immutably, divided by whether or not they’re nostalgic for what had long been a White-dominated country. Txxxx’s better-than-expected showing, particularly among White evangelicals, . . . shows that he turned out more of the nostalgic.

When Our Votes Will Be Counted

With so many ballots being mailed or otherwise submitted before Election Day, people are wondering when we’ll know the results. The good news is that only four states wait until Election Day to begin processing ballots. I think this means Election Night will provide some blessed relief, especially if states let us know what percentage of the ballots have been counted (the percentage of “precincts reported” probably won’t be as meaningful this year). Even if the result isn’t clear that night, it should be clear by the next day.

I say that because I’m convinced this election won’t be very close. Millions of voters gave the maniac the benefit of the doubt four years ago. Now they know what they had to lose (jobs, health, peace of mind, not hearing about a dangerous fool every day, etc.).

This is from The New York Times, which has more information about the process.

Untitled

At the House Formerly Known as White

I’ve avoided the news for a day and a half (sleeping helps) but someone shared this thread from former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. It’s a nice summary of last week’s authoritarian festivities at the White, sorry, at the Txxxx House:

For those of us who study autocracies, including elections in autocracies, there were a lot of familiar messages, symbols, and methods on display . . .  at the #RNCConvention.

1. Cult of the Personality. This show was all about Txxxx. ( 3 years after the death of Stalin, Khrushchev’s gave his secret speech in 1956, titled “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences.” I wonder if a future GOP leader will give a similar speech someday?)

2. Administrative resources. Autocrats and semi-autocrats frequently use government resources for personal electoral gain. We have #HatchAct to prevent such behavior in the U.S. It’s obviously not working.

3. Blatant disregard for the law. That Txxxx’s team dared anyone to charge them with violating the #HatchAct is exactly what Putin and others autocrats do all the time. Laws don’t apply to the king & his court, only to the subjects.

4. Blatant disregard for facts. As U.S. ambassador to Russia, I found this Putin regime trait most frustrating. We – the U.S. government- were constrained by facts. They were not. Txxxx obviously was not constrained by facts last night. He usually isn’t . . . 

5. Us versus Them populism. “Elites” versus “the people” nationalism. Autocratic populists use polarizing identity politics to divide societies all the time. Many populist leaders actually have little in common with the “masses.” (Putin is very rich.)

6. The opposition is the “enemy of the people.” Putin & other autocratic populists cast their opponents as radicals & revolutionaries. They don’t focus on their own records – often there is little to celebrate – but the horrors that will happen if they lose power. Sound familiar?

6b. There is one difference between Putin and Txxxx so far. Putin also claims falsely that his political opponents are supported by foreign enemies, the U.S. & the West. Txxxx has not gone there full-throated yet. But my guess it’s coming. “Beijing Biden” is a hint.

7. Law and Order. Autocratic populists all shout about it, even when the opposite is happening on their watch.

8. The good tsar versus the bad boyars. Kings and tsars always blamed bad provincial leaders for national ills. Putin blames the governors all the time… just like Txxxx.

9. Individual acts of royal kindness. Putin, like the tsars he emulates, does this all the time. Txxxx offering a pardon or “granting” citizenship (which of course he didn’t & doesn’t have the power to do) are typical, faux gestures of royal kindness toward his subjects.

10. Homage and fealty. Vassals must signal their complete loyalty and absolute devotion to kings and autocrats. Those that don’t are banished from the royal court or the party. (Where were the Bushes last night?)

11. The royal family. In this dimension, Txxxx acts more like a monarch than even Putin. (but watch Lukashenko and his gun-toting teenage son in Belarus) The many Txxxx family members who performed this week – even a girlfriend got a slot – went beyond even what Putin does.

12. There’s still one big difference. . . .  

Successful autocrats are re-elected, but voting still matters here (if we all vote).