There is a profound reason why those hundreds of Republican officeholders and operatives, from U.S. senators on down — all of whom probably know better — keep echoing the former guy’s whine that the 2020 election was stolen right out from under their collective nose.
The off-hand explanation is that they want to stay on the right side of the former guy. But actually, as you have probably figured out, maintaining the myth of a stolen election gives them the rationale for passing all sorts of state laws to curtail voting rights in the name of securing honest elections and preventing vote fraud.
Those politicians understand they are a numerically minority party and the more people who vote the more likely Democrats will win. This applies particularly to communities of color, as shown dramatically in the U.S. Senate runoff eleciton in Georgia s as well as in the other four states that flipped to Joe Biden last November.
Absent any positive ideas to expand Republican numbers, there is a concerted drive to reduce the opportunities of those who vote Democratic.
Thus, largely under the guidance of the American Legislative Exchange Council — the right-wing think tank for developing conservative state legislation — at least 33 states have generated more than 165 measures to curtail voting, predominantly aimed at Blacks, Latinx and Indigenous people. Various bills would limit the number of days of early voting, make it harder to obtain mail-in ballots, eliminate drop-boxes for absentee ballots, end or restrict “souls to the polls” Sunday vote drives and so forth.
One bill would actually make it a crime to bring food or water to people standing in long lines waiting to vote.
Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is under continued legal assault, now with a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court majority known to be hostile to progressive balloting legislation. An earlier court already gutted key provisions of the act.
Clearly, the protection of voting rights is among the highest priorities for progressives this presidential term, now that the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 recovery act has passed both the U.S. Senate and House. If enough of those restrictive proposals are passed and we do not develop strong local programs to combat them, Democrats easily could lose their slim grip on both houses next year, though the map favors them making gains in the Senate.
The strongest antidote to this GOP drive would be for the Senate to pass H.R. 1, known as the For the People Act. This progressive wish-list would create a mild revolution by expanding voting rights through a series of measures including automatic voter registration, same-day registration, mandating 15 days of early voting and broadening mail-in voting, among other proposals.
The bill would also deal with an equally deadly issue by combating gerrymandering through independent map-making committees, take a lot more money out of politics, introduce higher ethical standards and grant statehood to the District of Columbia.
Sadly however, though the bill passed in the House easily with no Republican votes, it faces a grim future in the Senate, even if all 50 Democrats and Vice President Kamala Harris vote for it, because it would be subject to the damnable filibuster — just like the $15 minimum wage.
Yes, that’s another reason to end the filibuster.
Voting rights are again dangerously under siege. It’s imperative that organizers start now organizing voters of color and developing work-arounds to combat potential new restrictions passed by gerrymandered legislatures.
It can be done. Keep Georgia on your mind.
Political consultant Don Rose writes a weekly column for the Observer, where this column first was posted.
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