Republicans Are Attacking Democracy

They’re dismantling democracy itself, closing DMVs and voting booths in minority areas, using voter ID to stop minority voters, using “Cross Check” to disenroll legitimate voters, and gerrymandering.

Voters protest voter suppression in Texas. Daily Signal

Republicans own the most popular US media, Fox News — its ratings are now double that of CNN, and while many viewers take their “fair and balanced” tagline as honest, given how often they lie, every tick up should be treated as a tick down for informed voters — essential for democracy.

This has helped Republicans win elections; but once this gets them a state legislature win, democracy loses.

The Koch brothers fund a collection of troubling groups, and one of them is called ALEC. ALEC is a legislation-factory, churning out bills that favor its corrupt donors, then copy-pasting them into state law. Republican state legislatures pass them like a machine.

Most Americans are unaware that voting laws are controlled entirely by the states. The first step by Republicans once they take over a legislature is to pass “Voter ID,” one of ALEC’s copy-pasted laws. A benign name for a law that actually keeps as many minorities from voting as possible. The law requires you have ID to register; they then, under the guise of budget cuts, close most DMVs and polling places in minority neighborhoods. Although Alabama’s was so racist it was ruled unconstitutional, the damage was already done — 2016 voters voted with the effects of that anti-democratic registration system. Same deal in North Carolina. And at least 5 other states.

Next they pass laws to target likely Democratic voters. First they use a system called “Cross Check,” in which they send other Republican-controlled states their voter rolls, then disenroll any names that, in their determination, look similar. Given it’s up to elected officials, you can bet they don’t disenroll many John Smiths, preferring to disenroll a lot of people named Maria Nuñez. Often voters notice their registration was thrown out after the deadline.

Then they pass laws that allow anyone to challenge any other citizen’s voter registration on the basis of one returned piece of mail. Once the registration deadline passes, the local Republican party floods likely Dem voters with mail, awaiting a mail error. One returned piece of mail, and they attempt to get that voter’s registration thrown out.

Finally there’s the one you were probably expecting: Gerrymandering. State legislatures get to draw their own districts, pushing Democrats into a few 100% blue districts, and making the entire rest of the state safe Republican, ensuring Republicans will never need to worry about an election again. It’s so bad it was called unconstitutional in Wisconsin. Federal courts ruled Virginia’s and North Carolina’s unconstitutional as well, and they now go to the Supreme Court. If you feel like the country’s been marching to the right, you’re correct — and now you know why. This control is so vast many Republican legislators are now more worried about getting Primaried than their farce General Election.

All of this adds up to an attack on democracy itself; Republicans aren’t pushing issues to the public sphere to compete with Democrat ideas, they’re moving the country towards Authoritarianism, the way Putin’s United Russia runs that country. While Gerrymandering seems to only affect state legislatures and the House in Congress, few Americans are aware of the deeper Voter Suppression tactics being used to stop voting at every level — city, state and federal. And of course it’s all backed by Republican media pushing fake accusations of Voter Fraud, to excuse the inevitable blowback of minorities being denied a ballot.

Now some might point out that Democrats engage in Gerrymandering too — and they certainly do. It isn’t right when they do it either. But the Voter Suppression tactics are new, and unique in modern American politics. And they are backed by a media and legislation-writing machine.

The machine is working: Republicans now control 32 state legislatures, 27 without risk of veto, either because they’ve gerrymandered a veto-proof majority, or also control the Governor.

2016 Party Control. Source: NYTimes. Map made with MapChart.

These are dangerous times; given Constitutional Amendments begin with 34 states proposing one, Republicans are just 2 state legislatures away from writing Amendments single-party. Given their Anti-Democratic methods of gaining that control, it’s safe to assume those Amendments would not favor the people.

Given how hard a small number of greedy rich and politicians are working to stop Americans from voting, perhaps it’s time to stop yelling, “Vote, it’s simple.” Instead, tell people a small group in power are working hard to keep you from registering, mailing in your ballot, or showing up — and it’s on you to overcome it. A more compelling challenge, and a more honest description of the problem.

In the long run, we need to pass reforms directly from the voters — ballot initiatives — that take big money out of politics and Redistricting away from state legislators, so neither side (and no side) can do it. And we need to persuade Americans to better sources of media and information, so they’re not persuaded daily by this machine. We need to teach them the difference between a good source and a bad source — that reputation matters, and the best ones demonstrate a clear duty to the truth.