That Voting Thing

This is how things end. One of our two political parties – and the United States really has only two – third parties die quicky or remain as quaint reminders of odd but now forgotten political eccentricities – now holds that elections don’t really work anymore, or can’t work anymore. Democracy doesn’t really work now. It can’t. There’s too much voter fraud. It’s everywhere. No one can trust the result of any election now, anywhere.

That’s the Republican position. They haven’t been able to prove that any such fraud exists. The Cyber Ninja Arizona audit of the 2020 presidential election there, in Maricopa County, was a bust. Biden gained votes. Trump lost votes. The Cyber Ninja team got out of there as fast as they could. The local armed Trump militias were angry – but then Trump said it didn’t matter. He said that the Cyber Ninja Arizona audit had raised questions, and demanded that the state’s 2020 Electoral College votes be awarded to him immediately, because he had really won the state. He must have won. There were those issues. No one knew what he was talking about, but his based played along. He had been cheated. He’s really the president. Biden isn’t.

That’s a minority view. Most Republicans in most states know there’s no going back. That eection is over. The next elections matter more, the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential election. And if no one can trust the result of any election now, anywhere, well, then maybe they can fix that. They can help. They’ll get rid of the fraud. They’ll make sure that only right sort of people will be able t vote, by shutting down easy or just convenient access to voting as much as possible. That’ll keep the riff-raff out. And new forms of voter-ID will do the same. Make that expensive and hard to obtain. That works. And most states with Republican legislature will follow Arizona’s lead and pass the key law that lets the state legislature overside the state’s popular vote for president for any reason or o reason at all and choose their own slates of Electors. That makes the state’s popular vote for president advisory. The people want the Democratic candidate? The vote is overwhelming? That’s interesting. So noted. And the state goes to the Republican.

Of course the Democrats are trying to stop all this. And of course they can’t. It’s those Senate rules:

Republicans on Wednesday blocked action for the third time this year on legislation to bolster voting rights, leaving Democrats few options to advance the bill outside of changing the Senate filibuster rule and passing it over G.O.P. opposition.

All 50 Democrats and independents supported bringing the Freedom to Vote Act to the floor, but all 50 Republicans voted against doing so, maintaining a stalemate over a proposal that Democrats say is needed to counter efforts in Republican-controlled states to impose new restrictions on voting in the aftermath of the 2020 elections.

And everyone knows what’s going on:

“These laws will make it harder for millions of Americans to participate in their government,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader. “If there is anything worthy of the Senate’s attention, if there’s any issue that merits debate on this floor, it is protecting our democracy from the forces that are trying to unravel it from the inside out.”

Yes, this vote wasn’t a vote to tank the Freedom to Vote Act. No one was voting on this bill. This was a vote to open discussion of the Freedom to Vote Act, or at least discussion of the topic. That’s what the Republicans stopped cold:

The tie left Democrats at least 10 votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster, and there was little evidence that any Republicans could be brought on board. (Mr. Schumer switched his vote to “no” at the last moment, enabling him under Senate rules to move to reconsider the bill at some point in the future and putting the official tally at 49 to 51.)

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, assailed the proposal put forward by Democrats on Wednesday, which was a compromise version of a broader voting rights measure that Republicans had blocked twice before.

“The same rotten core is all still there,” Mr. McConnell said of the new legislation. “As long as Senate Democrats remain fixated on their radical agenda, this body will continue to do the job the framers assigned it and stop terrible ideas in their tracks.”

So, what are these terrible radical ideas? Here they are:

The bill would set federal standards for early and mail-in voting and make Election Day a national holiday, among other provisions. It would also mandate that voters provide some form of identification before casting a ballot, a requirement that many Democrats had previously resisted, although it would be far less restrictive than similar measures that Republicans have imposed.

But that was an experiment. That senator from West Virginia, who had said whatever was done had to have Republicans buy into all the provisions of the bill or he’d block it too, convinced his party to let him write new bill that even Republicans would like. He’d get those ten votes! He promised. And his Republican best friends screwed him:

The compromise was struck to win the support of Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the sole Democrat to oppose a more expansive voting rights bill passed by the House in August. Mr. Manchin has spent weeks trying to win Republican support for the pared-back version but was unsuccessful, giving Democrats hope that he might become more amenable to weakening the filibuster to advance a measure he helped write.

But he’s said he’d block any attempt by his party change the filibuster rules in any way. He will never change his mind on that! His colleagues hope he’s just preening:

In light of the vote, key Democrats said they would regroup and try again to persuade Mr. Manchin and other Senate Democrats reluctant to undermine the filibuster that an overhaul of the chamber’s signature procedural tactic was the only way to protect ballot access around the country.

“We will circle back with all of our colleagues to plead with them to make the changes necessary to pass this bill,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland.

This is not going well, and Vanity Fair’s Eric Lutz sees this:

Since the election, Republicans had been working relentlessly to translate Donald Trump’s addled lies into voter suppression laws, with an alarming degree of success. And what were the Democrats doing to stop them? Bickering with Joe Manchin over whether or not he could, as he claimed, get 10 GOP senators to back the kind of voter protections their party was dead-set on rolling back.

People were getting frustrated. So Biden, who was still in his honeymoon phase, set out to assure the base, condemn the Republicans’ underhanded game, and push his party to move on the issue.

“Time and again, we’ve weathered threats to the right to vote in free and fair elections,” Biden said in a July speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. “And each time, we found a way to overcome. And that’s what we must do today.”

Lutz is not impressed:

Democrats are still searching. Their latest effort, a compromise bill for which Manchin seemed to think he could get GOP support, was easily defeated Wednesday by the filibuster, which Mitch McConnell gleefully deployed with all the vainglory he could muster…

Where does that leave Democrats and others concerned about democracy? Who knows? The For the People Act and the reauthorization of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act aren’t going anywhere, thanks to the filibuster Manchin doesn’t want to change even a little and to the fact that all GOP lawmakers, including anti-Trump Republicans like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, stand to reap political profit from the former president’s lies and support the suppressive laws that were borne of his bogus claims.

The same obstacles also stand in the way of the pared-down legislation Manchin preferred, as demonstrated Wednesday when Democrats couldn’t even win a vote to open up debate on the bill. What, exactly, are they supposed to do now, with only a year to go until the midterms?

Who knows, but forget Biden:

In that July speech, Biden described the Republican attack as the “most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history.” When I spoke to civil rights leaders the following month, they were sounding the alarm. “The sense of urgency, along with priority, needs to escalate,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson, adding: “We cannot out-organize voter suppression.”

So far, the Biden administration’s response to the GOP assault on voting rights hasn’t matched the president’s urgent rhetoric. This isn’t to say the president has done nothing, or that the attention he’s devoted to other matters – infrastructure, the climate crisis, the pandemic – is unwarranted. But has the administration acted like this is the existential threat to democracy that they say it is? “He’s made clear that he supports voting reform, but that is simply not enough,” Johnson told Politico. “We need him to bring this over the finish line.”

Kevin Drum responds to that:

This is nuts. What do they expect Biden to do? Wave a magic wand?

There is not, and never has been, the slightest chance of passing this legislation. It doesn’t have the 60 votes to pass under regular order and it doesn’t have the 50 votes it would take to end the filibuster and pass it with Democratic votes alone. Like it or not, this is the simple reality.

It is – or should be- obvious that the urgency of a problem has little or nothing to do with the chances of doing anything about it. Climate change is Exhibit A. The Black-white test gap among high school students is Exhibit B. National healthcare is Exhibit C. I could go on forever, but why bother?

It’s time to deal with reality:

The Republican Party’s decades-long war against Black people because they tend to vote for Democrats is shameful, vile, and disgusting. The lengths they’re now willing to go to in the wake of Donald Trump’s lunatic lies is almost beyond belief. Every single member of the Republican Party should be ashamed of themselves for supporting a party that does this.

But they aren’t, and the plain reality is that there’s nothing Joe Biden can do about it. He’s got the bully pulpit, but that’s all. This legislation will never pass and never had any chance of passing.

But the concept here is quite simple. Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School and former president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, makes it quite simple:

Our democracy is based on the fundamental principle that all eligible citizens must have access to the ballot box and that each of those votes be given equal weight. A representative system of government lacks legitimacy if it fails to allow its citizens to pick who represents them. Why should we give any credence to the decisions of a president, a senator or a member of the House who got the job through a farcical election that blocked some from voting? Or, to put it another way: If our elected officials rigged the system and suppressed our votes to get or keep their gigs, why should we give them any authority?

And that really is the end of everything. This is absurd:

It’s a funny thing to be in the position of begging our elected officials to protect our ability to freely and fairly elect them. But we’re here because Republicans have proposed and passed a raft of restrictive voting laws in states throughout the country. These laws would make it harder to vote by measures such as implementing strict voter-identification requirements, reducing or eliminating early voting, making it harder to register to vote or to vote by mail, and moving polling places.

Republicans will claim that these laws are needed to prevent voter fraud. But let’s say it one or, if needed, 330 million more times for every person who lives in this country: There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in our elections.

Republicans also claim that the For the People Act represents federal overreach; never mind that history demonstrates why the federal government is needed to step in and secure the right to vote. Restrictive voting laws seek to solve the problem of Republicans’ losing elections; they are not designed to bolster the integrity of our elections.

It may be time to pay more attention to this:

There are so many deeply and immediately pressing issues facing our country. But for this moment, we must focus on the foundational one. By definition, the seed of our democracy is the right to vote. The right to vote is the right that leads to everything else we care about: a strong economy, an end to the pandemic, accessible health care and superior education.

And maybe Sleepy Joe does get it:

President Joe Biden cast the fight for voting rights in sweeping terms Thursday after the Senate failed to advance a bill on the matter this week, casting blame on Republicans for stymieing the effort in the Senate.

During an event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, Biden said, “We now face an inflection point in the battle, literally, for the soul of America” over voting rights, specifically calling out former President Donald Trump’s efforts to subvert democracy.

Okay. He gets it:

“Today, the right to vote and the rule of law are under unrelenting assault from Republican governors, attorneys general, secretaries of state, state legislators, and they’re following my predecessor, the last president, into a deep, deep black hole and abyss,” Biden said in lengthy remarks at the MLK memorial at Washington D.C.’s Tidal Basin.

“This struggle is no longer over who gets to vote, and make it easier for eligible people to vote. It’s about who gets to count the votes, whether they should count at all,” he said, railing against a “sinister combination of voter suppression and election subversion.”

The remarks come as the White House is expected to ramp up Biden and Harris’ public engagement on the matter following the failed legislative efforts, with advocates calling on the administration to do more.

But what can they do? The problem is on the other side. Vanity Fair’s Bess Levin sees this:

After Republicans lost the White House and Senate in 2020, a reasonable thing for them to have done would have been to get together and determine what it is about them that turns off voters, and figure out how to change before the next midterm and presidential elections. In practice this actually would not have been a hugely difficult thing to accomplish, given that, just off the top of our heads, we can come up with a whole bunch of stuff people dislike about the GOP, from the racism to the rejection of science, to the embrace of a guy who tried to overthrow the federal government, to Ted Cruz.

Instead of looking inward, though, Republicans chose a different tack: disenfranchising millions of voters, and knocking democracy unconscious before burying it in a shallow grave.

Mission accomplished:

That effort has been accomplished on both the state and national level. When it comes to the former, at least 19 states across the country have passed laws this year restricting voting rights, according to a recent tally by the Brennan Center for Justice.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed S.B. 1 into law last month, which, among other things, bans overnight early voting and drive-through voting, both of which were popular options among voters of color in 2020.

In Iowa, it is now a criminal offense for election officials to obstruct a partisan poll-watcher’s “activities” according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

In Florida, lawmakers have placed new restrictions on ballot drop boxes and added new I.D. requirements for mail-in voting. I

n Arkansas, S.B. 644 lets the State Board of Election Commissioners decertify local election officials or take over local elections based on any violations, including inadvertent ones, that they deem “severe” enough, the Brennan Center said.

In Georgia, a recently enacted law allows a single person to challenge the eligibility of individual voters. Georgia has also made it a crime to give food or water to people waiting to vote in line, no doubt taking advantage of the fact that lines for communities of color are notoriously long in that state.

And then there’s Congress:

In response to these laws, elected officials not in favor of fascism have urged Congress to strengthen voting rights. And we’ll give you two guesses as to which party has repeatedly refused to do so, but you’ll only need one!

And that’s that. And if elections don’t really work anymore, or can’t work anymore. And if democracy doesn’t really work now. It can’t. Then what? Then the Republicans can just drop all the rigged election stuff. Cut to the chase. Just name Donald Trump president for life and make the office hereditary. Dissolve Congress. It’s useless anyway. Simply let Donald Trump write the laws, All of them. And shut down the Supreme Court too. Donald Trump can decide what’s constitutional,

That’s where this is headed. That the 2024 Republican platform. Was this going to end any other way?

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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