The Republican party has not legitimately won the White House since Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s.
From foreign trolls and bots, Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, right-wing hate radio, dog-whistle (and not-so-dog-whistle) racism, mendacious Facebook ads, and Donald Trump’s thousands of lies, the Republican party has its machine’s gears well-oiled.
Yet there is one area the Grand Old Party has identified as the country’s oft-ignored Achilles’ heel–voting.
Eleven years ago the Republican party was licking its wounds after the country elected its first African American president and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.
But there was another, more insidious strategy.
Republicans knew they couldn’t come right out and criminalize voting, so they devised ways to make casting ballots harder, more inconvenient, and frustrating, hoping people would stay home rather than go through the rigamarole to practice their civic duty.
That’s when the term “voter fraud” started circulating around right-wing media. Simply accuse random people (mostly immigrants) of voting illegally, and enough “patriots” would rise up in an altruistic fervor to fortify the most fundamental of democratic institutions against those who seek to denigrate it.
Some (Republican) states began instituting “voter I.D.” laws, requiring birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, passports, to “protect election integrity.” After all, minorities vote primarily for Democrats. If they are to preserve their hegemony, Republicans must take evasive measures.
Voter fraud, however, is a myth.
Last week, the Associated Press (AP) published a report about Donald Trump’s re-election adviser Justin Clark admitting as much at a Nov. 21 Republican National Lawyers Association’s Wisconsin chapter event in Madison, Wisconsin.
Clark is reported to have said:
“Traditionally it’s always been Republicans suppressing votes in places. Let’s start protecting our voters. We know where they are…Let’s start playing offense a little bit. That’s what you’re going to see in 2020. It’s going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program.”
The AP explained:
“Both parties are pouring millions of dollars into the states, anticipating they’ll be just as critical in the 2020 presidential contest.
“Republican officials publicly signaled plans to step up their Election Day monitoring after a judge in 2018 lifted a consent decree in place since 1982 that barred the Republican National Committee from voter verification and other ‘ballot security’ efforts. Critics have argued the tactics amount to voter intimidation.”
That consent decree was established after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sued the Republican National Committee (RNC) over the allegation the latter helped intimidate black voters in New Jersey’s gubernatorial election by positioning off-duty police officers at urban area polling stations wearing armbands reading “National Ballot Security Task Force.”
Some of those officers displayed visible firearms.
Now that consent decree has been lifted, “The RNC can work more closely with state parties and campaigns to do what we do best, ensure that more people vote through our unmatched field program,” as RNC communications director Michael Ahrens claimed.
This comes mere days after conservative group, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, filed a lawsuit demanding Wisconsin purged 234,000 citizens from its voter rolls.
The state sent voters believed to have moved letters informing them they would be removed from voting lists if they did not respond within 30 days.
But that purge was not to take effect until 2021.
Justin Clark is heard in the audio recording as telling attendees:
“We’ve all seen the tweets about voter fraud, blah, blah, blah. Every time we’re in with him, he asks what are we doing about voter fraud? What are we doing about voter fraud?’ The point is he’s committed to this, he believes in it and he will do whatever it takes to make sure it’s successful.”
Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016.
In recent years, Republicans drew electoral districts blatantly benefiting themselves, attempted unsuccessfully to curtail early voting, and implemented an austere voter ID law that discouraged as many as 23,252 voters in 2016 from casting ballots.
One Wisconsin Now deputy director, Mike Browne, lashed out at Clark’s remarks and the strategy to disenfranchise Wisconsin voters:
“The strategy to rig the rules in elections and give themselves an unfair partisan advantage goes to Donald Trump, the highest levels of his campaign and the top Republican leadership. It’s clear there’s no law Donald Trump and his right-wing machine won’t bend, break, or ignore to try to win the presidency.”
Voting districts with voter discrimination histories have purged 40% beyond the national average.
This is due almost entirely to the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby County vs. Holder decision that rolled back section five of the 1965 Voting Rights Act requiring states to receive Justice Department “pre-clearance” before initiating changes to voting laws that may impact minority voters.
The Brennan Center stated:
“As the country prepares for the 2020 election, election administrators should take steps to ensure that every eligible American can cast a ballot next November. Election day is often too late to discover that a person has been wrongfully purged.”
Last year, the nation’s highest court decided in favor of the Eighth Circuit Court’s decision allowing North Dakota to require voters to maintain residential street address, not post office boxes, and an accepted form of identification stating that address, a move that blatantly targets indigenous voters since many live on reservations with P.O. boxes instead of street addresses.
More than 85,000 Georgia voters were purged from rolls in just the three months leading up to election day in 2016, in what National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) president Derrick Johnson called “textbook voter suppression.”
And then there’s Florida, where then-Republican Gov.–now U.S. Senator–Rick Scott teamed up with Donald Trump to accuse elections in danger of being “stolen” after Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered recounts in the Senate and gubernatorial races when unofficial results fell within the margin to legally trigger a recount.
As progressive talk show host and author, Thom Hartmann, wrote in “American Democracy Is on the Brink:”
“If we fail to do something large, substantial and dramatic about the scourge of voter suppression, we must all begin learning how to rivet chains.”
Republicans talk a good game about democracy and patriotism.
When it comes down to it, though, waving a flag is meaningless when one’s actions belie the very principles he or she claims to uphold.
Republicans do not want democracy.
They want an oligarchy.
But they know Americans outside the extremely wealthy do not.
So to maintain their wealthy donors’ hegemony, they try to prevent voters from exercising their fundamental right to choose whom they want to represent them.
Why else would they work so hard to suppress votes?
Image credit: rightardia.blogspot.com