The Federalists were, compared to their contemporary opponents at least, the original vote suppressors. In the end, more democracy helped put them out of business. I’m thinking it’s time for history to repeat itself.
Suppressing the vote is profoundly immoral, and we should state that up front.
Let’s never normalize how bizarre it is that we are all having to expend an inordinate amount of time making sure that our votes get counted cuz there is a whole side in this country that knows they can’t win when lots of people vote. It ain’t normal or right.
— Brittney Cooper (@ProfessorCrunk) October 28, 2020
Voter suppression also violates the fundamental values of equality to which our country pledges fealty. As President Barack Obama rightly stated, “The idea that you’d purposely try to prevent people from voting? Un-American.” Yet it’s also in the DNA of the modern Republican Party, which knows that the more Americans who vote, the less likely they are to win. Never forget what Paul Weyrich, one of the right wing’s most important founding figures, said in 1980: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
That quotation cited our past, and of course unequal access to the vote has been a central theme in our history, as have sometimes bloody struggles to overcome it. Women, African Americans, American Indians, and other groups have been denied the right to vote, sometimes as a matter of law, and other times as a matter of reality—as in the Jim Crow South.
Wanting everybody to vote, ensuring that everybody is able to vote, and increasing access to the vote should not be partisan issues. Yet they are. Voter suppression on the part of Republicans has never been as naked or aggressive as it is right now under The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote. Even some principled Republicans are willing to stand up and say so, such as Trevor Potter, who once chaired the Federal Election Commission and who was the general counsel for John McCain’s White House runs in 2000 and 2008: “What we have seen this year which is completely unprecedented … is a concerted national Republican effort across the country in every one of the states that has had a legal battle to make it harder for citizens to vote. There just has been this unrelenting Republican attack on making it easier to vote.”
Ground zero right now is Pennsylvania, which is almost certainly the state that will have the most impact on who wins in the Electoral College. FiveThirtyEight recently determined that Joe Biden has a 98% chance of becoming president if he wins the Keystone State, but only a 30% chance if he doesn’t. That’s why Trump is being so aggressive there in particular.
Here’s what Pennsylvania State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, told Greg Sargent of The Washington Post: “We have a sitting president who’s actively trying to undermine this election. He’s doing that because he knows that if all legal eligible votes are counted, he’s more likely than not going to come out on the losing side here in Pennsylvania.” This is why, as Daily Kos’ own Joan McCarter urged, we need to “fight back with GOTV.”
As she writes, the first step is to get out and vote so that we can defeat Donald Trump and his whole vote-suppressing bunch. We have to win by such a huge landslide that there’s no way—even with all their trickery—that they can suppress enough of our votes to steal victory and thwart democracy. If we achieve this victory, then come January one of the very highest priorities for Democrats—and any Republicans who actually care about our country—must be to make sure voter suppression can never happen again.
That means voting rights must be guaranteed by federal law, so that that guarantee applies in every election across the country. It also means gerrymandering must be banned nationwide. We should also have automatic voter registration—a national standard so that states cannot use voter ID laws to disproportionately suppress the votes of Democrats, the poor, or Americans of color. That’s just a start.
55 years ago today, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law — bringing us one step closer to that more perfect union. As we mark its anniversary, we’ve got to continue our fight to restore the VRA and protect the sacred right to vote.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 6, 2020
Implementing the full array of needed reforms will require ending the Senate filibuster. Furthermore, making sure these laws are not overturned may require adding seats to the Supreme Court, something Democrats should do anyway. So be it. Our democracy is at stake.
No longer can we have a system where the minority party games our election rules in order to exercise power as if it were a majority. The fact that that party is made up overwhelmingly of one ethno-religious group—white Christians—only exacerbates the injustice of the matter, and adds to the resentment that builds with each election cycle.
The time has come to fix voting rights and ensure full, fair, and equal access to voting—without which we are not a true democracy. In fact, the time to do so has long since passed. If Democrats win in November and fail to achieve this in 2021, there will not only be no excuse, but they may never get another opportunity in the future.
Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)