(Daily Kos) – If a political party in some theoretical nation cannot muster a majority of votes in free elections, it has two choices: It can broaden its appeal to voters to get those votes, or it can take steps to prevent the groups voting against them from getting to the polls. The first is the democratic model. The second is, for nations that bother to have elections at all, the authoritarian standby.
A new Brennan Center For Justice report tallies the new number of statehouse bills intended to restrict voting rights in this country at 361, encompassing 47 states. Five have already been signed; 29 have been passed by at least one state legislative chamber; 55 others are “moving” through those legislatures.
As one would expect, it’s Texas, Georgia, and Arizona taking the lead. All three have Republican officials increasingly desperate to gain new footholds after elections proving their state dominance to be tenuous. In Arizona, the party has turned to conspiracy theory to explain their losses. In Georgia, efforts have been targeted specifically at undermining the ability of Black community leaders and churches to rally voters to the polls.
The most popular measures for vote suppression are variations of the ones Republicans have focused on through past decades of suppression. There are new voter ID laws premised on “fraud” that was never actually found, and are being used to create new financial hoops for poorer state voters to jump through—a poll tax specifically targeting Americans who are already marginalized. There are laws making it harder to actually get to the polls by reducing the number of locations or reducing the time available to vote—but in a new pandemic twist, Republican legislators are especially focused on absentee balloting this year after the favored method of allowing older Republicans to more reliably vote was instead used by the wider public due to the whole possibly-deadly-pandemic-outside thing. Voters who jump through the required hoops may still find themselves erased from polling records when they actually show up, such as Iowa’s new rules throwing voters into inactive status if they fail to vote in even one federal election. It is an inconvenience that devoted party loyalists will never get dinged by; voters spurred by specific issues or turmoil, however, find something new to trip over.
There are 361 new attempts to restrict the vote and counting in the immediate aftermath of a Republican Party-sponsored effort to fraudulently claim that the last election was rigged against them. It led to groups of violent fascism-promoting militia freaks storming the U.S. Capitol in an effort to have that election nullified, kill officials who opposed their demands, or both.
This is a party that has pretty much had it with the American notion of elections. If you tune into the now astonishingly fascist Fox News, they will tell you so themselves. It ain’t subtle.
It appears the House and Senate efforts to protect voting rights had better move along with some speed. (In the meantime, some Democratic-led states are expanding voter protections.)
The context here is important, and the context here is that post-insurrection efforts to strip voting rights and seize new election-deciding powers may be taking much the same form as the Jim Crow tactics that conservative officials have used for decade after decade to dilute the votes of unfavored (read: Black) communities, but with a new skepticism towards the validity of elections and the public will in general. The frothing premise of the Arizona Republican near-riots during the counting of votes last November was that if the non-Republican was getting more votes, then the only explanation could be massive, election-bending fraud. The Trump “legal” team made a greasy sweep through various other states while insisting to allied lawmakers that other state totals, too, were illegitimate and should simply be thrown out. The claims were entirely fictional, and dozens of courtroom rulings threw out the assertions as incoherent.
That the claims were false did not dissuade hundreds of state and national Republican officials from repeating them ad nauseam, each time as justification for nullifying the election’s actual vote totals and performing an ad-hoc do-over that would supplant them. The provable falseness of the claims rendered them propaganda rather than mere politicking.
It was an attempted coup via propaganda. Not a single peddler of the lies has been brought to account for the attempt, though. Not even after supporters cited those false claims as justification for violent insurrection. That is the context that we should remember as each of these new bills is pushed forward by the same fraud-promoting propagandists that promoted the previous ones. The intent is still to manipulate vote totals so that Republican Party loyalists can brush past the need for majorities by snipping out the votes against them. The allies of the first attempt are the allies of the second. It is not subtle.
The Brennan Center numbers indicate that even after efforts to overturn the election by fraud and force failed, the effort to use propaganda to curtail the votes of Republican opponents is, if anything, only expanding. A cursory listen to the hard-right conservative lawmakers and pundits most pushing the new laws justify the moves with the same “fraud” paranoias that they pushed onto their base before the insurrection. In response to too many Americans voting by mail, the new laws look to impede or ban voting by mail. In response to election officials’ rejection of fraudulent fraud claims by Trump and allies, new laws target the power of those officials and expand the power of legislatures to overrule them. In response to successful voter registration drives by activists, new laws pick out precisely the methods deemed effective—for example, making the wait in multihour voting lines less tortuous by handing out water to those stuck in those lines—and criminalizes them.
To repeat: It appears the House and Senate efforts to protect voting rights had better move along with some speed. It is a given that the Republican senators most supportive of the premises of the coup will absolutely, positively take every possible procedural step to block any such protections moving forward. These are the same senators who immunized Trump not only against corruption, but against a violent attempt to overthrow the government via an army of assembled irrational patsies. They have no intention of giving up the sole apparent means by which white nationalism can retain control over the rest of us.
There’s not going to be a way to protect voting rights and keep the filibuster intact, and everyone involved knows it. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.