The GOP’s War on Democracy

February 13th, 2021 - by Bill Berkowitz / BuzzFlash

The Republican Party’s Campaign to Delegitimize Elections Did Not End in November

Bill Berkowitz / BuzzFlash

 (February 8, 2021) — In a recent interview, a Georgia state legislator remarked that voting is a privilege. His interviewer suggested that voting is a right, not a privilege. The legislator thought about that proposition for a moment and then declared that voting was both a privilege and a right. Now that Joe Biden has become president in a hotly contested election that he won by some 8 million votes, Republican Party officials, state legislators, and conservative commentators are lamenting the idea of universal suffrage. And that is nothing new.

As Zachery Roth wrote in his 2016 book, The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy, conservatives have always been skeptical of universal suffrage. Changing demographics in the US are threatening the power of the Republican Party.

In January 2016, Donald Trump told a New Hampshire crowd,”You’ve got to have real security with the voting system. This voting system is out of control.” That same message was delivered by Trump at the Save America rally, before the mob stormed the Capitol.

Since Republicans could not thwart the will of the people in 2020, GOP-led state legislatures across the country are now working to enact legislation to limit voting rights, particularly the voting rights of minority voters. With the Voting Rights Act of 1965 gutted by the Robert’s Supreme Court and in America’s collective rear-view mirror, the door has been opened to more explicit and cynical challenges to the right to vote.  

Our collective focus has been on the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. White supremacists and their organizations such as Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Boogaloo Bois – and QAnon are being exposed. The underbelly of Christian nationalism is being revealed. The new Biden/Harris Administration is launching its pandemic and economic relief initiatives.

And while all this is happening, Donald Trump’s Big Lie, that the election was rigged, is alive and well in numerous states. Democrats are generally advantaged by higher election turnout. States with Republican controlled legislatures, are dead set on revamping their election laws to see to it that voting is more restricted and limited.

According to the Brennan Center For Justice, “The 2021 legislative sessions have begun in all but six states, and state lawmakers have already introduced hundreds of bills aimed at election procedures and voter access — vastly exceeding the number of voting bills introduced by this time last year.”

 The Brennan Center is reporting ( that “In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced three times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to this time last year. Twenty-eight states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 106 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020).”

At the same time, with voters casting their votes in record numbers, “thirty-five states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 406 bills to expand voting access (dwarfing the 188 expansive bills that were filed in twenty-nine states as of February 3, 2020). Notably 93 such bills were introduced in New York and New Jersey.”

The Brennan Center provided an “Overview of Restrictive Bills”: “28 states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 106 bills to restrict voting access. These proposals primarily seek to: (1) limit mail voting access; (2) impose stricter voter ID requirements; (3) limit successful pro-voter registration policies; and (4) enable more aggressive voter roll purges.”

The New York Times’ Michael Wines recently reported: “In Georgia, where the State House of Representatives has set up a special committee on election integrity, legislators are pushing to roll back no-excuse absentee voting. Republicans in Pennsylvania plan 14 hearings to revisit complaints they raised last year about the election and to propose limitations on voting. Arizona Republicans have subpoenaed November’s ballots and vote tabulation equipment in Maricopa County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Phoenix. Legislators are taking aim at an election system in which four in five ballots are mailed or delivered to drop boxes.”

Meanwhile, according to Wines, “Democrats have their own agenda: 406 bills in 35 states, according to the Brennan Center, that run the gamut from giving former felons the vote to automatically registering visitors to motor vehicle bureaus and other state offices. And Democrats in the Senate will soon unveil a large proposal to undergird much of the election process with what they call pro-democracy reforms, with lowering barriers to voting as the centerpiece. Near-identical legislation has been filed in the House.”

National legislation is the only effective path to insure that legislatures of Republican-led states can’t {re}enact voter suppression laws. According to the Brennan Center, “the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is one obvious way to impose these guardrails. It has already been passed by the House before. We now have an administration that is supportive of it. We now have a Justice Department that is headed by people who know how important voting rights are. It’s now up to Americans to tell Congress that we don’t want to wait any longer. We need a strong bill.

In addition, H.R. 1, The For the People Act, should be passed “to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.”

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