reThe emocracy slowly rots away. Sometimes its deterioration is perfectly legal, aided by the legislatures and accepted by the courts. It occurs when elected officials deliberately tilt the game to their advantage.
On Sunday, the Washington Post published smoking gun audio of Donald Trump pressuring the Georgia secretary of state to “find” enough votes to reverse the election result and declare Trump the winner, or face possible legal consequences. Even some republicans They have recognized that the clear line between democracy and authoritarianism has been broken.
That line, however, has been melting for quite some time. It didn’t start with the Trump presidency. And it won’t end when you leave the White House. Rot runs deep within a Republican party that has not only lost faith in democracy, but has staked its future on rule-manipulation and minority rule. The party has subverted free and fair elections for years, in ways so common that they have been accepted as mainstream politics for too long.
Republican gerrymandering – the manipulation of electoral districts in favor of one party – in Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin has secured Republican control of state legislatures even as their candidates get hundreds of thousands of fewer votes across the state. When Democratic governors won in Wisconsin and North Carolina, Republican-led legislatures took power away from them in failed extraordinary sessions.
Republicans drew maps equally friendly to Congress and state legislatures in Texas, Ohio, and Florida. Then these rigged legislatures, with the blessing of a U.S. Supreme Court that has struck down the Voting Rights Act of 1965, have tried to make it harder for Democrats and minorities to cast their votes by using bills. identification of voters for surgical purposes, closing electoral districts or eliminating early voting days.
Then when a large majority of citizens, from both parties, come together to make the vote fairer for all, these legislatures often outnumber them.
When Floridians, for example, overwhelmingly voted to restore voting rights to ex-offenders in a 2018 constitutional amendment backed by nearly two-thirds of voters, it was hailed as the largest expansion of the franchise since the passage of the law from voting rights. An estimated 1.4 million citizens who served their sentences regained their voice in civic affairs.
In any working representative democracy, that resounding vote should have been the last word. Yet this is Florida where, in 2011, Republicans ignored a state constitutional amendment that outlawed partisan gerrymandering and locked themselves in districts so advantageous that the will of the people hardly matters.
So the Florida legislature not only replaced the voters’ judgment with its own, it turned the amendment upside down. If voters sought to end restrictions designed after the civil war to limit black voting power, the legislature substituted another reminder of those days: a ballot tax. Republican lawmakers insisted that formerly incarcerated people pay all fines and fees related to their sentence, which often run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, before they regain the right to vote.
As vote suppressors well know, electoral taxes are extraordinarily effective. Last fall, ProPublica, the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times cross-referenced Voter lists listed those released from prison for the past 23 years, and found that just over 31,000 of those 1.4 million former inmates had been able to register to vote. Trump won this indecisive eternal state by just 370,000 votes.
This is the time bomb that threatens American democracy. The threat only becomes more urgent. The Republican manipulation strategy, known as REDMAP, was implemented in 2010. The Supreme Court struck down the voting rights law in the Shelby County case in 2013. These efforts came long before Trump descended a ladder Trump Tower mechanic and announce his campaign. They may even get more virulent after Trump leaves, as 2024 presidential hopefuls like Missouri Senator Josh Hawley decide that doubling down on “fraud” claims is the best way to claim Trump’s vote, and while red state legislatures use those false claims of fraud to justify new voting restrictions.
These efforts are already underway. In Pennsylvania, the new legislature hasn’t even been sworn in yet, but lawmakers are already seeking co-sponsors for a new restrictive voter identification bill, as well as an unexcused absentee voting repeal that was expanded due to Covid-19. . .
And that’s not the only catch. In 2018, the Pennsylvania state supreme court struck down a congressional map so rigged that Republicans consistently won 13 of the 18 U.S. House seats in the state, even as they garnered fewer votes statewide. Now, on the brink of the next cycle of redistricting, Republican-controlled state legislative majorities seek revenge: manipulating the courts, essentially creating judicial districts that can then be manipulated by the already manipulated legislature. Minority government begets more minority government.
Texas, already one of the most restrictive voting states in the nation, is preparing a series of new measures. In Georgia, Republican senators have voiced their support for ending mailboxes and absentee voting without excuses. A movement is also underway to require a voter ID to vote by mail. Meanwhile, many Republicans, frustrated that Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensparger has defended the integrity of Biden’s victory in the state, have sought to have their position appointed by the legislature rather than elected by the people.
The practice of state legislatures ignoring the will of their own voters is not limited to Florida. Several states worked to make it difficult for voters to reform their government through direct democracy. Others blatantly undid the efforts of citizens and ignored their will. In Missouri, where more than 60% of voters voted for an independent redistricting amendment, Republican lawmakers pushed and won a 2020 amendment that posed as campaign finance reform, but actually undid the redistricting effort. Utah’s Republican Legislature also worked to undermine an advisory commission that voters enacted in that conservative state in 2018. Conservative political establishments in Arkansas and North Dakota used the courts to remove qualified initiatives from the 2020 ballot that would have opened the elections. closed primaries that make it easier for them to maintain power.
Arizona’s independent redistricting commission remains, but Republicans stacked the appellate court personnel commission, which looks at applications and selects the five finalists for its nonpartisan chairman. Their picks include a lobbyist and gun store owner whose store hosted a Trump rally and shooting event for the president last fall.
So, yes, Trump will be leaving the White House in less than three weeks. Democracy faltered but held. Some Republicans played a role in making that happen, and their bravery must be noted. But Trump did not unleash this undemocratic fever within the Republican party. It’s worth noting that two of the other people in that cheeky Post-obtained audio were veteran Republican election attorney Cleta Mitchell, overheard teaching Republican state legislators how to manipulate and circumvent legal discovery in filtered audio from a 2019 ALEC conference, and Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff who won office for the first time, running as a birther who would send Obama “back to Kenya,” from one of those congressional districts controlled by manipulations in 2012.
Trump was created, in part, by previous years of voter manipulation and suppression that put the most extreme voices in command. They are not going anywhere. They remain in power. They have not been punished. There will be a next time. Our democracy may not be so lucky.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism