Republicans Intent on Destroying Democracy

More than anything, every attempted liberal or progressive advance this country makes toward helping people will depend on one thing only: voter turnout. It proved its worth in the last presidential election when 81 million people dumped a madman and put Joe Biden in the White House.

As for the conservative Republican Party, it seems to have abandoned the needs of the people in favor of the needs of the party.

To do that, the party has turned unashamedly to subverting democracy, taking a jackhammer to the very bedrock on which this country stands — one person, one vote. It is following Trump, swallowing his Big Lie that he won re-election, as if he were still sitting behind the Resolute desk.

Republican state legislatures and governors nationwide are enacting laws to make it more difficult for people to vote, aiming at minorities who largely cast ballots for Democrats. Cheating appears to be the only way Republicans can win. Georgia so far seems to be the worst of the lot, providing a template for other states to follow. There are more than 250 bills in 43 states to restrict voting, says the Brennan Center for Justice.

“[Georgia] has become brazen in its voter suppression tactics aimed at poor people and communities of color, especially since the [1965] Voting Rights Act was gutted in 2013, leaving minority-led voting blocs without federal protection,” wrote Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center in its spring report.

Biden is trying to provide that federal protection with the House-passed For the People Act, the most major civil rights legislation since the turbulent 1960s. It’s in the Senate.

Renewed naked, unapologetic GOP racial discrimination focused on erecting barriers to voting by Black, brown, Native and other nonwhites surfaced just as a major civil rights issue, the trial of George Floyd’s killing, gets underway in Minneapolis. Former police officer Derek Chauvin is accused of murder in putting his knee on Floyd’s neck.

There needs to be racial justice at the polls, too.

The new restrictive voting law in Georgia, whose officials Trump sought to persuade to change the number of votes in his favor, would limit drop boxes, create county boards to oversee elections, curtail the use of voting with absentee ballots and even would make it a crime to give food or water to voters waiting in line to cast their ballots. It gets hot in Georgia and has taken hours waiting to cast a ballot.

Trump’s repeated lies about a “rigged” election, used as an extremely poor excuse for his loss to Biden since the election was judged to be fair, has taken root among Republicans as gospel.

They have justified their voting crackdown by arguing that it’s meant to prevent election fraud even though there has been no evidence of major crooked voting; it’s all a scam to keep people from voting for Democrats.

“This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle, Biden said of the Republican effort to restrict voting, citing a synonym for segregation. He called it “sick.”

(Thomas D. Rice was an actor from New York who appeared in the South in blackface and dressed in rags to depict a caricature of Blacks, basing his character on Jim Crow, said to be a fictional joker popularized among slaves from the 1830s to the 1850s.)

“Any American who thinks that the fight for a full and fair democracy is over is sadly and sorely mistaken,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said. “Today, in the 21st century, there is a concerted, nationwide effort to limit the rights of citizens to vote and to truly have a voice in their own government.”

“Shame, shame, shame,” he cried out in response to the law passed by Georgia Republicans.

The Democrats’ comprehensive legislation would do the opposite of what the Republicans are trying to achieve. It would create countrywide automatic voter registration, end drawing congressional districts that favor a political party – known as gerrymandering – and would expand early and mail-in voting to ensure more opportunities to cast a ballot.

This is about government taking the reins for the commonweal. Government can do good, and it isn’t socialism; it’s about doing the right thing. Call it Bidenism, a far cry from Trumpism.

The problem: A filibuster that takes 60 votes to pass legislation. It could kill the Democratic initiative. That’s unless Biden doesn’t eliminate the filibuster.

“This is an attempt by one party to write the rules of our political system,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “Talk about shame.”

As if McConnell hasn’t been running a minority government for years, obstructing much of what President Barack Obama tried to accomplish during his eight years in office.

If the Democrats can repeat their spectacular 2020 turnout in the 2022 midterms, that will keep the Republicans at bay for at least two more years and give the country what it needs – a majority government. To do it, Biden has to succeed in getting his progressive agenda through a divided Congress.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.