Republicans Nationwide are Thwarting Democracy

Republicans, inspired by Donald Trump’s repeated lies of a “rigged” and fraudulent presidential election, boldly are passing and proposing laws that would rig elections in their favor, tarnishing democracy.

In another vein, they have gone so far in Florida and Oklahoma as to pass legislation openly aimed at leftist demonstrators that would grant immunity from prosecution to drivers who would hit them with their vehicles during street protests. Such laws threaten the constitutional right to peaceful assembly.

Forty-five states have considered bills restricting the right of peaceful assembly since November 2016 and 17 of them have enacted 28 pieces of such legislation since then, according to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. The organization in part tracks legislation seeking to curtail the right to demonstrate without violence.

Since Trump lost to President Joe Biden in an election which he complained mightily was the result of fraudulent voting, Republicans in states nationwide have initiated legislation that reduces opportunities to vote. Their stand in the voting booth door ranges from cutting back poll hours to eliminating drive-thru voting to restricting mail-in balloting.

Overall, 361 bills limiting voting have been introduced in 47 states as of March 24, an increase of 108, or 43 percent, since the previous count Feb. 19, the Brennan Center for Justice said. Five have been signed into law and 55 were going through the legislative process in 24 states as of that March date, it said.

Republicans argue they favor restrictive voting to ensure that elections are secure even though there has been very little evidence of fraud nationwide in the casting of ballots, whether in person or by mail.

But it’s all a ruse, an excuse to make it far more difficult for voters to go to the polls or use other voting methods such as the mail that might give an advantage to Democrats, which appears to have been the case in November’s election. Republican legislators in Texas, the biggest state to follow Georgia in proposing to limit voting, have introduced no fewer than 49 bills restricting balloting, according to the Guardian.

“Their [Republican] priority’s to stay in power, with whatever means necessary,” the newspaper quoted Ofelia Alonso, a regional field manager for youth organizers at Texas Rising Action. “And election fraud is a good fearmongering way to rile up their base and not have to come out and say what they’re doing are Jim Crow tactics. They won’t say it, but we know what it is.”

Exercising political power to thwart voting is as much rigging of the electoral process as gerrymandering, the act of drawing the lines of congressional districts to favor a political party.

Republican antagonism toward those who vote Democratic assuredly is a foreshadowing of how Senate Republicans will approach Biden’s ambitious progressive legislation. It deals with everything from reining in the abuse of the right to vote in his For the People Act to expected forthcoming bills dealing with climate change and immigration.

With a Senate filibuster requiring 60 votes instead of a simple majority to pass a bill, it’s difficult to determine whether Biden’s fruitful agenda will indeed bear fruit. Forget bipartisanship with extremist Republicans in power; Trump’s shadow is on the walls of the Senate chamber.

“Those of us who had hoped America would calm down when we no longer had Donald Trump spewing poison from the Oval Office have been sadly disabused,” conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote Friday.

“What’s happening can only be called a venomous panic attack,” he wrote. “Since the election, large swaths of the Trumpian right have decided America is facing a crisis like never before and they are the small army of warriors fighting with Alamo-level desperation to ensure the survival of the country as they conceive it.”

It’s no secret that those most affected by the new rules would be people living in the cities and close-in suburbs – those of color, the poor, women, youth — who mostly vote Democratic. Republican voters tend to live in rural areas.

For example, in Harris County, Texas, where Houston is situated, about 44 percent of its nearly 5 million people are Hispanic and 20 percent are Black. It’s the state’s biggest county, Texas’ major Democratic stronghold, a chief target of the proposed law tightening voting.

Just as the restrictive voting measures are aimed at minorities, so too are the Florida and Oklahoma laws that would virtually forgive motorists for running over people participating in demonstrations. It’s all too obvious the laws are retaliation for the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted in cities countrywide following the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis characterized the legislation as “anti-riot” bills. As with the anti-voting measures, words can twist the true meaning of anything. (See George Orwell’s “1984.”)

 

Richard C. Gross, a correspondent, bureau chief and foreign editor of United Press International at home and abroad, retired as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.