Ukraine can spearhead suffrage legislation


Simon is a technology consultant and contributing author to “LEVERING: A Political, Economic and Societal Framework”.

The crisis in Ukraine should cause Americans to reflect on the political state of our country. The fate of the Ukrainian people, in itself, is a matter of weight. At the same time, the harsh reality of events in Ukraine could lead us to strengthen the foundations of democracy at home.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine illustrates the fragility of democracy in general and, in particular, of our democracy in the United States, including the importance of democratic process, free and fair elections, peaceful transition of power and of the rule of law.

The situation in Ukraine could, and should, be used as a springboard to make the case for guaranteed voting rights in the United States. So far, Democrats in Congress have failed to advance the John Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act or the Free Suffrage Act. By connecting the dots, they could leverage the crisis in Ukraine to create an effective communications strategy. The goals would be grassroots support as well as influence from the top-down thinking of moderate Republicans to elevate the importance of passing suffrage legislation.

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We are all bombarded with graphic images of destruction from Ukraine via the 24 hour news cycle. Most people can distance themselves from these events since they are taking place 5,000 miles away and because we we feel safe on American soil. While the United States is not physically threatened by a neighboring country, the democratic process is threatened internally. This issue was brought to the fore when Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. By allowing narratives like the big lie about the 2020 election to perpetuate, we risk seeing anti-democratic mechanisms settling in the country or within a country. political party.

Specifically, if Democrats can clearly articulate the association between physical attacks occurring in Ukraine and ongoing attempts to undermine the democratic process at home, we have a chance to turn the tide with some Republican lawmakers. The way to convey this message is to juxtapose the loss of basic human rights due to the displacement of Ukrainian refugees with the loss of constitutional rights threatened by restrictive election laws promoted in some states. We must not wait for harmful election legislation to force American citizens to obtain refugee status – having to choose between staying at home or moving their families to another state where the right to vote is protected. This can only be avoided by legislation at the federal level.

An effective communication strategy must be grounded in reality in order to resonate with its target audience. The proposed strategy links the brutality of the war in Ukraine to the risk of inaction on voting rights. The intention would be to elicit a visceral reaction to this violence that leads logically and emotionally to internalizing the existential need to strengthen suffrage in America.

Supporters should make it clear to those still unconvinced that any political move seeking to undermine the voting process could ultimately hurt either party, depending on who is in power at any given time. Current Republican leaders may view obstructing suffrage legislation as a way to bolster their political power in the short term. However, if we as a country diminish the voice of the voter, we limit our own autonomy as a representative of our constituents. The result being that our personal independence is relegated to the authoritarian leadership of the party, on which we depend to stay in power. Conversely, by supporting broad suffrage measures, Republicans will strengthen their own autonomy and the freedoms that are exercised throughout a democracy.

The United States, NATO members and many other countries support Ukraine and the principles of freedom, sovereignty and self-determination against an oppressive and autocratic neighbor. By allowing fellow Republicans to see Vladimir Putin’s authoritarianism through a new lens, Democrats could help them see how the aspirations of a Trumpist Republican Party could lead to unbridled authoritarianism in the United States.

In other words, allowing anti-democratic forces in the United States to undermine democracy is equivalent to allowing Russia to continue advancing on Ukrainian cities, bit by bit, over a period of time, until there is no longer an independent Ukraine.

Likewise, if we allow unfounded allegations of voter fraud to lead to reduced access to the franchise in some states, we will allow authoritarian elements to take root. The challenge for Democrats is to win over moderate Republicans.

Nothing has worked so far when it comes to influencing at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to break ranks and support suffrage bills. There is a quote from Alexis de Tocqueville that characterizes it well:

“Everyone feels the pain, but no one has enough courage or energy to seek the cure.”

As Americans, we must send a wake-up call to Republicans as a spark to muster the courage and energy to seek the cure. The connection between the evil of Russian aggression and voter suppression in the United States offers an opening to garner bipartisan support for suffrage. The risk of inaction could lead to the erosion of the very foundations of our democracy.

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