Democrats’ failure to effectively defend voting rights could cost them dearly in 2022

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For a year since the 2020 presidential election, the Republican Party has been waging war on the democratic process. He launched fake “audits” of election results in swing states which former President Donald Trump said were falsely rigged against him. The state’s GOP parties have purged criticism of Trump, including other Republicans, from positions of power. And in Georgia and elsewhere, state lawmakers have passed laws that make it easier for the ruling party to purge election officials who do not comply with partisan allegations of fraud.

Ultimately, however, even with laws making it easier to remove low-level election officials, each state’s secretary of state still has the most say in how elections and post-election controversies are conducted in the country. their jurisdiction. This is why the Trumpified GOP has kept increasing the pressure on senior officials.

Recently, Trump has put his political weight behind a series of key challenges aimed at removing any remaining opposition within the Republican Party to his claims that he can only lose an election if his opponents rig the vote count. Trump, for example, is pushing to oust Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, who had the temerity to push back on Trump’s demands to “find” enough pro-Trump votes to hand him over to Peach State in 2020.

And in state after state, GOP lawmakers have passed and governors signed laws aimed at massively canceling access to the polls and making voting for poor, non-white residents even more difficult. Lawmakers have proposed drastic restrictions in 43 states this year, in a bid to roll back early voting, impose onerous voter identification requirements and limit actions such as black church-led marches. Souls to the Polls ”on the Sunday before the election. Day in many states across the South in particular. As of July, at least 17 states had signed such restrictions into law, and more states are expected to follow suit.

It is a meticulous, multidimensional, and deeply strategic attack on the viability and protections that underpin America’s democratic institutions.

In response, Congressional Democrats pushed through two pieces of legislation intended to strengthen the voting rights law, which has been largely gutted by the Supreme Court over the past decade. The most ambitious of these, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, included a host of provisions that expand automatic voter registration, protect advance and postal voting systems, and ensure states are subject to federal scrutiny. so legislatures start to pass laws that seem like they discriminate against voters of color. The second act, known as the Freedom to Vote Act, negotiated as an act of compromise by Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), is smaller in scope but still of a critical importance. It aims to limit gerrymandering, by which political parties carve out electoral districts that are almost immune to partisan contestation; reform the electoral campaign financing system; and put in place a slew of protections for access to the ballot boxes.

Yet none of these bills garnered significant Republican support in the Senate, although Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) spoke in favor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. In fact, it is quite the reverse: to this day, every time the Senate votes on these bills, Mitch McConnell orders his people to filibuster and otherwise prevent the passage of the bill. legislation. The result has been an ongoing standoff, with McConnell seeking to keep the state-level rush to mass voter suppression in the next election.

Given the Byzantine rules of the Senate, this deadlock is one that Democrats can only get out of by abandoning the filibuster. Removing the filibuster has been known as the “nuclear option” since Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott coined the phrase while reflecting on what he saw as the dangers of breaking the rules. secular institutions. In 2013, Democratic leader Harry Reid abolished filibuster for presidential candidates. More recently, McConnell has ignored him specifically regarding Supreme Court candidates. To date, however, neither party has given the formal green light for the complete abolition of the obsolete process. Yet given the five alarming nature of the attack on voting rights, such an option is now more necessary than ever, because without it popular and vital political measures aimed at protecting fundamental elements of the country’s democratic system will continue to be thwarted by a determined and undemocratic minority.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who is nowhere near as adept as McConnell at ruthlessly keeping his caucus online, has failed miserably to move forward on this point.

Ironically, the biggest obstacle to reform is Manchin, who openly supports the protection of voting rights, but has refused to consider abolishing or changing the filibuster. President Joe Biden himself, the Senate institutionalist that he is, has also not fully put his weight behind efforts to reverse the filibuster. As a result, Democrats have, with much grumbling but very little real bite, taken a step back on the issue, and GOP senators, whose 50 members are 41 million fewer Americans than their 50 fellow Democrats, have. flames. flout the democratic process.

Time is running out for Democrats on this issue. The failure to protect voting rights at the federal level this year makes it almost certain that in a critical number of closely contested states in 2022 and again in 2024, the full strength of the GOP-controlled state political apparatus will be put to use. to help limit the right to vote and also to facilitate the rejection of inappropriate political results that do not go in the direction of the GOP and their renowned candidates.

Had Democrats been up to it at this point in the electoral cycle, the failure to protect voting rights might not have been so dire. After all, if Democrats were to blow the GOP out of the water by huge margins, no amount of shenanigans would change that result. But without any stretch of the imagination, the party is doing well with critical sections of the electorate. Democratic Party loses support in rural America, and is deeply underwater with independent suburban voters, which provided the critical margins of victory in the last two elections. The best case scenario in 2022 is for Democrats to recover just enough to fend for themselves; the worst case and most likely scenario is that a combination of voter disillusionment due to legislative disappointments and aggressive GOP restrictions imposed on the franchise couple to create a GOP sweep similar to the Tea Party wave of 2010 that overwhelms the Democratic Party and entrusts it to minority status in Congress for years.

In the aftermath of last Tuesday’s election results, Democrats’ prospects for next year’s mid-terms appear increasingly bleak; and, as a result, their failure to advocate forcefully for meaningful voting rights protections seems increasingly self-defeating.

Biden’s popularity has fallen to dramatically low levels, and while a large majority of the public supports the infrastructure bill just passed by Congress, it seems unlikely that the president or his party will short term, benefit politically from its passage, especially since so much attention has been focused on the war within the party within the Democratic caucus process leading to the passage of the bill rather than on the substance of the bill itself.

It was a self-inflicted injury, as was the dismal failure to tackle McConnell’s shameful obstructionism on voting rights. It will be even harder for Democrats to have a fighting chance in 2022; and that, in turn, could have huge implications for the 2024 presidential election.

Because if the GOP controls both houses of Congress in 2023 and 2024, and if the states parties continue their crusade to undermine access to the ballot box and eviscerate the protections of the vote count before the next presidential election, the stage will have been prepared for a contest in which the institutional brakes that roughly worked in 2020 and early 2021 to stop Trump’s attempted coup no longer hold. And it could, really, spell the end of democracy in the United States

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