Gerrymandering threatens voting rights – How to fight back?

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As the 2022 midterm elections begin to loom on the political horizon, millions of voters in states across the country could find themselves in a new gerrymandered district. In February, the Supreme Court overturned a decision by a lower court in the state of Alabama, effectively maintaining an electoral map that would weaken the weight of black voters by eliminating the only district in which they constitute the majority.

The state of Alabama is unlikely to be able to appeal this decision before the election, while ensuring that the gerrymandered card is the one used in future midterms. It’s just the latest example of the broader trend to limit the de facto franchise for tens of millions of Americans that has been led primarily by the Republican Party in recent years. In the 2020 election, only 61 of the 435 contested congressional seats were deemed competitive. Less than two months into 2022, Republicans are already expected to win five more seats, due to Gerrymander’s redistricting alone.

Voting rights attacked

Along with its Build Back Better plan, the Biden administration took office championing two laws to uphold the right to vote, the People’s Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. The former would have implemented automatic voter registration, extended early voting periods, provided greater transparency in political donations, and limited partisan draw from congressional precincts. The second would have reinstated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013: requiring the federal Department of Justice to approve changes to electoral maps in states and municipalities with a documented history of suppressing race-based voting.

The two were defeated within months of each other last year, due to united opposition from the Republican Senate, aided by Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. It is widely believed among political analysts that voter suppression benefits Republicans over Democrats.

This process of gerrymandering ahead of the 2022 midterm elections is just part of a recent push to undermine voting rights. In 2021, more than 440 bills containing provisions restricting voting access were introduced in 49 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. At least 19 states passed 34 bills restricting voting access last year. Much of the right-wing impetus to pass these restrictive laws comes from the ongoing fear campaign around voter fraud and the perpetuation of the “big lie” – the idea that the 2020 election was “stolen” to Trump in favor of Biden.

In addition to undermining the crucial democratic right to vote, gerrymandering and voter suppression have dire political consequences. Where Republicans virtually eliminate competition from Democrats, they only have to worry about winning a primary — which means responding to the right-most elements of their base. This month in Texas, one of the most deeply red states in the United States, Governor Greg Abbott ordered state agencies to investigate gender-affirming care for transgender children as ” child abuse” in a clear appeal to this far-right base.

Are the Democrats fighting back?

The question arises: if it is in the interest of the Democratic Party to expand voter rights, why have they been so ineffective in their struggle? The Democratic Party has totally failed to fight for anything that would benefit the lives of ordinary Americans since taking office. They used every excuse in the book (the Senate parliamentarian, the filibuster, etc.) to avoid a fight against the Republicans and the conservative wing of their own party. If the Democrats fought for the right to vote half as much as they fought to get rid of Bernie in the 2020 presidential primaries, we would have already won. Democrats are allergic to anything that smacks of real movement because they know full well that any collective struggle by workers will end up threatening their power.

The other side of the equation is that the Democratic Party is not at all interested in winning young people or people of color on its electoral list. They are increasingly seeking to woo suburban and middle-class voters away from the Republican Party. As Chuck Schumer said in the summer of 2016, “For every blue collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we’ll pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs…” This may give us a partial explanation for why they are not. really try everything hard.

To the detriment of the working class as a whole, the left in Congress did not fight either. Bernie Sanders and the Squad could have used their positions and authority to create enduring, independent organizations to mobilize and fight for progressive change. Instead, they have chosen to play the parliamentary game, trading favors and relying on the promises and so-called “goodwill” of the Biden administration. The roughly 20 million Americans who joined the protests after the murder of George Floyd have seen what happens when the responsibility for reform is handed over to Democratic politicians – nothing.

Whether consciously or not, they have directed the energy and enthusiasm of millions of people down a dead end. Hopefully Bernie Sanders and the Squad can choose to become allies in a movement to overcome voter suppression, but at this point they can’t be trusted to build it. While the task of wrestling with the combined weight of both parties’ establishments, the courts and the administrative apparatuses of the state, may seem overwhelming, there are many precedents, both recent and historical, to give us confidence that it can be achieved.

turn the tide

Universal suffrage is not the product of the enlightened thinking of the Founding Fathers. Every stage of the expansion of American democracy has been won because ordinary people have organized to fight and win. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was won, not granted, because thousands of students, community activists, labor activists and church leaders staged sit-ins, registration drives voters, demonstrations, and conferences that together made up the civil rights movement. The subjective will to stand up and fight back against this latest wave of voter suppression exists.

What is needed is a real mass struggle to defend and extend democratic rights. Beyond defensive struggles against racist voter repression, we must wage offensive battles to win the right to vote for millions of disenfranchised people. Winning and keeping the right to vote is an essential task for the labor movement, but it must be combined with a fight for a political alternative worth voting for. for. Neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties have the interests of the working class in mind as they trade control in Washington. We need a new mass working class political party, completely independent of establishment and big business politics.

A new party of the working class should fight for universal suffrage alongside a program of demands that will improve the lives of ordinary workers on a class basis, and it should use the methods of mass action and struggle of the classes that have been key to every progressive movement. milestone reached in our history.

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