Four ways Republicans are guilty of attempting to murder democracy

American democracy—or, at least, the flawed, but better-than-the-alternative system that we call democracy—is under attack, and not from Muslim terrorists. Our democratic system, with all of its warts, has managed for 237 years [with the major exception of the Civil War, of course], to remain stable and to preserve the peaceful transition of power. Over many years, it has been corrupted by under- and over-the-table campaign contributions, over-influenced by corporate greed, undermined by power-hungry, headline-seeking, morally bankrupt politicians, and—more recently—battered by partisan gridlock fueled by blind hatred for our current President.

Now, these well-worn tactics have been joined by Republican-led strategies aimed directly at the heart of our system—voting rights and even the existence of “united” states. We need to worry less about foreign terrorists determined to hurt America, and recognize the bad actors in our own political system who are wrecking our democracy from within.

Here’s my review of the top four domestic conspiracies to kill democracy that are operational in 2013:

[1]  Voter suppression

It’s not new, but it’s intensifying. The most recent incarnation of this tactic took place in Colorado, during the September 2013, special recall election. Just before the election, the state board of election issued confusing rules on mail-in voting. Mail-in votes comprised 70 percent of votes in the 2012 presidential election, and many voters had come to rely on that method, only to discover that they might not be receiving their expected mail-in ballot for the special election.  According to Fox News (!):

In total, there have been six changes since Colorado’s governor announced the recall date on July 18.

In previous elections, Coloradans were able to cast their ballots by mail and most – around 70 percent – did. A new state law had initially meant that the recall would be decided entirely by mail. However, multiple county clerks told election officials they didn’t have enough time to send out the mail-in ballots because of an Aug. 12 ruling that gave other candidates until Aug. 26 to submit enough signatures to get themselves on the ballot.

Because of that ruling, it meant that voters [in the districts of the recalled legislators, Morse and Giron] would have to go to polling locations in their county to cast ballots.

In other states, legislators spent considerable time in 2013 proposing laws that would restrict voting rights. If you thought the 2012 fights over voter ID in Pennsylvania, and early voting in Florida and Ohio were flukes, think again.  Statistical analyses show, again and again, that voter turnout is the deciding factor in many elections—state, local and federal. When voter turnout is high, Democrats win. When it is low, Republicans win. Republicans have read those numbers, and many see their best chances of winning coming not from adopting more appealing, humane policies, but by crippling democracy and making it harder for their opponents to vote. Such is the sorry state of American politics today.

[2]  Recall election[s] over a single vote

Colorado’s successful [I hesitate to call it that] recall of two Democratic state legislators who voted in favor of reasonable gun registration laws is a very bad precedent. The recall was funded by the National Rifle Association, and it sets the stage for future recalls, in other states, based on single issues. Once upon a time, in a democracy now in serious jeopardy, we used to voice our displeasure about legislators’ votes by voting them out of office in the next scheduled election. That’s part of the peaceful transition of power that has characterized American democracy since its inception. While recalls are legitimate in certain cases, this single-issue recall tactic is an aggressive assault on the way we normally do elective business. If it proliferates—and its “success” in Colorado can only encourage its proponents—it could create electoral chaos.

[3]  Nullification of federal laws

Although most of us thought that nullification was a battle decided by the Civil War, it’s ba-a-a-a-ck. In 2013 in Missouri, radical right state legislators passed a law declaring federal gun laws null, void and unenforceable in the state. Wow. Fortunately, the cooler head of Democratic Governor Jay Nixon prevailed, and his veto of that bill was upheld in a special legislative session in September. Even the Republican Speaker Pro Tem of the Missouri Senate saw the gun bill as unconstitutional—and for him to say that was a political risk. The fight, however, is not over. Republicans in the Missouri legislature are already planning to introduce another, somewhat watered down version of the same bill in the 2014 session.

Missouri Republicans are not alone in their attempt to stop federal laws from being enforced in their state.  And these efforts are not just limited to gun laws.

Another focus of nullification efforts is the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

In Pennsylvania, for example, state officials are telling Obamacare “navigators” –the people hired to help individuals work the new health-care exchanges—that they cannot do their jobs on state-owned property. What they mean is that federal employees won’t be allowed to help people in state welfare offices, unemployment offices and health clinics—precisely the places visited by people who would benefit most from the exchanges.

The same tactic is at work in Florida, where the State Department of Health is barring navigators from its state property, too. [By the way, Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, is a very wealthy, former healthcare executive—a crooked one at that--who should know better. But, apparently, he wants to block something that would help his state, because it comes from President Obama.]

Each of these instances—and many more to come—are reminiscent of the “good old days” when Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse doorway to block “Negroes” from enrolling in the University of Alabama under federal law. He lost that fight, as the South, in the Civil War, lost its attempt to nullify federal anti-slavery laws and assert states’ rights over federal law. But those lessons seem not to matter to today’s Obama-hating Republicans.

[4]  Suggestions of secession

Texas is today’s poster state for awful ideas and dumb politicians [see: Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Louis Gohmert], but in our 24-hour-news-cycle world, even terrible ideas get play. So it’s rather terrifying to hear Texas’ Railroad Commissioner [who job it is not to regulate railroads, but to oversee the gas and oil industry in his state] mention secession as a possibility. It’s equally scary to hear a U.S. Senator say the same thing. We’ve done this before [see: Civil War], and it doesn’t work. I realize that the [government-paid!] officials who make these rash, anti-government pronouncements probably aren’t serious—they’re basically using these extreme statements as a way to rally the basest of their base and raise money—but there are a lot of gullible, low-information—possibly gun toting—people out there who take these ideas seriously. When someone filed a petition for secession on the White House’s petition site, 126,000+ people signed on.

Bottom line: If we can’t trust our voting system, if a few ultra-rich can determine the outcome of an election, if we can’t count on federal laws being enforced, and if people are floating the idea of secession, what is left?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gloria Shur Bilchik Gloria Shur Bilchik (471 Posts)

Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.