In a video released on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden described voting rights as the crowned jewel of civil rights. He also said that if someone had told him that he would need to make the case for protecting the vote today, he wouldn’t have believed it. There is good reason for that because free and fair elections in which all citizens have easy access to the vote is an American value.
As the Vice President pointed out, there was a period in which renewing the Voting Rights Act was a bi-partisan effort. The contemporary wave of Republican vote suppression took root in the 1980′s when Paul Weyrich admitted the real reason that Republicans have since worked to suppress the vote. Simply put, when Americans vote Republicans lose.
Now many of our Christians have what I call the ‘goo-goo syndrome.’ Good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.
That remains a true as we saw with Barack Obama’s victories in the 2008 and 2012 Presidential Elections and the Tea Party’s takeover of the House in 2010.
Since the 1980′s Republicans’ efforts to rig the vote focused on gerrymandering and some relatively subtle efforts to make voting harder – like broken or flawed voting machines in certain districts, or robo-calls and fliers with false and misleading information. Some Republicans “joked” about doing whatever it takes to prevent Democrats from voting – like flattening the tires on their cars.
After Barack Obama won the election of 2008, Republicans have obsessed with questioning the legitimacy of his presidency with birtherism and increasingly overt racist messaging. Their campaign to suppress the vote, while always there, but the more desperate they get, the more suppressive their policies become.
Shortly after, the Koch brothers recycled Birchersim with the “populist” Tea Party. Judson Phillips gave us the first warnings that the Koch funded “movement” was coming after our voting rights. More Kochists talk about repealing the 17th Amendment, in favor of reverting to a system of patronage in which State legislatures appoint Senators.
Red States passed ALEC initiated “Voter ID” laws with the claim that these laws are needed to stop “rampant voter fraud.” Additional tactics included eliminating same day registration and reducing or eliminating early voting. Study after study pointed to the reality that these policies targeted the demographics of voters who are more likely to vote Democrat.
The Koch wing of the Supreme Court is another factor in why it has become necessary to defend the vote. Citizens United and last week’s ruling in McCutcheon vs. the FEC made it possible for people who share Paul Weyrich’s disdain for free and fair elections to corrupt our political system. While the ruling preserves limits to individual candidates (for now), the reality is the 1% are free to use their money to control, and some argue, bribe elected officials.
Ryan J. Reilly and Paul Blumenthal point to another section in the constitution that, they suggest gives elected officials immunity from prosecution on corruption charges.
That clause states that any “speech or debate” in the House or Senate by a member of Congress “shall not be questioned in any other place.” ….
But the same clause also makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement investigators to obtain access to congressional materials that could implicate a corrupt congressman or senator. And it essentially prevents prosecutors from introducing into evidence anything that a member of Congress did as part of his or her official duties. That means laws, bills and floor speeches cannot prove corruption.
The Kochists on the Supreme Court also gutted the preclearance formula in Voting Rights Act, opening the floodgates for vote suppression in states where Republicans rule.
Now Republicans are working to make registering to vote harder.
Teahadists like Rick Scott in Florida are willing to break laws to purge eligible voters from the rolls. Fortunately, a Federal Appeals court crushed that effort last week.
The next time someone tries to claim that Democrats and Republicans are “the same” remember that Democrats are fighting to protect and expand voting rights, the Koch bought Republicans are fighting to suppress and eventually eliminate them.
Image by Donkey Hotey via The Society Pages