Let’s Connect the Dots of Democracy’s Demise Before It’s Too Late

right wing militia

Remember in 2016 when an armed Oregon militia group, led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Princeton, Oregon? They viewed the federally managed land as an encroachment on their land use rights as ranchers and as an example of the federal government’s overreach in asserting its authority against the people.

When the militia solicited public support for their occupation, they were barraged with packages of dildos through the mail—to their great dismay. They responded in videos, yelling “STOP SENDING US DILDOS!”  They looked like the idiots they were.

The tactic of sending dildos, as I’ve elaborated elsewhere, was a brilliant and joyous act of resistance to the armed takeover of public lands, building on a long tradition of using humor as a form of non-violent resistance to armed force.

As the nation watches—or perhaps ignores—the current impeachment hearings, the outcome of which will reveal much about whether the nation’s political leadership will endorse or undo an autocratic regime that has sought to undermine U.S. democracy, we have to connect the dots of several recent events which, assessed together, highlight the very ever-increasing threat to our democracy and the individual and collective rights our system bestows on us.

Dildos simply will not be enough this time. As much as laughter and humor can fuel resistance, we require an alertness and a “woke”-ness  to the destruction of democracy happening before our eyes well beyond, though no doubt encouraged and ignited by, Trump’s complete disregard for the Constitution, basic laws, civil rights, and the norms and procedures of democracy.

Here are just a few recent examples—dots to connect—that make clear the disregard for and destruction of democracy in our country that, more than a threat or worry for the future, is an actuality.

*Let’s return to Oregon where last June Republican state senators fled the statehouse and went into hiding to prevent a vote on a climate change bill to establish a carbon cap to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Despite the Democrats enjoying a majority, without some Republicans present the quorum necessary to even allow a vote was lacking.  While this behavior disregards the truism that elections have consequences, to be fair this tactic has been used in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike as attempts to spur conversation and compromise to give the minority party a voice.  In 2011, Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin absconded to Illinois to avoid a vote on a bill designed to eviscerate collective bargaining rights for public employees. These lawmakers eventually returned and had to endure Governor Scott Walker’s bull-dozing of workers’ democratic rights.  Earlier this year, the same Oregon Senators pulled the same stunt in order to garner a compromise on another piece of legislation.

The shenanigans last June, though, reached a new level of defiance of democracy—and did not receive much national press coverage.

When Governor Kate Brown indicated she was contemplating deploying state troopers to round up the derelict senators, Senator Brian Boquist threatened to shoot and potentially kill any troopers who sought to apprehend him, telling the superintendent of the state police, “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”

And the police received what they believed to be credible threats from militias around the state that the state capitol would be stormed in defense of these senators.

Let’s think about this situation and Boquist’s language. He said he wouldn’t “be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon.” And yet he’s the one not following governmental rules and breaking the law! This kind of dangerous and Orwellian language play echoes that in which we see Trump engage. As I’ve written about in the pages of PoliticusUsa, Trump refers to the process of impeachment, clearly detailed by our founders in the Constitution as a necessary mechanism to preserve our democracy against autocratic abuses of power, as a coup; that is, he presents democratic behavior as mob-like violations of democratic order and his own thuggish illegalities as normative.

In Oregon, democracy has been rejected by the likes of Boquist, who simply want their way and will engage in armed violence to get it—or at least threaten to.

*And remember last September 11 in North Carolina when House Republicans held a surprise vote to override the Governor’s veto of a two-year budget.  Democrats, who were attending a 9/11 memorial service, were told there would be no votes that day until the afternoon, and no votes were on the legislative docket. Republicans secretly convened early in the morning to vote on the override. House Speaker Tim Moore told CBS,

“It’s a great day for North Carolina.” read more

Cummings Wants Brian Kemp To Testify About Voter Suppression

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The incoming chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, has his sights set on Brian Kemp, the Republican governor-elect of Georgia.

Before using widespread voter suppression tactics to cheat in his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams, Kemp was the Georgia Secretary of State. This position put him in charge of the elections for the entire state. And he used this position well — for his own advantage.

Most observers believe that if Kemp had not used every trick in the book to suppress minority votes throughout Georgia that Abrams would have won, and become the country’s first African-American female governor.

So now Cummings says he wants Kemp to testify before his Congressional committee about all of the voter suppression charges against him.

“I want to be able to bring people in, like the new governor-to-be of Georgia, to explain … why is it fair for wanting to be secretary of state and be running [for governor],” Cummings told HuffPost in an article published Monday.

Kemp’s hard-fought and controversial contest against Abrams was brought many calls by independent observers for him to resign. They said it was not fair for him to keep his post overseeing the state’s elections while he ran for governor at the same time.

After the November 6 election was over, Abrams, through a group she founded, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Georgia. The goal of the lawsuit is not to overturn the election results but to overhaul the state’s election procedures and processes to make them more fair.

“It was not a free and fair election,” Abrams said after conceding the election to Kemp on November 20.

The lawsuit maintains that all of the current Georgia election processes are discriminatory. Abrams said often during her unsuccessful campaign, and afterwards, that elections in Georgia are very unfair and have the effect of disenfranchising Democrats and minorities.

One example cited was the reports that several months before the election it was discovered that a hugely disproportionate number of Georgia’s many thousands of stalled voter applications were from African Americans.

Rep. Cummings told HuffPost that he has definite plans to investigate the issue of voter suppression when Democrats are the majority in the 116th Congress and he assumes the chairmanship.

Cummings said he also wants to call on election officials from other states, such as Kansas and North Carolina, who have been accused of suppressing Latino and African-American votes.

He specifically mentioned county clerk Debbie Cox from Ford County, Kansas. She has been criticized, and is facing more scrutiny over her decision to move the only polling location in a city with a 50 percent Latino population outside the city limits. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued over the move, saying it had the intent and the effect of limiting the voting power of Latinos and other minorities.

Democrats coming into power in the new Congress in January have promised that they will take on voting rights as a key part of their agenda next year.

In fact, probable new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said she will

push propose a comprehensive package of reforms targeting campaign finance, ethics and voting rights laws read more

50 Years Later, John Lewis Is In Congress, Our President Is Black, But Selma Fight Isn’t Over

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It is not enough simply to remember Selma. The courageous men and women on the Edmund Pettus Bridge could not be deterred by brutal force. They marched forward with undaunted courage, staring death in the face. Members of Congress who lack the minimal courage required to pass legislation protecting the right to vote, have no business paying tribute to the marchers in Selma. By their inaction, their allegiance lies with the Alabama State Troopers who turned the marchers around.

The Supreme Court Enjoins Republican War on Voting in Earnest

Vote Discrimination

The Supreme Court's anti-democracy wing; Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy issued an announcement that their decision was not on the merits of the case because they had not yet heard any oral arguments defending voting restrictions. They just believed so strongly that since Ohio's Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted invested such an incredible amount of time and energy to disenfranchise minority and working-class voters, and labeled his "appeal" an emergency.