Undermining American Elections
In the last decade Republicans began to claim that all kinds of people were voting who were not registered, who were undocumented, who were deceased, in other words that there was massive voter fraud. They claimed that elections were skewed by huge numbers of disenfranchised voters who were casting votes and that these voters were Democrats. Studies proved these claims to be unfounded.
I had always trusted our elections and felt our system of registering voters and counting votes worked pretty well. At least until the Gore-Bush contest and the hanging chads and the decision by the Supremes in favor of Bush I continued to feel smugly that this was one area in which America excelled – free and fair elections.
Many black Americans would feel that my naiveté arises from my position of entitlement, given the struggles with voting that still challenge voters of color even today, voters who remember very well that their fairly recent ancestors could be killed for trying to exercise their right to vote. We do tend to generalize that the entire nation conforms to whatever behavior we see locally, which offers us a very unscientific sample from which to pull our more general assumptions about America.
Over the past decade, since I began paying closer attention to national politics, I have noticed that whatever the Republicans say Democrats are doing; that is actually what the Republicans are doing. So when they implied that Democrats were using unqualified voters to win at the polls, the GOP made Americans paranoid about the validity of our elections, so that Republicans could mess with elections without anyone raising an alarm. They gerrymandered districts to make some key districts reliably Republican. But we were reminded that both parties have used this process to skew the vote in given key districts for years. (Nothing to see here.)
The Voting Rights Act had long required that states that changed their election rules to disenfranchise black voters must get “preclearance” before they changed election laws in the future. On the fiftieth birthday of the Voting Rights Act this “preclearance” section of the Voting Rights Act was declared unnecessary and it was dropped. Actions in the states by Republicans soon proved how very necessary this preclearance process really is even now. Republican-controlled state governments soon began their campaign to block minority votes, once again, even though their target this time was the Democratic Party, because not all minorities are black these days and minorities tended to vote Democratic. Polling places were eliminated making getting to the polls more difficult. Polling days and times were rolled back. Some states wanted to require IDs to vote.
Republicans began reviewing and removing (purging) voters from the rolls in the states whenever state voting officials would comply with their wishes. Republicans won Citizen United v the FEC giving corporations unlimited influence in voting. Then they made it clear that Republicans did not believe in regulating corporations or the environment so they were the most corporate-friendly party. They allied with Evangelicals when they became aware of the machine these religious organizations had assembled to turn out Republican votes, right down to household level.
We may have believed it could not get any worse and that just by copying Republican and Evangelical get-out-the-vote methodologies we could set things right. But now, in this twisted impeachment trial we find that our elections have been opened up to any and all foreign intervention. Our elections just went global (so much for the great isolationist). America First really means Trump first and the Republicans are now simply along for the ride.
Evangelicals hold nonprofit status. They file 501c4’s with the IRS claiming this status. They are allowed to educate the public, but they are not supposed to be political, especially not partisan. As the Republicans try to get political speech approved for churches in the courts, in practice these nonprofit religious groups already contribute big dollars to political speech in the form of ads, pamphlets, canvassing, and even preaching from the pulpit that God favors a certain candidate (a Republican candidate). I’m sure this will all turn out to be perfectly fine with the courts (now stuffed with conservatives) and 501c4’s will get to speak for free and also sway elections. These groups have been known to pay for political ads, now they are paying voters, in the name of charity of course.
Democrats can’t follow Republicans into these methodologies, nor would we want to. Dems consider soliciting foreign help in an election to be unconstitutional and now that they impeached a president for this behavior they certainly cannot turn around and condone it, even if they wanted to. All Dems can do is try to block foreign intervention and call it out whenever they see it.
There are perhaps Democratic 501c4’s who violate their nonprofit status by electioneering, but the Democratic Party does not have a populous movement like the Evangelicals/Fundamentalists to use God to compel votes as the Republicans do. Evangelicals consider themselves guardians of conservative values. Republicans did not have nearly the rural Talk Radio presence that Evangelicals have, but Evangelicals were happy to put it to use on their behalf, thus tipping the scales in the Electoral College towards rural voters. By constantly demonizing “coastal elites” they created a divide between Americans based on population and geographical location, as if people choose their location based on their politics. What Republicans exploited was the real difference in political preferences that have evolved in America. In other words, the divide was real, but Republicans escalated the differences, turned them into a culture war.
The lesson here is to remember that whenever Republicans say that Democrats are up to something they are the ones that are busy. They always telegraph what they are up to. They also are actually the paranoid ones, worried that Democrats might come up with the same jaded or outright illegal tactics, and that once a party that has become a minority party loses control, the party (the Republican Party) will be unable to get it back, even by crooked means.
Can all their crooked, corrupt election strategies keep this minority party in power? So far it has worked like a charm. Can it continue to work without turning our elections into complete travesties? Well that question has been answered. How much more blatant will their strategies get? We the people are the only ones who can decide.
Regardless of how Republicans engineer our elections to produce reliable wins for a party that is actually a minority party (meaning that most Americans do not wish to pursue the Republican Way), we have to keep voting. We need to vote in large enough numbers to overcome the effects of all this corrupt election meddling.
At some point the internet was going to change American elections anyway, the Republicans just speeded it up by inviting foreign actors in (Russia, China, and who knows how many others). The Republicans are also not subtle. We are finding it quite easy to see what they are up to and to bring it to the attention of “we the people”. But they are persistent, if one tactic gets exposed they come up with another. Be aware, but don’t let these attempts to invalidate our elections stop you from voting. These tactics mainly effect who votes. They do not seem to undermine the election process itself except in isolated cases. So vote because 2020 may be the most consequential year to vote ever.