The right to free and fair elections is the most precious one we possess as citizens of the United States. Without that blessing we wouldn’t be able to elect officials that will protect the other rights we have under the Constitution. Republicans, particularly President Trump, however, are attempting to deprive us of an election where all of our votes will be handled properly and accurately counted. Why? Voter suppression is their favored way to win.
That’s nothing new for Republicans, of course, it has been going on for years, aided by a 2013 decision by conservatives on the Supreme Court that gutted Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Since then, some GOP-controlled states – like Ohio – gerrymandered congressional districts to virtually guarantee Republican candidates would win the majority of U.S. House seats and many enacted strict voter ID laws. According an appeals court, North Carolina’s 2013 voter law, “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision.” Republican secretaries of state have implemented radical purges of voter rolls to remove minority citizens – a.k.a. likely Democratic voters – and in general have attempted to make voting more time consuming and difficult, particularly in minority precincts.
Is there a reason why conservatives go to such lengths to bend the rules in their favor? Well, I don’t think even the best of them can successfully sell their policies to the American people.
The current crowd leading the GOP, however, is certainly not “the best of them.” First, Trump was impeached for attempting to coerce the Ukrainian president into investigating his likely presidential opponent, Joe Biden. Then Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton alleged in his book that the president tried to get election help from Chinese President Xi. More recent allegations suggest Trump’s ambassador to Brazil sought similar support for Trump’s reelection from Brazilian officials.
Now, less than 90 days before the election, Republican-controlled Senate committees under Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) are using subpoenas and oversight hearings in an attempt to brand the intelligence community under President Obama as corrupt and dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. They want to succeed in smearing Biden where Trump failed. Johnson even admitted his efforts would help Trump get reelected.
Meanwhile, Trump was taking voter suppression to a much higher level. When it became clear that millions would seek to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic Trump – without evidence – attacked that system as being conducive to widespread voter fraud. Never mind that he and many on his staff have voted with mailed absentee ballots numerous times.
In March, Trump was on Fox News discussing provisions the Democrats wanted in the CARES Act to ramp up funding for voting by mail during the pandemic. He said it would create higher levels of voting that “if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” Well, you’re right Mr. President; more people voting typically means fewer Republicans win.
Oh, but it wasn’t enough for Trump to just bad-mouth voting by mail; he had to do something to disrupt the process. Enter Louis DeJoy, a Trump supporter and mega-donor who was appointed as postmaster general in June. He went right to work.
Trump loyalists typically get rid of or reassign the knowledgeable top officials in any agency they head – and that’s exactly what DeJoy did. He also implemented “reforms,” banning overtime and reportedly removing or decommissioning up to 20 percent of the high-volume mail sorting machines. Just a few days ago Postal Service contractors began removing the ubiquitous blue neighborhood mailboxes in Montana and other states. Bipartisan protests from Montana’s congressional delegation finally stalled that process.
Trump’s quotes are usually semi-coherent so I’ll just paraphrase a few: At the end of July, he claimed the election must be postponed because it would be fraudulent with mail in ballots and, “a great embarrassment to the U.S.A.” Speaking to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on August 13 Trump admitted that he was against extra funding Democrats wanted for the postal service because “that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.” A few days ago, after lauding “beautiful absentee ballots,” Trump told a group of supporters “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”
Okay, did Trump do anything to make sure the upcoming election will be accurate and fair? Of course not. In fact, last week a reporter asked him three times, “What are you doing as president to make sure there is a free and fair election?” Instead of an answer, all the reporter got was a blizzard of baseless complaints and lies.
Although public pressure caused DeJoy to pause his “reforms” until after the election, he hasn’t committed to correct the damage already done. His decisions with the Postal Service, however, were a perfect example of the way Trump and his cronies don’t even try to hide their corrupt intent or actions anymore. No doubt, they are confident in their ability to dupe Republican voters and stymie Democratic efforts to stop them.
Still, think how much worse their corruption would have been if the 2018 election hadn’t given Democrats control of the U.S. House. Yes, elections have consequences. And they will be dire – particularly for our democracy – if this November’s election gives Trump another four years.