Ouch! Right in the democracy

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | In many states, 2021 was a rough year for our vote.

Riding the wave of the stolen election lie, Republicans target future elections.

Last month, just under two weeks before Black History Month, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell took to the podium to answer questions. During the interview, McConnell defended his party’s stonewalling of the Freedom to Vote Act, a now-dead piece of legislation.

When asked for his message to people of color who were concerned about their ability to vote in future elections without the Freedom to Vote Act, McConnell gave a controversial reply.

“Well, the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”

Many have regarded these words as an indication that Senator McConnell harbors a racist distinction between African Americans and “real” Americans. McConnell’s former senatorial opponent Charles Booker expressed his outrage in a fundraising email the following Thursday.

“Being Black doesn’t make you less of an American, no matter what this craven man thinks…”

McConnell has paid little mind to the outrage his comment created, offering only a vague statement of how he has always acknowledged record-high voter turnout. The ambiguity of this answer doesn’t provide any answers, leaving us to speculate on our own.

Was this statement simply an example of a misspoken sentence blown out of proportion? Or was this a textbook example of a Freudian Slip? Did Senator McConnell accidentally express racist sympathies which have remained below the surface until now?

Questions like this are nothing new to American politics. The question of whether something coming from American politicians can be viewed as legitimately racist or simply something which had unintentional racial consequences is a constant source of political discord.

This polarizing question has been raised to a fever pitch in the last few months as a result of the Republican-led filibuster to block the Freedom to Vote Act. Senator McConnell and the Republicans claim that the legislation has nothing to do with voting rights but is designed to allow Democrats to cheat in future elections.

According to the Campaign Legal Center, the Freedom to Vote Act would mandate sweeping national reforms to our voting system, such as ensuring vote by mail nationally, increased election security and equity regulation, the designation of election day as a federal holiday and aggressive reforms targeting partisan redistricting; an infamous practice better known as gerrymandering.

Fox News has gone as far as to refer to The Freedom to Vote Act as an “attack on democracy.” This absurd gaslighting is particularly rich when you consider the past year.

Ever since Trump’s stolen-election lie and the Jan. 6 attack, Republicans across the country have been relentlessly pushing regressive and restrictive voting laws at the state level. According to the Brennan Center Voting rights lab, state legislators have proposed nearly 600 voting-restriction bills with 89% of them sponsored by Republicans.

So far only 52 of these bills have passed into law, and they range from laughably absurd to outright unconstitutional. Georgia’s new law, SB 202, criminalizes bringing a bottle of water to someone waiting in a poll line. This law comes as Georgia has removed 10% of their polling stations, primarily in African American communities according to NPR.

Texas’s SB.1 has issued severe prosecution charges for any election officials who attempt to regulate the behavior of partisan poll watchers. This legislation has the potential to increase voter intimidation at the polling booth, a direct violation of the 15th Amendment.

Many of these new Republican bills don’t just make voting harder, they make it easier for state legislatures to gerrymander their districts. Gerrymandering is a controversial tactic unique to the United States, which allows state legislatures to redraw their districts in ways that produce a favorable result for their own party.

Often rival political groups and minority communities are intentionally split up and divided among multiple districts. Resulting in under-representation of minorities, election results that don’t reflect the will of the majority and districts that look like a group of wet noodles dropped on the floor.

According to “White Rage” and “One Person No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy” by Carol Anderson, these efforts are not just politically motivated but racially motivated as well. She expresses this view saying “Yes. And so, for me, what is at the root of this is the delegitimization of Black voters, the delegitimization of African Americans as citizens who have the right to vote.” in an interview with DemocracyNow! 

I believe there is more than a grain of truth to this assessment. Far too often there is a correlation between conservative actions and statements, and racism or racial consequences. Republicans deny it every time, either through denying the consequences, or when that fails, claiming the consequences were unintended or unrelated.

If these instances were few and far between, I would be more open to a degree of reasonable doubt. Yet legislation like Georgia’s SB 202, or statements like Senator McConnell’s last month are constant elements of the Republican Party’s narrative and goals.

The time for reasonable doubt is over. The Republicans failed to properly address the Jan. 6 attack and those within their own party who supported it. They have continued to push the stolen-election lie, even after numerous bipartisan investigations found nothing to prove the theory. They have worked tirelessly to erode the right to vote while shifting the blame to those who would uphold democracy.

Republicans have dog whistled racist and undemocratic principles for decades. They don’t want an America where the people can tell the powerful what to do. They don’t want an America where they are required to treat minorities with respect. The time has come to call it as it is, establishment Republicans like Mitch McConnell are not just racist, they are treasonous.

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