At the heart of the big lie – the crazy fantasy that the 2020 election was stolen from its loser Donald Trump – is the Republican belief that blacks’ votes shouldn’t count. In one lawsuit after another, Republicans asked the courts to discard votes cast in predominantly black communities. In Michigan, they literally picked Detroit and threatened to withhold its votes. The entire by-election strategy of the GOP was to reintroduce the racial disenfranchisement of voters by January 6th 147 Republican lawmakers voted to reverse the results directly because blacks had overcome white supremacy that was burned into the electoral college.
While the failed Capitol Rebellion has hampered at least some of these efforts, the very serious work of preventing blacks from voting in the future continues. The Brennan Center for Justice Reports State legislators have already drafted three times as many bills to restrict voters this year as were proposed in the same period last year. The numbers are staggering: “28 countries introduced, pre-filed or transferred 106 restrictive bills this year (compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020).”
In Pennsylvania, for example, the Republican-controlled legislature has proposed 14 new restrictions. New Hampshire legislature has proposed 10. (They should change their state motto to “Vote Republican or Die.”) Senator Josh Hawley’s home state of Missouri has nine bills to suppress voters, while Georgia has apparently eleven bills determined to suppress its way back to a red state after the Democrats had won the presidential election and two runoff elections in the Senate.
The new laws cover everything Republicans can think of to make it harder for people to cast a vote. Many of the proposals focus on postal ballots: Republicans want to make them harder to get, easier to reject, and impossible to fix. Other laws make it difficult for people to register to vote. Still others want to make it easier to remove registered voters from the lists.
Republicans need not succeed in any of these attempts – and ultimately they do not need to suppress so many additional votes – to get future elections off their way. Although Joe Biden defeated Trump nationwide by over 7 million votes, his margin on the electoral college fell to about 43,000 votes in three states. The college is already rigged to achieve Republican victories despite the will of the majority of the population. If only the Republicans can make things a little harder for the multi-ethnic coalition united against them poll the electoral college will do the rest against them.
The Republican presidential candidate lost the referendum in seven of the last eight elections. What’s wild is that the GOP has no plans to address this issue, no strategy to expand its appeal beyond the island white racists and wealthy white business interests who represent a stagnant and aging minority in the country. There will be no reckoning, no autopsy, no self-reflection on what their party has become. For them, it’s voter suppression or bankruptcy.
The Democrats’ response to Jim Crow-style policies outrageously promoted by Republicans appears to be the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill, renamed the famous Georgia Congressman after his death, aims to restore elements of the 1965 Suffrage Act eviscerated by Chief Justice John Roberts in 2013, adding additional protection against discriminatory voter ID laws.
The problem, obviously, is that the Supreme Court could crush this voting law as easily as the original. There is no guarantee that Roberts will see the new Congressional law any more favorable – and even if it did, today’s court is very different from the 2013 one. To face a legal challenge, Roberts’ Lewis Act would need the three , confirms remaining Liberals on the field and at least one member of the ultra-conservative wing: Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett or the alleged rape attempt Brett Kavanaugh. Neither of these Conservatives has ever shown the slightest propensity to protect voting rights, and I am not particularly confident that they will start now.
But the rot goes deeper. Conservatives in the lower courts are also involved in the voter suppression game, as they also recognize that denying the right to vote against black voters is the best way to ensure continued dominance by whites. In the past, white people have always been creative when it comes to finding new ways to disenfranchise black people – regardless of the 15th Amendment’s prohibition on racial voting restrictions – and white courts have always been willing to look the other way. Whether forcing black voters to count gummy bears in a jar or insisting that formerly incarcerated people pay fines before being allowed to vote again, the forces of white supremacy always find their muse when black people attempt to exercise political power.
No legislation can anticipate all of its maneuvers. As currently written, the Lewis Act does not provide strong protection for postal ballot papers, as such ballot papers were not a major problem until a few months ago. This means that the law is already out of date, and while I’m sure it will be rewritten and strengthened, it shows that in suppressing voters, Republicans are practicing the kind of racism that never sleeps.
It is therefore important to have judges who observe the principle of voting rights in new situations. The problem is that Republicans have stacked the dishes with conservatives who clearly don’t. Don’t be fooled by the judiciary’s opposition to the big lie: asking judges to cast votes that have already been cast, as Republicans have done, is different from asking judges to make it harder to cast votes. As we saw in the last election, Conservative judges were perfectly happy to crush laws that would have made it easier and safer for people to vote during a pandemic.
The most important thing Democrats can do now to secure the right to vote is to expand the courts and flood them with judges strictly guarding access to the ballot box. We need judges to counter what Republicans are doing besides disenfranchising blacks.
The suppression of voters is an assault on our democracy that is taking place in broad daylight and is being carried out by the same forces of white supremacy that stormed the Capitol. And like the Capitol insurgents, the voter suppressors must be met and defeated.