Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The "Republican" assault on democratic institutions and the right to vote



There is, right now, a concerted attack on a common good-sustaining democratic institutions and on ordinary decency in America. It comes centrally from one of the main political parties – the so-called Republican (actually imperial-authoritarian-racist) party and the public institutions it currently controls. I distinguish this party from ordinary conservatives – those who believe in habeas corpus - the right of each person to a day in court and not to be tortured, support the equal right to vote and oppose imperial crusades like Iraq. Ironically, Obama, when not veering toward authoritarianism (the torture of Bradley Manning) or drones, is pretty much an ordinary conservative, See here and here.

This party has every opportunity of winning and will, even without achieving complete dictatorship, scar the democracy further and quite possibly, permanently.

One element in this, as Charles Blow indicates below, is a consolidated effort to disenfranchise voters reminiscent of the Jim Crow South. See John Lewis’ s recent account of those life and death struggles here. Black people, including many elderly people, and young people, “sinfully” in the Republican view, voted for Obama. They must be cut off the voter rolls.

Take paying for a driver’s license (a fee of $25 to $40 dollars). Many elderly people and others who use public transport (including students) would be forced both to spend time and pay a fee in order to vote. This is literally the same as a poll tax.

In the South, the federal government can sue against violation of civil rights, under the Civil Rights Act. But in Pennsylvania, the Republicans may have cut an amazing 43% of voters off the voter rolls - nearly half a million - in Philadelphia without any excuse whatever. See here:

"About 437,237 registered voters in Philly either lack a state-issued ID or have one that has expired before Nov. 6 of last year, which would make it invalid in the upcoming elections under Pennsylvania’s new law, according to state data obtained by the AFL-CIO. As first reported by Philadelphia City Paper, that number represents 43 percent of registered voters in the city, the highest in any county statewide."

The state of Pennsylvania has announced in a court case that there are exactly 0 cases of voter fraud in the last election (in the whole country, there are perhaps 12 cases, mainly in local elections, among many millions of voters…).

Christopher Broach, a principled voting official in Colwyn, Pennsylvania, has announced that he will not disenfranchise voters – this unjust “law” is no law:

“To ask me to enforce something that violates civil rights is ludicrous and absolutely something I am not willing to do,”

Under threat of losing his job, he invokes Rosa Parks - see below. May his example of caring for democracy inspire every voting official of integrity in this country to stop the Republican "legal" attack on the right to vote in its tracks.

According to Charles Blow’s “Where’s the outrage?” below, Republican (tea-party) legislatures have passed ID regulations in 16 states with enough electoral votes nearly to elect a President:

"According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, at least 180 restrictive voting bills were introduced since the beginning of 2011 in 41 states, and `16 states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to impact the 2012 election' because they `account for 214 electoral votes, or nearly 79 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.'"

These are not mere tricks (anti-democratic in themselves), such as robo-calling in black areas to “remember to vote Wednesday” or tying up the voter complaint lines (as Republicans did in New Hampshire in 2010). They are systematically immoral and very likely illegal efforts to restrict the franchise.

It would be appropriate, as with Catholic hierarchs who are at last beginning to face the law for enabling child molestation, if people who deprived others of the right to vote with malice aforethought (the Republican head of the state legislature in Pennsylvania bragged about having thrown Pennsylvania to Romney with this measure) would face criminal charges. The ills are not of the same severity, but depriving people of the right to vote is also a serious crime.

This is not campaigning. This is attacking the core rights of other Americans.

But the assault on American democracy goes much further. The Supreme “Court,” now an organization of a majority of flunkeys of the rich, has steadily four votes for authoritarianism.*

This narrow court majority has now enabled a tiny group of billionaires, notably Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, and the bankroller of both Netanyahu and Romney, sinking personally $100 million into this campaign, and the Koch brothers, to corrupt the political process. In contrast, one person one vote is the theme of democracy and of the civil rights movement.

In John Rawls’ compelling A Theory of Justice, the equal liberty of each person is primary over the difference principle which allows economic inequalities so long as they also benefit the least advantaged. This priority upholds equal liberty by curtailing that level of inequality, otherwise allowable under the difference principle, which would enable the rich to control the government and use it against most people. The US has long been an oligarchy, but the rule of single billionaires - the .0001% - at the expense of the liberties and well being of everyone else is a new stage in the violation of democratic principles.

As Blow puts it,

“According to a report by Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont, ‘So far this year, 26 billionaires have donated more than $61 million to super PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And that’s only what has been publicly disclosed.’ That didn’t include ‘about $100 million that Sheldon Adelson has said that he is willing to spend to defeat President Obama; or the $400 million that the Koch brothers have pledged to spend during the 2012 election season.’

A single billionaire with two puppets, in Adelson’s case, both Netanyahu and Romney, united to commit genocide against the Palestinians and create an expansionary (illegal and immoral) “greater Israel.” See Andrew Sullivan, based on a column by Barak Ravid here.

This combination, destroying democracy through reactionary institutions from above (a Supreme Court is reasonable in a democracy when it preserves the equal basic rights of citizens and temporary political fads ("wills of all" as Rousseau puts it); the American Court is, however, mainly a second Senate (h/t Duncan Campbell), a reactionary body which has historically preserved such injustices such as slavery, genocide against native americans, the abject authority of capitalists and the ultra-rich, and today is furthering a sustained attack on democracy).

Speaking in Jerusalem Sunday, Romney proclaims that capitalists make money by their own efforts (citing David Landes for an intellectual patina) and that, in national terms, everyone reaches a fate determined by those efforts. Thus, the US versus Mexico, he proclaims; even the fact that US aggression stole much of Mexico in 1846-48 - Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, part of Colorado and California - eludes him...

In Jerusalem, he praised the Israel standard of living as due to hard work (he offered the kinder version of the old Nazi slogan that Jews are usurers...) and the lower Palestinian one – ignoring the Israeli conquest and occupation – as due to their supposed inferiorities.

The same Romney formula applies in the United States to the rich and blacks during slavery and segregation or in the prison-industrial complex today. This bit of Ayn Randism is part of a racist point of view, one that will shortly destroy what is decent in America unless it is stopped by a mass movement from below.

***

OP-ED COLUMNIST
Where’s the Outrage?
By CHARLES M. BLOW
Published: July 27, 2012

Are too many Democratic voters sleepwalking away from our democracy this election cycle, not nearly outraged enough about Big Money’s undue influence and Republican state legislatures changing the voting rules?

It seems so.

A Gallup poll released this week found that: “Democrats are significantly less likely now (39 percent) than they were in the summers of 2004 and 2008 to say they are ‘more enthusiastic about voting than usual’ in the coming presidential election.” Republicans are more enthusiastic than they were before the last election.

Some of that may be the effect of having a Democratic president in office; it’s sometimes easier to marshal anger against an incumbent than excitement for him. Whatever the reason, this lack of enthusiasm at this critical juncture in the election is disturbing for Democrats.

First, there’s the specter of the oligarchy lingering over this election, which disproportionately benefits Republicans. According to a report by Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont, “So far this year, 26 billionaires have donated more than $61 million to super PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And that’s only what has been publicly disclosed.” That didn’t include “about $100 million that Sheldon Adelson has said that he is willing to spend to defeat President Obama; or the $400 million that the Koch brothers have pledged to spend during the 2012 election season.”

During a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Sanders put it this way:“What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to say to these same billionaires and the corporations they control: ‘You own and control the economy; you own Wall Street; you own the coal companies; you own the oil companies. Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we’re going to give you the opportunity to own the United States government.’ ”

Then, of course, there’s the widespread voter suppression mostly enacted by Republican-led legislatures.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, at least 180 restrictive voting bills were introduced since the beginning of 2011 in 41 states, and “16 states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to impact the 2012 election” because they “account for 214 electoral votes, or nearly 79 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.”

A provision most likely to disenfranchise voters is a requirement that people show photo identification to vote. Millions of Americans don’t have these forms of ID, and many can’t easily obtain them, even when states say they’ll offer them free, because getting the documentation to obtain the “free” ID takes time and money.

This is a solution in search of a problem. The in-person voter ID requirements only prevent someone from impersonating another voter at the polls, an occurrence that the Brennan Center points out is “more rare than being struck by lightning.”

The voting rights advocates I’ve talked to don’t resist all ID requirements (though they don’t say they are all necessary, either). They simply say that multiple forms of identification like student ID and Social Security cards should also be accepted, and that alternate ways for people without IDs to vote should be included. Many of these laws don’t allow for such flexibility.

Make no mistake about it, these requirements are not about the integrity of the vote but rather the disenfranchisement of voters. This is about tilting the table so that more of the marbles roll to the Republican corner.

Look at it this way: We have been moving toward wider voter participation for a century. States began to issue driver’s licenses more than a century ago and began to include photos on those licenses decades ago. Yet, as the Brennan Center points out, “prior to the 2006 election, no state required its voters to show government-issued photo ID at the polls (or elsewhere) in order to vote.”

Furthermore, most voter laws have emerged in the last two years. What is the difference between previous decades and today? The election of Barack Obama. It is no coincidence that some of the people least likely to have proper IDs to vote are the ones that generally vote Democratic and were strong supporters of Obama last election: young people, the poor and minorities.

Republicans are leveraging the deep pockets of anti-Obama billionaires and sinister voter suppression tactics that harken back to Jim Crow to wrest power from the hands of docile Democrats.

There is little likely to be done about the Big Money before the election, and, although some of the voter suppression laws are being challenged in court, the outcome of those cases is uncertain.

These elements are not within voters’ control, but two things are: energy and alertness.

If Democrats don’t wake up soon, this election might not just be won or lost, it could be bought or stolen.

***

Official Won’t Enforce Pennsylvania Voter ID Law
RYAN J. REILLY JULY 27, 2012, 2:45 PM

Christopher Broach, a Democratic inspector of elections in Colwyn, Pa., says he won’t enforce Pennsylvania’s voter ID law.

“To ask me to enforce something that violates civil rights is ludicrous and absolutely something I am not willing to do,” Broach told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Though there’s the potential he could could face fines or prison Broach said his mind is made up.

“Rosa Parks made the same decision,” he told the paper.

Pennsylvania’s statistics indicate that 43 percent of voters in Philadelphia lack a form of state-issued identification. The law is currently on trial in state court and the Justice Department is conducting a federal investigation into whether the law is discriminatory.

Answering a question from a reporter this week, Gov. Tom Corbett couldn’t remember what types of IDs were accepted under the law he signed.

***

*This Court almost made Guantanamo a black hole in which the rule of law should not apply. That is the policy of four of the nine justices for a “national emergency.” With Citizens United, the majority of the court made perversion of democracy by the rich the ordinary situation in America...

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