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What is the Republicans’ Sudden Problem with Democracy?

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By the time you read this article, the Supreme Court may have decided already to declare the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional. It doesn’t matter that the Supreme Court has upheld the act four times, most recently in 2009; though they did express the caveat that they weren’t sure if it would survive another challenge, given how America has changed. Apparently it also doesn’t matter that Congress has voted to re-authorize the act several times, most recently in 2006; and it should be noted that the Senate voted 98-0 to re-authorize the act after reviewing 15,000 pages of documents amassed in an investigation of whether the act was still necessary.

Longtime conservative political pundit George Will seems to be against re-authorization of the act. He points out that when Congress made that decision in 2006, the most recent data they used came from 1972. Now while I wonder as to the veracity of his claim; he also once seriously claimed that, “The real reason for progressives’ passion for [high-speed rail]is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.” George Will is merely echoing the opinions of other conservatives, such as Rep. Lynn Westmoreland who said:

Congress is declaring from on high that states with voting problems 40 years ago can simply never be forgiven, that Georgians must eternally wear the scarlet letter because of the actions of their grandparents and great-grandparents. We have repented and we have reformed.

Now these seem like reasonable criticisms; or at least they do to those who don’t see the need to find out what Paul Harvey used to call “the rest of the story”. When it comes to the Voting Rights Act itself, it is by no means a perpetual “scarlet letter”, as this article points out,

The court affirmed that states and communities that can prove no history of discriminatory election activity in the last 10 years can apply for a “bailout” from the program. In fact, the Austin, Texas utility district at the center of Blum’s 2009 case, and many other areas, have been approved and removed from the federal oversight program carved out in Section Five. Shelby county and all of Alabama, for that matter, have never applied.

How can the law be considered unfair when all a state or community has to do to opt out of the Voting Rights Act restrictions is to show no history of discriminatory election activity for ten years? It’s been more than four times that long since the passage of the act, but even now Shelby county doesn’t feel that they are able to opt out of the act? Frankly, this should not come as a surprise to anyone from the Deep South. Furthermore, all one has to do is to look at this frankly inadequate list of voter suppression tactics that have been used since 2000 to see that the Voting Rights Act is still needed.

There’s more to the Republican war on democracy than the assault on the Voting Rights Act. There’s RedMap, the Republican State Leadership Committee’s Redistricting Majority Project, that they credit with maintaining the 33-seat Republican majority in the House of Representatives despite the fact that Democratic candidates received well over a million more aggregate votes than did the Republicans. Now the RedMap strategy is being touted as a way to the presidency since if it had been implemented nationwide prior to the 2012 election, Romney would have won, despite the five million vote deficit. It’s not hard to imagine what America’s Republicans would do if a Democrat won the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by over five million votes!

But wait! There’s yet more that illustrates the growing Republican contempt for democracy. Perhaps the most egregious is the Michigan GOP’s Emergency Manager program, wherein if the governor decides that a city is in financial trouble, he can, without any public debate or discussion on the matter, decide to assign an Emergency Manager to that city. The Emergency Manager then has unilateral authority to hire and fire anyone within that city’s government, up to and including the mayor. Now while that may sound good on its face to some, it also means that the democratically elected government has zero authority in such cases; all the authority is now in the hands of a government-appointed Emergency Manager. The program has a less-than-stellar track record.

It’s the Republican war on democracy’s trifecta: repealing the Voting Rights Act, implementation of RedMap, and Michigan’s Emergency Manager program. Again, it’s not hard to guess the GOP’s reaction had the Democrats implemented any of these. I cannot imagine any former Republican president (including George W. Bush) since the passage of the Civil Rights Act supporting these, but today’s GOP has itself worked up into such a frenzy that abominations like these have begun to sound reasonable. Any serious student of history knows what can happen when the rank-and-file begin to accept authentically such deplorable policies.

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About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • G l e n n C o n t r a r i a n

    Clav –

    So Glenn, you think the Democrats, from Obama on down, are gracious?

    Again – and I’ve said this SO many times – it’s a matter of degree. Is it really logical to say that group A is every bit as bad as group B when both do some things wrong, but group B does those things many more times than group A?

    It goes back to what I pointed out a week or so ago that it seems that conservatives want absolute perfection from those they don’t like before they give them any consideration whatsoever.

    You’re right, except that I probably carry it much farther than your brother, in that I apply the “every bit as bad as the other” category to the entire human race, past, present and future.

    I respect and admire only selected individuals; never entire groups.

    1 – But you certainly despise some groups more than other groups.

    2 – And when it comes to individuals, you’re right – you certainly do.

    Actually, that’s a bit of an unfair attack – we all get fooled sometimes, and I suspect your opinion changed dramatically as the campaign went on (just as mine certainly did of John Edwards the Scumbag). You and I are probably like most people – we look for those whom we can trust. But we simply take different approaches: you require someone to earn your trust before you give it (and really, who can gainsay you for that?), whereas I tend to trust until I see a reason not to trust (which may immediately come as part of the first impression).

    If I’m right about this, then your advantage lay in that you get fooled or cheated much less often than I do…whereas I have an advantage in that I find a lot more people that I can trust.

  • Clavitos

    Glenn #16,

    You’re right, except that I probably carry it much farther than your brother, in that I apply the “every bit as bad as the other” category to the entire human race, past, present and future.

    I respect and admire only selected individuals; never entire groups.

  • Clavitos

    So Glenn, you think the Democrats, from Obama on down, are gracious?


  • Igor

    The republicans, IMO, see themselves as the proper party of the conquerors, so they have little patience for others.

  • G l e n n C o n t r a r i a n

    Clav –

    Sometimes you greatly remind me of my big brother in that he honestly cannot conceive that one side isn’t every bit as bad as the other.

  • Dr Dreadful

    It’s too bad the Founding Fathers envisioned a nation without party politics, or they might have inserted something in the Constitution exhorting losing parties in elections to suck it up and deal with it.

    There are endless examples of ungraciousness in political defeat. All one has to do is to go to any left-leaning online forum and find a comments thread dating back to 2008 and beyond to see the converse of what’s happening now.

    That said, I do agree with Glenn that Republicans – conservatives in general, actually, going by my admittedly limited experience of living in two Anglo nations – are especially poor losers. Because of the social sphere in which conservative politics originated, it is their mindset that they are supposed to run the country, so they are much less likely to exhibit grace and patience if the electorate has the effrontery to choose someone else. Whereas if a conservative government is in power their opponents will of course moan about everything they do, if conservatives find themselves in opposition their default attitude is that the people who did get elected are naive amateurs who not only don’t know what they’re doing but don’t even have the right to govern in the first place.

  • Clavitos

    You know what today’s Republican party is missing? Graciousness.

    Oh, the irony! The irony!

  • Republicans are very bad losers. Romney and his sweet wife still believe they were robbed last Nov. Graciousness in defeat is not part of the Republican lexicon.

    As to the VRA, I should think that the actions of Republicans in Pennsylvania, Ohio and some other northern tier states to suppress the minority vote should be cause for expansion of the Act.

    They have come to realize that the majority of voters in this country do not buy into their message and will not vote for them – at least not on a national level. They also realize that they cannot hope to win on a level playing field, so, their only hope is to fix the game. The movement which continues in Pennsylvania to reapportion electoral votes to align with their gerrymandered Congressional districts is just one more attempt to achieve that end. They are morally bankrupt and have their heads so far up their asses that they don’t even feel the need to deny it. The end for them justifies any means. To pull the teeth out of the VRA will allow those places affected by it to backslide into their Jim Crow era and provide more opportunity to disenfranchise minority voters who largely vote Democratic. Those in pursuit of revoking the Voter Rights Act are despicable.

  • G l e n n C o n t r a r i a n

    You know what today’s Republican party is missing? Graciousness. Reagan had it, and so does Bush 41 even now. But today, it seems that any Republican active in the party that says aught that is complimentary towards a Democrat, and that Republican suddenly becomes a RINO.

    Just ask Chris Christie.

  • G l e n n C o n t r a r i a n

    Doc –

    I can also see the point of view of certain stubborn Southern counties who probably feel that applying for a removal of federal oversight would be an admission that they were in the wrong to begin with. Remember that a lot of folks down there still haven’t reconciled themselves to the fact that they lost a war that ended a century and a half ago. They’re hardly likely to exhibit much respect for a meddlin’ law passed by a bunch of Northern carpetbaggers.

    That’s the mindset I grew up with – it was the War of Northern Aggression. But by the same token, what you said simply illustrates the continued need for the Voting Rights Act, because there are so many racists there – many who are in positions of power – who would have zero compunction about hindering the black vote, who think that the VRA really is nothing more than a ‘racial entitlement’ as Justice Scalia put it.

    For instance, former governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi is still a major mover and shaker in GOP politics. He said that when he was growing up in Yazoo City in the 1960’s, the racism wasn’t bad at all. But I’ve been through Yazoo City at least a hundred times and I know what I saw both before and after I unlearned the racist mindset I’d been taught.

    The real tragedy is that I’ve no doubt that Haley Barbour – and the vast majority of the racists in the South – really do believe in their hearts that they aren’t racist. But get them alone with people they trust, and they change. They’ll tell you “N****rs do this” and “N****rs do that”, and then they’ll say in complete sincerity, “I ain’t racist or anything – that’s just the way things are!”

    That’s why the VRA needs to be upheld.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Much as you may be right that the Voting Rights Act is still a necessary safeguard, Glenn, I can also see the point of view of certain stubborn Southern counties who probably feel that applying for a removal of federal oversight would be an admission that they were in the wrong to begin with. Remember that a lot of folks down there still haven’t reconciled themselves to the fact that they lost a war that ended a century and a half ago. They’re hardly likely to exhibit much respect for a meddlin’ law passed by a bunch of Northern carpetbaggers.

    If the main bone of contention is those provisions, then – inadequate or not – what’s noteworthy about that Wikipedia list is the nonspecificity of the examples detailed. They’re by no means confined to the South and in fact the only truly “southern” incident listed concerned long lines at polling stations, which might be down to a concerted effort to deter certain demographics from voting but might just as easily be because the local election officials couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery.

  • G l e n n C o n t r a r i a n

    Ajay –

    Vote Democratic always!

    I’m quite liberal and served as an alternate state delegate for Hillary back in ’08, but that’s a statement I’d never, ever make. Woodrow Wilson was a Democrat, and he never once mentioned the Spanish Flu in public even though it killed nearly a million Americans (our national population was barely 100M) in four months. On the other hand, Eisenhower was a Republican whom I’d gladly vote for today.


    The Voting Rights Act (VRA) must be upheld by the supreme court: Discrimination is alive today unfortunately; Liberty and justice for all is openly sabotaged and the Supreme Court is inviting trouble of great magnitudnal proportions if it dares to fail its ultimate mandate: to uphold everyone’s constitutional rights. We not only need to keep the protections in the current Voting Rights Act, it should be expanded. The numerous despicable attempts to restrict voting made during the last election cycle are proof of that. Anyone who truly believes the VRA is obsolete needs to recognize, given last years voter suppression efforts, the Jim Crowe era is biding its time, lurking in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to rear its head once again. The entire nation will speak against it because the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is not about political parties; the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is about individual rights protection. Bank on it! it is time to review; the Supreme Court’s “entitlements” as, it is no longer acting as an unbiased institution and that, your magistrates , can be amended. get up and do your job or we will make it happen! count on it! Now Even if you are dumb enough to believe that all is OK with the world and there are no reasons to have the voting rights law on the books. Then why are the the parties at opposite end’s on this ? Why are the Republicans in America trying to keep people from the poles ? Well I will tell you what I think. I think there may be a dozen or two, man and women in America that have the means to buy the power it wants to call all shots in this Country. The only way they can obtain this right now is get the people they went in office. To buy them so to say. But they know they can be stopped at the voting polls.They know the more that get out and vote there chances are reduced substantially. George Will knows this and should be ashamed. He say 47 years old. Is that old ? I don’t think so. Look at the constitution, at that II Amendment a lot older right. SS, Medicare, still very new in the big picture. But look at who wants to change them. Not working men and women, no the big bosses. They do not like to mach payments that is what this is all about. They did not like it back in the 1930s and they do not like it now. So Americans do not be fooled and all of you older people that now have this little benefit fight like h— to keep it just as it is. It just might be all there is between eating and striving !!

    All the republicans crapping about The Voting Rights Act (VRA) on this board and the likes of you in the REPUBLICAN House should move aside in 2014 because the REPUBLICANS are the crux of the problem. President Obama won the elections of 2008 AND 2012 fair and square but the REPUBLICANS are not allowing him to govern through their rule of RECORD number of filibusters in the Senate and the HOUSE of REPUBLICANS has achieved nothing since it came to power in 2010. In 2014 its the REPUBLICAN’s time to go and let OBAMA our democratically elected PRESIDENT rule the country and leave a legacy behind like the achievements of the 2008-2010 years when DEMOCRATS had the House Senate and the Presidency. We want the obstructionist REPUBLICANS out of the way in 2014. We want our House and Senate back in the DEMOCRATIC hands so we can govern and achieve something. All these doomsday fiscal deadlines that REPUBLICANS keep pushing on the country will haunt them in 2014!! Mark my words. March 4th 2013. Vote Democratic always!

    “The BIBLE”, the mini-series on HISTORY channel starting 3/3/13 Sundays at 7pm CT coming from Mark Burnett has got to be really good. It is on HISTORY Channel starting on 3/3/13 on Sundays 7 pm CT Channel 55 on TWC Time Warner Cable. Check out the latest Bible trailer by going here: http://histv.co/XZmj4s What are you most looking forward to watching in the series premiere on 3.3.13 at 8/7c? On HISTORY channel 55 on Time Warner Cable (TWC).

  • Igor

    The Republican party was taken over by Jim Crow southerners, still cherishing their dream that The South Will Rise Again.

    Even northern Jim Crow politicians are getting into the act, witness the voter suppression rules in Pennsylvania, etc.

    I suppose they consider it a bonus to bring back anti-woman laws (Jane Crow?).

    Thankfully, the republican party has plenty of room for them, and so they find a ready home.

  • troll

    …there are 57 seditious house members and 14 traitorous senators currently serving their alien masters

    that’s what I heard anyway

  • They know who they are.

    Sadly, Clav, I think a lot of them genuinely don’t.

  • Clav

    to smugly sit back and tell yourself that they’re all just as bad is a false equivalency.

    Where in my comment above do I say that?

    And you can call it sarcasm till the cows come home; doesn’t make it so. I wrote what I did because the two parties are literally ripping the country apart in their war against each other, and it seems to me the only solution to that is declawing one of them. The Dems are in power now, so it would be stupid in the extreme to stop them.

    And frankly, I think there are a number of politicians currently in office (on both sides, but more Republicans than Democrats) whose behavior often does stray into the realms of sedition and treason.

    They know who they are.

  • Here’s why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is bad policy, outdated, unconstitutional, and ought to be struck down by the Supreme Court

    What’s especially ironic is that the principal use to which Section 5 is put today is forcing jurisdictions to create and maintain racially segregated and gerrymandered voting districts – which is completely at odds with the original ideals of the Civil Rights Movement.

    There are other federal laws available to protect the rights of voters, and they don’t raise the problems that Section 5 does.

  • Glen Contrarian

    Clavos –

    You really don’t get the liberal mindset, do you? While there are a very few liberal fire-breathers, you’ll find that we’re generally not so eager to go claim that others are guilty of sedition or treason unless we’ve got good reason to do so.

    I’ve posted a couple of articles in the past referencing research that seemed to show that generally speaking, yes, liberals and conservatives do think differently. That doesn’t mean that conservatives aren’t compassionate or that liberals can’t be trusted with our national security, but we do have different ways of thinking.

    Most obvious is how liberals and conservatives perceive threats. Conservatives are generally more likely to take perceived threats seriously than are liberals…and that’s why fear-based advertising is more effective with conservatives than with liberals.

    And that’s precisely what’s behind the language you used in your comment. Words like “sedition”, “treason”, “Machiavellian”, “unAmerican”, and “diabolical” simply don’t push the same buttons for liberals as they do for conservatives.

    Yes, I know you were simply laying on the sarcasm rather thickly, but that’s not what’s important. What is important is that now that of our two major parties, one is now mostly (but not completely) liberal, whereas the other is becoming ever more hardline conservative to the point that Chris Christie – whose approval rating is 56% among the Democrats – was not invited to CPAC whereas Sarah Palin’s being asked to speak there again.

    And one more thing, Clavos – beware of the false equivalencies. The Democrats aren’t perfect – you’ve seen me criticize them (and Obama) too – but what the Republicans are doing is beyond the pale, and to smugly sit back and tell yourself that they’re all just as bad is a false equivalency. For instance, we can see that leaders from both parties are in support of the Patriot Act (though Obama did let much of it lapse), but can you point out any examples of the Democrats pushing any kind of legislation that would prevent others from voting, or would diminish the meaning of the votes of others since, say, the mid-eighties (which is IMO when the polarization of our parties really began)?

    Can you? And if not, can you say why that is (without resorting to sarcasm or facetiousness)?

  • Clav

    You know, Glenn, at least part of the blame for the Republicans’ antics can be laid at the feet of the Democrats.

    Wimps that they are, instead of actually doing something about the Republicans, they merely stand by, wringing their hands and whining about the “growing Republican contempt for democracy,” instead of taking action.

    Petition the Justice department to indict the republican leaders on charges of sedition, or even treason, for their actions. Campaign hard against them out on the hustings; get the message out about how Machiavellian the Republicans are (and they definitely are, very successfully so); how unamerican they are, how diabolical they are (there is one Democrat who does that and does it well, but only one: Obama).

    As long as all you do is cry and whine (see above), they won’t stop. Jailing some of their leaders will get their attention.