Recently we saw a series of bad-faith efforts by Republican leaders to undermine majority rule across our democratic republic. Then the self-styled Dowager President from Mar-a-Lago emerged at the annual Conservative Political Action Committee meeting in Florida. Along with him were two of his handmaids cleverly disguised as U.S. Senators. Once more, they amplified The Big Lie and vowed to fight on. The CPAC performances made this cautionary essay even more germane.
Let’s start in our Nation’s Capital
It appears that Republicans in Congress have decided to turn their backs on their constituents and ignore their needs, which are meet by President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American rescue plan. This legislation decisively addresses a variety of needs for a national response to the dual crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic itself is a public health crisis, and controlling the illness and death demands more resources that families, state, and local governments have available to control its spread and prevent more disease and death. As the pandemic has spread, the economy has taken repeated blows. Unemployment remains high, and production and distribution of goods and services have also suffered. At this point, Americans need critical resources. The American rescue plan is necessary to control the disease’s health threat and shore up the faltering economy.
The Democratic Congressional leadership has figured out how the essential elements of this plan can be accomplished with their slim majority in the House and the Vice President’s tie-breaking vote in the Senate. This allows the Republicans to check their spines at the door and vote against the “fiscal excesses of the Democrats,” knowing that their constituents will be well-served by the programs they didn’t support.
The Republicans can’t be effectively criticized for blocking benefits and help their constituents will get anyway. They can walk away from needing to vote with the Democrats to get a result they know their people and their state and local governments need to suppress the pandemic and recharge the economy. Republicans can take some credit but avoid being tarred by their so-called “base” for – perish the thought – cooperating with spendthrift socialist Democrats. So, legislation to fund a needed federal response to this national health and economic mega-crisis will work its way through Congress solely with Democratic votes (shades of 2009).
Outside the Beltway
Meanwhile, last week we witnessed the massive failure of Texas’ energy production and distribution system due to poor maintenance and failure to prepare for cold weather. At the same time, its Republican leaders blamed a Democratic talking point (the Green New Deal) for the collapse of its power and water systems in the face of cold and snow. The Green New Deal has not been proposed in detail, won any Congressional authorization or appropriation, or governmental implementation.
However, the federal government has responded professionally and responsibly, mobilizing extensive resources without regard to the overt political biases of the governor and other state politicians.
This is a lesson for a 21st century advanced society. We live in an interconnected world. Get over it, Texas.
Closer to Home
And while the Arizona Republicans thought we weren’t looking (or even if they did, they didn’t care), the Arizona state legislature was busy – not looking after the public health and safety, or buttressing the unemployment insurance system or assistance to small businesses impacted by the pandemic. Instead, they looked for quick ways to make the Republican Party more competitive in future state-wide elections. They have been diligently pursuing two methods.
One way is to make it easy to redistrict in a manner favorable to Republican candidates, by clawing back the redistricting authority from the Independent Redistricting Commission, freshly reorganized and waiting for census data (which will be late due to the prior administration’s ham-handed attempts to monkey with the population data). Like the last decade’s experience, this will probably end up in court where the Supreme Court ruled twice in favor of the IRC. However, hope springs eternal in the Republican breast with a newly rejiggered Supreme Court with more justices who might decide in their favor. Keep an eye on your representatives in both houses, and even if they are Democrats, let them know how you feel and that you care.
The second way includes obtuse and complex ways to suppress the vote, especially in communities and populations with a pesky tendency to vote for Democratic party candidates. The Brennan Center for Justice is tracking these bills in state legislatures reports that in Arizona, 24 voter suppression bills had been introduced as of February 19. Who knows how many more have been introduced since then if the Republican worthies have found their crayons? These bills strike at institutions such as:
- Voter registration
- Purging voter rolls
- Mail-in voting (the “PEVL”)
- Voter ID
- Polling places
- Early voting
- Provisional ballots and even
- Selection of presidential electors.
None of these are good news, and some are absolutely venal. Arizona is not alone. Some 141 similar bills have been introduced in 32 other states, according to the Brennan Center.
This is how Republicans react to losses in the last two general elections that threaten their stranglehold on the rig of the political game. Although some efforts have been defeated initially, there’s more to come as some zombie bills will be resurrected with different language or provisions. Others will be introduced as reluctant Republicans with a conscience are re-educated about their party’s priorities and their political futures.
All of this behavior works against the foundational principle that we live in a country where the government is of the people, by the people, and for the people, and voting is the way the people express their will.