Tag Archives: voting

The Beginning Of The End?

These days, optimism comes hard. But there are reasons for hope.

For one thing, despite the incredibly discouraging fact that upwards of seventy million Americans voted for a racist incompetent who posed an obvious danger to the stability of the entire world, eighty-one million voted otherwise.

And despite the fact that we are seeing something akin to a civil war between Americans who take the country’s aspirations for equality seriously and the White nationalists and their fellow-travelers who fear loss of unearned privilege, Georgia has elected a Black Senator. (It is equally notable that Georgia also elected a Jewish one, since–as the photos coming out of the insurrection at the Capitol illustrated–racism and anti-Semitism are inextricably entwined.)

An article in Time Magazine, published a mere two days after the assault on the Capitol, insisted that Southern resistance to Black equality is on the wane–that the South deserves a “New Political Story.”

The author referenced the fact that Ted Cruz–aka “Mr. Despicable”– had modeled his performative “objections” to the receipt of Electoral College votes on the “infamous and racist” Hayes-Tilden Compromise of 1876.  That “compromise” ended Reconstruction; it gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency in exchange for the removal of federal troops protecting Black citizens in the South.

That agreement led to a nearly century-long reign of racial terror that reinvigorated the Ku Klux Klan, subjected Black people to quotidian forms of racial terror and mob violence, violently ejected Black men from both government office and the public sphere through lynching and the threat of it, and subjected Black women to rape at the hands of ravenous white men.

The author says that it is this violent racial past–a past that I’m pretty confident is not taught in our nation’s history classes–  makes the Georgia Senate elections of Warnock and Ossoff so significant, and she counsels against accepting “the narrative that retrograde 19th and mid-20th century racial politics are winning.”

They are not. Do not mistake the death rattle for a victory cry. And do not let the war cries of angry white people drown out the resounding and clarion calls from Black women organizers and strategists and voters of color who have made clear that Trump’s America is not their America.

The article surveys other deep-south states and finds Black elected officials in previously unlikely places. And while she concedes that White backlash has often won the day, she insists that grassroots organizing and GOTV campaigns can prevent that result this time around.

The article made me think about the Darren Walker observation I shared previously, to the effect that democracy is the antidote to inequality. I truly believe that if every citizen who is entitled to cast a ballot is allowed to do so, White nationalists will lose. It isn’t simply because the ranks of Americans of color are growing, it’s because Americans of good will–Americans who embrace the unrealized aspirations of our constituent documents–outnumber those who are desperately clinging to their privileged status.

I want to believe that the ugliness we are seeing truly is a “death rattle” of a tribalism based on skin color, gender and religion. But I also know that people who fear a loss of status will not be defeated by warm thoughts, by sermons from authentic Christians, or by appeals to their own material self-interest. (Most of them define self-interest culturally, not economically.)

Stacey Abrams and other Black women in Georgia have demonstrated the way forward. Those of us who live in other “Southern” states (I would include Indiana in that cohort) need to take a page from her book. We need to identify the people of good will–of every color, gender and religion/non-religion–and get them to the polls. But we also need to abolish all of the structural impediments that have been erected to prevent or discourage people from voting–starting with gerrymandering.

As I keep saying, we have our work cut out for us.

 

For And Against

It’s a political truism that turnout improves when voters are motivated by negativity. In other words, the impulse to vote against a candidate, party or issue is stronger than the desire to register support for those of whom we approve.

We’ve certainly seen that play out in the Presidential election. I happen to be one of those people who really, really likes Joe Biden, for reasons not relevant to this post, but it has been clear for some time that hostility to Donald Trump and his enablers is driving many more people to the polls than warm feelings for Joe.

Anger and disgust are also playing a major role in contests for the Senate, and  eye-popping fundraising totals have been one result. Friends of mine who never appear on lists of big donors–and who rarely give financial support to candidates outside their own districts–have been sending multiple small-dollar donations to Democrats around the country who are running against Republicans they find particularly odious.

I doubt that all the money going to Amy McGrath will allow her to edge out Mitch McConnell–it is, after all, Kentucky. I hope I’m wrong. I can think of no individual who has done more harm to America than “the turtle,” and I would love to see McGrath wipe that smarmy smirk off McConnell’s face. Whatever the result, the enormous success of McGrath’s fundraising testifies to the extent to which McConnell is a hated figure.

I do have hopes for Jaime Harrison, who is polling dead even with “Miss Lindsey” Graham. Harrison is a truly impressive candidate, but the astonishing success of his fundraising  is more attributable to the number of Americans who detest Graham than it is to his considerable virtues.

Frank Bruni recently wrote that the Harrison-Graham contest has become a “national obsession.”

It was a bit of news that came and went quickly amid the fury of political developments these days, but last weekend Jaime Harrison, the South Carolina Democrat who is fighting to unseat Lindsey Graham, announced that he had not merely broken the record for fund-raising for a Senate candidate in a single quarter. He had shattered it.

From July through September, Harrison took in about $57 million. That was nearly $20 million more than Beto O’Rourke, the previous record-holder, collected during the same span two years ago, when he waged his ultimately unsuccessful battle against Ted Cruz in Texas.

As Bruni observed, Harrison is the recipient of so much money because he’s the vessel of so much hope.

No other political contest in 2020 offers quite the same referendum on the ugliness of Donald Trump’s presidency. No victory would rebut Trump’s vision of America as emphatically and powerfully as Harrison’s would.

Remember the time before Trump’s Electoral College win, when Graham said the way to make America great again was to “tell Donald Trump to go to hell”? Now he’s not only Trump’s adoring golf buddy, he’s his obedient factotum. (His U-Turn on Trump was so dramatic, it raises speculation that Trump has something on him and is blackmailing him.)

Graham’s most odious, most despicable “U Turn,” of course, has been on vivid display in the frantic and unseemly haste to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

When he assisted Mitch McConnell in stealing Merrick Garland’s seat on the Supreme Court, Graham claimed that he’d never consider, let alone promote, a Supreme Court nominee in the last year of a president’s term. We’ve all seen the footage of him telling journalists to “mark his words and use them against him if the need ever arose.”

Somehow, the word “shameless” seems inadequate…

As Bruni wrote,

One of the main story lines of the Trump years has been the spectacular moral capitulation of most Republican lawmakers, who junked supposedly cherished principles to placate a president whose hold on his base and capacity for vengeance mattered more to them than honor, than patriotism, than basic decency. Graham is the poster boy of that surrender, Complicitus Maximus, in part because his 180-degree turn to Trump required that he show his back to his close friend and onetime hero John McCain.

It’s nice that Jaime Harrison is so admirable and qualified, but that $57 million dollars is a measure of how detestable most honorable Americans find Graham.

The massive early voting turnouts we are seeing would appear to confirm the political premise that more people turn out to express disgust than approval. Let’s hope that holds true even in the deep red states…

 

An Omen?

In Indiana, early voting started yesterday, and my husband and I got to the City-County Building at 8:00 a.m., when the polling place in the Clerk’s office was to open.

We didn’t stay to vote–because the line, at 8:03, already wound entirely around the block–and our blocks are long. (My husband, who just turned 88 and has a bad ankle, cannot stand for long, so we decided to take a folding chair and try again Friday.) There were several hundred people there, before the Clerk’s office even opened, determined to cast their ballots, and while impressions can be misleading, I’m pretty sure they weren’t Trump voters. It was beautiful.

Posts to Facebook showed the line replenishing through the day, and some people reported a three-hour wait to vote.

Granted, we live in a city, and in a world increasingly polarized into red and blue, cities of reasonable size are all deep blue. If there is similar turnout in the rural, deeply red parts of Indiana, we’re unlikely to turn the whole of our retrograde state blue–but that incredibly long line was immensely heartening.

I know that every election is touted as “most important.” But this time, it is clearly true. This election is about policy, of course–but at its center, it is a morality play. It will test whether our fellow Americans are prepared to recommit to the American ideals about equality that we’ve yet to achieve–or whether a majority of us will adamantly reject the goal of e pluribus unum–out of the many, one.

At its core, this election is about whether we will disavow or endorse bigotry.

The moral significance of this election is why I am really, really hoping that Trump survives COVID-19. As conservative columnist Bret Stephens wrote in yesterday’s New York Times,

We wish him well because if, God forbid, the president were to die this month, he would go down undefeated, a martyr to the tens of millions of Americans who’ve treated him as a savior. Trump’s death would guarantee a long life for Trumpism, with his children as its principal beneficiaries.

We wish him well because Trump’s opponents — Democrats and NeverTrumpers alike — need a clean political victory. If Trump survives but is forced to endure a difficult recovery, it could put the hideousness of last week’s debate behind him, mute the criticism of his performance and soften his image in the eyes of wavering voters. The longer he lingers, the better his chances may be, at least politically.

We wish him well because if illness keeps him sidelined and he winds up losing the election, he will surely blame the disease for the loss. This could well be untrue (see above), but it won’t stop his supporters from believing it. Again, Trump the man needs to live — and lose — because it’s the only way the Trump cult might die.

For me, by far the most depressing aspect of the last twelve years has been the need to come to terms with an ugly reality–the number of Americans who embrace white nationalism, who have “come out” and shown the rest of us who they really are.

Until Obama’s election, I naively thought that the percentage of the population that was racist and hateful was relatively small. I was stunned when the rocks they’d been hiding under lifted, and they crawled out, spewing venom; I was demoralized and disheartened by their enthusiastic agreement with Trump’s insistence that civility, empathy and human-kindness are evidence of weakness in the face of “political correctness.”

This election will tell us how plentiful these people really are. It will tell me if my longstanding belief in the essential goodness and common sense of most Americans was hopelessly naive, or justified.

I hope that line at the City-County Building was an omen.

The GOP Platform

As most readers of this blog undoubtedly know, David  Frum was a speechwriter for George W. Bush. These days, he is a “Never Trumper” who contributes to  The Atlantic, and he has weighed in on the GOP’s decision to  forego a platform in 2020.

Frum says  that, despite their reluctance to publish a document outlining  where the party stands, there is, in fact, wide agreement among party members on a number of policies.

The Republican Party of 2020 has lots of ideas. I’m about to list 13 ideas that command almost universal assent within the Trump administration, within the Republican caucuses of the U.S. House and Senate, among governors and state legislators, on Fox News, and among rank-and-file Republicans.

As Frum sees it, the question isn’t why the GOP lacks  policies to put in a platform. The question is, why is the party so reluctant to publish the policies that virtually all today’s  Republicans support?  The answer  to that question becomes pretty obvious  when Frum lists the thirteen areas of substantial Republican agreement.

1. The first–no surprise–is reducing taxes on the rich. (That  seems to be the  sum total  of  Republican economic policy.)

2. Cutting taxes has been Republican policy for many years; Frum’s second “plank,” however, is  new. The GOP overwhelmingly subscribes to the belief that the coronavirus is a “much-overhyped problem” that will soon burn itself out. Since  it’s overhyped and “just  a flu,”states should reopen their economies as rapidly as possible. (The casualties that  ensue are a cost worth paying.) And wearing masks is useless.

3.Speaking of “overhyped”–Republicans overwhelmingly believe that climate change isn’t a real problem. They doubt that it is happening, but even if it  is,  they’re confident  that  it will be countered by the technologies of tomorrow. Meanwhile,” regulations to protect the environment unnecessarily impede economic growth.”

4.. China is our enemy, and our relations with China should be  assessed as “zero  sum.” “When China wins, the U.S. loses, and vice versa.”

5. Speaking of foreign policy, our longstanding alliances are outdated.

The days of NATO and the World Trade Organization are over. The European Union should be treated as a rival, the United Kingdom and Japan should be treated as subordinates, and Canada, Australia, and Mexico should be treated as dependencies.

6. Health care is a consumer good,  and people should make their own best deals. The government shouldn’t be involved in making rules  for the insurance market. People who can  pay more should get more, and people who can’t pay  will just  have  to rely on Medicaid, accept charity, or go without.

7. Voting isn’t a right;  it’s a privilege.

States should have wide latitude to regulate that privilege in such a way as to minimize voting fraud, which is rife among Black Americans and new immigrant communities. The federal role in voting oversight should be limited to preventing Democrats from abusing the U.S. Postal Service to enable fraud by their voters.

8. Racism is no longer a real problem, but “reverse racism” is.

9. The courts should  eliminate the notion that a woman has a constitutional right to sexual privacy, or control over her own body.

10. The post-Watergate ethics reforms were too strict, and conflict-of-interest rules simply keep wealthy, successful businesspeople from entering public service. The Trump administration has met all reasonable ethical standards.

11. Build the wall! If immigrants do  manage to enter the country, delay citizenship  as  long as possible.

12. Aside from a few  “bad apples,”  the policeman is your  friend. Lawlessness is a  result  of  groups  like Black Lives Matter.

13. In the face of the “unfair onslaught” against President Donald Trump by the media and the “deep state,” his “occasional” excesses should be excused as pardonable reactions.

Frum  says that this tacit platform works–to the extent it does– by motivating Trump supporters, exciting  the remaining Republican  base. If it were  to be spelled out,  however, even in an abbreviated form, as I have done above, it would invite backlash among a  majority of Americans.

As Frum  says,  “This is a platform for a party that talks to itself, not to the rest of the country. And for those purposes, the platform will succeed most to the extent that it is communicated only implicitly, to those receptive to its message.”

Unbelievable  as it  is, a substantial minority of  voters find these positions rational,  even inspiring. That minority will work for the  election of candidates  wedded to these positions, and  they will vote. Those of us who see  this  “platform” as appalling absolutely  must  turn out in great numbers. We have to defeat the efforts  to  suppress our votes. We  have  to vote  early,  vote absentee,  or mask up and march to our  polling  places  on election  day–whatever it takes.

Get out the vote has never been more important. America’s  future  depends on turnout.

State By State By FiveThirtyEight

There has rarely been an election where turnout and (as Paul Ogden has repeatedly reminded us) accurate counting of the ballots cast by the voters who do turn out, has been more important.

In recognition of that reality, a number of state and national efforts are being made to help people register  and cast a vote: websites like Indiana Citizen, JustGoVote and a number of others–some, like that produced by NBC News, that are really impressive– have joined the official sites maintained by government agencies and the more established nonprofit sites like Ballotpedia.

There is no dearth of information and it is accessible to even the least “politically connected” voter.

That said, the recent state by state voting guide prepared by FiveThiryEight.com is one of the most comprehensive compilations I’ve seen. The “landing page” is color-coded, showing at a glance how difficult or easy it is to vote in each state, whether each state allows voting by mail, and if so under what circumstances (are excuses required? If so, what are they? Does fear of the pandemic count?)

For each state, the site’s text explains how to register, how to request and submit an absentee ballot, whether the state allows early voting, and whether the state plans to close polling places or otherwise make in-person voting more difficult. It also has a category called “what we’re watching.”

Here’s the information on Indiana’s page (without, however, the colorful graphics that make it both attractive and easier to read.) There is a similar page for every state.

Indiana
Registration
Register to vote by Oct. 5. You can register online here.

Voting early
Counties must offer early voting Oct. 6-9, Oct. 13-16, Oct. 19-24, Oct. 26-31 and Nov. 2. Counties may also offer it Oct. 10-12, Oct. 17-18, Oct. 25 and Nov. 1; check with local election officials for locations and the exact schedule in your area.

In-person voting
So far, no plans to close polling places have been announced.

Requesting an absentee ballot
In order to vote absentee, you must have an excuse, such as being age 65 or older, sick or out of town on Election Day. You can apply for an absentee ballot online here. Election officials must receive your application by Oct. 22.

Submitting an absentee ballot
Absentee ballots must be received by noon on Nov. 3.

What we’re watching
Indiana waived the need for an excuse to vote absentee in its June primary, but it may not do so in the general election. A pair of lawsuits are still pending that would allow anyone to vote absentee and extend the deadline by which ballots must be received.

Share the URL and share it widely– then prepare to help friends and neighbors cast their ballots! Make sure they have the documentation required by our ridiculous “Voter ID” law, offer them a ride to the polls, call them the day before and again in the afternoon of November 3d…whatever it takes.

And if you want or need a reason to work harder than you ever did before to get SANE people to the polls, go listen to Nate Silver’s 2020 election forecast.