Updated: Mar 15, 2021
Whenever there is an election there is the inevitable “post mortem” when the losing side dusts off its bruises and tries to figure out what went wrong. Often, there is a change in leadership at the party level and a change in strategy to appeal to a wider range of voters.
Like so many things, the events that followed the 2020 elections defy this long-held practice. Instead, Republicans are launching on a path of redistricting to their advantage, limiting voter participation, and promoting the Big Lie of a stolen election.
Any one of these could have the effect of changing the electoral map and alter the balance of power in the 2022 midterm elections, which is why the results of the 2020 elections were so crucial. Despite winning the White House and majority control of the Senate, Democrats are in the minority in most state houses. It is here that Republicans hope to tip the balance of power by using various means to skew voting in their favor.
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Gerrymandering is the process by which Congressional districts are drawn in favor of the political party in power. This has resulted in some very wide-ranging, and often contorted, district lines being created. With Republicans in control, their aim is to draw district lines that are to their advantage, leading to more representatives in Congress, and ultimately, more control of the governmental process. This could stymie President Biden’s agenda similar to the way they fought President Obama’s legislative agenda.
Representation, at least in the House of Representatives , is based upon population, which is why the 2020 census was vital to determining the number of members of Congress each state had. The greater the population, the more representatives in Congress.
So, with a larger population and greater representation, it would make sense that the Trump administration would want an accurate census count. Except, they didn’t. Instead his administration attempted to alter the results of the census by excluding unauthorized immigrants in the count. The result would be lower representation, but Trump reasoned that these immigrants, despite not having voting rights, could vote Democratic, thereby costing him the election.
The coronavirus pandemic caused many states to change the way people voted. Many states expanded absentee voting by easing the reasons people could use to claim the right to vote by mail. Some states sent absentee ballots only to those who requested them, while others mailed ballots to every registered voter in their state. This led to widespread allegations of voter fraud and a rigged election. This despite the fact that Republicans won a majority of statewide races while losing the White House and the Senate.
The resulting backlash was a series of laws being proposed by several states aimed at limiting voter participation in future elections. Forty-three states have proposed 253 bills aimed at suppressing the vote. This in the country that calls itself “the Greatest Democracy in the World”.
These bills are meant to limit absentee balloting, shorten early voting times, require multiple voter IDs and eliminate Sunday voting. Each of these measures is aimed at limiting voter participation from primarily minority populations, which have historically elected Democratic lawmakers.
To counter Republican efforts to suppress the votes, Democrats in Congress have passed H. R. 1, or the For the People Act of 2021. This bill, which will have a very difficult time getting passed in the Senate, where a supermajority (60 votes) is required for passage, unless there is an agreement to end the filibuster; a move opposed by President Biden and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. The Senate is evenly divided, 50-50, but Vice President Kamala Harris holds the deciding vote, which is why Democrats have control.
After President Biden’s COVID Relief Plan, H.R 1 is Democrats top legislative priority. If passed, it would end gerrymandering, automatically register voters, permit same day voter registration, enhance ballot accuracy and even have contingency plans for natural disasters and our current pandemic, as well as other provisions to end voter suppression.
The very nature of H.R. 1 is in direct opposition to the voter suppression efforts of the states. This inevitably will set up a confrontation in the courts as the never ending battle between federal intervention and states’ rights again takes center stage. This is indeed ironic since Republicans sought to interfere with the voting rights of other states as they asked the Supreme Court to overturn the mail-in ballots of states where Trump lost. Now they will claim that H.R 1 goes too far in forcing the states to adhere to federal standards for voting.
The Big Lie
Of course none of this would be such a major issue if not for “The Big Lie”; Donald Trump’s false claim that the results of the 2020 presidential election were somehow stolen. Cries of “Stop the Steal” and a “rigged election” were directly responsible for the January 6th insurrection.
While gerrymandering would certainly have taken place regardless of who won the election, it’s being done in the shadow of an election loss where the incumbent tried to alter the results in favor of his party. Efforts to suppress the vote are a direct result of Trump’s election loss.
And while Trump supporters bristle at the comparisons to Nazi Germany, the term “The Big Lie” is directly associated with Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. Like Goebbels, Trump has convinced his followers that his election “loss” never happened. Indeed there are still members of Congress, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) who openly support the Big Lie, even as they carry out their duties.
All of these, gerrymandering, voter suppression and the Big Lie are eating away at the fabric of democracy. The refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power for the first time in our history will forever be a stain on our history. And it’s uncertain what the future will hold.
Will we move on and return to normal, or has the American Dream vanished forever?