November 3, 2022

By Roland Watson

Many people say the Republicans are trying to destroy American democracy. I agree with them, but what is the evidence?

Often ignored premises in representative democracy are (1) that the people can vote - they are safely able to cast a ballot; (2) that you can count the vote; (3) that the vote "counts," that the system enshrines the principle of one person one vote; and (4) that the individual with the most votes wins.

This is what the Republicans have done to these assumptions, the essential parameters of a properly functioning democracy.


Republicans - in some states, are pressuring voters - Democrat voters, to try to dissuade them from casting their ballots. This includes intimidation at the polls (and ballot boxes); by limiting the number of polling places available - for some districts, Democrat majority districts, so the people in those districts have to wait for hours; by limiting or eliminating mail-in voting; and also through denying the vote to specific classes of people, including individuals who can't meet strict ID requirements, and also certain felons who have completed their sentences. (In states such as Mississippi individuals convicted of felonies for which Black people are more likely to be arrested - including through aggressive, targeted enforcement, face a lifelong ban. This resulted from Jim Crow laws where officials tailored the list of no voting privileges to these crimes, as an overt attempt to limit the Black vote.)


The ability to accurately count votes with tamper-proof machines remains in place (although the machines in a few locations, illegally handled after the 2020 election by Republican "auditors" granted access by local Republican officials, had to be replaced). However, this is not stopping some Republicans from using other approaches. In Arizona they have demanded hand counts, rather than by machine, and which will both delay the process and leave it open to other tampering - by Republican counters, and declarations of "fraud" - when Democrats win. It seems clear that, in a few states at least, Republicans now want to directly falsify the vote.

The most notorious refusal to count valid votes was when the then Republican-dominated Supreme Court intervened in Florida in 2000, to stop a recount, ensuring that George Bush became President, not Democrat Al Gore. Through this the Court destroyed its legitimacy as a "court," a place of justice, and which precedent has been expanded through many other rulings, including allowing massive sums of "dark money" in election campaigns; the gutting of the Voting Rights Act; and, most recently (by the now even more Republican-dominated "Court"), its efforts to deny other rights, starting with for women through the reversal of Roe v. Wade. The Florida strategy was also pitched by Trump in 2020 when he tried to get a number of states to stop counting ballots while he was ahead. It is of course possible that the Republicans will again seek to do this.


A deeper and even more significant question is, does your vote count - as much as every other person's vote. Republicans use (or benefit from) two ways to ensure that this is not the case, that their votes count more. The first is gerrymandering, when Republican-dominated State Legislatures draw election districts to group large numbers of Democrats into one or a few districts, so the Democrats win them easily and the Republicans win all the others. They then have more seats in the House of Representatives and also the State Assembly. Republicans use gerrymandering much more than the Democrats and also to a far-greater degree, with extremely contorted district boundaries. There is little doubt that if they could they would draw election maps to put every likely Democrat voter into a single district.

A consequence of this is that in states which have, for example, closely balanced Republican and Democrat voter populations, and which one person one vote would infer should have the same number of representatives, there are many more Republican representatives than Democrat.

This practice has been exacerbated by the fact that State Courts and also Federal which have Republican judges accept the gerrymandering.

The second denial of one person one vote is built - institutionally - into the Constitutional structure of the Senate, where each state gets two Senators. Recent trends have seen Republicans do well in rural areas and Democrats in urban and suburban. Republicans therefore get one and in many cases both of the Senators in predominantly rural states, but which also have small populations. This is known as "small state bias." Far more people vote Democrat for the Senator choices - for the last election 18 million more nationwide, but the actual Senate is split almost evenly, because of this bias. The Republicans have a disproportionate advantage in the senior house of Congress, thereby enabling them, as they have done, to block the government and also the appointment of Supreme Court justices. This is an example of Minority Rule, which is anti-democratic.


Finally, there is a similar phenomenon, in this case based on the Constitutional authorization of the Electoral College. This has ensured that some Presidential candidates such as Gore who get the most votes do not actually win. So the choice of the President in such elections has also been Minority Rule.

Both of these flaws though - these anti-democratic historical artifacts - would require Constitutional Amendment to change, and which the Republicans, given their current power, will not permit.

Unfortunately, for the upcoming election there is a new risk. Some Republican officials, following Trump's lead, have decided that they have to win. It doesn't matter what the people say. Reality doesn't matter. They won! If the people vote against their candidates, then the election needs to be overturned (either through using fake electors or by having State officials invalidate the results). No longer satisfied with the different forms of Minority Rule, they are declaring that they and only they can be "elected" government officials.

This is the same as China, Russia, North Korea and Iran. But in their lust for power, and with the backing of their pro-dictatorship media megaphones, they believe they can do it. Their followers appear stupefied, and willing to accept anything. The magnitude of the impact of social media is now so great that many people have lost their ability to reason. This is the greatest threat ever to American Democracy, even more than the Civil War. It is an open question if it will survive.

The only solution is to vote on November 8 (or before where possible), against the Republicans, and not to let anyone stop you. There are more Democrats and Progressive Independents than Republicans. If everyone votes, and notwithstanding everything I just described, we will win.