Memo to Republicans on Suppressing Votes: We Americans Love Our Democracy
President Joe Biden gave an extraordinary speech on voting rights this week at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The speech came at an extraordinary time: his predecessor continues to spread the big lie that Biden didn’t really win the 2020 election, several states are imposing voting restrictions, and in Texas, Democratic lawmakers have fled the government. State, leaving the state legislature without a quorum, in order to stop the effort to make voting more difficult.
There could be good faith disagreements over how to administer an election. For example, I don’t like early voting. Events can happen in the last week of an election and a significant percentage of the electorate may have already voted. This happened during the Nevada Democratic primary in 2020, where many residents had already voted before Senator Elizabeth Warren sent out Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s $ 500 million candidacy in exactly one minute. My favorite idea that Election Day should always be a public holiday fell through.
Regardless of the methodology, however, there was a consensus that getting more people to vote is a good thing. No more. Donald Trump cannot bring himself to admit defeat. Further, he decided that the best way for him to get the White House back was to allege electoral fraud and to encourage legislatures in Republican-controlled states to pass new restrictions on voting, especially restrictions that make more difficult the vote of the poor.
Biden didn’t hesitate to remind his audience that Trump’s bruised ego is the foundation of these efforts to restrict voters and call them by name: non-American. The heart of his speech was as follows:
The 2020 election – this is not hyperbole to suggest – the most scrutinized and comprehensive expression of the will of the people in the history of this nation. It should be celebrated – the example of America at its best. But instead, we continue to see an example of human nature at its worst – something darker and more sinister.
In America, if you lose, you accept the results. You follow the Constitution. You try again. You don’t call the facts “wrong” and then try to derail the American experience just because you are not satisfied. It is not state spirit.
It is not state spirit; it is selfishness. It is not democracy; it is the denial of the right to vote. He removes. He captivates.
The root of this attack on democracy is Trump’s psyche and selfishness.
The passage also captures the connection between political democracy and our sense of fair play, something we teach our children. Just as the rules also apply for a game of baseball to work, the rules for our elections must also apply for the results to be legitimate.
It’s not just the elections. Our sense of fair play should extend to other aspects of the culture of a democratic nation: a free press; freedom of expression; an independent judiciary; freedom of assembly; vibrant civic organizations; and religious freedom to remind us that there are truths and realities beyond the horizon of our human affairs. These are not Jeffersonian subtleties. They are the fabric of our democratic order and anyone, left or right – and yes, there are those on the left who have become oblivious to the value of fair play – anyone who questions them endangers our democracy.
Not all threats are created equal, of course, and in his speech, Biden clearly identified what is the most serious threat our democracy faces:
It is no longer just a question of who can vote or of facilitating the voting of eligible voters. It’s about who counts the vote – who counts, whether your vote counts or not. It’s about moving from independent electoral administrators who work for the people to polarized state legislatures and partisan actors who work for political parties.
For me, it’s simple: it’s electoral subversion. It is the most dangerous threat to the vote and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history.
As I noted earlier, the Texas legislature attempted to insert a provision that would have allowed elected judges to reject election results without any evidence of voter fraud. They removed the provision and now claim to know nothing about it, but only did so under pressure. Trump is also taking steps to install sidekicks in key positions to ensure they meet his expectations in 2024, including in Georgia, where he backs Representative Jody Hice’s candidacy against incumbent Brad Raffensperger who declined. to “find” voices. for Trump last year.
This week, we received excerpts from an upcoming book on the final year of the Trump presidency by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker of the Washington Post. They report that in the days leading up to the Jan.6 insurgency, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned his aides that Trump may attempt a coup. “It’s a Reichstag moment,” Milley reportedly told his staff. “The Gospel of the Führer.”
Let it permeate. No wonder Republicans in Congress did not want an investigation into the events of January 6. You can bet Milley will be called to testify.
Neither Biden’s speech nor future testimony from Milley will deter those who still wave their Trump flags or attend his bizarre rallies. On Fox News, they mocked Biden’s speech and Laura Ingraham attacked the military after Milley’s quotes became public. Note to Ingraham: How did the military attack go for someone I’m sure is one of your heroes, Senator Joseph McCarthy?
The church fathers who gathered at Vatican II understood what Biden was talking about. In Gaudium et Spes, We read:
There is no better way to establish political life on a truly human basis than by fostering an inner sense of justice and benevolence, and of service to the common good, and by reinforcing core beliefs as to the true nature of the political community and the purpose, exercise of law and scope of public authority (paragraph 73).
They understood the importance of political participation:
It is entirely in accordance with human nature that there exist legal and political structures offering all citizens in an ever better way and without any discrimination the concrete possibility of participating freely and actively in establishing the legal foundations of the community. policy and the direction of public affairs, in determining the mandates of various public bodies and in the election of political leaders (paragraph 75).
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is Roman Catholic. How does his support for these restrictive voting measures fit in with this clear ecclesial teaching? Will the fanatics among the American bishops insist on being denied Communion?
The base of today’s Trumpite Party is beyond rational discourse, but I hope moderate Republicans and Independents were listening to Biden and will listen to Milley. We grow up with hyperbole hurled at us, but Biden and Milley’s words weren’t hyperbolic. We really haven’t seen such an attack on democracy since the Civil War.
Trump can reshape the electorate in a way he didn’t intend to. We Americans love our democracy. We know that the freedoms we enjoy are what prompted many of our ancestors to come to this country and for which hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen fought and died. The stakes are high and Biden’s speech exposed them for all to see.