The True Enemies Of Democracy.

Many Republicans, led by Donald J. Trump, have labeled the press “enemies of the people.” In addition, they have called the Democratic Party an “angry mob.” But the facts are abundantly clear that Republicans are the true enemies of the people. Indeed, today’s Republican Party represents a greater threat to our democracy than any other enemy, foreign or domestic.

That is not a claim that I make lightly.

Take, for example, the 5-4 decision by the conservative majority of the US Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder which gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Immediately following the decision, 846 polling places closed or were moved, especially in areas with large minority populations. And, by 2016, more than 2,000 polling places had closed. Most of these were within states that previously had been under federal oversight.

The attack on the Voting Rights Act was quickly compounded by an onslaught of strict voter ID laws that have disenfranchised thousands of voters – mostly minorities and the elderly who are unable to travel to faraway Motor Vehicle offices to obtain proper IDs. Some are too poor to pay for copies of their birth certificates in order to obtain the new IDs. Some are unable to take time away from work. And some do not have access to transportation.

To more fully understand the impact of these laws, in North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer reported that, at the time the state’s new voter ID law was passed, as many as 800,000 registered voters lacked the necessary ID to allow them to vote! And with similar laws in at least 19 states, imagine how many American citizens can be denied their right to vote!

Another decision by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority allowed states to purge their voter rolls of citizens who have not voted in two consecutive elections. Not surprisingly, the purges have mostly occurred in Republican-controlled states.

More recently, the US Supreme Court ruled that North Dakota (another Republican-controlled state) could deny citizens the right to vote if they did not have a voter ID with a current street address. Since Native Americans living on reservations do not have street addresses, the result is to disenfranchise most of the state’s Native American population. And, in Georgia, the Republican Secretary of State who is running for governor, has put on hold 53,000 voter registrations for inconsistencies with IDs such as differences in abbreviations (Ave vs. Av) and even differences in punctuation. 70 percent of those registrations are for minorities who are most likely to vote for the Republican’s opponent.

In many states, the Republican snakes who control legislatures have drawn serpentine congressional and legislative districts in their own image with the intent of marginalizing Democrats and minorities. In North Carolina, when a Democrat won the governor’s race, the GOP-controlled legislature even passed laws to minimize the governor’s power before he took office.

During the Obama administration, Republicans in the Senate blocked dozens of nominees for judgeships, including Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Most, including Garland, never even received a hearing. As a result, the then-Democratic-controlled Senate changed the rules to end filibusters of judicial nominees. And now that Republicans are in control, they have stacked the courts with two conservative Supreme Court nominees and 84 federal court nominees who will decide cases based on the Republican ideology.

In addition to these threats to civility and majority rule, we must consider the fact that 2 out of the past 5 presidential elections were won by Republicans despite losing the popular vote. The first was stolen with the help of George W. Bush’s brother and the last one with the help of Vladimir Putin.

As evidenced by Trump’s response to Leslie Stahl’s questions about cruelly mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: “Who cares? We won,” it’s clear that Republicans will do anything to win. Even destroy our democracy.

You’ve Gotta Hand It To Conservatives.

Following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the GOP employed the Southern Strategy which was designed to employ racism in order to gain votes from long-time southern Democrats. It worked. As a result of the strategy, Republicans were able to win the White House in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988.

It took Southerners to break the GOP hold in 1976 and in 1992.

But after the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, the GOP lost Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. Seeing that demographics were aligning against them, conservatives employed an equally disturbing strategy. Sure, they continued to appeal to racists after Democrats elected the nation’s first black president. But they based their new strategy on six pillars:

1 – Government obstruction
2 – Corporate political donations
3 – Erasing limits on political donations
4 – Voter suppression
5 – “Model” legislation designed to implement right wing ideology at the state and local levels
6 – The use of conservative-dominated radio and cable TV to relentlessly attack Democrats

These strategies are now almost fully in place. Since 2009, Teapublicans in the Senate have blocked nearly 400 bills and dozens of appointments. The Teapublican-controlled House attempted to shut down the government. The conservative-dominated Supreme Court ignored decades of precedent to rule that money equals free speech; that corporations are people and therefore entitled to contribute to political campaigns; that the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed; and that individuals and corporations should be allowed to spend unlimited amounts on politics.

Concurrently, conservatives realized that it is easier to sneak bills through state legislatures than through Congress. So they began an all-out attack on groups that traditionally fund Democrats, such as labor unions. They have also pushed ideological legislation through ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and similar groups that gave us such ideological bills as Arizona’s racist SB 1070 and legalized discrimination laws such as Arizona’s SB 1062.

As a result of these efforts, corporations now have more power and influence on government (at all levels) than ever before. There has been an avalanche of corporate money from the Koch brothers and others financing political advertising disguised as “issue” ads. There are virtually untraceable millions of in political spending to influence elections. And tens of thousands, if not millions, of minorities, the elderly and the poor will be denied their right to vote in this and future elections.

The tactics have even succeeded in pushing aside dozens of moderate Republican politicians. To make matters worse, Democrats seem to have no real strategy to combat these strategies. And, with few exceptions, Democratic candidates seem to think the best way to be elected is to run away from their party’s principles and pretend they’re Republicans.

Beware The Pendulum.

As a creative director for ad agencies and as a part-time college instructor, I used to teach that social trends and fashions responded like a pendulum with a 360-degree axis. The pendulum freely swings, but never back to exactly the same place twice.

I was reminded of that description while watching the ceremonies marking the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington. In 1963, the US seemed hopelessly racist. In the Jim Crow South, blacks were segregated from whites. African-Americans were denied the right to vote. Peaceful civil rights demonstrators were met with fire hoses, police dogs, beatings and murder.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 began to change that.

In the last two presidential elections, African-Americans voted in record numbers helping to elect the first US president of African-American heritage. (I’ve always marveled that his Irish-American heritage is seldom mentioned because of the color of his skin.)

Obviously, the pendulum has swung a long way from 1963. But it seems to be swinging back.

Since the election of President Obama, numerous states in both the North and the South have passed restrictive voting laws to make it more difficult for minorities to vote. No other US president has been subjected to such angry derision. No other president has been repeatedly asked to show his papers to prove that he is a citizen. No other president has been interrupted during a State of the Union speech by a “Congressman” calling him a liar. No other president has been met by such congressional obstruction.

Racism did not disappear in the sixties. It is just more subtle. There are fewer racist killings, beatings and other hate crimes. Today, the racism is economic and institutionalized. Unemployment for African-Americans is roughly double that for whites. Many of those who do have jobs are not paid a living wage. Schools in African-American communities are grossly underfunded compared to those in white communities. African-Americans are not only three times more likely to be arrested as whites, they receive longer sentences for similar crimes.

Indeed, young African-American and Latino males are seen as a source of profit for the private prison industry. They are also disproportionately represented in our military and asked to fight wars to protect the economic interests of large corporations that are almost exclusively owned and managed by wealthy white Americans.

News organizations, once again, insert race into stories of crime. Media commentators feel comfortable talking about the disintegration of African-American families while ignoring the disintegration of white families. When minorities bring up discrimination and other issues of race, white political pundits refer to it as “playing the race card.” They would like us to believe that racism no longer exists. (Of course, it doesn’t for them.)

Most disturbing is the fact that the conservative majority of the United States Supreme Court has voted to weaken the Voting Rights Act and to undermine affirmative action.

On the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech, we should all take a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come. But only a moment. It’s time to get back to work to make sure the pendulum swings in the right direction again.

The New Jim Crow.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965, everyone thought that would be the end of Jim Crow laws that mandated segregation throughout the South and prevented African-Americans from exercising their right to vote.

Everyone was wrong!

Within days of the Supreme Court striking down the portion of the law that forced many southern states to seek pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before changing their voting laws, the Republican-dominated legislatures in Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia have introduced laws designed to restrict minority voting. South Carolina and Mississippi are also considering changes designed to marginalize minorities.

Thanks to the conservatives on the Supreme Court, minorities in these states no longer have the protection of the Department of Justice. Their only recourse is to file lawsuits. By the time these lawsuits wend their way through the court system, the damage will have already been done.

In other words, the Supreme Court and the GOP have set the Way Back Machine to 1964!

This is at the heart of the new GOP strategy. Following the Romney defeat last November, Republican strategists realized that the party was unlikely to win if Democrats continued to dominate the growing minority vote. Then the more conservative wing of the GOP stepped forward with an alternative strategy. Instead of pandering to minorities, they intend to institutionalize racism by focusing almost exclusively on white voters – particularly those struggling in the new GOP economy.

After reviewing the demographics of the 2012 presidential vote, GOP strategists discovered that there was a sizable portion of white people who didn’t vote. So the new strategy is to maximize the white vote while suppressing the votes of minorities.

If you’re white, uneducated, religious and poor, the GOP wants you.

The States’ Rights Court.

Now that the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled on three highly controversial cases, it seems that the decisions all have one thing in common – a desire to protect states’ rights. Even though the justices behind the majority opinions changed from one case to another, the Court showed a willingness to defer, when possible, to the states.

In the case of the VRA (Voting Rights Act), it seems that the majority believes that the VRA is an intrusion on the affected states. In voiding the criteria for pre-clearance of changes in voting laws in states that have a history of discriminating against minorities, the Court challenged Congress to create new criteria that reflect today’s political environment.

Disregarding the fact that the VRA has been a target of John Roberts since 1980, the majority opinion seems to be a win for those who believe in states’ rights. Unfortunately, on the issue of voting rights, many of our states have demonstrated that they can’t be trusted to protect the voting rights of minorities. In states like Alabama and Texas, the ink on the Court’s opinion wasn’t dry before Republican legislators introduced new efforts to suppress minority votes. Indeed, the Republican Party has been trying to suppress minority votes across the country.

If the Court was serious about protecting voting rights, it would have subjected all states to pre-clearance of changes in voting laws. It most certainly wouldn’t have passed responsibility along to our dysfunctional Congress.

In the cases of Prop 8 and DOMA, a different majority of the Court ruled. But the outcome was much the same.

On Prop 8, the Court ruled that, since the State of California chose not to defend the constitutionality of its own law in court, surrogates could not. On DOMA, the majority ruled that the legality of gay marriage is up to individual states, and it ruled that the federal government cannot deny benefits to gay couples who have been legally married.

As you can see, both of these rulings also seem to support states’ rights.

If the Roberts Court is so committed to protecting states’ rights over the federal government, a position most famously attributed to Thomas Jefferson, the justices would be wise to remember what Jefferson wrote in defense of separation of Church and State: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

The same reasoning would be well applied to all civil rights. To paraphrase: The right of other citizens to vote, or to marry whom they choose, does me no injury. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

The South Will Rise Again!

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to shoot down sections of the Voting Rights Act may be one giant step backward in our nation’s centuries-long fight for equality and civil rights. It also represents an unprecedented power grab by the Court.

The Voting Rights Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson to prevent widespread voter suppression throughout the South. The law required offending states to obtain pre-clearance by the DOJ (Department of Justice) for changes in voting laws, including any attempts at redistricting aimed at marginalizing the minority vote. For years, this mandate has not only helped African-Americans and Latinos vote, it has helped them get the representation they deserve.

Yet, despite the law, states have never stopped trying to block minority votes.

For example, just last year, the DOJ prevented Houston, Texas from reducing voting centers from 84 to just 12. The plan was to eliminate voting centers in predominately African-American areas of the city. And last year, Teapublican-controlled legislatures throughout the country imposed strict new voter ID laws aimed at reducing minority voter turnout for President Obama. They also drastically reduced polling hours in some states, forcing minorities to stand in line up to 6 hours in order to vote.

All of this has been done under the guise of “vote integrity” to prevent felons and undocumented immigrants from voting, despite the fact there is absolutely no evidence of such illegal voting.

In gutting the Voting Rights Act, which was renewed by Congress in 2006 with near unanimous support, the Court has, in essence, overruled Congress. And, by stating that it is now up to Congress to come up with a new and more equitable way to enforce voting rights, it has given Congress a task the Teapublican-controlled House and the filibuster-prone Senate are clearly not capable of handling.

As a result, racists in Congress and in legislatures throughout the nation, particularly in the Old South and in Arizona, will feel free to run amok again. If you doubt this, all you have to do is to look at the way Teapublicans have pushed through Voter ID laws and anti-abortion laws with an array of bullying tactics and parliamentary tricks.