This nation was founded on the novel notion that people should select the ones who govern us, rather than kings, queens or emporers, whose sole qualification was birth in the right family. The ability to vote was originally limited to white male property owners. It took over a century for women to be granted suffrage, and almost as long for people of color. The chief executive (president) was not to be elected directly by the people, but by a group of “electors” termed the Electoral College, chosen, indirectly, by the people. Can’t trust ordinary folks to do this. Unfortunately, we are still stuck with this system.
The situation is further complicated by other, more subtle, rules to hinder or prevent people from voting. Until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, certain classes of voters had to demonstrate “literacy”, pay exhorbitant poll taxes, etc. In this century, the Supreme Court has basically gutted the Act. Newer, more creative means have been devised in the individual states to limit voting. For the most part, the Republican Party, which controls most state legislatures, is leading the way.
Formed in the 1850’s following the demise of the Whig Party, the Republicans were anti-slavery. In its second election, the Party won the presidency with a little known one term former congressman who became, arguably, the finest president we ever had. The Party dominated presidential politics well into the 20th Century. For the most part, it was heavily favored by corporate Chamber of Commerce types. Its rival, the Democratic Party, tended to favor working class people.
In reaction to the antislavery ethos of the Republicans, Democrats ruled what became known as the “solid south” until, beginning after the Lyndon Johnson administration, the former states of the Confederacy turned Republican. The Grand Old Party remains predominatly white male.
So much for history. The 2020 Census revealed what many of us already knew – the USA is rapidly becoming majority non-white. The GOP needs to reduce the number of people of color voting in elections. Their strategy is simple:
- Reduce early voting
- Reduce voting hours, and polling stations in minority areas
- Insist on tighter regulations for voter ID’s in absentee voting
Also, following the decennial census, adjust boundaries in congressional districts to reduce representation in Congress, a process known as “gerrymandering”. Although a majority of voters in congressional elections vote Democratic, by several percentage points, both parties are virtually equally represented in both Senate and House. (The U.S. Senate is permanently gerrymanded – California is equally represented with Wyoming, although its population is about fifty times greater).
The situation for the GOP borders on the desperate. Unless they can limit voting by poorer, browner, working class folks, they are destined to lose elections. Already, in this century, Democrats have won the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections. An alternative would be to enhance popularity among these voters, similar to what was done following the debacle in 1964. Way too much trouble. This explains much of the intense manuvering currently underway in numerous state capitols. A major failing of the Democrats in the Obama years was a neglect of state level races.
One of the most egregious legislation being proposed (or passed) in states such as Texas, Georgia and Florida, among others, would permit the legislature to overturn elections on the mere assertion that “fraud” was involved. Power to the People??
We do badly need perspective. We are still the hope of the world. Despite our numerous problems, many of them existential in nature, relatively few want to leave us to live eleswhere. We can justifiably credit We the People for creating this.
The masses of voters are not asses, as our Founders seemed to believe, but rather apathetic. We have other stuff to worry about, but if they further erode majority rule (such as it is), our experiment in self rule is over. Our potential salvation, if we can take advantage of it: demography is destiny.