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The on-going assault on representative democracy

Time to change course

From WIP correspondents
far and wide

Our government prides itself—officially—on the idea that its authority is based on the consent of the governed. We rely on elections to manifest this consent: the more of those governed who vote, and the more the majority vote is reflected in the government, the more legitimate is the authority of the government.

Rule by the minority

The Republican Party does not believe in democracy. It does not want everyone to vote. In fact, its policy is to disenfranchise people. After taking control of many state legislatures, Republicans designed new electoral districts to concentrate likely Democratic voters, enabling a smaller population of conservatives to determine the makeup of the state’s Congressional delegation. After the Supreme Court in 2013 gutted the Voting Rights Act, Republicans legislators set up new barriers to voting that primarily affected people who were poor, black or brown, or transient.

The Republican Party does not believe in democracy.

First, prevent people from voting

Barriers ranged from wholesale challenges to voter registration, closing polling places, restricting hours when you could vote, requiring picture IDs and limiting the kinds that would qualify. They appointed hundreds of right-wing judges to protect those barriers in court. In the current election, Republicans attacked voting by mail, stripped the post office of resources, and sued election officials in efforts to limit voter registration, and further restrict voter access.

Another chance: the Electoral College

Despite these actions, Republicans lost the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 Presidential elections, but they had a fall back. The Electoral College gave them the presidency for 3 terms. The Electoral College reflects the power of the states, not the will of the people.

Each state gets electors equal in number to their Congressional delegation. This gives significantly more influence to states with small populations, compared to a system based on one person one vote. But there’s more.

Most states send electors to vote for the candidate of the party that won the majority of votes in that state. It’s a winner-take-all system, which further erodes the one person one vote principle. Only the votes cast for the state winner count in the Electoral College. Though this undermines the representative element of the vote, it’s the way states have typically handled their electors; but it’s not required.

Further eroding the consent of the governed

There is a way that a state could change its approach to electors in order to contest election results – a way that could, for example, keep Donald Trump in the Presidency.

What If there’s a disagreement over election results in a state? What happens when absentee ballots timely mailed, arrive after election day? Counting all legally cast votes seems like one good way to determine the will of the people. In Washington, we count ballots up to the deadline for reporting final results (21 days), and that is true in other states as well.

So don’t count every vote

Trump tried (unsuccessfully) to officials in several states from counting millions of votes mailed by election day but received after Nov. 3. Another strategy involves filing multiple lawsuits to delay certification of results. This can create opportunities to dispute which slate of Electors should be sent to the Electoral College and even to replace the slate indicated by the completed vote count with their own.

Or what if a Republican-majority state legislature decides to appoint a competing slate of electors even though the Democratic candidate won? Then Congress decides which slate of electors should be counted to determine who becomes president.

Trump’s backers simply continued the attack on voting that the Republicans have engaged in for decades. Their goal as always is to further a Republican Corporate Christian agenda—which can only occur if most of the American population is excluded from participation in elections.

Awakened and on the move

Because these possibilities and others are real, in this election, many groups prepared to act preserve the integrity of the election – not only in the face of challenges in court, but in anticipation of actions foreshadowed by right-wing militias. Protect the Results, a coalition of more than 100 organizations; Choose Democracy, a group that trained several thousand activists committed to nonviolent demonstrations; and Labor Action to Protect Democracy, which roused local and national unions, worker centers and allied labor organizations to commit to labor actions – all saw the possibility that Donald Trump might attempt a coup.

A politics that represents the will of the majority

Even if the immediate task is accomplished—to elect Joe Biden to occupy the presidency in place of Donald Trump—this just the starting point. “Pressuring” a Biden Administration is a delusion. To dismantle the race and class system that has defined America will require a coherent strategy and a lot of hard work.

To start with, progressive forces need to win victories that deliver substantial immediate benefits to all who are affected by today’s interlocking health, economic and racial crises, especially the most vulnerable. At the same time, it is essential to build the political power needed to enfranchise all eligible voters and to steer the country on a new course.

Excellent sources for this article and more can be found at Organizing Upgrade (Max Elbaum “Three Tough Laps to Change the Balance of Power”} and “The Game Plan: Election and Beyond,” TheFrontline among other sites.

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