This is my first “live” article coming back from my year end hiatus. I may have taken a few days off from my writing but I certainly didn’t take time off from political conversation. Our military is often criticized for fighting the last war. In that vein, I want to criticize the priorities I hear in progressive political discourse.
There is a huge effort to fight gerrymandering. At the local level, in state legislatures and the House of Representatives it is a major threat. Fortunately, you cannot gerrymander a state so it is irrelevant at the statewide level including races for the United States Senate. This seems to be the threat getting the most attention lately. Make no mistake it is serious; my contention is that it is not the most serious threat to American democracy.
The chatter about abolishing the Electoral College is still alive. This format doesn’t allow for long, complete discussions of multiple issues so I will simply address it in a single word while remaining polite when I call it antiquated.
In the two preceding paragraphs I went against many of the leading progressive voices including some of the political players I most respect. I think they are 100% correct in their concern; I just think there is a greater threat. That threat is voter nullification.
There is a concerted – and only a naïve fool would think uncoordinated – effort via both intimidation and legislation to take over the voting and certifying process thereby enabling “friendly forces” to simply nullify the vote of the people. Much of this is taking place at the county level. There are many states that are simply either red or blue and there is no changing them, in the short run anyway. It is the purple or somewhat purple states that concern me. Simply not counting the votes in one or a small handful of counties will ensure an outcome.
Is Texas in play in 2022? Perhaps, but Beto O’Rourke certainly can’t win if the votes of Harris and Travis counties are thrown out. Both the Governor and U.S. Senate races should be close in North Carolina but if you eliminate Durham, Mecklenburg and Wake counties the Republicans win comfortably. Can you see Stacey Abrahams or Raphael Warnock winning in Georgia if Fulton County’s votes suddenly vanish? If you think this only applies in the South consider what Michigan looks like if you eliminate the votes from Wayne County.
I am certainly in favor of federal legislation to protect the most vital and sacred part of our democracy – the vote! I’m enough of a pessimist/realist to not hold my breath waiting for it. Even then the legislation would be subject to a Supreme Court ruling and the Roberts court has consistently ruled against fair voting. (I offer Shelby as an example and rest my case.)
Many voter suppression tactics can (with great difficulty) largely be organized around. Voter nullification cannot. Voter intimidation and suppression are real and huge problems, but voter nullification is the ultimate voter suppression and democracy killer. Remember history teaches us that democracies die from within and this challenge to American democracy is not only coming from within but is facilitated by one of America’s two political parties of consequence – the Republicans, after all it appears that is their only path to victory.
I am not discounting the dangers of gerrymandering or the Electoral College – for that matter climate change should be at the top of the list because unabated it is inevitable and probably unrepairable regardless of whether we remain a democracy or become an autocracy– I am simply highlighting the greatest current threat to American democracy.
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