There is a huge, vociferous and very influential radical right wing in America, led by a few wealthy people (many of them wealthy for generations) and followed by many millions of ordinary American voters. These increasingly radicalized voters are spurred by their unquestioned belief that the only trouble with this country is the goddamned Godless troublemakers who want to change everything from good to bad for no goddamned reason.
At the moment, the radical right and its “moderate” Republican enablers are united in insisting that just because one candidate won an election by 5,000,000 so-called “Popular Votes” and a wide margin in the sacred Electoral College, there is no reason to believe that that person actually won the election. By the way, all those races other Republicans all over the country won in the same rigged election? Perfectly valid elections.
I read an excellent op-ed in today’s NY Times that I will quote from and link to below, but first, a thought about the huge success of radical right wing activism, which has been hellishly effective in shaping our democracy.
Ideas that a few generations ago were exclusively believed among a lunatic fringe of the conservative spectrum, the incendiary, baseless conspiracy theories of The John Birch Society, are now standard Republican dogma (see, for example Q-Anon). This metamorphosis from conservative to radical was achieved by tireless, smart, well-funded political activism and the systematic cultivation of a new worldview in which the radical was normalized, loyalty paramount, and neither reasoned debate nor compromise permitted.
Here is the best example I can think of to illustrate how narrow ideological orthodoxy, without even the benefit of a better argument, can effectively overrule popular democratic measures.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed during the Civil Rights Movement to end the chicanery that, for a century, had prevented millions of black and brown people from voting. It made voter suppression tactics like poll taxes (charging certain voters a large fee to cast a ballot) and super-challenging “literacy tests” (read and interpret arcane hundred-year old legalese) illegal.
The Voting Rights Act ended these vicious practice, and created barriers to states concocting new, more subtle voter suppression schemes. The supervisory powers of the Act caused big strides toward more equality under the law for all voters. Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act (enforcement being necessary for compliance), via oversight by Congress and the Department of Justice, was authorized by the Act’s Section Five Congress voted to renew the law almost unanimously..
A few years later, in a case decided in 2013, the Supreme Court stripped the Voting Rights Act of its enforcement clause by a 5-4 party-line majority vote that struck down Section Five as unconstitutional.
The majority decision in Shelby County v. Holder, one usually said to have “gutted” the Voting Rights Act, was flat out — well, 5-4, as in many recent Roberts court decisions, including some very recent voting rights cases dashed off on narrow legal grounds by men like Brett Kavanaugh, graduates of the elite right wing finishing school, complete with its oaths and sworn loyalties (see, for example, decision about not allowing mail-in voting extended in Wisconsin — see also Bader Ginsburg dissent in that case, you be the judge of who had the better legal and moral argument).
I recently read and analyzed the respective “arguments” in Shelby County v. Holder. You can see that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s powerful, detailed dissent is right on the money and that the five zealots who signed on to a bare bones narrow legal ruling were wrong — as subsequent nationwide voter suppression laws and rulings have demonstrated.
The radical right is fond of accusing the Supreme Court of Judicial Activism (if it rules, for example, that racial segregation is unconstitutional, or that the right to privacy includes a woman’s right to decide whether to have a baby) but it is impossible to imagine a more partisan, activist decision than the purely transactional Federalist Society rationale used to strike down enforcement of the Voting Rights Act as “unconstitutional”.
We learn from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s brilliant dissent that nationwide support for the Voting Rights Act was almost unanimous. A bipartisan Congress passed an extension of the Voting Rights Act, after 21 hearings that produced 15,000 pages of evidence of continued attempts by states to suppress the vote, by a vote of 390-33 in the House and, after further debate, 98 to 0 in the Senate. President George W. Bush promptly signed the reauthorization into law.
President Bush proclaimed that the law was essential to support “further work . . . in the fight against injustice,” and called the reauthorization “an example of our continued commitment to a united America where every person is valued and treated with dignity and respect.”
Nothing could be more uncontroversial, bipartisan or universally acceptable in a democracy than a law passed by that kind of overwhelming Congressional majority and enthusiastically embraced by the president Unless I am missing something essential about democracy.
The radical right disagreed with this seemingly innocuous, nonpartisan interpretation of how democracy is meant to work. Or rather, they saw the real problem with the law to ensure fair voting:
universal voting is bad for business, interferes with a certain kind of privileged liberty, encourages politicians to actually debate and compromise over policies essential to the lives of millions of less well-off citizens — to the disadvantage of the super-wealthy and their corporate interests.
The 5-4 corporatist majority, using the thinnest of narrow legalistic logic (finding that no new evidence of voter discrimination had been produced by Congress, so it was unconstitutionally unfair to the states that wanted to change their laws to hold them to a law based on old evidence), struck down the section of the law that made enforcement of the law possible.
The far right brought a strategic constitutional challenge to an uncontroversial, universally supported law. They filed suit on behalf of an Alabama County (the suit was masterminded by recent top Trump lawyer William Consovoy) (a county that had recently engaged in racially discriminatory voting practices, mind you), resulted in an unappealable one-vote majority decision that overruled the unmistakable will of an almost unanimous Congress and the American Executive branch acting to ensure the right to vote for all Americans.
Fucking hell, you say?
Within hours of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, numerous states made more restrictive voting laws. These laws were prepared and waiting for a victory in the Supreme Court. Fast forward a few years, to see how abolition of enforcement of the Voting Rights Act plays out.
In addition to numerous restrictive voting laws that must be challenged in court, instead of reviewed under the Voting Rights Act, multiple Republican state legislatures and majority Republican party-courts, in the lead up to the 2020 election, ruled for Republican plaintiffs (the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee) that measures to make safe voting easier during a deadly pandemic (one that is seeing a record tidal wave of infections and deaths strike us since in-person voting surged) violated various state voting laws.
Louis DeJoy, a donor who’d given millions to Republicans, and a bushel of cash to Trump in particular, was appointed by other Trump appointees (Obama had been blocked by McConnell from appointing anyone to the Postal Board) to dismantle 672 high speed mail sorting machines in large Democratic districts, remove thousands of mailboxes in Democratic areas, create and fan fear that millions of ballots would not be delivered in time to be counted. Spread the false accusation that mail-in voting equals massive fraud. Have the Attorney General, as well as other top officials, insist this partisan rumor was true over and over in the media. All in a concerted effort to suppress absentee voting, a well-organized voter suppression conspiracy in the plainest sense of the all those words. Sadly for them, these herculean public efforts didn’t succeed in winning the presidency for the Republican candidate, too many people simply voted against the divisive demagogue, in margins too large to overcome.
The radical right remains united in their defiance of so-called democracy, loudly, proudly supporting the president in his insane and baseless insistence that his 5,000,000 vote loss was fake, another hoax orchestrated by evil, democracy-hating fraudsters funded by accursed blood drinking child molesters.
Top Trump bootlicker and supreme political hypocrite Lindsey Graham:
“Mitch McConnell and I need to come up with an oversight of mail-in balloting. If we don’t do something about voting by mail, we are going to lose the ability to elect a Republican in this country.”source
The widely disliked Ted Cruz, another Republican senator who has obediently fallen into line, having apparently acquired a love of the taste of Mr. Trump’s lowest sphincter, publicly supports the baseless narrative that the election was stolen from Trump. Cruz insightfully said this, four years ago, stating the extremely obvious:
This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.
He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying. And it’s simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist. A narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen.
Everything in Donald’s world is about Donald. And he combines being a pathological liar, and I say pathological because I actually think Donald, if you hooked him up to a lie-detector test, he could say one thing in the morning, one thing at noon and one thing in the evening, all contradictory and he’ll pass the lie detector test each time. Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute he believes it.
Bullies don’t come from strength, bullies come from weakness. Bullies come from a deep, yawning cavern of insecurity.
Thomas B. Edsall provides perspective on this uniquely grotesque, if not entirely unprecedented, manifestation of rage against the popular will, as expressed through the ballot box. Edsall ends his excellent piece:
The unpredictable danger Trump and his henchmen are putting the nation in has no antecedent. Trump’s irrationalism has become a contagion. As he presides over the destruction of reason, he exploits and electrifies his public. No one knows where this will lead. Delusion can become tragedy. It’s happened before.
Trump’s irrationalism has become a contagion. As he presides over the destruction of reason, he exploits and electrifies his public.
On the other hand, it is also worth remembering: