Saturday, July 20, 2019
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Don’t push us toward a Backwater Banana Republic

On the bright side—according to Bloomberg News, “No matter who wins the election, the economy is on course to enjoy faster growth in the next four years as the headwinds that have held it back turn into tailwinds. Consumers are spending more and saving less after reducing household debt to the lowest since 2003. Home prices are rebounding after falling more than 30 percent from their 2006 highs. And banks are increasing lending after boosting equity capital by more than $300 billion since 2009.”

But there is a dark side….

I am writing this the Monday before Election Day. I don’t yet know who is to be our next President. But it is disturbing to read about the tactics being employed by over-the-top partisan politicos in various “swing” states to limit access to voting. It is coming primarily from Republicans. Look, I don’t care if your guy wins. But he or she has to win fairly. Everyone, no matter their job or skin color or bank account, is entitled to a voice. It is really frightening that these people are so partisan they are willing to do anything to win an election for their guy—apparently even blow up the foundation of Democracy.

Reading stories across the Internet, you can see a dark plan…
In Florida, as in several other states, the Republican governor and Republican state legislature have reduced the number of days people can turn out to vote early. This move resulted in huge lines and waits last weekend of up to five hours. When the Republican mayor of Miami-Dade said he hadn’t approved a Sunday time for election offices to take absentee ballots and thus closed the doors to the polling places while hundreds of people were lined up, the people began pounding on those doors, shouting “Let us vote!” This sounds more like a scene from a banana republic in some far-off South American country than the United States of America. After a flood of phone calls and protests, the mayor re-opened the doors. Several people had left the lines by then.
According to a report on the website Slate, Republicans also insisted on cutting back on early voting in the super-swing state of Ohio, where it was allowed for each of the five weekends before Election Day four years ago, and this year is allowed for only one. It’s hard not to draw a line between that narrowing and a study released last month by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which found that black voters vote early at more than 20 times the rate of white voters.
Then there’s this statement in the Washington Post from the Ohio AFL-CIO, which is campaigning hard for Obama: “This is what works for working-class folks. If they have a 9-to-5 job, they’ve got kids to pick up and a lot going on, the weekend is when they’ll be able to get time to go vote.”
The one piece I saw defending the move basically told critics to chill out. The argument was made that while the move by Ohio’s Secretary of State Jon Husted was partisan, it still gave people plenty of opportunity to vote. But cutting away at any chance to vote is contradictory to the democratic ideal. And to do it based on purely partisan motives is chilling.
Pennsylvania has tried to implement stringent voter I.D. laws. For those parroting the smokescreen reason that more stringent voter ID laws are needed to combat voter fraud, the Brennan Center for Justice has concluded that many more people are struck by lightning than commit in-person voter fraud. Pennsylvania’s Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai admitted last summer that the state’s new voter ID law would “deliver the state to Mitt Romney.” The claim made wasn’t because more people would be able to vote under the laws, but because the “right” people would be voting.

That attitude is beyond un-American. It is politics blatantly taking a sledgehammer to the foundation of this democracy. The ideal of America is the belief that each vote counts and each vote carries the same weight. It is not weighted to race or wealth or political party. Every vote should have the same impact, whether that vote is cast by billionaire Bill Koch or the 18-year-old kid serving your Big Mac from behind the counter at Tomichi and Adams in Gunnison.
As Florida’s former republican governor Charlie Crist pointed out Sunday, “People have fought and died for our right to vote, and unfortunately our legislature and this governor have decided they want to make early voting less available to Floridians rather than more available … It’s hard for me as an American to comprehend why you don’t make democracy as easy as possible to exercise for the people of our state. It’s frankly unconscionable.”

Look, I don’t care how rough an election gets as long as the punches thrown are based in truth. Even that has been questionable this election. Ideally, candidates will make the strongest arguments possible but then let the people—all the people—make their decision.
The foundation of America depends on having trust that your vote really does count. If we erode that basic tenet of democracy, we will all begin to feel like we live in some shady backwater banana republic instead of the greatest republic on the planet. Winning through suppression and doubt is not a win for very long.
When trust in our electoral process begins to erode, that erosion will quickly eat away at the banks of our government and ultimately, our entire country. That is a greater danger than any single person being elected president.

—Mark Reaman

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