July 3, 2021
We knew it was coming, and now it’s here. The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that, hey, it’s ok to discriminate against voters and deny their access to the ballot, as long as you can get away with it. Going forward challenges to voter suppression will have to prove that the discrimination under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act was intentional, rather than inadvertent or had a discriminating impact on certain individuals or groups. The decision even opined that all of this was alright, because the number of votes affected was relatively small, seemingly unaware that we have had a pile of close elections nationally in state after state. Small numbers have huge impact.
What does this mean for our pretense of a fair and open democracy? The short answer is: nothing good. Essentially, there is now a greenlight to be aggressively partisan, whether Republican or Democratic, in voting restrictions, district apportionment, and voting access. In the USA, it will now be anything is possible in love, war, and politics, because the Supreme Court says so. The reasoning is simple. Hyper-partisanship is just that, a full-on effort to benefit your political party. The motivation is to advance your cause. The fact that it ends up adversely affecting certain individuals and groups, albeit ethnic and minority, is not overt discrimination now, but the indirect impact of doing everything you can to advance your own political self-interest.
We may not like what this decision does for democracy, but the Supreme Court has laid its cards on the table. They are taking the courts out of election contests, and saying, hey parties, duke it out, winner take all, losers cry in their beer.
What does it mean for coming elections?
If we want to win, the stakes just got harder and we have to double down. The multi-million-dollar announcement of targeted voter registration in Texas seems prescient now. On offense, we have to do bigtime voter registration everywhere and gear it up now, not later. We have seriously scale up our GOTV efforts and stop pretending that social media and texting are enough to do the job. We have to flood the streets and put fists on the doors everywhere to get votes out, both early and late. We also have to double down on our efforts to stop silent suppression through purges.
If not, we can see the future in the deep red state legislatures around the country currently and their blatant efforts to restrict voting, women’s rights, and a host of other hot button issues for their base. Does that mean that deep blue states need to also be as hyper-partisan? Are we becoming Canada, Great Britain or France, where winners take all, and losers wait forever for their turn to do the same? Are we hearing the last drumbeats for bipartisanship, even as some in Congress and President Biden wax nostalgic and give it a shot?
While we double down for the next election, we need to sort out some answers to these questions that we are all comfortable living with in the future.