Awww, fall. The crisp breeze reminds you to pull out your favorite sweaters. The somewhat functioning college football (I live in a Big Twelve community) tells us that people are trying to pretend all is normal. But things are not normal. Covid-19 continues to plague communities worldwide. In the US, the 2020 Presidential election has begun. Early voting is taking place.
Unlike in the past election, United Statians are making efforts to participate in early voting. This has resulted in many states with long lines and citizens waiting for hours to cast a ballot. The media touts this as a demonstration of the passion that US citizens are showing to make their voices heard. That’s plausible.
However, it is also plausible and more likely that we are witnessing voter suppression in action. In 2013, the US Supreme Court voted to invalidate key aspects of the Voting Rights Act. This important legislation was created in 1964. It was intended to ensure that all US citizens had access to voting. For all who may not know, this was a real problem in the post-civil war US.
AND, IT CONTINUES TO BE A PROBLEM NOW.
As soon as the US Supreme Court announced its decision, States went into suppression mode. Texas initiated new “voter identification laws” that made less people (and yes, I am talking US citizens) eligible for voting. Many States began “redistricting” efforts that diluted the power of voters in individual communities. In fact, these problems persist today.
The sad thing is that the people who want to reduce the powers of people are now being blatant about it. Republican Kansas state senator Susan Wagle was caught on video talking to right-wing cronies about redrawing the maps so that they can remove US House representative Sharice Davids (the lone Democrat representing Kansas) from her seat and replace her with a conservative. The Governor of Texas changed the rules regarding ballot boxes. He has pushed to limit them to one per county. Why is this a problem? Because 41 counties in Texas are bigger than the State of Rhode Island.
But all of these actions are wrong. They strike at the chord of what we tell the world that it means to be “American.” Overseas, we want to tout ourselves as a beacon of democracy. Stateside some of our elected leaders are nothing more than part of an authoritarian regime. Overseas we want to encourage people to embrace democracy and capitalism. Stateside our government continues to suppress the people of color, women, and young voters.
Worse than the fact that we are suppressing the will of US citizens, is that these actions serve to undermine our position on the world stage. These government actors make it so that our own military, I am talking low level soldiers here, are at greater risk when they serve tours overseas. These actions weaken the credibility of our diplomats. They even make it harder for US citizens to travel freely outside of this country.
My hope for our country is that 2020 will be a wake up call for all. My hope is that people will not assume that casting their vote for a different Presidential candidate will be enough to get our country back on track. It will not. I hope that once the election is over, people will begin the real work of democracy. From my perspective, the things that can help get our country to fulfill the promise it makes to us all are as follows:
Increasing the number of political parties
I don’t necessarily have a lot of ideas about how this happens. But, I do wonder why in a country of 330 million people we only have two major political parties. I believe that this puts us at a huge disadvantage. And, it puts the political parties in peril. Case in point, when I first obtained the right to vote through naturalization, I was so excited to register as a Republican. After all, I reasoned, thanks to a Republican (President Ronald Reagan) my family and I had been the beneficiaries of amnesty, a political move that ensured millions of undocumented immigrants the opportunity to legalize their status in the US.
Unfortunately, the party that I long believed in is unlike the party I learned to respect. I understood that it was a party of small government. But, now I ask myself how it is possible that a political party advocating for small government is pushing to give the government control the bodies of 50% of its population? The party that I thought encouraged civic engagement now seeks to oppress its voters. And, I do not understand how the party of Lincoln has now become the party of white supremacists. That used to be the goal of the southern democrats. Don’t believe me? Remember that guy George Wallace, governor of Alabama who fought integration of schools? Yeah, he was a democrat.
Abolishing the electoral college
This is perhaps my most ambitious wish. The abolishment of the electoral college would require major support to amend the US constitution. But, this action would ensure that everyone’s vote actually counted in future Presidential elections. Currently, the vote of the people does not actually ensure a Presidential win. We learned this in 2001 with Bush v. Gore and were reminded of this lesson in 2016 with Clinton vs. Trump.
Putting term limits on federal representatives
This is crucial to ensure that our public servants (i.e. representatives and senators) do not cross the threshold from serving the public to become political conduits of lobbyists and corporations. It ensures that representatives do not get to stay in power without bringing any real results to their constituents. And, it ensures that new ideas and younger people can contribute to creating the society that they desire. After all, it is younger people who must live longer with the outcomes of policy decisions made at high levels of government.
Reducing dark money in politics
Of course, money is a problem in politics. In 2010, the US Supreme Court issued its opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This case reversed years of campaign finance restrictions. It put power in corporations and the ultra wealthy by enabling unlimited spending in elections. It further reduced the power of the federal election commission to promote and protect this country.
But it is not just the decision in Citizens United that has turned our elections into a shitshow. Media also plays a hand. CBS chairman was quoted in 2016 stating that although Donald Trump may not be good for America, he certainly is good for the ratings of TV networks, specifically his.
This is not all. In 2020, NBC chose to host a Trump town hall meeting at the same time as ABC was running a town hall meeting for Biden. ABC’s program was scheduled earlier and intended to be a Presidential debate. When Trump pulled out of the debate, NBC rewarded him with his own town hall meeting on three of their channels. Instead of giving the people of our country the opportunity to watch both and evaluate their choices, NBC chose to create a fight for ratings.
These types of actions must stop. Our country’s future requires all of our participation. It requires us to have rules in place that protect all of our people. Our country deserves more than what corporations, politicians and outside actors (like foreign governments) are trying to push us to become. It requires all of us to remember that WE THE PEOPLE must fight towards ensuring that we will all have opportunities for LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
What ideas do you have to improve our country’s political structure?