Increasing G.O.P. voter suppression alludes to American history

Courtesy of Senate Democrats via Wikimedia Commons.

A few years ago, I believed that some of the Republican Party’s ideas were hypocritical in nature, but given the hyper partisan atmosphere that has exacerbated in the last four years, I now think it’s appropriate to acknowledge a more magnified reality: Hypocrisy is central to the party’s existence and functioning. The Republican Party literally cannot survive without vigorously obstructing their own self-proclaimed values and acting in contrast to their own spoken defense of democracy, unless they acquiesce to liberalizing their agenda.  

They shunned Barack Obama for “not loving America” but defended Donald Trump when he embraced Russian president Vladimir Putin ahead of his own national security team. They act terrified of the idea of larger relief plans and their effect on the federal debt, while continuing to place their faith in trickle-down policies, a form of economics that evidently caused recessions and extensions of debt with poor returns. They claim to be “pro-life” while blocking sensible gun control legislation in light of schoolchildren falling victim to those wielding AR-15s. They confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court just weeks before the election despite not confirming Obama’s pick because they alleged it lacked the people’s mandate during an “election year.” They rally against immigration and tango with Tucker Carlson’s xenophobic rants despite America, the nation their hearts allegedly beat for, being a nation of immigrants. They claim to be strict constitutionalists in their defense of avoiding new Constitutional amendments, yet they are complicit in its violation when they believe it is in their favor, most notoriously when it came to acquitting Trump for incitement of insurrection. A moderate Republican could say these paradoxes are fringe, but in reality they dominate and define the “Grand Old Party” today. 

Religious liberty, abortion rights, civil rights, gun control and so many other issues have been manipulated by Republicans in ways that contradict their spoken defense of democracy and fairness in favor of defending their interests. But one recent instance of hypocrisy has consolidated in my mind the Republican Party’s mutual exclusivity to democracy itself, and that is the indefensible allegation of a rigged 2020 presidential election, even while the party practices its own unceasing and decades-old movement of voter suppression. 

Despite the fact that 2020 witnessed the largest democratic repudiation of a sitting president that the United States has ever seen, congressional Republicans defended debunked claims of widespread voter fraud and objected to the results in numbers the government has never seen before. All of this was based on lies, not in the name of election integrity like they claim. Thankfully, their bid failed. But all the while, Republican state legislatures nationwide are mobilizing to draw up districts that benefit their party most and usher in dozens of new bills that limit mail-in voting, impartiality in redistricting commissions, citizen-led ballot initiatives and other grassroots methods that are meant to raise voter turnout. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office even vows to level up enforcement of the unjust ban on distributing food and water to those waiting in voting lines that will only get longer as new laws limit the number of ballot boxes available. Even with an already existing Republican bias in a heavily gerrymandered House, a Senate where the Dakota territory has double the representation of California, and an electoral college where the value of a Wyoming vote is more than triple that of a New York vote, Republicans are relentless in their pursuit of manipulating control of localities and state legislatures to win through voter suppression, otherwise known as legal cheating. What’s the motive? To decrease voter turnout in areas where Republicans know they don’t have enough support to win, and with that hypocrisy comes two strong realities, one good and one solemn. 

The good news is that this Republican push to suppress suffrage in order to maintain their power reveals the rising popularity and majoritarian dominance of the values represented by the Democratic Party in the eyes of Americans, not to mention diversifying demographics. Americans increasingly cannot agree with those who seriously believe that it is ethical to limit the rights of their marginalized neighbors. Although the trend of rising liberalism and a more widespread fight for equality has not been linear, it is ongoing. Since the Democratic Party is more associated with these ideals than the Republican Party, Democrats and their supporters are willing to continue on the path to bolster voter turnout, ultimately increasing the democratic representation of Americans, a healthy positive. 

The solemn reality, however, is one that also alludes to the history of the United States. The Republican antidemocratic methods of voter suppression reflect the gradual decline in popularity of their conservative ideals, but that, in turn, reflects how radicalized and desperate their central body is, even in Congress. That change was part of what ushered in Donald Trump, especially after eight years of Barack Obama. That same desperation is why the party is more willing to embrace conspiratorial thinking: they need everything they can possibly get to win the future. The GOP hypocrisy of crying fraud while suppressing votes is a result of that desperation.

This current nationwide voter suppression effort harks back to a series of trends during the 20th century, in which the Democratic Party introduced voices of racial justice and equality into their party during the 1970s, and the Southern Democrats who upheld segregation began to turn to the Republican Party. After a past America in which both parties believed in illiberal social values and racial hierarchy, the 1970s trend shaped the stark contrasts of both parties and drove a stake into bipartisanship, because today we now have two parties that are nearly monoliths (at least for the policies and rhetoric they defend) for the deeply opposed social values for which they stand: The Democratic Party supports equal rights, economic justice, gender equality and the breakdown of norms that harm others, while the Republican Party, whose chief demographic of White Christians is losing ground, reveres the social order that once was, or longs for the Gilded Age 2.0. If that’s not the truth, then explain Make America Great Again. 

Now that the federal government is represented (barely) by a Democratic trifecta, it is time to pass the For The People Act immediately in order to limit partisan gerrymandering and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to overturn discriminatory and obstructionist laws in localities nationwide. In addition, I wish for the momentum of grassroots movements and organizations that raise voter turnout to carry over through the midterms and the 2024 elections, whether it’s Stacey Abrams’ valuable work in Georgia or VassarVotes. These efforts are not just relied upon to give Democrats the power of the people’s mandate, but to also allow elections to more accurately reflect the true ideological desires of the American people. 

A party determined to carry the massive lie of the 2020 election being stolen and to pin the blame on Democratic abuse of power will continue to be relentless in its hypocrisy, and will never reevaluate itself, at least not in the foreseeable future. While loving your neighbor irrespective of their class, citizenship status, skin color, gender or disability status is more popular than ever, those who represent the socially conservative politics in opposition to those values must cheat to survive. Their future is Greene and Hawley, not Cheney and Romney.

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