by Tom Evslin
Democrats and Republicans alike fear the next election will be stolen. They’re both giving us all plenty of reason to worry.
Exhibit number one is rightly Trump’s January 9 coup attempt. Even though some of the participants might have been legitimate demonstrators who got swept up and carried away, those who planned this attempted insurrection should be indicted for the highest crime which can be proven against them – including treason. If there is evidence against Trump himself, he certainly should not be spared punishment; he’s already earned disgrace. It is also frightening that so many (but certainly not all Republicans) have refused to condemn Trump and his refusal to accept the election results.
On the bright side, resistance to overturning the election was bipartisan. Mike Pence never waivered in his duty to certify the election results. The Supreme Court, despite three Trump appointees, gave no credence or support to his absurd claims. As far as I know, neither did any other federal judge regardless of party affiliation.
Giving non-citizens the right to vote is a transparent attempt by urban Democrats from Winooski to NYC to keep their control of local government despite the unpopularity of recent initiatives like ‘defund the police’. It is also an insult to the generations of immigrants who have made America great and earned their citizenship.
Protecting the right to vote with mail ballots was the right thing to do in a pandemic. Vastly expanding the use of mail ballots – especially sending out unsolicited mail ballots – without putting safeguards in place sounds to Republicans like a Democrat effort to steal elections. It’s at least stupid if not mis-intended. On the other hand, Republicans who don’t want unrestricted mail ballots sound to Democrats as if they are trying to shrink the electorate to their own advantage. On the third hand, it’s racist to think that Black people won’t be able to vote if we all must show ID or register.
Republicans are trying to change state election procedure by changing state law, sometimes in ways that will make local election officials less independent. But not every action they propose has either evil intent or an evil result. In an article in Monday’s New York Times, David Leonhardt lumps together very bad ideas like an attempt in Arizona to let the legislature overturn a Presidential election result in the state any time up until inauguration day and ideas which may have partisan motivation but are not undemocratic like an effort in Pennsylvania to make the secretary of state, who oversees elections, an elected rather an appointed official.
Democrats are trying to change state election procedure with federal legislation over-ruling traditional state control of elections while D’s still have control in Washington. That’s scary, too. On the other hand, there was a long period of American history when Blacks were effectively denied the right to vote by state law and action; federal intervention was needed to right that wrong.
Both sides are still trying to gerrymander wherever they can. Gerrymandered districts have been very harmful to American democracy because they protect incumbents from all dangers except a primary defeat by someone more extreme in their district.
The danger of election tampering from inside or outside the country is very real in the age of cyber-attacks. We need non-partisan action on that problem ASAP. Instead we get very partisan accusations.
Where we are is dangerous. Our suspicions of each other are making it harder to safeguard our elections. As we’ve seen, any suspicion that an election has been stolen is corrosive to democracy.
Even though some Republicans sincerely believe that Trump did win the election, it is time for Republican leaders who know better to say so – and to condemn his actions. Even though some Democrats believe that any regulation of elections is an attempt to disenfranchise “their” voters and is racist to the core, it is time for Democratic leaders to support reasonable election safeguards and stop trying to pad the voter rolls with non-citizens.
It’s time for us all to admit that we seek personal and partisan advantage when we can, unwind the conspiracy theories, and try to win elections by aggressively supporting good people who run for office.
The author, an author, entrepreneur, former Vermont state cabinet officer, lives in Stowe. He founded NG Advantage, a natural gas truck delivery company. This commentary is republished with permission from his blog, Fractals of Change.