The one positive result emerging from the Trump presidency and its shameless transformation of politics into a bare-knuckled fist-fight following none of the Marquess of Queensberry rules is that Republicans are increasingly willing to publicly confess to the most morally despicable points of view imaginable.
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As these unashamed reprobates begin to speak the quiet parts out loud, it is truly amazing that any of them can continue to seek public office, as offensively anti-democratic (with a small “d”) that their statements come across to those on the outside of their own confines.
Take Arizona Republican legislator John Kavanagh, who holds the weighty responsibility of chairing that state’s Government and Elections Committee.
Kavanagh is overseeing the efforts to pass one of the many voter suppression bills currently being considered by just about every state with the GOP in control of the state government after the sudden realization in the last election that their corporate-centric policies are not actually popular with the large majority of voters when they are actually motivated to vote and allowed to do so.
The Arizona lawmaker explained his motivation for supporting a bill that will add additional roadblocks to citizens seeking to exercise their precious franchise with a blunt statement that seemingly casts doubt on Kavanagh’s understanding of and commitment to the basic principles of democracy.
“There’s a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans,” Kavanagh said on CNN. “Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they’re willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote — but everybody shouldn’t be voting … Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues. Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well.”
At least the GOP is being honest about their intentions now, rather than hiding their hypocrisy behind a wall of empty platitudes about the glory of democracy.
For a party trying to shed the image of being the staunch advocates for elitist oligarchs and corporate interests to take on the mantle of the Trumpist populism that so many of its remaining voters have bought into, Kavanagh’s jaw-dropping rejection of universal suffrage seems like it may just be sending the wrong message to the blue-collar, right-wing MAGA supporters that have become the biggest segment of its base.
Any careful reading of the Consitution and its subsequent amendments will come up short when searching for that passage delineating the requirement for the votes of legitimate citizens to achieve a certain level of quality before they can be added to the tally in any election.
Of course, in actual practice over the course of our nation’s history, politicians have often managed to exclude the votes that didn’t reach their primary standard of quality — being cast by a male voter of caucasian complexion — through the institution of slavery, through poll taxes, literacy tests, and, until a little over a hundred years ago, the withholding of suffrage to women.
Still, in recent years — at least after the passage of the 13th, 15th, and 19th amendments to the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — polite society at least tried to pretend that the concepts of one person, one vote and of universal access to the ballot box were the aspirational goals shared by our society.
With people like John Kavanagh and his GOP counterparts in way too many other states now determined to enact laws that are designed to make voting more difficult for those segments of the population whom they assume can’t be convinced to vote against their own interests and elect a Republican, it is even more crucial that congressional Democrats do whatever they need to do to pass H.R. 1, the current House bill to promote election reform.
If that means that the filibuster, so sacred to Republicans right now as the minority party, must be altered or eliminated in order to gain passage of the voter protection, then so be it.
The filibuster appears nowhere in the Constitution and is not essential to the fundamental operation of our government.
Democracy is too precious and its continued existence is too fragile, as the January 6th insurrection so clearly proved, to fail to take the steps necessary to protect its very essence.
Original reporting by Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine.
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