By Jason Sibert and Patty Friend
Because social democrats are committed to democracy in all its forms, we are concerned and upset by the onerous and thoroughly anti-democratic voter suppression laws being passed by Republican governors and legislators around the country from Iowa and Georgia to Texas, Arizona and elsewhere.
The only thing standing in the way of this march toward authoritarianism are 23 Democratic governors. Voter suppression in one form or another has been going on in the United States since the beginning of the republic. In every place, it was tolerated by a majority to keep the minority from participating in their governance. Even though we know of dirty deeds and dirty tricks that corrupted voting in the past, there’s nothing quite like what we are seeing in real life and in real time right now.
In Georgia, Republicans enacted legislation that is doing the following:
- making voting machines scarcer in minority neighborhoods
- doing away with drop boxes
- eliminating 10 to 20 days of early voting
- making it possible for state legislatures to overturn elections
- creating a fraud hotline for the reporting of illegal voting (when elections are already regulated)
- allowing Georgians to file an unlimited number of challenges when it comes to fraudulent voting
- requiring voters to submit a photocopy of their ID as a vote by mail application (making it more difficult to register)
- outlawing giving food or water to anyone standing in line
- making it illegal to vote if a voter is told to vote in the wrong location
- eliminating the Secretary of State’s authority and responsibility for the running of state and federal elections, allowing Republicans in the state legislature to overturn any and all elections with results they deem unfavorable..
This caused a backlash in, of all places, corporate America. Its CEOs, business leaders, lawyers and experts have discussed numerous options to push back against the Republican-led efforts to restrict access to voting, including pulling their donations, refusing to move business or jobs to states that pass restrictive measures, and relocating events. For instance, Major League Baseball pulled the All-Star game from Atlanta, Georgia and moved it to Denver, Colorado. Social Democrats USA supports the right to vote, all social democrats should. Therefore, we support MLB’s move but realize that MLB, and other members of corporate America, should be subjected to criticism when they deserve it. Supporting the civil rights of women, people of color, religious minorities and the LGBT community is always honorable. However, it isn’t a substitute for quality wages and working conditions. Our motto is pro-worker, pro-democracy! SDUSA also realizes the pain that MLB’s move is causing to restaurant and other hospitality workers in Atlanta.
To further address this issue, SDUSA supports the efforts of the Biden Administration to further the cause of voter rights, and we understand that fundamental to the safeguarding of voter rights in America are the policies outlined in HR 1 and HR 4, now before the Senate as Senate Bill No. 1. We support Senate Bill No. 1 wholeheartedly and urge its passage by any parliamentary means necessary – i.e., amend the filibuster to exclude voting legislation. This issue needs to be settled, and our country needs to move on to other significant issues.
Political parties should win by attracting the most votes, not by keeping certain people from voting. The first democracies, or quasi-democracies, emerged in the Humanist cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, although both would sadly evolve into empires. Ancient Greece was the first Humanist culture when certain voices, like the famous Greek scientist Thales, sought to use human reason to solve problems. The idea of a democratic republic, partially embodied in ancient Greek city states like Athens, represented humans governing themselves via reason. Making it tougher to vote obstructs this cause.
It is no surprise that the people involved in suppressing our votes are passing draconian laws on abortion, punishing transgender youth, and promoting gun rights. These people are anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. All too many of them believe the big lie that about the elections of 2020 that Donald Trump won or that the elections were frauds. The agenda of these Republican politicians is to go after the rights of blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities, and then go after the rights of women of childbearing years. Then they’ll come for the socialists!. Every democracy lives and dies by the participation of its citizens. If we want to keep our republic from slipping into authoritarianism, we’ll have to fight like hell to protect everyone’s right to vote.
The democratic way of life is being challenged around the world with authoritarian Russia and totalitarian China flexing their muscles and authoritarian movements arising in democratic countries. Let’s make the U.S. a beacon of the democratic world by respecting voting rights and doing everything we can to get out the vote over and over and over again!
Jason Sibert is Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project.
Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.