This is the way.
In a dramatic surprise, Texas Democrats stopped the GOP’s latest and lowest voter suppression effort at the eleventh hour (literally – the session was adjourned at 11pm Monday night). They used tricks, stunts, and gambits. They chased the headlines, and grabbed them. Democrats, this is how you do it.
For months, these outrageous, baseless, anti-democratic, and cravenly self-interested Republican efforts in state after state have been the “sleeper story” of the year. In some ways, Republican voter suppression isn’t new; they’ve been lying about voter fraud for years, even though it has never existed on a widespread level. And some of the concrete measures are familiar: closing voting locations in predominantly Black areas (yes, it really is that brazen), restricting early and absentee voting, and so on.
But in other ways, it is dangerously new, because these new bills are based on the Yuge Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. That makes these efforts doubly dangerous as they aim to disenfranchise Black populations in particular and undermine American democracy in general. “Election Integrity” they call it—implying that the most recent election lacked it.
So far, Democrats have failed to stop this racist and anti-democratic freight train. It’s barreled through Florida, Georgia, and Iowa. It’s rigged the 2022 elections by making it harder for Black voters (and voters who can’t get off of work easily, or need help getting to the polls) to vote. It’s a national disgrace.
But it’s barely made the news.
One reason for that is the drip-drip-drip nature of these statewide efforts. Another reason is that voting restrictions seem technical and uninteresting. And another is that the Covid pandemic is in retreat in America, Donald Trump isn’t in office, and so, thank God, people don’t feel like they have to follow the news every minute of every day.
But a lot of the blame lies at the feet of the Democratic Party.
“Where have you gone, Joe Biden? A nation turns its disenfranchised eyes to you.”
These efforts should be headline freaking news. The blatantly racist nature of these policies. Their likely effects on the next election. And their foundation in the same conspiracy theory that led to the January 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C. All of these are beyond outrageous, but journalists can’t just make news happen; that’s up to politicians and other public figures who give us something to report.
Which is exactly what Texas Democrats did Sunday night.
They raised every possible technical and procedural objection to the vote. They indulged in long-winded Q&A sessions. They stretched the process out for hours. And then, right before eleven at night on the eve of Memorial Day, they walked out, depriving the Texas State House of Representatives of a quorum.
Even the walkout was dramatic. Texas State Representative Chris Turner texted party members at 10:35, writing, “Members, take your key and leave the chamber discreetly. Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building. ~ Chris”
Gotta love it.
Now, the Texas bill may pass anyway; Gov. Greg Abbott has already called the legislature back for a special session to do it, and Republicans have the votes. And the Texas bill is uniquely outrageous: you can vote with a gun permit but not a student ID, for example, and there’s no online voter registration at all (since that skews younger and thus more Democratic).
But at least this will be done in the open, with more people watching.
Again, this should be headline news every day. This is the story – this outrageous, racist theft of democracy, based on a lunatic conspiracy theory that around 20% of Americans believe. Didn’t Democrats learn their lesson in 2016? If you let a Tea Party / Fox News / racist-populist-nationalist movement fester for years, it will eventually win something. That process is taking place again, right in front of our eyes. More and more people are believing the Big Lie as Republicans refuse to investigate it. Tucker Carlson and his ilk still have some of the largest platforms in America.
And too often Democrats are saying nothing. Where have you gone, Joe Biden? A nation turns its disenfranchised eyes to you.
And what about you, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema? I understand, you are Democrats in red-purple states. You represent your constituents, and you want to keep your jobs. But, given what is happening around the country, how can you let the Republicans in the Senate fake-filibuster the national voting rights bills, HR1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act?
I say “fake-filibuster” because Senate Democrats aren’t even holding Republicans’ feet to the fire. If Senators Manchin and Sinema won’t vote to overturn the filibuster – which is not nearly as sacrosanct as some people believe it to be, and which is itself rooted in white supremacy and Jim Crow – then at least Republicans should have to actually filibuster, not merely threaten to do so.
That would be Texas-style news: Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley fanning conspiracy theories while denying any responsibility for the fire, Rand Paul holding forth that Covid was invented in order to steal the 2020 election… that would be a spectacle. And a spectacle is exactly what these attacks on voting require.
Take a lesson from Texas, Democrats. It’s time to shine a bright, ugly light on these extremely ugly machinations. Because it’s true what they say: democracy dies in the darkness.