While Republicans from Congress to the Justice Department continue the great work of turning America into a place where every aspect of the government is completely under the control of a single all-powerful executive, they have identified the nation’s true adversary: authoritarianism.
But, as New York Magazine notes, for conservatives, that scary word doesn’t mean what you may think it means. They’re not concerned by the idea of one man having his stubby fingers on the buttons for Diet Coke and nuclear bombs and meting out justice. They’re concerned about the other kind of authoritarianism. The kind where people get to vote. Also known as democracy.
Republicans, who are now feeling super-powerful in the warm afterglow of the Barr letter, are taking this opportunity to revive potent slams from 1950s beach movies and call Democrats pencil-necked geeks, not to mention “power-hungry crazies” who are “declaring war on the Constitution.”
Fox’s Marc Thiessen—who notably was the brain trust behind the scheme to strip House Democrats of their security clearances in order to stop the work of House committees, while failing to note that House members don’t need security clearances—has also been delivering the full-throated warning that the “increasingly radical” Democrats are trying to force their agenda on “an unwilling nation.” Fox News put it in all caps: “DEMS TEARING UP THE CONSTITUTION.”
Exactly what is the radical, authoritarian paper-shredding doom that the power-crazies are trying to deliver to America? It’s this: one person, one vote.
The screaming from Republicans is because Democrats are fighting to end policies that make it easier for the nation to be dominated by a wealthy, white, angry minority that has manipulated the system for not just decades, but centuries, to protect itself against the threat of genuine democracy. Protecting that control isn’t just what Trump is all about; it’s what his party is all about, and Republicans know it’s the only fight that matters.
After months of declaring that the Republican healthcare plan was so good, so much better than anything the Democrats could do, just … super, super good, Trump let slip on Thursday that there is no Republican healthcare plan. But there is a working group that was creating that plan! Except there wasn’t, because the senators he named didn’t even know there was supposed to be a group. Health care is not an actual concern for Republicans.
Voting rights are a concern for Republicans. As in, they don’t like them. Republicans have been working hard at the state and federal level to purge voter rolls, make it harder to register, and make it harder to vote. All because they know that their wealthier, older, whiter contingent of voters will be the ones least hampered by the barriers they’re raising. Whether it’s a new poll tax on former felons in Florida, closing up polling stations in Kansas, shutting down Sunday voting across the South, or simply raising ID requirements everywhere, Republicans are determined to see that millions of American voters do not vote.
But that’s not enough. To preserve their control, Republicans also have to make sure that when Americans do vote, their vote is diluted or diminished or simply ignored to the point where it makes no difference. That’s the purpose of gerrymandering along party lines that rewards Republicans with the majority of seats even in states where Democrats win a majority of votes. It’s why they want a citizenship question tacked onto the census.
It’s also why Republicans have become increasingly concerned about the progress of the National Popular Vote Compact. That agreement, passed on a state-by-state basis, would assure that the popular-vote winner became president, without requiring a constitutional amendment or support from every state. The National Popular Vote Compact has already picked up the majority of the support it needs, and could be effectively in place in time for the 2024 election.
That’s what has Republicans really scared. Because it’s hard to gerrymander the national popular vote.
Republicans are painting this as an attempt by “urban areas” and “coastal elites” to take over the nation. If by this they mean that, for once, the votes of people who live in larger states and more populated areas would be exactly as valuable as those of people who live in rural areas of small states, then yes. That’s just what this is. Right now, whether it’s the Senate or the presidential election, rural voters in small states have much, much more influence than voters from more populated areas. Republicans have been trying to maintain that balance, mostly through the magic power of racism.
But Democrats are not going to stop fighting for one person, one vote. No matter what chyrons appear on Fox or what scare words the Republicans use. Because what they’re afraid of is democracy, and that’s what Democrats deliver.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.