Donald Trump did not start the ugly politics of the past few years. The spiteful and destructive partisanship is the creation of other white men – and women – as seen in Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin, where Republican lawmakers have moved to curb the powers of incoming governors and attorneys general.
The Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal sees a parallel to the actions of the then Democratic party after Reconstruction: “Southern Democrats calling themselves ‘Redeemers’ seized power in former Confederate states, often by violence, and ended black political power and freedom by imposing mandatory work laws that reinstituted slavery in all but name and gutting voting rights, among many other terrible things. The democratic backsliding that re-imposed white supremacy and oneparty rule lasted for more than half a century.”
Now it is the Republicans who want to usurp the will of voters. They claim they are trying to protect their policies but the goal of their soft coup attempts is safeguarding white privilege at a time when a very different Democratic party has vastly expanded its diversity and platform, while the Republican party is being reduced to a front for white men.
Elham Khatami of Think Progress reported that the incoming House of Representatives will be the most diverse ever. Democrats fielded 219 “minorities” and more than 110 were elected; of 272 women candidates, more than 120 won.
Trump, the Republican-dominated Conthe Republican-friendly U.S. gress, Supreme Court and organizations that manipulate the system are complicit in the power grab. The president is the facilitator.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell frustrated President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. The court gutted the Voting Rights Act and also sided with Citizens United, ruling that corporations can contribute unlimited election campaign funds.
Noteworthy also is the uniformity of the policies which the Republicans are seeking to preserve. Far from being random, they result from the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is funded mostly by corporate interests. Its membership includes 2,000 legislators and 200 corporate members, the Center for Media and Democracy reported in October 2017.
Legislators and corporations on ALEC task forces vote to approve “model” bills, the center said, adding, “Participating legislators, overwhelmingly Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations – without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law.”
These invariably partisan laws have alarming consequences for all Americans, in areas such as women’s rights, health care, climate change, labor and a minimum wage, housing, criminal justice, LGBT rights, gun control, education and banking and finance.
Florida is no exception to usurping the will of voters. Republicans took over both houses of the Legislature in 1998 and won the governorship. They manipulated the electoral system to gain that “trifecta,” as some analysts call it, and govern by substituting special interests for the wishes of Floridians.
Even though 65 percent of Floridians voted to restore civil rights, including voting rights, to the state’s 1.5 million exfelons, including at least 400,000 African Americans, the Sun Sentinel’s editorial board reports there is an attempt to move the issue to the Legislature by claiming there is “confusion” as to how it can be implemented — a power grab Florida-style. But, the Sun Sentinel points out, “The amendment says ‘voting rights shall be restored upon completion’ of a sentence. Sounds pretty self-explanatory to us.”
The one check on legislative overreach has been the state Supreme Court, which, in recent years, has had a “liberal” majority among its seven members. In yet another attempted power grab, departing Gov. Rick Scott sought to appoint the successors to three liberals scheduled to retire because of age but the court blocked him. Governor-elect Ron DeSantis is almost certain to name three conservatives and swing the court to the right. Also, the court will no longer have a black member because the Judicial Nominating Commission excluded them from its short list of candidates.
Which leads again to the relevance of Republican power grabs to African Americans. “Each attempt to declare Democrats unconstitutional specifically attacks the power of African Americans,” the Huffington Post’s Blumenthal stated.
“African Americans are heavily represented in public and private sector employee unions, suffer most from voting restrictions (particularly those designed with ‘surgical precision’ to harm them) and contribute less money to campaigns than white Americans, never mind powerful corporations.”
“The question now,” Blumenthal added, “is whether or not the attacks on democracy, which inherently involves attacks on African American political rights, and efforts to mandate one-party rule by Republicans, the heirs to the Sothern Redeemer culture, is a sign of things to come or a dying gasp of a political minority out of step with the times.”