You have such a fervent, passionate, evangelical faith in this country — why in the name of God don’t you have any faith in the system of government you’re so hell-bent to protect? — “Seven Days in May” (1964)
When someone continually and conceitedly touts their fidelity, check the scandal sheets for their names. When someone, unprompted, feels the need to trumpet their honesty, check your wallets and your purses. So when a group insatiably crows about liberty and freedom, you can just about bank on it that some withdrawal or undermining of rights and liberties is afoot.
And this is where we find ourselves, at this point in time, with today’s GOP — especially those in the legislatures in states all across the country. They have either passed or proposed laws that restrict and hamper the right to vote or renders certain votes ineffective; they have forwarded and crafted legislation that makes unions, for all intents and purposes, impotent in the work of organizing and mobilizing workers for higher wages.
Although some of these attempts have been extremely overt, such as voter ID laws, Electoral College rigging etc, others have been quite clandestine as the funds and influence of a select few have been used to attack things like the science of climate change.
Secrecy: the ultimate anti-democracy drug
If it’s secret and elite, it can’t be good — “The Skulls” (2000)
The idea of a well-funded, secretive and exclusive minority orchestrating the affairs of an entire nation runs counter to the pulse and heartbeat of democracy. Not that a state of affairs such as this is a novel thing in U.S. history, but recent research has shined a fresh light on them.
Since 1999, Donors Trust has handed out nearly $400 million in private donations to more than 1,000 right-wing and libertarian groups. Donors Trust is classified as a “donor-advised” fund under U.S. tax law, which means its funders don’t have direct say in where their money goes — a sort of reverse blind trust. That in turn allows them to remain largely anonymous.
Now the reason for this secrecy is not hard to understand: Wealthy donors can back the right-wing causes they want without attracting public scrutiny or accountability. Mother Jones magazine has called Donors Trust “the dark-money ATM of the right,” yet to call Donors Trust an ATM is not nearly complete enough. When an ordinary citizen withdraws from an ATM it is their account; when average Joe or Jane makes a transaction it is recorded, there is documentation. Not so with secret and shadowy political action funds.
Donors Trust recipients include the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, an apparatus for the interests of Big Business that helps write state laws; the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a media outlet that blatantly promotes and forwards right-wing causes; and the State Policy Network, a number of right-wing think tanks that push so-called “free-market” policies.
You get up on your little 21-inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. — “Network” (1976)
Although Donors Trust has given millions to various right-wing causes, yet it is denying climate change that appears to be its top priority. Suzanne Goldenberg, U.S. environment correspondent for The Guardian, has written a series of articles detailing the ties between Donors Trust and opponents of climate change science.
She states: “The goal here is to create this illusion, this idea that there is a really strong movement against the science of climate change and against action on climate change.” She also writes that “in fact, that’s actually, to an extent, become a reality now — you see that opposition to action on climate change is central to Republican thinking.”
An analysis by the environmentalist group Greenpeace reveals Donors Trust has funneled more than one-third of its donations — at least $146 million — to more than 100 climate change denial groups over the past decade. In 2010, 12 of these groups received between 30 to 70 percent of their funding from Donors Trust.
The funds, allocated between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of think tanks and activist groups which worked, and largely succeeded, to separate climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarizing “wedge issue” for hardcore conservatives.
“Corona veniat electus … victory shall come to the worthy. Today, democracy, liberty and equality are words to fool the people. No nation can progress with such ideas. They stand in the way of action.” — “The Great Dictator” (1940)
Mitt Romney once joked that Barack Obama “promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet.” The irony of such a statement, a very cruel irony, is that right-wing money is indeed attempting to stifle the science that would address the rising tides of the oceans and the sickness of our planet.
It seems that organizations such as Donors Trust, believes that there’s really no need to construct a superior argument or to make a better point, when you can simply buy the debate.
The vote: the sacrament of democracy
You’re not going to have a country that can make these rules work, if you haven’t got men who have learned to tell human rights from a punch in the nose. — Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)
The right to vote has never traveled an easy road in this nation. The ballot has been stained with blood; it is has, at times, been drenched in prejudice and discrimination and even though, at various junctures along this country’s timeline it has been promised, it has been a promise that has been constantly under threat.
For example, Virginia lawmakers have recently approved a new measure imposing strict requirements for photo identification at the polls. The bill would force voters to produce government-issued documents such as a driver’s license, passport or a voter ID card in order to cast their ballots.
During his State of the Union address, President Obama recognized, in the audience, 102-year-old Desiline Victor, who waited for hours to cast her ballot in the last election. Victor lives in Florida, where an estimated 200,000 voters failed to vote after becoming frustrated by the long lines. A direct result of the Florida GOP’s cutting of early voting in the state.
Lawmakers in as many as a dozen states are considering new or tougher voter ID laws this year, many of which are expected to become law despite criticism similar moves received in 2012. To be sure, it already seems likely more states will have stricter elections administration schemes come 2014 than there were last year.
In March, the Supreme Court will hear arguments over an Arizona law that required voters to show proof of citizenship to register to vote or cast their ballots. A federal court said the requirement violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which Congress passed to standardize registration and encourage turnout. Arizona, unsurprisingly, appealed. The outcome could be significant in future state-federal disputes over election administration.
No, we’ve never seen democracy! All we’ve seen is hypocrisy! We don’t see any American Dream. We’ve experienced only the American Nightmare! — “Malcolm X” (1992)
A number of states in the wake of Obama’s victory this past November, have begun to talk seriously about changing the way electoral votes are awarded in presidential elections.
These planned proposals would award a state’s electoral votes by congressional district rather than on a winner-take-all basis — two electoral votes would go to the statewide winner. To give one example of how this would work: President Barack Obama who won in Virginia last year, won all of the state’s 13 electoral votes. Under the GOP plan, he would have only gotten … wait for it, wait for it… only six.
This course of action, mind you, is only being proposed in states with GOP-led legislatures that voted for Obama. Not one state that voted for Romney, which is controlled by Republicans, has proposed such a plan.
Can’t change the will of people by offering a more compelling argument for your policies? No problem, just change how Electoral College votes are allocated so the winner of the popular vote doesn’t actually win the state. This can hardly be construed as a loving embrace of democracy. No, on the contrary, it is a dagger aimed at its heart.
Let us dispense with all the pretense about liberty and freedom shall we? This is about a party who is committed to protecting the wealthy and privileged few at the expense of the many; this is about a GOP that sees changing and shifting demographics and it scares them. This past election cycle, the right-wing spoke of American citizens (the poor and people of color) exercising their right to vote as if they were a foreign occupying power. They spoke of them as un-American usurpers unworthy of participating in their constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote.
The Republicans continue to try and cast aspersions on the process that led to a popularly-elected president — one who did so without the benefit of gerrymandered districts like those who occupy the House of Representatives. And the sad and simple truth of it all is that democracy is not guiding principle for them, it is an impediment; democracy is not what they wake up every morning vigorously fighting for, it is something they seemed determined to plot against.
The secret money; the planned subversion of electoral votes and the attacks on the right to vote all points to what was so eloquently stated almost 50 years ago:
Where the hell have you heard that voice, General; in freight elevators, dark alleys and secret places in the dead of night? How did that voice seep into a locked room full conspirators? That’s not where you hear the voice of the people, General, not in this republic. You want to defend the United States of America, then defend it with the tools it supplies you with, its Constitution. You ask for a mandate from a ballot box. You don’t steal it after midnight when the country has its back turned. — “Seven Days in May” (1964)
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