Its been no secret that Republicans have been trying to undermine elections for some time, from restricting access to polling places to purging millions of legitimate voters off the rolls outright. A new poll, however, shows us the next logical step in the evolution of such efforts: why even have an election in the first place? As it turns out, a majority of Republican voters would support postponing the 2020 Presidential election if Congress supported such a move.
National Triage: Now, remember- half of Republicans surveyed means less than a quarter of the entire American population. But the fact that anyone supports postponing democratic elections shows that there is an ever-more dangerous sickness in our nation; that 52% of Republicans think its a good idea to postpone elections “until the country can fix this problem [of voter fraud]” is a mortal threat. And I want to make this expressly clear: I am not saying that the people in the survey are the threat. I am saying that the philosophy behind this belief is the mortal danger that we must purge. I believe that this is an important distinction to make, because vilifying the people would not only breed more divisions in our country, but it would be an inaccurate diagnosis. To dehumanize the people in this survey would be like saying, “There’s been an outbreak of Spanish Flu, and I blame the people who’re infected”. No, to counteract this budding fascist ideology, we must correctly identify where it came from and attack it at its source.
Diagnosing the Illness: For anyone to say that postponing democratic elections is a good idea, there has to be a complete breakdown in faith of the democratic system. Such rot does not spread in a single election cycle- probably not even in two or three. Therefore, we must first get comfortable with the idea that however we go about treating this illness, we must be prepared for the regimen to last at least as long as it took for the ideology to take root. We will probably be seeing this ideology for years to come, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that it will get worse before it gets better.
Beliefs such as this one have to come from sources that peddle in doubt and disinformation. You won’t be surprised to hear that this would include much of the right-wing media in the country. Talk radio personalities and cable “news” sources alike have waged a war not only on truth (which is subjective) but on facts (which are objective) for decades. Funded by corporate interests with bottomless wallets, they have eroded trust in the scientific process and pinned all blame for America’s problems on national institutions that were previously seen as neutral, good-faith actors. One by one, they have knocked down the governmental checks on their power, and with each collapsing barrier they have expedited our arrival at this very point in time.
Prescribing the Remedy: There is no easy way to go about combating this cancer. Punishing media outlets like Fox or Breitbart wouldn’t do any good- in fact it would make the situation worse, as these entities would now have proof that the government (and by extension, those who support it) cannot be trusted. To properly cure anti-democratic ideas, we need a broad treatment regimen that would restore trust in “the system”, rather than one that harshly targets one unsavory symptom or another.
We will need comprehensive campaign finance reform that abolishes the disastrous Citizens United and McCutcheon v. FEC rulings; these rulings effectively make our politicians more beholden to a handful of shadowy mega-donors than to their constituents. We will need to return to something like the now-defunct Fairness Doctrine, so that no one candidate can dominate a conversation effectively unopposed. We may need to enact laws that cause Presidential campaigns (and possibly all Federal campaigns entirely) to be 100% publicly funded, so that no one ever needs to spend a billion dollars to get into office.
Furthermore, we will need reforms to the very way we vote. Outlawing anti-democratic practices such as gerrymandering would greatly restore people’s faith in our system. Additionally, most Americans are familiar with “first-past-the-post” voting, even if they’re unfamiliar with the name; this is the style of voting we currently engage in, and it says that as soon as a candidate hits 50.01%, all other votes are essentially meaningless. This may discourage people from voting to begin with, as they don’t want to take time out of their day just to “waste” their vote; this is especially true for non-battleground areas. But if we adopt something like Maine’s ranked-choice voting system, which allows a person’s vote to ‘slide’ to their second or third-choice candidate if their first choice doesn’t win, we could encourage more voter engagement and faith in the voting system altogether. Here’s a good explanation of why ranked-choice voting would have this effect.
Fight the Root, Not the Symptom: It would be all too easy to start hootin’ and hollerin’ about the Republicans who support postponing elections themselves. Remember that, while this WaPo poll (WaPoll?) is troubling, our enemy in all of this is not Republican voters. Our enemy are the monied interests that have spent decades eroding our countrymen’s faith in our democracy, and the spineless leech-like politicians that allowed them to get away with it. We can effectively combat anti-democratic ideologies, but only if we focus our efforts on solving the root causes of fascist philosophies, and not spend our limited resources on playing whack-a-mole with the latest outrage.
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