Monday, April 12, 2021

Forward the GOP white brigade

            Half a league, half a league, half a league onward.

            All in the valley of Death rode the 10 thousand.

            "Forward the White Brigade!"

            Apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson, but a certain full-of-self Republican in Texas has made the appropriation too easy.

            Last week the Washington Post shared video of an unidentified GOP official calling for 10,000 volunteers to brave the darker reaches of urban Houston to find -- and fight! -- voter fraud.

            Sounding like a Trumpian brigadier (Eric?), he exhorts the troops, saying that to brave a harrowing urban center frequented by people of varied colors calls for "confidence and courage."

            You see, he says, "This is where the fraud is occurring."

            Courage. Courage.

            Might this also be where the voter intimidation will be once the GOP "army" besets heavily minority precincts?

            "Army" is not my terminology but that of the Harris County Republican chairman in explaining to the Post what the white knight might have had in mind in rallying the troops: "an army" recruited "to engage voters for the whole ballot, top to bottom, and ensure every legal vote is counted."

            Presumably this will not entail handing voters any bottled beverage, something which, last we checked, remains legal in Texas.

            Water for he who thirsts. No matter how biblical, it's an Election Day misdemeanor now in Georgia.

            A Texas reader is not stirred: "Oh, my, how sad! Well, can't some people do some things for themselves? What is wrong with taking their own bottle of water?"

            Of course, the issue isn't packing one's own Perrier. The issue isn't concerned citizens volunteering to make sure that elections run smoothly.

            The issue is two-fold

            (1) All of these maneuvers are framed around a lie – the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

            (2) All are aimed at voters of color.

            A big lie. A big, racist lie.

            Call it a brigade. Call it an army. The GOP has identified the enemy, and it is voters of color.

            It is voters who traditionally endure longer lines in urban centers. And they do endure. We see them every Election Day entrusting a system that doesn't always trust them.

            They don't live out among the white picket fences where Escalades roam free. They live in the land of row houses and bus stops.

            It's a sweeping claim to call a major political party racist, or race-motivated.

            But we look at the Big Lie, and we look at the frantic maneuvers to overturn the 2020 presidential results and now to suppress the vote under the guise of "vote security." It's all about challenging or tamping down the votes of minorities. And by review, it's all motivated by a lie.

            In the words of the Brennan Center for Justice, which monitors voting rights, these vote suppression measures are "a solution in search of a problem."

            Ask Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, long and loud in trumpeting the Big Lie.

            His staff last year devoted 22,000 hours investigating voter fraud and found just 16 cases of it.

            Gov. Greg Abbott preceded Paxton in the same role and launched his own futile quest to find the kind of rampant voter fraud that would justify increasing levels of "vote security."

            There is no other reason for what we see today in a host of red states but that Donald Trump said the election was stolen – and stolen by heavily minority districts – and that's that.

            A big, racist lie.

            So it doesn't matter what the "army" calls itself. That's not the issue. Presuming it doesn't break the law in intimidating voters, the visitors are welcome down where all those urban dwellers dwell.

            The issue is that the Republican Party's quest is that few people of color vote.

            Forward, White Brigade.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Vote suppression: the GOP national pastime

            Wanted: a new location for the Major League All-Star Game. Qualifications: (1) must love baseball; (2) must show fidelity to self-government, meaning opposition to chicanery that makes it harder for poor people to vote.

            Georgia, you're out, says Commissioner Rob Manfred.

            Hey, MLB, pick my state, Colorado. It has done great things to increase voter turnout.

            My state loves democracy as much as it loves baseball. Our governor has put out the word to MLB. Pick us.

            Atlanta just lost the All-Star Game and baseball's draft because the major leagues joined the swelling ranks of those repulsed by Georgia's newly restrictive voting laws.

            Hopefully it's just the beginning of pain for a host of Republican leaders who have aimed a dark stream of spittle at our democracy.

            President Biden calls what Georgia has done "Jim Crow on steroids." That's not hyperbole when, in addition to decimating the number of ballot drop-off boxes, Georgia goes so far as to forbid giving water to voters standing in line.

            This is not a new initiative. Baseball is America's pastime. Vote suppression has become the Republican Party's pastime.

            That condition has not beset my state. Colorado leads the nation in making voting easy and accessible.

            Colorado has demonstrated that Donald Trump's screeching about the perils of mail-in voting is just blather.

            Colorado has universal mail-in voting. It works.

            Not only does Colorado not restrict when people can register or vote, it has same-day voter registration. It works.

            Colorado supplies a plentitude of drop-off boxes for mail ballots. It works.

            What baseball has said to Georgia is that you can't host a game treasured by Americans if you spit on something even more cherished: the right to vote.

            Not surprisingly, Texas Republicans are winding up to deliver a loogie.

            You would think Republicans in Texas wouldn't need to go all Houston Astros to retain their political advantage. Well, bang that trash can.

            A Senate bill would submarine local efforts to increase voter turnout – like extended early voting and the wide availability of voter drop-off boxes.

            It would prohibit extended hours meant for shift workers. It would outlaw drive-through voting. It would take decisions about polling places out of the hands of local officials. It would allow partisan poll-waters to videotape voters they deem "suspicious."

            It's offensive. It's wrong. It's hyper-partisan. It's driven by racism.

            Just as surely as Republicans tried to overturn the votes of minority-heavy precincts in the 2020 election, these laws draw a target on poor people and those of color attempting to carry out their citizenly duty.

            Republicans cannot deny this. They know it. People of color know it.

            Republicans say this is about "election integrity." It is just the opposite. It's election dishonesty.

            Fortunately, some other players know it, like Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines in Georgia. Like American Airlines and Dell Technologies, which have registered their revulsion with what the Texas Senate has voted to do.

            What's most scandalous about the flurry of vote-suppression measures in red states is that their pretext is Donald Trump's Big Lie about the election. Worse still is the transparent, Trump-style racism inherent.

            It's heartening to see the blowback.

            The next blowback will be from black and brown voters.

            Godspeed to Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Beto O'Rourke in Texas and progressive forces in Arizona who impress on voters what the Republican Party has attempted to do. I predict it will backfire with increased minority turnout.

            The first shoe to drop is what Major League Baseball did last week.

            Again, MLB: For your All-Star Game, let me offer a state that loves democracy as much as it loves baseball.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com