On one level we should be grateful to Donald Trump. For he has ripped away the veil that has been shrouding the Republican Party’s pervasive and deceptive bigotry for decades. Trump has roared from every rooftop in every state what Republican politicians and operatives have been whispering behind closed doors. Through illusive dog whistles and coded language the Party has bamboozled ordinary middle and working class people into voting against their own interests. The GOP has nurtured and fomented fear and bigotry in order to distract the base from its main mission. Everyone should know by now that the GOP works exclusively on behalf of the wealthiest Americans and powerful corporate interests. It will do all and anything it can to hold onto the reigns of power.
When Republican primary voters selected Donald Trump as their Party’s leader, Trump tore off his Party’s mask while grabbing a bullhorn. He bellowed xenophobia, racism and misogyny through a dog foghorn. And then he trained a laser focused microscope on the cancer that has corroded the Party of Lincoln since Richard Nixon. Trump’s unabashed language resonated with the GOP base voters that had been carefully nourished on Jim Crowism and sexism for decades. With more than a little help from Fox “News” and right wing talk radio.
Of course, most Republican leaders are horrified now that their cynical schtick has been unveiled. As a result the Party seems to be having a three way implosion among the Breitbart far right, the tea party conservatives and moderates, or at least those who have not been purged out of the GOP by now. Well, as far as I am concerned the train wreck called today’s Republican Party is well-deserved and long overdue.
Naturally because Trump is losing, and he may lose hugely, he is attempting to find a scapegoat. A narcissist cannot lose. Such is not an option. So, “the election is rigged!.” “The system is rigged!” “The media is rigged!” “Hillary is rigging everything!” “Voting machines in Texas are rigged!”
Of course the election is rigged. It has always has been rigged in certain states. But the rigging is not on behalf of a candidate. The election fix is in, instead to discriminate against people of color in states like Texas and Wisconsin at or before certain voters arrive at the voting polls. Republican county clerks and secretaries of state always look for excuses to purge voters from the rolls prior to an election. Jeb Bush in FL 2000 comes to mind.
The clear and present evils to voter disenfranchisement and distorted democracy are the devils called voter suppression efforts and gerrymandering.
In Texas, while the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Photo ID Law as a violation of the Voting Rights Act, some poll workers in Houston and San Antonio continue to ignore the relaxed ruling on the ID’s with which one can vote in this election.
At the same time, poll workers in Wisconsin and North Carolina neglect federal rulings while continuing to make voting difficult for the usual voters: people of color, students, the poor and the elderly that favor Democrats.
Another form of voter disenfranchisement is partisan gerrymandering. This should be illegal system allows for lawmakers to chose their constituents. It makes their seats in state and federal houses less competitive and more safe for the office holder. It’s tougher for the opposing Party to win in these districts. This is why it will be difficult for Democrats to take over the U.S. House of Representatives this year. The fix is in for Republicans because they held the majority and could draw the district lines in 2010. Which is one more reason why midterm election turnout is so important. If Hillary and the Democrats sweep in 2016 most will be lost in 2018 if Democrats don’t vote. We know the travesty that will follow when we have a Democrat in the White House with Republican Senates and Houses. We’re living it now.
In the end gerrymandering hurts the constituents the most. This is especially true in Texas.
The article cited above is written by a Democratic candidate for Texas state house district HD 47.
I would occasionally read articles about politicians who were either corrupt, incompetent or wholly self-interested and I would ask myself, “Who elects these people?” And I would go back to work and forget about it. Then, while working as a Texas Assistant Attorney General in 2011, I defended the State of Texas in the redistricting litigation that followed the adoption of new district maps that were drawn, clearly and admittedly, for partisan gain. After I left the Attorney General’s Office in 2012, I watched the negative effects partisan gerrymandering had on our election system, our political process and on voters. And it all made sense. I understood.
Of course gerrymandering takes place behind doors. Voters are clueless and if most of us knew what went on behind the scenes we would be furious.
Partisan gerrymandering is about rigging elections. The Texas Constitution currently allows incumbent politicians to draw their own districts. To do this, they use historical voter data coupled with precise map-drawing technology to identify voters they think will vote for them and those who won’t. Then they draw the district lines to include the voters they like and exclude the ones they don’t to ensure their re-election. Currently the process is legal, but there’s a reason that it’s done behind closed doors. When voters find out it’s happening, they disapprove.
See, folks, the Donald is right. The elections are rigged. Against voters. In states like Ohio and Arizona, however, voters can by-pass their state legislators by obtaining enough signatures to put redistricting efforts on the ballot. Citizens can vote for independent commissions to do the redistricting on behalf of the state. Texas has no such luck. We are stuck with unfairness and a lack of representation. The Texas GOP has stifled our voices. Most of us have sadly given up, as a result. Texas is one of the lowest voting states in the U.S.
After two decades of being deprived choices, voters have started to catch on. Sensing that elections are rigged, voters all over the state are refusing to vote because they don’t believe their vote matters. And in a majority of districts they’re right. In this election cycle for example, 97 of the 150 state house races have already been decided because the candidates won their primary and they face no major opposition in the general election. The majority of Texans are general election voters, meaning they don’t vote in primaries. When only one candidate’s name appears on the general election ballot, voters have good reason to believe that their vote doesn’t count.
Partisan gerrymandering also makes it hard to hold office holders accountable. They can engage in corrupt practices, crony capitalism and pay to play politics with abandon. Former Governor Rick Perry brought these practices to an art form. A “public servant” he left office as a very rich man.
And when it comes to actually governing these gerrymandered lawmakers realize if they compromise with a moderate Republican or a Democrat they will be challenged in the next primary.
This ugly scenario plays in other states, too.
Politico recently referenced a Time article that appeared in 2013, in which Marco Rubio was heard instructing a class of students as follows: “If you know the only way to lose your seat is to get out-conservatived in a primary, you’ll never let anyone get to your right.” And Ohio Governor John Kasich observed in a Washington Post article in 2015: “We carve these safe districts, and then when you’re in a safe district you have to watch your extremes, and you keep moving to the extremes.”
The only way out of this mess is for people to vote in primary and general elections. Each and every election.
Only the People can fix this problem. We can do it by voting, in both primary and general elections, for representatives who promise to vote for redistricting reform.
The good news is turnout voting in early states is high. This is especially true in Houston/Harris County. We’re blowing voter turnout off of the charts this year. Second early voting day outpaced the first. Let’s keep up the excellent work! Vote, baby vote! My dream is for Trump to drag the entire GOP down with him in flames, from the White House to the Harris County’s dog catcher.
After all, Texas has a very ugly history of discrimination. Let’s take a hatchet to this vile cycle of intolerance and inequity and smash it to smithereens. And let’s inform voters that the GOP dog whistle “voter fraud” translates to voter suppression efforts are ahead.
Update: I just returned from an early voting poll in Houston. Here it is the fourth day of early voting. I arrived at 1:50 p.m. CDT. I stood in line for 45 minutes. The clerk lining us up outside said she’s never seen a turnout like this one, not even in 2008 and 2012.
Voting took merely five minutes because I voted a straight D ticket.
Vote, baby, vote. Vote like you’ve never voted before.