Voting rights ~ a round we can’t afford to lose

Dear President Biden,

Happy August, a day late.

I hope you had a good weekend and that you’re feeling refreshed and ready to defend democracy. It sounds like a few of the tears in your cape maybe got some attention on Friday when you met with Pelosi and Schumer about the need for an all out crusade against voter suppression and election fixing. I sure as hell hope that’s the case because as E. J. Dionne said the other day in the WP:

“But if Biden has been right in saying that our democracy’s health depends on the political system demonstrating its capacity to undertake ambitious projects, our democracy’s success also requires — well, that it remain a democracy.”

I know you’ve been getting this message every which way from Sunday, but it’s so critically important that it bears repeating every day of the week – we can’t do jack to improve the condition of the planet, to redress the racial wealth gap and income inequality generally, or to dismantle systemic racism and sexism if we don’t have a functioning democracy predicated on full enfranchisement. Full stop.

So we need you to do for voting rights and election reform (and all the other nefarious ways that the GOP is currently seeking to restrict enfranchisement or undermine results they don’t like) what you apparently did for the infrastructure bill. We need you to start using your ancient Rolodex to reach out to the persuadables on both sides of the aisle. In this case, your long, long relationships with many of those people are your superpowers and we need you to bring them to bear here, on this all-important issue.

The GOP strategists have been at this game for a long, long time. They’ve been sowing the seeds of government distrust for decades and during this time they’ve also all but perfected their divide and conquer strategies. They’ve got their languaging of repressive, racist state legislation down to a science and they know that a sure fire way to keep women distracted and otherwise engaged is to attack abortion rights. They’re good. They know what they’re doing. They have literal playbooks they share around, refining and honing, never resting or taking for granted that what worked in March will work in October. They are a machine.

In a piece for The Message Box entitled “Why the GOP Wants to Kill its Voters,” Dan Pfeiffer quoted the composer Frank Wilhoit, noting that he perfectly describes the modern Republican Party. Here’s what Wilhoit said:

“Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”

He nails it, doesn’t he? And the GOP has been nailing it too. And if we aren’t careful – and bold and loud and clear – democracy and all of us in all of the out-groups are going to find ourselves nailed into very stuffy, very dark coffins.

May we all be safe from laws that don’t protect and serve everyone.
May we all be willing to use our superpowers to guard against passage of laws that only protect and serve in-groups.
May we all do what we can to help our POTUS strengthen his resolve on voting rights.
May we all accept that this is a round we can’t afford to lose.

Tracy Simpson

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