It’s been a long time coming, but summer 2021 has finally arrived, bringing with it a collective sigh of relief so big even billions of cicadas can’t drown it out. The pandemic is coming under control. The economy is rebounding. And after four long years of waking up every day to some new assault on common fairness and the Constitution, Americans have a President who is sane, competent and determined to undo the damage of those dark years.
Yet while relaxing now is as necessary as breathing, the danger is far from over. The army of organized resentment that tried to overthrow the government on January 6 may have taken a hit from the arrests of at last 500 seditionists, but the armchair “patriots” backing their views are still a huge problem because their resentment is being weaponized by the GOP in an attempt to change the rules to permanently.
That’s why ComFest organizers chose "Defend and Extend Voting Rights” as the slogan for the 2021 Virtual Community Festival. Voting is the people’s leverage against unaccountable power, and right now there’s a national-wide attempt to limit access to this fundamental right.
Elections are all about numbers, and the numbers are clear that Republicans can can no longer win without suppressing the vote. “If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again,” Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News on Nov. 8.
The GOP’s solution? Introduce almost 400 voter restriction bills at the state level, in a campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and funded by major corporations, while working at the federal level to defeat the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) and the For The People Act (H.R. 1).
Some of these suppression efforts are old school: dark money, gerrymandering, limiting early voting, keeping the Federal Election Commission out of commission by selective understaffing. But some of the tactics are escalated and worrisome: fake audits that undermine confidence in all elections, intimidation of election workers, attempts to turn over to elected officials rather than judges the final decision on who won a contested race.
Fortunately, the forces of good are mobilizing fast and smart to rebut this anti-democratic campaign. A coalition of over 300 unions and social justice organizations, led by Common Cause, has demanded that corporations from Anheuser-Busch and Chevron to Raytheon and UPS stop funding efforts to make voting harder.
"Your continued financial support of ALEC is an active endorsement of these efforts to create more barriers to the freedom to vote and weaken representation for the American people in government," the groups wrote. "Intended or not, the money your company is contributing to ALEC helps fund this modern Jim Crow effort.”
Another major push is being coordinated and inspired by Stacey Abrams, whose Fair Fight Action organization has brought forth Hot Call Summer, a campaign to reach out by texting to at least 10 million voters in battleground states to “make sure that EVERY U.S. Senator is hearing from their constituents about the urgent need” to pass the For The People Act.
Other organizations working to stop voter suppression include Indivisible, Color of Change and Repairers of the Breach among many others. If this movement can maintain the momentum toward justice that came together for the 2020 election, the GOP's despicable effort to turn back the clock can be defeated.
The US is no longer in the grips of an authoritarian nightmare because good and sane citizens simply outvoted those delusional enough to want more cruelty and lies. The last election wasn’t stolen, and if turnout continues to be high the next one won’t be, either. Moving forward is not a matter of changing the minds of consolidated Trumpists, but about maintaining turnout in 2021, 2022 and beyond. The recipe for a healthy democracy is simple: every citizen a voter, every voter a participant in every election. Give everybody a voice and everybody wins.
The money behind voter suppression is intimidating, but last year proved once again that organizing absolutely works to change that unequal dynamic. Only if too many good people decide to relax and leave this urgent work to somebody else can the greedheads win.
So join the new civil rights revolution. Call your elected representatives, write letters to the editor, text corporate donors, march and lobby to keep the heat on. And bring your friends along. This verdant summer, full of promise, has been a long time coming. But if progressives don’t seize this moment it will be a long time gone.
By: Mimi Morris