I’ve done a lot of hard work in the past year trying to push past grumpy, find compassion and universal truths, build empathy with people who think differently than me, discover shared human values. I’ve been practically floating on the upbeat.
The 21st century GOP is just killing my vibe.
Wisconsin voted yesterday (April 7), and boy was it a poopy show. Follow me through this run-on sentence, and please read it in a shriek: State republicans who have gerrymandered and vote-suppressed their way to power (and this is not a debatable accusation, it’s what they are doing transparently and with purpose and glee)… used their minority power to force an election forward in a time when they know full well (and actually intend) that the impact will be to effectively deny the vote to many citizens, or force citizens to endanger their lives in order to vote… and thereby suppress even more votes… and then the conservative majority on the state supreme court smashed down the governor’s last-ditch effort to protect human life by delaying the election date or making it mail-in only… and then the conservative bare-majority on the US Supreme Court (which exists because McConnell refused to honor democracy by allowing the US senate to consider the sitting president’s Supreme Court nominee) thumbs-upped the Wisconsin GOP’s move to put people in harm’s way in the interest of politics and power.
It’s perfectly designed to dump me off my there’s-hope-for-humanity cloud.
Oh sure, you can make plenty of technical arguments about the rule of law and blah blah blah. And plenty of conservative jurists will do that. They will need to, in order to sleep well at night. But it’s all sophistry. The same ilk who now say “we can’t stand in the way of local state election decisions!” handed Dubya the election against Gore by… overturning a state court’s ruling. So I call BS, and no fancy-dancing argument will get me past that. If it takes more than a few sentences to convince me that you’re right on this, then you’re jumping through hoops and I’m not impressed.
Our state assembly speaker, GOP huckster Robin Vos, insisted that elections were safe to go forward yesterday. He proved his point about how safe it was by showing up to work at a polling site looking like this:
Full PPE. What an ass-hat. There are nurses and doctors who can’t doll themselves up like this while treating patients with COVID-19. Where did he get this from? Why don’t the other poll workers around him have that outfit? Wouldn’t it have been nice if that equipment could have gone to a medical provider for actual use in treating patients, instead of being wasted on a stunted man engaging in a political stunt?
I’ll tell you what this montage tells me. Robin Vos knows full well that there was a massive risk in going forward with the vote yesterday. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been dressed like that. Robin Vos knows full well that people will get sick because of gathering to vote. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been dressed like that. Robin Vos doesn’t care about other people’s lives, least of all Democratic voters lives. He wouldn’t mind if they all die. He cares about power, and that is all.
As for my own very local assembly representative, Dan Knodl (R)… He also made a statement by working the polls. Except he went somewhere called Richfield, which is a half hour north of here and in a different county. Maybe the lower COVID-19 infection rate there (so far) and the higher concentration of Republican (white) voters had something to do with that…? No! How rude of me to suggest such a thing! How rude of me to suggest that if he really cared about his own constituents, he would have volunteered at a polling location in Milwaukee County, which had real poll-worker shortages and where he was actually elected as an assemblyman, instead of going… somewhere else.
I no longer believe that I live in a democracy, or even a democratic republic (as many blithe neo-cons like to natter about, as if this somehow makes it okay for a minority to own power through machinations). Our elected leadership in America doesn’t reflect voter preference. The numbers don’t lie. President Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million. The US Senate has a bare Republican majority, even though in each of the last two elections Democratic candidates nationwide received millions more votes than Republican candidates. Here in Wisconsin, the gerrymandering is so bad that it looks like this from the last election: democratic candidates for our assembly got 53% (a majority, for math-weak readers) of votes overall, but walked away with only 36% (extreme minority) of assembly seats.
The staff of my state representatives — Dan Knodl and Alberta Darling, both republicans — don’t return my calls when I ask. When I do manage to reach a human, they’ve taken to lecturing me as if I work for them, instead of the other way around. They firmly believe they answer to their political party, not the voters in their districts, and they treat me with contempt when I call with a view they don’t agree with.
In my view, anyone who thinks this is okay – and apparently a lot of people do – doesn’t believe in democracy or representative government. It makes me all crazy inside.
What I think is, democracy in America is being strangled to death by the GOP’s increasingly authoritarian platform. The GOP wants people to not vote, just like authoritarian governments all over the world. The GOP doesn’t care what the majority of citizens want.
The news that gives me pause in the face of this, and that may allow me to exit Grumpy Space before too long, is that people still showed up to vote, despite the threat to their health. Having been denied absentee ballots, having been denied a period of grace to allow a later election in safer times, having been denied the opportunity to vote safely, people still came out and stood in line for hours and flexed their voter muscles. Despite the knowledge that their votes are meaningless because of gerrymandering, people still voted.
They had a choice to stay home, and they didn’t. They haven’t given up. Heroes all. I hope we all turn out in November and claw back democracy, one vote at a time.