There are many ways that Americans are choosing to resist the potential excesses and dangers of the impending Trump regime, among them organizing protests, trying to hold our current officials accountable, contributing time and money to various organizations that will work to protect those most vulnerable among us, tracking and working to prevent hate crimes, even exhorting the press to steel its spine for the days ahead. These, like what I am about to suggest, are all necessary, but not sufficient. But, thinking over the longer term, If we want our democracy to reflect the values of the majority of Americans while protecting those in the minority, there’s one issue that we should take up with fundamental fervor: the inviolable right and obligation to vote, and the principle every vote should count equally.
First, let me say that I am not suggesting that the 2016 presidential election was rigged in terms of counting the votes.
What I am suggesting is that, more than ever, our electoral system is broken. The central act upon which the conceit of our government is based is the election of our public officials. To me, it is not too alarmist to argue that the integrity of our entire system of government is at risk, because the vote is at risk.
Below I will list some of the symptoms of this civil pathology that eats at our body politic.
The problem goes deeper than the idiosyncrasies of the Electoral College, which, in this case, has resulted in the elevation of the candidate with the second-most number of votes, which greatly depresses turnout in states that are not closely competitive, and and which distorts how candidates campaign and thus the policies they are likely to embrace and pursue.
The problem goes deeper than our state-level gerrymandering, the “packing and cracking” that maximizes the partisan effectiveness of some people’s votes and minimizes the effectiveness of others’ votes.
The problem goes deeper than the growing disparity in access to voting facilities.
The problem goes deeper than the long lines some voters must endure to cast their ballot, which is the equivalent of a poll tax.
The problem goes deeper than the disfranchisement of felons, a policy in some states retained from the age of Jim Crow, in other states revived to enforce a new Jim Crow.
The problem goes deeper than many states’ recent efforts to restrict voting hours, which disproportionately affects people of color.
The problem goes deeper than the many states that have placed higher administrative burdens on citizens to prove they are eligible to vote, in the name of preventing alleged voting fraud that simply does not exist.
Here is the problem: that the vote, the linchpin upon which our political system depends, has no constituency, no watchdog, no enforcer, no group that mobilizes citizens to protect and to exercise it, that aims to hold politicians accountable when they try to curtail it, and that rates judges on their willingness to defend it. The vote has no passionate base of motivated voters to ensure that this most basic right, and the principles behind it, are not abridged.
That, my friends, is where my efforts will be directed towards: articulating what that movement would look like, what it should aim to accomplish, and how it should go about trying.