Op-Ed

Russia and China aside, we’re undermining our own democracy

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Ever since the 2016 election, our nonstop news cycles have focused on Russian meddling in our supposedly otherwise well-functioning electoral system.

And just lately, President Donald Trump, who denies that such interference helped get him elected, has warned that the Chinese are also about to intervene — this time, he fears, against the interests of his party.

The president’s double standards aside, all such scapegoating ignores the fact that the real interference threatening our democracy comes from within. In fact, it largely originates with Republicans, whose policies have rendered the system entirely dysfunctional and unreliable.

GOP operative Paul Weyrich meant what he said in 1980 about Republicans not wanting everyone to vote (because if everyone did cast a ballot, a Republican president would never again darken the White House door).

Republican sponsorship of the Citizens United lawsuit widened the door to the corrupting influence of campaign contributions from wealthy donors to Republicans and Democrats alike.

The Supreme Court’s Republican-led 5-4 decision striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act opened the door for laws intended to disenfranchise Democrat-leaning minorities.

Add to this the practice of gerrymandering that renders GOP congressional seats virtually invulnerable, along with widespread voter suppression that discounts thousands of votes in each state and millions nationwide in each election cycle, and you get an idea of just how corrupt our system has become.

And I haven’t even mentioned refusal to eliminate the Electoral College that has overridden the popular electoral will in favor of our last two Republican presidents. Or, the entirely hackable voting machines controlled by GOP-friendly operatives like Diebold Election Systems.

And then there’s the most fundamental voter-suppression measure of all — holding elections on Tuesdays precisely during the hours when working-class voters are on the job or traveling to the workplace.

Addressing these problems would entail:

▪ Getting private money out of the electoral process in favor of public funding.

▪ Eliminating the Electoral College in favor of direct popular vote.

▪ Abolishing gerrymandering by making redistricting a bipartisan process subject to the approval of a reformed Federal Election Commission with goals to maximize voter turnout and increase voter confidence by a transparent certification process.

▪ Outlawing highly hackable voting machines.

▪ Implementing a system of universal, automatic and verifiable voter registration and reverting to employment of hand-counted paper ballots.

▪ Changing Election Day from Tuesday to Sunday, or even establishing a national voting holiday, with ballots hand-counted by unimpeachable young people like senior Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts on Wednesday.

Failure to enact such changes, especially following the debacles of the presidential elections of 2000 and 2016 is not the fault of foreign interference in our electoral process.

It’s the fault of a fundamentally broken system intended to discourage grassroots participation in favor of a minority party. Fixing it will require great commitment and work by us all.

Despite the obstacles placed in our paths, a first act towards repairing the systemic dysfunctions just described will present itself Nov. 6: Vote Republicans out of office and replace them with progressive Democrats who refuse to take corporate money.

Reach Mike Rivage-Seul, a retired Berea College professor, at Mike_Rivage-Seul @berea.edu.

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