Our Threatened Democracy

sign pointing to voting siteThomas Friedman can sometimes be a little shrill, but in an op-ed piece he published on the eve of the latest government shutdown and debt ceiling debacle, he makes clear that what is at stake isn't really Obamacare or ideological disagreements over the size and function of the Federal government. What's at stake is democracy itself.

He identifies three recent changes in our political landscape: extreme gerrymandering, the impact of the Citizens United decision, and the growth of ideological "media spheres" as the source of our current peril:

These “legal” structural changes in money, media and redistricting are not going away. They are superempowering small political movements to act in extreme ways without consequences and thereby stymie majority rule. If democracy means anything, it means that, if you are outvoted, you accept the results and prepare for the next election. Republicans are refusing to do that. It shows contempt for the democratic process.

President Obama is not defending health care. He’s defending the health of our democracy. Every American who cherishes that should stand with him.

Progressives all across the country, including Wisconsin, will need to gear up to fight back. The struggle to maintain a system of democratic representation is increasingly threatened. Not only are voter ID laws and purges of voting rolls undermining the right of all citizens to vote, but some states are planning to implement two-tiered voting systems to circumvent a recent Supreme Court ruling that prevents states from creating voting requirements over and above those stipulated in federal law. These two-tiered systems mean that some citizens would be able to vote in federal elections but be barred from voting in state and local ones. The article in the New York Times detailed some of the effects in Kansas:

Now, for state elections, people who fail to provide the proper documentation will have their voter registrations suspended until they do; so far, more than 18,000 have been suspended, or about one-third of all voters registered this year in Kansas.

Nothing is more fundamental to democratic governance than the right of each and every citizen to vote.

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