Back in 1975, an influential think tank called the Trilateral Commission issued a report titled “The Crisis of Democracy.” The report gloomily described the problems of governance in the major western democracies. According to the report, the problems stemmed “from an excess of democracy” caused primarily by the “new activism” in the United States, especially the robust antiwar movement.
You read that right. Too much democracy was causing headaches for the ruling elite. Poor things.
Today, Trump and the morally bankrupt Republican Party are facing a similar crisis of too much democracy. This time the excess of democracy arises from the growing calls to have universal mail-in balloting for the November presidential elections. Mail-in voting is, in fact, the number one recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control for keeping voters safe in the age of coronavirus.
If adopted, mail-in voting would hugely expand the pool of potential voters, a prospect that alarms Republicans, who have for decades worked for the opposite outcome. They have focused tremendous resources on voter suppression — strict voter ID laws, fewer days of early voting, fewer precincts (especially in Democratic-leaning areas) — because history clearly demonstrates that the greater the turnout, the poorer the Republicans fare at the polls.
Trump flat out admitted this just recently. In describing the various voting safety proposals Democrats had tried (and failed) to have included in the recent stimulus bill, Trump wailed that “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” This is what’s known as saying the quiet part out loud.
Trump quickly recovered from his brush with the truth by reverting in recent days to the standard Republican lie that anything that expands the franchise would result in corruption and voter fraud at the ballot box. There is zero evidence to back up such claims, of course, but that hasn’t proved to be an impediment for them to date.
Acting as the boy who cried “voter fraud” has actually been successful for the Republicans as state after (Republican) state has adopted restrictive voting measures. But the pandemic is changing a great many minds, even in Republican strongholds. People are prioritizing their health and safety. Can you imagine? The frightening scenes out of Wisconsin on Tuesday — people waiting in long lines, decked out in their medical masks and nitrile gloves — helped drive the point home for a great many voters.
All this means that we have a critical fight on our hands in the coming months. Ultimately, voting laws are the responsibility of the individual states. And that’s where this fight will take place. Your state legislators need to hear from you now. The Republican Party is already fighting mail-in voting efforts in Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona, New Mexico, and many other states. But even if there’s no current proposal in your state, now is still the time to lobby your state government. And then keep lobbying until mail-in voting is approved.
Trump really does have a crisis of democracy on his hands. The man who lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes in 2016 knows he doesn’t stand a chance in a free and fair and safe election. So that’s what we desperately need to have this year. More democracy. Bring on the crisis!