Tag Archives: Georgia

Caw! Caw! Jim Crow Returns to Georgia

Acting on the pretext that there is legitimate and widespread lack of public confidence in Georgia election processes, Governor Kemp, behind closed doors guarded by state police, signed a new law restricting voting in Georgia. The bill, 95-pages in length, was introduced in the Georgia Senate on February 17, passed on March 8, read in the House the next day, passed by the House on March 25 and that same day sent to the Senate, passed by the Senate that same day and sent to the Governor who signed it that same day. https://bit.ly/3lVoudr

When engaged in world-class voter suppression, the Georgia government can move faster than a scalded cat. Georgia joins a mob, the current Republican favorite form of action, of 43 states and more than 250 blatant vote suppression bills.

The only significant lack of confidence in state election laws comes from the Republicans’ whining, led by Donald Trump, starting well before the 2020 election, that the election was going to be rigged, if, and only if, Trump lost. If he had won, well then, no problems – voting systems working just fine. The intellectual and moral vacuity of the Republican reasoning behind this idea needs no elaboration. Nevertheless, ….

The sole reasons now given for the “voter fraud” claim are that “many people believe there was fraud.” That, need I point out, is no reason to believe anything. Large shares of the population believe that the Earth has been visited by aliens from other planets/galaxies and large shares of millennials are not sure the Earth is a spheroid shape (yes, they appear to be somewhat convinced that Earth is or may be flat). Remarkable, but that’s what the surveys show. It is what it is. I am not going to touch, beyond this sentence, on the belief of millions that the Earth, in fact, was formed out of the void in seven days.

That many people believe something is not is a justification for any rational person to believe in those ideas. You can believe them, of course; no one will lock you up for those beliefs (you may want to keep them to yourself in job interviews, though; just saying). But just because many people believe something is no reason for everyone else to believe it. Nor is it reason to legislate restrictions on behaviors and processes that are central to the function of our democracy. Unless, of course, your real motive is to undermine democratic processes and thereby ensure that your party, and people who think just like you, remain in power. That, friends, is not democracy; it’s fascism, communism and other similar forms of authoritarianism.

One tip-off to what’s really going on is that the Governor of Georgia has developed vertical pupils in his eyes. New studies confirm that “Vertical-slit pupils are most common among nocturnal predators that ambush their prey.” Science Advances, August 2015. They are also typically associated with poisonous reptiles.

While you’re recoiling at the thought of that, though you recognize it as satire, remember that the Republicans who are advancing this legislation in their states have already tried and failed more than 60 times to persuade courts that they had evidence of election fraud. Even Trump’s own Attorney General, and part-time Trump personal counsel, said there was no evidence of fraud that would have affected the outcome of the election. Even Mitch McConnell, whose relationship with truth is, well, tenuous at best, said Trump lost the election.

So, what to do, what to do? If you’re in the leadership of a Republican-majority state, you fix things (“rig” is, I believe, the correct verb here) so that Republicans don’t lose any more elections. How do you do that? Look no further than Georgia’s SB202.

As reported in the Washington Post, https://wapo.st/2QIONbe,

The new law imposes new identification requirements for those casting ballots by mail; curtails the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allows electors to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters and requires counties to hold hearings on such challenges within 10 days; makes it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line; blocks the use of mobile voting vans, as Fulton County did last year after purchasing two vehicles at a cost of more than $700,000; and prevents local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector.

The vertical pupil infection has spread throughout the Republican side of the Georgia legislature.

The 95-page law also strips authority from the secretary of state, making him a nonvoting member of the State Election Board, and allows lawmakers to initiate takeovers of local election boards — measures that critics said could allow partisan appointees to slow down or block election certification or target heavily Democratic jurisdictions, many of which are in the Atlanta area and are home to the state’s highest concentrations of Black and Brown voters.

Those steps, according to Governor Kemp’s reasoning , “will take another step toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible and fair. … the facts are that this new law will expand voting access in the Peach State” and expanded early voting on weekends in every Georgia county.

This legislation was essential, according to Kemp, because of the “many alarming issues” in how the 2020 election was handled, leading to a “crisis in confidence.” Blathering on, in the model favored by Trump himself, Kemp gave himself credit for aggressive investigations of the election frauds, saying that the investigation he directed “got to the bottom of each and every allegation of fraud.”

OK, but then what? Turns out, there were no findings of fraud. Kemp’s own aggressive investigations found no fraud. Kemp then proceeds to simply ignore that reality while claiming that immediate legislative action was essential to fix the fraud problems.

One of the most notable provisions of the Georgia legislation adds to the ability of one voter to challenge the qualifications of another voter. The prior law provided for an elaborate process, including subpoenas and a hearing. The challenger had the burden of proof at the hearing and a right of appeal was provided to both parties to the dispute. The principal change was to add this:

There shall not be a limit on the number of persons whose qualifications  such elector may challenge.

That means that one voter can now challenge thousands of ballots cast by voters of the opposing party. Thus, one Republican voter working with the party in power can undermine the voting process and compel hearings, appeals and other steps that will lead many, if not most, challenged voters to simply give up. And that, I suggest, is the entire idea behind this change in the election law. It is voter suppression in the guise of “cleaning up” issues that never existed in the first place.

The Governor chose to sign the “historic legislation” behind closed doors, guarded by state police and in the presence of six white male legislators. This decision was not accepted by Black Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon who, after knocking on the Governor’s chamber door after being told, apparently, not to knock, was arrested by state troopers.  See  https://bit.ly/3dagtx7 for a disturbing but accurate connection of Georgia’s decision and the history of suppression in the origin story of America.

It comes down to this: some Georgians, though not a majority of Georgia voters, were unhappy with the outcome of the 2020 election. The state went for Biden and for two Democratic Senators in runoff elections. Extensive, repetitive investigations were conducted with the full resources of the Georgia state government to uncover fraud that could have overturned the election results. No such evidence was found. Nevertheless, the Republican-dominated legislature says it had to act. It’s true they withdrew controversial and widely condemned provisions that were aimed squarely at suppressing Sunday voting by Black-majority districts, but that did not stop them from, for example, criminalizing the act of giving snacks or water to people forced to stand in long lines at the polls. Anyone with a reasonably open mind can see what’s coming.

There can be little doubt that Georgia, along with the other Republican-dominated states, is employing an explicit voter suppression strategy to prevent Democrats from challenging their power in the future. Lawsuits have already been filed to overturn these blatant anti-democratic acts.

But we don’t have to wait for the protracted court battles that will ensue. Article I, Section 4, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution states:

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

As stated by Justice Ginsburg in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, 576 U.S. __ (2015):

There can be no dispute that Congress itself may draw a State’s congressional-district boundaries.

There is little doubt that the Congress is also authorized by the Fourteenth Amendment, among other provisions, to stop state voter suppression legislation in its tracks if it has the will to do so. This power is analyzed in detail in a Congressional Research Service report at https://bit.ly/31s6j5H

Democrats have the power. Use it. It’s time for the United States to choose between democracy and authoritarianism, whatever its technical form. End Jim Crow … again.

Note: if you are unfamiliar with the Congressional Research Service, see this https://bit.ly/3rqyOuT

 

Trump Finally Tells the Truth

According to fact-checkers at multiple credible sources, Donald Trump has set a world record for lies, deflections, mis-directions and related phantasmagorical utterances since he started his run for president and during his time in office. Mercifully, his time in office is about to end. Yet, in the midst of overt attempts to undermine the election, Trump has, at long last, told the truth about one thing.

During a roughly hour-long call by Trump, his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, some of his lawyers, including Cleta Mitchell (a recent appearance) with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State, and his attorneys, Trump in an endless stream of world-class whoppers, said on at least two occasions: “what a schmuck I was.”

Beyond that small victory for humanity, the rest of the call is almost beyond comprehension. I listened to the entire tape. What follows is my approximate “transcript” of the call, which, like the attack on Pearl Harbor, will live in infamy. It’s a bit herky-jerky but that reflects the nature of the “conversation.”

Throughout the call, Trump insists that “data” such as the size of his rallies in Georgia and the opinions of Republican governors from surrounding states prove beyond doubt that he won the election in Georgia by “hundreds of thousands” of votes, a “half million votes,” and 400,000 votes in his final plea for relief. Trump’s concept of truth is thus, essentially, that everyone knows if you have big rallies, you win the election. Also, if other politicians say, as Trump claims, ”there is no way” he lost Georgia, then, of course and obviously, he didn’t lose Georgia — he won it by huge margins.

On the rare occasions when they could get a word in, the representatives of Georgia contradicted every claim Trump made. The claims were the usual, most of which have been asserted in court cases that were thrown out but Trump claims the courts are against him so that doesn’t count. When Cleta Mitchell tried to chime into the conversation, Trump mostly just talked over her and said that whatever she was saying wasn’t important, because he only needed 11,780 votes to change the result and while he had “hundreds of thousands” more than he needed, he wasn’t really interested in going into all that as long as the GA officials “found” the 11, 780 he needed to be declared the winner (despite the fact that the vote count in Biden’s favor has been certified and confirmed in the Electoral College). Trump made clear he will never give up.

Trump has a very long list of “wrongs” perpetrated by the Georgia vote counters, including (1) video that the GA folks noted had been manipulated to show false results. The grievances also (2) include drop boxes that were mishandled, (3) dead people by the thousands who somehow voted, (4) “fake ballots” that were voted, (5) ballots that were shredded and are being shredded right now, (6) provisional ballots given to voters who were turned away because they allegedly had already voted but then their provisional votes weren’t counted, (7) people who moved out of state but still voted, (8) corrupt voting machines, (9) machines being removed, (10) parts of machines being removed ….

All of that either has been or will be “certified” in the near future by unnamed “experts” in Trump’s employ.

And it’s not just Georgia: “other states will be flipping to us shortly.” Some 200,000 more people voted in Pennsylvania than people voting. [That’s what I heard him say. I am not making this up]. In Michigan a “tremendous number of dead people voted.­­­­­” [These statements imply that Trump has reached out to Republican officials in other states he lost to urge them to somehow recount the votes and award him the victory]

The Georgia folks, trying very hard to maintain their composure and to be respectful to their Republican president asking them to violate the Constitution, federal law and Georgia law, noted that they simply did not agree with Trump’s claim that he won the vote in Georgia and that they had gone over his points one-by-one with the state legislature and Republican congressmen for hours.

Trump was having none of that, insisting that it was simply “not possible” he lost Georgia and that “they dropped a lot of votes in there at night.”

The Georgia people repeated that “the data you have is wrong.” “Only two dead people voted.” Cleta Mitchell, one of Trump’s lawyers, referred to a group of people with the same names as people who died but claimed they didn’t have the records they needed. Trump wasn’t interested in hearing from his lawyer; he interjected that “they stuffed the ballot boxes like nobody has ever seen before.”

The Georgia people noted, as politely as possible, that the video produced by Rudy Giuliani  to show that ballots were counted three times was “spliced and diced “by Giuliani to give a false impression of what actually occurred, that audits had been conducted and there was no evidence of ballots being input three times. When it was noted that during an absence of the vote counters, law enforcement people were present, Trump declared those people were either “incompetent or dishonest.”

Trump launched a personal attack on Stacey Abrams. Then he made the “give away” claim:  “we’ll find hundreds of thousands if you let us do it.”  More ranting followed: claims of many unsigned ballots and many forgeries in Fulton County. They’re “totally corrupt. They’re laughing at you. They cheated like nobody has ever cheated before. They are shredding ballots. The ballots are corrupt.”

Trump then asserted that there were crimes being committed and that the Georgia officials were not reporting it. “That’s a criminal offense. That’s a big risk to you and your lawyers. They’re moving machines and you’re letting them do it.” [It is a good measure of Trump’s desperation that, needing the complicity of the Georgia officials, he chose to accuse and threaten them].

Trump said they have “thousands of people who will testify they were denied right to vote because they were told they had already voted.” Trump’s ranting became louder and more forceful as it become clearer that he was going to get no joy from the Georgia authorities.

The first mention of “compromise and settlement” by a Trump attorney occurred at 53 minutes into the call. This was too late even if such an arrangement would have sufficed to cloak the discussion with privilege. [Even if these were in fact settlement talks regarding pending litigation, the solicitation of crimes of election fraud would almost certainly have defeated any claim of privilege. It’s reported Trump has sued someone over the release of the tape, but that is likely to meet the same fate as Trump’s other lawsuits (he’s 1 for 61 by my count).

As the call wound down, Trump pressed for immediate resolution, claiming the Senate run-off election was going to be affected because angry Republicans were being deterred from voting. The Georgia people reiterated that Trump’s data was wrong but indicated a willingness to sit down for talks. Trump became practically hysterical at this point, stating again that the governors in the surrounding states had said “there’s no way you lost GA.”

Meadows urged the lawyers to work out a plan to address some of the data issues, saying he can “promise you” there were more than two dead people who voted.

Trump brings up Abrams again: “I beat her.”  “What a schmuck I was.” “Let the truth come out.” “I won by at least 400,000 votes. That’s the truth.” Uh huh.

One Short Goose-Step Away

A young man kills 17 children and adults at a school. It’s not the first time and it surely won’t be the last. The surviving students react strongly that they have had enough of the killing and demand that governments at all levels do something to restrict the free flow of military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Republican politicians and their followers, sensing that the popular tolerance for the American gun culture is reaching its limits, double down in near-panic. They attack the surviving students as being too young, too immature, too “emotional,” too “whatever” to be trusted to have independent thoughts about what has happened and what should be done about it. Right-wing conspiracy proponents claim the students are actually paid actors working for the “left” and that they should be disregarded. And so it goes, promoted and sustained by the National Rifle Association.

One of the consequences of this state of affairs is that many large companies have decided to terminate discounts they provided to members of the NRA. This is the same NRA that has resisted every reasonable effort to expand background checks, end the gun show loopholes, and conduct government research into the causes and effects of gun violence in the United States. The NRA’s position is clear:  more guns are always better and any effort, not matter how small and incremental, to address gun violence is an existential threat to the American way of life.

Among the companies that finally said “enough,” is Delta Airlines which is headquartered in Atlanta, GA. Delta announced the end of its NRA discount, that, according to reports, involved only a handful of people but was seen by the company as an important signal of social responsibility.

In response, the Georgia legislature passed a bill revoking the multi-million tax break for jet fuel Delta had enjoyed. The Lt. Governor, running for governor, tweeted:

I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA.  Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.

The sitting governor has indicated he will sign the legislation into law.

Now, it’s a fair question why the State of Georgia was subsidizing Delta in relation to its competitors using tens of millions in taxpayer funds, and there would be no quarrel, I think, if the state decided that subsidizing a commercial company was inappropriate as a matter of general government policy. Free market and all that. But the state’s response to the NRA decision by Delta is something else altogether.

The decision to revoke the tax exemption represents the use of the power of the state to compel a private company to continue doing business with another private company on terms approved by the state. So far, Delta has stood firm against this oppression, noting that its “values are not for sale,” but the equivocating has begun as Delta also said it was “in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature.” If so, Delta appears to be on the verge of knuckling under to the right-wing agenda of the Georgia legislature. It will be interesting to see how Delta defines groups of a “politically divisive nature.” This approach seems unlikely to end well.

The Georgia state action is, I suggest, a short goose-step away from the state deciding that companies doing business in Georgia must extend discounts to other companies and groups of which the state approves — compulsory business relations as the state dictates. If the State of Georgia can selectively punish Delta this way, it can reward and punish other companies in whatever manner the ruling party decides. Amazon, which is looking at Atlanta as the site of its second headquarters, should take note.

The road ahead in Georgia is dark and foreboding. Any resemblance between the governing party in Georgia and the Republican belief in the operation of the free market and conservative economic principles is not only coincidental, it is non-existent. Dead on arrival.