With the Supreme Court soon to have a 6-to-3 conservative majority even though Republicans have lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, Trump could again win the presidency despite being rejected by a majority of voters. Republicans might cling to their Senate majority even as millions more Americans vote to be represented by Democrats.
Some of the most profound abuses of democracy in recent years have happened at the state level; what’s happening there now offers us hints of what is to come. Let’s look at Florida, a perfect example of how Republicans use the full range of their powers to make sure democracy doesn’t threaten their hold on government.
Like many states, Florida used to have a law that deprived people convicted of felonies of their voting rights. These laws are a racist relic of the post-Civil War era, a tool designed to help maintain white supremacy (even if they sweep up plenty of White people in the disenfranchisement).
In 2018, a ballot initiative amending the state constitution to eliminate this law got nearly 65 percent of the vote. But the GOP-controlled state legislature soon passed a law stating that ex-felons could only vote if they paid every last penny of every fine and fee they had been assessed. And the system for paying those fines and fees is so convoluted that even people trying to pay them find it almost impossible.
Some of those voters sued, but earlier this month, a conservative majority on a federal appeals court denied their plea to not be victimized by what is essentially a poll tax.
So everything was going according to plan: Despite what voters demanded, the GOP kept the disenfranchisement system in place. But then Mike Bloomberg, who has some extra money lying around, vowed to help former felons pay off their fines. Now the state’s attorney general — yes, a Republican — announced that she is investigating Bloomberg for possible violations of election law.
What this shows is a broad Republican mobilization — the state’s legislature, its governor, its attorney general and the courts — all teaming up to beat back an expansion of democratic rights the public overwhelmingly supported.
For the Republican Party, that kind of effort is a matter of survival — and in the coming years, it will become more important to them than ever.