John Colson: Politics is a skating rink, and we’re on thin ice already
Hit & Run
It’s the Fourth of July, and as we celebrate our nation’s Declaration of Independence from British rule back in 1776, it’s good to take a look at where we are today and where we might be going.
The basic, bedrock principle on which our republic is founded is, of course, the right to elect our government, with the related right to toss the bums out if our government heads off in directions we do not like.
And where are we today on this front?
As we all know, our current president was the loser last year in terms of the popular vote, though he won on a technicality — that technicality being the outmoded, undemocratic and generally unpopular institution known as the Electoral College.
In the weeks leading up to the election in November, candidate Donald J. Trump thought he was going to lose (as did most of the country), and in preparation for this loss he started casting doubt on the validity of election even before it was held.
He claimed the election was “rigged” — and it was, but the rigging was by Republican strategists who quietly but effectively gerrymandered voting districts in state after state to ensure that the votes of Democrats, minorities, students and others would be systematically suppressed.
As soon as the 2016 Electoral College results were clear and in his favor, Trump of course dropped all references to the “rigged” election — until, that is, it became equally clear that he had lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million. At that point, he began trumpeting the patently false and self-serving charge that those 3 million votes were the result of electoral fraud, without offering a single tidbit of evidence to back up his claim.
Now, with his “voter integrity commission,” Trump is at it again, although in a rather obtuse way. He is trying to force states to turn over their complete voter-registration lists to the commission, representing a trove of data that includes the names, addresses, dates of birth, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, party affiliation, voting history going back a decade, registration status in another state, military status and whether they have felony convictions.
That’s a lot of personal information, and I, for one, do not trust Trump or anyone in his administration with such a wealth of data in a single, easily accessible and easily corruptible form. It is abundantly clear that Trump and his cadre of spiteful, delusional and power-mad hacks have one thing uppermost in their minds these days, which is to disrupt the operations of our national government as much as they can, regardless of consequences.
This is roughly the same kind of thinking that the GOP, since the election of Barack Obama and passage of the Affordable Care Act, have relied on in their relentless campaign to convince the nation that Obama was born in Kenya and was not eligible to be elected president.
This was one of Trump’s favorite themes for five years before he began his scorched-earth presidential campaign, and it was only with obvious and considerable reluctance that he finally admitted, a couple of months prior to the election, that Obama was a real American.
He did not apologize for trying to mislead the entire nation for all those years, in fact he said very little beyond the bald statement that “President Obama was born in America, period.”
And then he naturally blamed the Democrats’ presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, for the whole “birther” thing in the first place, something that was so patently false and meant to deflect attention from his confession that it was almost laughable.
But he’s still at it, claiming that the nearly 3 million people who did not vote for him were illegal immigrants who naturally hewed to the Democrats — again, without a shred of evidence beyond his own bluster and paranoia.
Trump has yet to reveal critical information about his business dealings, his net worth and a host of other data that all presidents prior to his wonderful self have made public, but now he wants to know all about everyone who is registered to vote in every state — parts of which already are available to him, but some of which is kept confidential for privacy reasons.
What, I wonder, would he do with that information?
Would he challenge or undermine the validity of any state political contests that, in the coming months and years, do not go the way he wants them to go?
Would he and the head of the voter-fraud commission — former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has a stinking history of voter suppression in his home state — cherry pick instances of single voters casting ballots in, say, two states, and try to somehow magic that into evidence of widespread voter fraud?
Would Trump and Kobach, for instance, transform Kobach’s notoriously inaccurate and deeply flawed “Crosscheck” voter information system into a national program, in order to wipe thousands or perhaps millions off the voter roles?
Would he publicly “out” anyone who voted more than once in a given election, using his well-known penchant for the politics of humiliation to fan the illogical, ill-informed rage of his “base?”
Given his history of histrionics and bombastic lies and distortions of just about everything, my answer to those and other questions would be a resounding “Yes.”
How far would that be, I have to ask, from Trump declaring that the entire electoral framework that underpins our government needs to be reworked, and that in the meantime he will just settle in to a new role as president for life?
Thankfully, more than two dozen states have refused to comply with all or parts of Trump’s demand for voter information, though his record indicates he will keep hassling them, perhaps even sue them, to get his way.
We’re skating ever closer to the dark abyss of tyranny and unbounded governmental corruption here, dear readers, and the ice is getting thinner by the day.
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