John Colson: Was that ‘our last free and fair election?’ |

John Colson: Was that ‘our last free and fair election?’

I find myself feeling overly tired these days, which I don’t think it’s simply a consequence of nearing the beginning of my seventh decade of existence on this planet.

One contributing factor, I must admit, is my ongoing effort to learn to kayak our local rivers. I got started on this new endeavor last fall and resumed this spring at a pace that has left me more than a little fatigued.

Uppermost in my mind is the fact that I still haven’t mastered the “roll,” a critically important skill on rivers where rapids are a frequent challenge and where you all too frequently find yourself upside down in a fast-moving current with rocks and sand where your body thinks the sky should be.

But the experience has been vastly enjoyable (though I have discovered that my shoulders are not as durable as I thought they were), as well as exciting and satisfying, and most likely is not to blame for my subtle fatigue.

On reflection, I believe I’m tired mainly as a reaction to my overall heightened sense of anxiety as I contemplate the future of the United States of America as a nation and a socio-political experiment.

I guess this anxiety may be remotely linked to my age, as well as to my career as a reporter and a columnist, which have left me more exposed than I might otherwise have been to the worrisome and scary degradation of our politics and, in particular, our electoral system at the hands of a frightened, vengeful and deeply dishonest group of Republican politicians and their “base.”

I don’t believe, I should note, that all Republicans are at fault here, and I expect that some of them view their party’s anti-democratic (note the lower-case “d”) tendencies with as much alarm as I feel.

But across the country, the more radical and vicious wings of the Republican Party seem determined to destroy our two-and-a-half-century-old democratic experiment in order to “save” it — save it, that is, to perpetuate it for white supremacists, the über wealthy, an increasingly monopolistic corporate class and the party’s own self-interested leadership.

The New York Times last Sunday reported that, in numerous states across the nation, the party has embarked on a campaign to rewrite state laws to give itself permanent, non-democratic control over the electoral process — giving themselves the power to overturn elections, suppress the votes of those not in line with Republican priorities and in general turn our country into the United States of Republicanism.

The foundation of this effort, at least in current terms, has been the “Big Lie” promulgated by the former president. Donald Trump has claimed, without a shred of evidence to back him up, that the only way he could have lost the 2020 election is if it were rigged against him.

Never mind that his claims have nearly universally been rejected by judges and state officials, including many in his own party.

But far too many of his supporters have bought the lie, and are regurgitating it endlessly as a way to shout down the rising voices of people of color, women and progressive political personalities and priorities.

Take the state of Georgia, where Trump lost to President Joe Biden and where the defeat of two U.S. Senate candidates has given control of the Senate, and where even Republican officials said it was a completely free and fair election.

Rather than accept defeat and work to do better next time, the Republican-controlled legislature is busily rewriting Georgia’s laws to ensure they cannot ever lose an election again.

The same is being done in Arkansas and as many as 41 other states, according to numerous reports.

In addition, the legislatures are rewriting laws governing state courts, seemingly with an eye toward preventing judges from protecting election integrity in 2022, 2024 and beyond. This is being done in at least 26 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

“We might have had our last free and fair election,” declared Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a recent opinion piece on the 2020 election and the general topic of voter suppression and repressive governmental tinkering.

Weingarten traced the current wave of anti-democracy fervor, rightly in my view, back to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling that did away with what she termed “a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act — the requirement that states with a history of discrimanatory voting laws seek federal preclearance to pass new voting laws.”

That decision has done more than just about anything to confirm to the anti-democracy forces that they now have a free hand to do whatever they can to preserve their power and limit the voting participation of anyone not in line with the party’s ideas.

And if all of the Republican-favoring legislation is approved in all those states, her words may prove prophetic.

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