The Atlantic Monthly, October 2012
As with the latest issue of Harper’s Monthly, The Atlantic is in this issue taking on the current burdens of our democracy. This mag isn’t a left wing screed, and I’ve often taken exception to the manner in which its essayists resort to a divisive he-said-(s)he-said style of reporting on issues that not only impact voters, but our republic as a whole. This time, however, as the election nears, the editors seem to be suffering political heartburn as the realities of the last 2-3 years of Republican obstructionism take hold.
Let’s forget for the moment about Molly Ball’s short piece on Gary Johnson’s Libertarian run, and let’s all but ignore James Parker’s eyeballing the Fifty Shades series and Rich Cohen’s paean to football-as-war.
Instead, I’ll mention “The League of Dangerous Mapmakers,” by Robert Draper. Here, we see the usual but still problematic gerrymandering of voting districts by both parties amped up by Republicans to not only favor Republicans, but to reduce the effect of minority voters, particularly in the Southern states.
Then there’s Mariah Blake’s “The Ballot Cops,” which focuses on a right-wing group, True The Vote, that harasses voters by doing free-lance vigilante work in the guise of policing supposed voting irregularities. The result? Everyday, non-problem voters are intimidated and they’re already complaining. This group, led by Catherine Engelbrecht and Tea Party minions, plans to be out there come November expressing their displeasure once more over a problem that hardly exists.
And finally there’s James Bennet’s piece, “The New Price of American Politics,” which showcases Jim Bopp, the godfather of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. The more money the better, says Bopp, claiming that the more money spent the more information disseminated to the voters. It doesn’t work that way, says another Republican, Trevor Potter, who has tried in a number of instances to reform campaign finance spending – and the Federal Election Commission. Sadly, billionaire beneficiaries of Citizens United are smiling gleefully now that they can affect elections deeply and remain anonymous while doing so.
But, you ask ask: Why all this interest by the Republican Party in affecting elections like this? So let’s tell it like it is. The GOP is now a regional party, made up largely of the old Dixiecrats from the Southland, and a few states that seem to listen too long and too intently to hard-right religious sources that are speaking way over their head about everything from the Big Bang to raped women. As a result, the party isn’t your daddy’s GOP. It’s now a racist, misogynistic bunch that refuses to accept even five hundred years of science. And they’re clearly worried that, as in the case of Texas, most voters now are non-white and increasingly lapsed- or non-Christian.
One might rationalize that their time is drawing to a close, but the efforts to intimidate and suppress voting may have effects too lasting for an economically strapped democracy to handle. Too, these deranged few may be lesser in number, but wannabe-oligarchs are funding them, and that makes their clout serious. If a middle of the road magazine like The Atlantic is concerned enough to dig into these issues and bare them now, shouldn’t we all be just as concerned?