Worried about democracy? Pay attention to the states

Washington is obsessed with how many Republicans will vote for the eminently qualified Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown JacksonKetanji Brown JacksonSunday shows insight: US and allies increase pressure on Russia; Jackson undergoes confirmation hearings The Ginni Thomas Scripts: Does a Spouse’s Opinion Disqualify a Supreme Court Justice? Tears of Justice MOREWhere Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden to Propose Minimum Tax on Billionaires in Sunday’s Emissions Budget Preview: US, Allies Step Up Pressure on Russia; Jackson undergoes confirmation hearings Energy and environment – Biden and European leaders announce energy plan MORE‘s (DW.Va.) the last attention-grabbing blow, or the eternal tribulations of the vice-president Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHispanic businesses are the answer to the refugee crisis Harris taps HHS staffer Kirsten Allen as press secretary New book reveals frustrations between Biden and Harris camps MORE.

There’s a lot more live action in the states, at least in the red states. They destroy voting rights, minorities, women, homosexuals and people with disabilities.

David Pepper, the former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, wrote in a book that the states – rather than being the laboratories of democracy, as Louis Brandeis envisioned – have become “Autocracy Laboratories.” It’s not just a partisan opinion. Freedom House, the nonprofit organization that studies and promotes democracy and political freedom around the world, declares American democracy has steadily declined for a decadeaccelerating in recent years.

Ron Brownstein of the Atlantic, who has followed this case closely, writing that this creates a “great discrepancy” between the freedoms of Americans in blue states and those in red states. »

Following Trump’s accusation of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, a demonstrable lie and a huge voter turnout that worried conservatives, more than a dozen states passed in the past year voting restrictions. Others are in preparation this year.

They target less privileged citizens, minorities, people with disabilities. They make it harder to vote by mail, create onerous ID requirements, reduce or eliminate drop boxes that make it easier to vote, and make it harder for people who need help.

A first test took place in Texas this month; in very Democratic Harris County, 19 percent absentee ballots were rejected due to the restrictive new electoral law; four years ago, just 0.3% of absentee ballots were rejected in the county.

Many states also severely limit a woman’s ability to have an abortion. The daughter of a Dallas energy executive or the mistress of an Atlanta private equity manager will have no trouble finding an abortion spot. This will not be the case for a single mother with two children or a young single teenager.

There are genuinely mean-spirited attacks on transgender people, including the restriction of certain health care measures, and a main objective banning trans athletes from participating in sports that match their gender identity. It’s not an easy question, but decisions should be left to sports associations or schools, not politicians.

Banning books is also in vogue. The American Library Association says that in three months late last year, there were over 330 cases of proposed book bans, most fueled by self-proclaimed parent rights groups. Most books are about gays and lesbians or raceincluding by such famous authors as Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou.

The racial dog whistle is now largely driven by “critical race theory,” an academic discipline that argues that racial bias runs deep in our legal, social and political systems. It is taught primarily in elite law schools, but the right is using it politically as an opportunity to restrict teaching about race in public schools.

Last week, Senate Republicans tried to smear Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman appointed to the High Court, with critical race theory.

“It’s political grandstanding,” says Randall Kennedy, a Harvard Law School professor who specializes in the subject. It is mainly used, he told me, by the right to “smear any liberal who has a progressive running agenda.” There are, he adds, critical race theorists who “spout implausible and sometimes downright ugly theories” that serve to “breathe the right-wing campaign of repression”.

He considers Judge Jackson a “conscientious centrist jurist with a liberal leaning.” Portraying her as a radical is “our age’s version of McCarthyism.”

A good place to look is Virginia. It is a Democratic-leaning state that elected a Republican governor last November: Glenn YoungkinGlenn YoungkinJudge rules 12 Virginia families with immunocompromised children can ask schools to require masksa private equity executive, who was to represent the post-Trump GOP.

Immediately after taking office, Youngkin played the critical race theory card, eliminating equity and inclusion from state educational sites and implementing a “snitch lineto point out teachers who promote “intrinsically divisive concepts.”

Does it include the history of slavery, or the state’s massive resistance to the Supreme Court’s 1954 school desegregation decision or to discuss a recent New Yorker article by Jill Abramson questioning whether a black slave was fathered by George Washington or one of his relatives?

Youngkin was sued by parents of children with disabilities over an order prohibiting any local school board from mandating masks during the pandemic. I was born in Virginia and appreciate the progress this once stable state — Mark Shields used to call it a “social nursing home” — has made over the past few years. Youngkin begins to backtrack.

Underscoring this is the confidence of right-wingers that they can get away with it given the Republican majority on the US Supreme Court. One example: Extremely partisan gerrymandering, with racial overtones, by Republican legislatures in North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania has been dismissed as a violation of the state constitution by state supreme courts. All these judges are elected.

Now four of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Republicans are appearing sympathetic to stripping state courts of the power to enforce their own constitutions in matters of gerrymandering and to vest all power in the state legislatures – regardless of the degree of discrimination of their actions.

This would accelerate the erosion of democracy and political freedoms.

Al Hunt is the former editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as a Washington reporter, bureau chief and editor for The Wall Street Journal. For nearly a quarter of a century, he wrote a political column for the Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. It hosts Political War Room with James Carville. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.

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