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Saturday, March 09, 2019


HR1: Smell the fear

by Tom Sullivan

You couldn't surround yourself with as many skeevy characters as Donald Trump does if you worked at it. It's a rare talent he has. Sure, some of them are family, but others are Trump Organization employees and Mar-a-Lago hangers-on. Even his cabinet secretaries and staff are real prizes.

Trump began his presidency promising to "drain the swamp" of Beltway sleaze. Instead, he's grown it with "a particularly toxic blend of corruption and plutocracy." Grow or die, right?

On Friday, House Democrats bought in big legislative pumps as a first step toward actually doing something about the swamp. Corruption in Washington, D.C. promises to stop it.

The "For The People Act" (H.R. 1), a broad anti-corruption and election reform package passed the House Friday on a party line vote of 234 to 193. The bill would require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to release their taxes (a swipe at Trump) and stiffen government ethics enforcement. It would also would make voter registration automatic, enable public financing of candidates for president and Congress by matching small-dollar donations, and include provisions to end partisan gerrymandering and a requirement for paper ballots, among other reforms.

The New York Times Editorial Board explains that a far as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is concerned, H.R. 1 is "the Merrick Garland of reform legislation." McConnell has already refused to take up the bill in the Senate, calling it a power grab by Democrats.

The Board writes:

H.R. 1 would put an end to at least some of the vile voter suppression practices that Republicans have embraced in recent years. Which goes to the heart of the party’s opposition.

Well before President Trump erupted on the scene, Republicans made the calculation that, with demographics trending against them, their best strategy was to make voting harder rather than easier, particularly for certain nonwhite segments of the electorate. Across the nation, they have pursued voter restriction tactics with vigor. Any effort to expand access to the ballot box sets off alarm bells within the party.
Panic may be more like it. Dozens of right-wing groups signed a letter issued in January by the Conservative Action Project that distorts the bills provisions as an attack on the First Amendment and "individual voter integrity" (a new twist on the voting integrity frame; they need their base to take this personally).

But Paul Waldman presents a reverse-engineered list of H.R. 1's provisions to highlight why McConnell and Republicans oppose it:
  • If registration were easier and more people who are not registered now did so, that would mean Republicans would lose more elections.
  • If it were easier for people with disabilities to vote, Republicans would lose more elections.
  • If the practice of voter caging were outlawed, Republicans would lose more elections.
  • If we cracked down on deceptive practices and voter intimidation, Republicans would lose more elections.
  • If we let those with criminal convictions who have served their time vote, Republicans would lose more elections.
  • If we mandated paper trails for ballots to ensure accuracy, Republicans would lose more elections.
  • If more Americans were able to vote early if it’s convenient for them, Republicans would lose more elections.
  • If more Americans could vote by mail if they chose, Republicans would lose more elections.
  • If secretaries of state couldn’t administer their own elections, as Brian Kemp did in Georgia last year, Republicans would lose more elections.
In Republican terms, a power grab.

Democrats still have a problem defining their brand. Republicans are helping immensely by undermining their own.