Horrifying, disgusting and shameful.
Those are the words that come to mind for President Donald Trump’s transparent attempt to divert attention from one appalling autocratic maneuver – the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the ensuing constitutional crisis – to another – the barely concealed voter suppression initiative that is Trump’s “voter fraud” executive order.
Trump’s call for a “major investigation” into nonexistent voter fraud is a fraud on democracy. It is the latest escalation of a voter suppression campaign designed to deter people of color and young people from registering and voting.
The fact that this so-called investigation is being launched at the exact moment the White House is under fire for disrupting investigations into the administration’s own alleged wrongdoings stinks of intentional misdirection and ethnic scapegoating. Actions like these should have no place in American democracy.
If Donald Trump truly is worried about the functioning of our electoral democracy, he might direct an investigation into these topics:
- Why voter participation rates are so low in the United States, reaching only 60 percent in the last election. Shouldn’t America aspire to be first in voting participation? The United States doesn’t even rank in the top 25 among industrialized countries.
- What is the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act on denying the franchise to people of color?
- How does dominance of campaigns by the wealthy affect the conduct and results of elections? What is the impact of big money-fueled negative advertising on voter participation rates? Does dominance by the affluent embed racial and economic inequality into our elections? How does dark money influence the conduct of campaigns?
- How does the Electoral College affect the conduct of presidential elections, and is it consistent with core democratic and fairness values?
The American election system plainly needs an overhaul. The Voting Rights Act must be restored and barriers to voting removed. Citizens United must be overturned by constitutional amendment and our elections funded by small donor and public sector matching contributions, not giant corporations and the superrich. And the antiquated Electoral College should be replaced by a system of national popular voting.
These are commonsense and strongly supported measures, particularly the necessity of ending dominance of elections by corporations and the wealthy. “With near unanimity,” reports The New York Times, “the public thinks the country’s campaign finance system needs significant changes.” Americans are roughly split between whether the system needs “fundamental change” (39 percent) or should be “completely rebuil[t]” (46 percent); effectively no one believes no changes are needed.
But there is a more modest agenda that should be pursued as well:. It has been very carefully developed by a bipartisan presidential commission – no need for a new “investigation” – co-chaired by the legal counsels to the Obama and Romney campaigns. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration in 2014 issued a series of recommendations that President Trump and the Congress should act on immediately. These include: modernization of voter registration including by online registration; expanded access to the polls including by early voting; efficient management of polling places to avoid lines; and improved voting technology.
The revelations that top Trump adviser Steve Bannon, U.S. Treasury Secretary pick Steven Mnuchin and Trump’s own daughter Tiffany were each registered to vote in two states should disabuse Trump of the notion that there is a voting fraud problem. But of course there already was tons of evidence to dispel the notion in the first place, so there’s no reason to expect that more facts, even if embarrassing, will make a difference.
That’s another word that comes to mind in response to this pathetic maneuver. The American people’s attention is not going to be diverted from the Comey outrage. And a mobilized public is going to block Trump’s voter suppression agenda.
It is that same mobilized populace that will see our democracy through the epochal challenges it now faced.