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Juan Williams: American democracy will die unless voting rights are protected

Former President Trump
Associated Press/Ben Gray

You tell me — Is this real?

Sen. Rand Paul (R- Ky.) suggested last month that, despite a lack of evidence, he now knows how the Democrats stole the 2020 election from President Trump.

Paul, in a tweet, quoted approvingly from an article in The American Conservative which held that the vital state of Wisconsin had been swung to President Biden by “seeding an area heavy with potential Democratic votes with as many absentee ballots as possible, targeting and convincing potential voters to complete them in a legally valid way, and then harvesting and counting the results.”

What an outrage.

{mosads}Paul apparently believes that turning out voters in precincts with lots of potential Democrats amounts to stealing an election.

He could have just said straight out that, to Trump supporters, any election that Trump loses is automatically fraudulent.

Paul’s pretzel logic has lots of support among GOP-majority state legislatures. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 19 states passed 34 laws to restrict voting access last year. Republican politicians in those states were driven to change the rules by Trump-inspired suspicions about voter fraud.

These laws are intended to suppress votes from people likely to oppose Trump. Those are Black people, brown people, immigrants, white people who went to college and people who live in cities and inner suburbs.

Paul’s perverse thinking — “heads-we-win, tails-you-lose” — is the same kind of mental gaslighting that led Trump supporters to attack the Capitol after their hero lost the presidential election.

Trump’s lies about election fraud led some rioters to think they were standing up for fair elections by stopping Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.

Now, Senate Democrats are trying to expose this sinister logic.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is right to say the lies about voter fraud that led to last year’s violence require Congress to pass federal voting rights protection.

“Make no mistake, the root cause of January 6th is still with us today,” Schumer said at a Senate hearing last week. “It is the big lie pushed by Donald Trump that is undermining faith in our political system and making our democracy, our country less safe.”

Incredibly, more than a year after that insurrection, Schumer is operating without support from a single Senate Republican.

That means the GOP can use a filibuster to stop passage of a voting rights bill. As a result, Senate Democrats need to hold a unanimous front to have any chance of success.

That looks unlikely right now. Democrats don’t have that unified front. Some of the party’s senators — principally Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) — are reluctant to change the chamber’s rules even if it is about something that should be a golden principle of democracy: protecting voting rights.

The defense of the filibuster by any Democrat in this case makes no sense because, as Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has pointed out, there have been over 160 “carve-outs” or exceptions to the Senate filibuster rule.

Schumer recently wrote that he hoped to convince some in the GOP to change their thinking. But even if Republicans remain obstructionists, he plans debate “on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections.”

Biden, joined by Vice President Harris, is scheduled to speak in Atlanta on Tuesday. According to The White House, Biden will stress the need to rebuff “corrupt attempts to strip law-abiding citizens of their fundamental freedoms and allow partisan state officials to undermine vote counting processes.”

It is powerful to me that Biden and Schumer are making this last dramatic stand to protect voting rights on the federal holiday honoring Dr. King’s legacy of work for racial equality.

Arguably Dr. King’s second-most famous speech, after “I Have a Dream,” was his jeremiad for Black voting rights in 1957, “Give us the ballot.”

“Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights.”

King’s successor in the pulpit of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church is now a member of the Senate: Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). 

“Our democracy is in peril, and time is running out,” Warnock said last week in calling for passage of the voting rights law. “This is a moral moment. And if we fail to protect the voices and the votes of the American people, then we have fallen way short.”

{mossecondads}But Warnock’s likely opponent in the upcoming race for his Senate seat opposes the laws.

Herschel Walker, a Republican who is endorsed by Trump, said he is against the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act because it “just doesn’t fit what John Lewis stood for…I think that it’s sad for them to do this to him.”

That distortion is astounding and Trumpian.

Lewis, a civil rights icon who served for more than 30 years in the House of Representatives, devoted his life to protecting voting rights. As a young man, he got his head smashed by state troopers while marching to win voting rights for Black people in Alabama.

What is Walker talking about?

This is beyond political spin. It is sinister propaganda.

Lewis and Dr. King fought to give Black people like me the right to vote.

Now it is time for all Senate Democrats — and Republicans willing to step outside the Trump cult — to preserve voting rights for all against a deceitful, violent effort to end American democracy.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel. 

Tags 2020 presidential election Amy Klobuchar Ballot access civil rights Donald Trump Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Lewis Kyrsten Sinema misinformation Rand Paul Raphael Warnock voting rights

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