Voting is fundamental to our democracy. It enables each citizen to have a say in how our nation should be governed. We have faith in this process, and expect those we elect to represent us to stand up for our interests on a variety of issues that directly impact our lives. We all want to be happy and healthy. We all want clean air to breathe, safe food to eat, and non-contaminated water to drink. We all want a proper education for our children, someone to keep us safe from harm, and an equal opportunity to prosper in life.
However, since our founding, the very voting rights that enable us to have a say in how we are governed were not always a given. Voting rights in the United States were strictly limited to the privileged class when this country was founded.
“In most states, only white men with property were permitted to vote (freed African Americans could vote in four states). White working men, almost all women, and all other people of color were denied the franchise. At the time of the American Civil War, most white men were allowed to vote, whether or not they owned property, but literacy tests, poll taxes, and even religious tests were used in various places, and most white women, people of color, and Native Americans still could not vote.”
Ever since these voting rights were successfully won for poor whites, blacks and women, the Republican Party has adamantly fought to disenfranchise and suppress these voters, who tend to vote Democratic.
Instead of encouraging the right to vote for all citizens in this country, as seen in other nations like Australia, where the voter turn-out is greater than 90%, our Republican politicians are busy devising strategies to take away the right to vote for certain populations. Today, those populations are the poor, minorities, the elderly, and the younger generation.
I’m afraid that this is what the GOP means when they say they want to “take this country back.” They want to take it back to an era where only a select few privileged folks get to determine what happens to the rest of us. Perhaps, if we encouraged active participation in our democracy by modeling nations with a proven track record in near full voter participation in the democratic process, then we wouldn’t need to waste time focusing on make believe attempts of people trying to vote more than once at the polls.
There is absolutely no evidence supporting the GOP claim that individuals are engaging in some type of purposeful act of misrepresenting who they are come election time. In fact, according to an article in think progress, “In the wake of the 2010 elections, numerous GOP–controlled states have adopted so-called “voter ID” laws to target the entirely fabricated problem of in-person voter fraud. Such voter fraud is so uncommon that a voter is 39 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to actually commit fraud at the polls.”
Despite reality, this does not stop Republican politicians from pretending there is a problem. This is what the GOP, or the new party of the pretenders does. They hire unethical pollsters and language manipulators like Frank Luntz, who poll tests and focus group approves language that is proven to resonate with those on the left, right and most importantly, independent voters. Let’s face it. No one likes “voter fraud.” No one likes “illegal immigrants.” Everyone likes “fair elections.” This is the type of language Frank Luntz consistently arms the party of the pretenders with to manipulate public opinion in favor of supporting an ideological agenda that serves to do the very opposite of what they pretend to be in favor of.
One such pretender went as far as writing a letter to the attorney general, Eric Holder taking this make believe idea to a whole new level by insisting that this type of behavior is occurring. In his letter, Congressman Rooney (R-Fl) stated, “Florida has uncovered a widespread problem of illegal and erroneous voter registration, exposing as many as 182,000 registered voters as non-U.S. citizens.”
This outright blatant distortion of reality goes hand in hand with the attempts of the radical right wing governor Rick Scott to suppress the vote of 182,000 poor folks, elderly and young-adult citizens, who are inclined to vote Democratic.
Part of the GOP strategy to advance their ideological agenda is to evoke the appropriate language that resonates with the left, right and center every time they are faced with a question on an issue central to their vision for America. In this particular case of voter suppression, that language is voter fraud, and fair elections. As reported by the Miami Herald, when questioned about his decision to engage in voter suppression, Rick Scott not only tried to place blame on the Obama administration for his decision (GOP strategy 101), but consistently evoked the frames mentioned above by saying, “We need to have fair elections. When you vote, you want to make sure that the other individuals that are voting have a right to vote. That’s what I care about.”
This is the party of the pretenders in action. They pretend to want fair elections and protect our right to vote, among other rights and freedoms, when all they are really concerned with is doing the opposite by taking them away from us. Pretending to be in favor of what matters to us is an effective strategy of advancing an agenda that actually requires the denial of our rights, freedoms and protections under the law.