New+GOP+bills%3A+parties+versus+democracy

New GOP bills: parties versus democracy

May 20, 2021

It seems as if the constant tug of war between justice and politics in America will never stop. What’s right, what’s fair, what fundamentally built this country: our nation’s current political landscape continues to abandon these concepts in favor of partisan warfare. Several weeks ago, Republican legislators in Georgia passed a law severely limiting voting accessibility, following the narrow (and largely deciding) presidential election of Joe Biden, a Democrat, in the state. This law “will… curtail ballot access for voters in booming urban and suburban counties… makes it a crime to offer water to voters waiting in lines… [makes] voters […] have less time to request absentee ballots… [makes it] illegal for election officials to mail out absentee ballot applications to all voters… [and] the G.O.P.-led legislature is [now] empowered to suspend county election officials,”[1] among many other provisions that make voting (something that is not only a constitutional right but absolutely critical to the structure of democracy) much more difficult, particularly for marginalized groups. As if this blatant attack on our governmental foundation wasn’t enough, several states are now furthering that trend with additional unconstitutional legislation.

According to an article published in the New York Times, “Oklahoma and Iowa have passed bills granting immunity to drivers whose vehicles strike and injure protesters in public streets… A Republican proposal in Indiana would bar anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from holding state employment, including elected office. A Minnesota bill would prohibit those convicted of unlawful protesting from receiving student loans, unemployment benefits or housing assistance.”[2] Florida has also passed legislation aimed at protestors, one their governor cites as “the strongest anti-looting, anti-rioting, pro-law-enforcement piece of legislation in the country.”[2]
To say these pieces of legislation attack the First Amendment (which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly) is an understatement. They are essentially starting a push to completely abandon it, in favor of maintaining Republican control. These bills, laws, and proposals have nearly universally been cited by the people who’ve passed them as responses to the waves of Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the nation since last summer. In the given protests during that time, “more than 96 percent involved no property damage or police injuries.”[3] An event that was scarcely mentioned at all in the passing of this legislation, however, is the Capitol riots that occurred on January sixth of this year, ones that were motivated by the loss of former President Donald Trump (a Republican) in November’s election. In this “protest,” five people died[4], 140 people were injured,[5] and “The cost of repairing damages… [has] already topped $30 million and will keep rising.”[6] 

All of these points outline two very grim realities the U.S. is now being forced to face. The first is that politics are being increasingly chosen over any actual justice. Many members of our growingly tribalist parties, ones that continue to define our government, have proven time and time again that their individual goals outweigh what’s best for the American people, or even what aligns with the Constitution and its amendments. The second isn’t as new, but is ever as relevant; many American governments continue to uphold the structure of systemic racism that has plagued our country throughout its entire history. 

When countless peaceful protests aiming to fix the massive racial inequities in American society emerge, and legislators choose to anecdotally cite them as evidence of the need for “anti-looting” and “anti-rioting” bills, rather than even beginning to address the issue that sparked these protests, it is obvious that something is critically wrong. When innocent African-Americans are held in fear for their safety because of our corrupt law-enforcement system, and legislatures pass further “pro-law-enforcement” bills in response to their outcry, it is obvious that something is critically wrong. When lawmakers would rather jeopardize the entire framework of our country and lead it to a structure of partisan Authoritarianism rather than simply recognize and work to uphold the basic idea that black lives matter, it is patently clear that something is undoubtedly, monumentally wrong.

What Georgia, Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma, Florida, and any other states that engage in or even tolerate this sort of political behavior are demonstrating is that reform is absolutely necessary. Our discriminant police system is in dire need of reform. Our blinding political landscape is in crucial need of reform. And, most importantly, our governments’ attitude towards race in America is in desperate need of reform. The greatest tool we have in combating these issues is our voice. We cry out when injustice occurs and we cry out when change needs to be made. Over the past year, we’ve collectively demonstrated just how far and loud our voices can be heard. These pieces of legislation are completely and unashamedly trying to silence that voice. That means that it’s being heard, from the people and institutions who would like nothing more than to cover their ears and pretend it doesn’t exist. 

While these legislations are completely regressive and disturbing in their contents, these sorts of pieces aren’t required to be reviewed by courts in their drafting or passing, so judicial overviews of them in the future are more than likely. Furthermore, in regards to the American populace, I say with careful optimism that these bills will only further provoke efforts at changing our many, very flawed systems. It’s been made clear that the path to that is a very long and challenging one. However, if we continue to work by the fundamental ideals that our country was founded on, if we continue to push forward in the name of progress and justice, if we continue to favor human unity over political divide, then we just might be able to start reversing some of the many backward steps the United States has taken.

 

[1]Corasaniti, N., & Epstein, R. (2021, April 02). What Georgia’s voting law really does. 

Retrieved April 22, 2021, from 

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/02/us/politics/georgia-voting-law-annotated.html 

[2]Epstein, R., & Mazzei, P. (2021, April 21). How the G.O.P. is CREATING harsher penalties for 

protesters. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from 

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/21/us/politics/republican-anti-protest-laws.html 

[3]Erica Chenoweth, J. (2020, October 23). Analysis | This SUMMER’S Black Lives Matter 

protesters were Overwhelmingly Peaceful, our research finds. Retrieved April 22, 2021, 

from 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/10/16/this-summers-black-lives-matter-protesters-were-overwhelming-peaceful-our-research-finds/   

[4]Evelyn, K. (2021, January 08). Capitol attack: The five people who died. Retrieved April 22, 

2021, from 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/08/capitol-attack-police-officer-five-deaths 

[5]Jackman, T. (2021, January 28). Police Union says 140 officers injured in Capitol riot. 

Retrieved April 22, 2021, from 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/police-union-says-140-officers-injured-in-capitol-riot/2021/01/27/60743642-60e2-11eb-9430-e7c77b5b0297_story.html 

[6]Chappell, B. (2021, February 24). Architect of the CAPITOL Outlines $30 million in damages 

From pro-trump Riot. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from 

https://www.npr.org/sections/insurrection-at-the-capitol/2021/02/24/970977612/architect-of-the-capitol-outlines-30-million-in-damages-from-pro-trump-riot   

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