I know. It is harsh and it is contrary to the way I have engaged in public life. I have long espoused my partisan independence and it has served me well in my ability to work with both parties to achieve systems change. Yesterday changed that. While I do not intend on joining a political party, yesterday’s twin Supreme Court decisions on Wisconsin’s election struck me like a bolt of lightning. Those decisions, fueled by the Republican Party, convinced me that the present day Republican party and its leaders are a Republican Racist Death Cult.
As my readers know, I have written 3 posts in the last 3 weeks urging Wisconsin’s governor to use his emergency powers to order ballots to be mailed to all Wisconsin voters and to delay the April 7th election so those ballots could be mailed, returned and processed. Gov. Evers tried to get the legislature to come into special session to make these changes, but the Republican controlled legislature refused. So, yesterday, he finally issued an emergency order to delay the election until June 9th.
Prior to that as I noted in my recent post Irresponsible Democracy, federal Judge William Conley ordered some relief by allowing Wisconsin voters to mail in their absentee ballots until April 13th.
Then the twin axes came down. First, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, meeting virtually by its own order to all Wisconsin court due to the coronavirus pandemic ruled 4-2 that Gov. Evers exceeded his authority and could not postpone the election. No rationale was given.
Next, the U.S. Supreme Court enhanced what will go down as the largest voter disenfranchisement in American history when it reversed Judge Conley’s order (which had previously been upheld by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals).
In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that:
The court’s order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement. Because gathering at the polling place now poses dire health risks, an unprecedented number of Wisconsin voters — at the encouragement of public officials — have turned to voting absentee. About one million more voters have requested absentee ballots in this election than in 2016. Accommodating the surge of absentee ballot requests has heavily burdened election officials, resulting in a severe backlog of ballots requested but not promptly mailed to voters.
She further wrote:
The majority of this court declares that this case presents a ‘narrow, technical question. That is wrong. The question here is whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens can vote safely in the midst of a pandemic.
Clearly, the Republican appointed majority had put voters in Wisconsin to an unacceptable choice. Justice Ginsburg went on to say:
Either they will have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others’ safety. Or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own. That is a matter of utmost importance — to the constitutional rights of Wisconsin’s citizens, the integrity of the state’s election process, and in this most extraordinary time, the health of the nation.
Last night, after reading the news of the twin Supreme Court hammer blows to public health and democracy, I shared with my wife and friends and on social media that Republicans are a death cult. While I received many positive reactions to this coin of phrase, some were concerned that I was casting too broad a brush and might turn off some of my readers.
However, another friend sent me an article from a couple of weeks ago, entitled The Party of Life Embraces Trump’s Death Cult, which helped me realize that this concept is not exactly new, or only mine. The article quotes Wisconsin’s Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who, a few days ago, said
We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways. It’s a risk we accept so we can move about. We don’t shut down our economies because tens of thousands of people die from the common flu.
Wisconsin Republican leaders Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald think it is fine to vote during a pandemic. In fact, Robin Vos has agreed to work the polls. He should work in Milwaukee, the epicenter of Wisconsin’s COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, since both the Wisconsin and U.S. Supreme Court majorities and every Wisconsin Republican legislator think it Wisconsinites should go to the polls during a pandemic, every single one of them should back up their belief by working at Wisconsin’s polls today.
Throughout the pandemic, Republican leaders have been saying that lives should be sacrificed for the economy. Glenn Beck summed it up, when he said,
Even if we all get sick, I would rather die than kill the country.
What they do not seem to understand about this pandemic is when they get sick, everyone around them can also get sick and die, and so they are killing the country by failing to heed health warnings to shelter in place. Indeed, the daughter of a former Wisconsin Republican Party county chair, whose father just died from COVID-19 pleaded with her father’s party to postpone the election. As she said,
I am deeply concerned that he exposed people before he was symptomatic, and after he was symptomatic but feeling relatively well. I beg you to consider the health of your neighbors, yourself, your colleagues, and the citizens of this state and work to delay or cancel in person voting for tomorrow. My dad would have been devastated if he learned that he spread this to someone else. Our family is heartbroken right now, and muddling through the terrible grief of losing a beloved family member, in the midst of a pandemic and social isolation. I can’t even hug my mom right now for fear of spreading virus to or from her. I don’t want other families to go through this. Please, work together to find a solution that doesn’t put the health of Wisconsin citizens at risk.
Her pleas fell on deaf ears.
This morning, it became clear that this death cult, while truly sparking no one, has its roots in racism. As reported in the Washington Post,
As of Monday, 33 of the 45 residents who died of covid-19 in Milwaukee County were black, according to the medical examiner. That’s 73 percent, though black residents made up fewer than half of the county’s coronavirus infections and about 28 percent of the total county population. The disparity is even more glaring when looking statewide: Black residents here represent nearly half of the coronavirus-related deaths in Wisconsin, a state that is 6 percent black.
Of course, killing people, and killing a higher rate of African-Americans, is not the only goal of Republican leaders. They know that their refusal to protect public health is also a blow to democracy, which they believe will help them win elections. Due to the pandemic, a record number of Wisconsin voters, well over 1 million, have requested absentee ballots. However, many have not received their ballots and others have returned their ballots, but local clerks have not received those ballots yet.
Do not be deceived by the record number of absentee ballot requests. When all the votes are counted, it is likely that less than half the number of ballots will be cast as in the equivalent April 2016 election.This level of disenfranchisement is greater than at any time in American history.
Some have asked if there will be litigation because of the mass voter disenfranchisement, and I assume there will be many lawsuits filed. Sadly, however, what we learned yesterday is that neither the Wisconsin or U.S. Supreme Court Republican majorities care about the public health. Nor do they care about mass voter disenfranchisement. So, I am not optimistic that litigation will help.
Another friend asked what she could do in this dire situation. My answer was to do everything in her power to make sure that the current occupant of the White House is not re-elected. I further advised her that one way was to help marginalized communities get out the vote. Voces de la Frontera has a great GOTV campaign in Milwaukee and in other locations in Wisconsin. Send them a donation or donate your time and energy. If you live outside of Wisconsin, seek out another group to help get out the vote and send the loud and clear message: We will not allow a Republican Racist Death Cult to Rule our Nation!
For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive, effective systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.