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Opinion | In the long run, cheaters never win

“The For the People Act could have started to make that better. But better for all Americans is not part of the Republican agenda.”


So, on voting rights, Republicans – including Alabama’s two U.S. Senators – are now naked. They can’t hide behind the Big Lie that somehow Donald Trump had the 2020 election stolen from him, and they have to fix our “broken” election system. All they can do is hem and haw, lower their heads so they don’t have to look voters directly in the eye, and shuffle their expensive shoe-covered feet in the dirt.

They are exposed, completely. They do not want you to vote. I’m not including old, white conservatives who support them. I’m including most Americans, and probably Alabamians, too, who are unlikely to back the GOP’s Draconian, anti-social justice programs.

Republicans have known for years that the only way they can win elections is by suppressing the vote. Making it more difficult for people who are not like them – African-Americans, the LatinX community, Asians, LGBTQ+ folks – to cast their ballots.

So, at the state level, including in Alabama, officials have done so much to make it difficult for many voters, but especially minority voters, to have access to the ballot box. Those voters are much more likely to vote against Republicans, so Republicans don’t want them to vote.

Before the Senate this week was a proposal just to open debate – just debate, mind you – on a voting rights bill called the “For the People Act.” All 50 Democrats said, yeah, let’s debate. Get the issues out there. Let the people – our voters – have the information.

All 50 Republicans, including our own Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville, said that’s a little too scary for us. Last thing we want Americans to know is there really is no voter fraud, that we really are trying to keep a big chunk of them from voting, that we don’t believe in Democracy; we believe in power: The autocratic, dictator-like power that Donald Trump so coveted, and that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been practicing for years.

And look: If one of their own decides fairness is more important than power, they do everything they can to destroy their careers. Republicans are famous for whining about so-called “cancel culture,” but they are experts at practicing it.

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Alabama has long been known to discourage African-Americans from voting, and that was under both Democrats (at one time) and Republicans (now enthusiastically active). We learned the far-right Heritage Foundation has been helping to write most of these anti-voting bills conservative legislatures across the nation passing. Lawmakers aren’t even smart enough to write their own bills.

Oh, I won’t have many obstacles to voting, even though Republicans know I’m not on their side. I’m an old white guy, like them. A liberal old white guy, but an old white guy. However, poor people – folks who may not have easy access to the polls (because of Republican action), people who must negotiate a difficult, tedious process to get a mail-in ballot (because of Republican action), marginalized humans forced to stand in hours-long lines because Republicans shut their more convenient voting sites – those people may think it too difficult to vote, because for some of them it literally is, and that is the Republican goal.

They know they can’t win free, open elections in most places across the nation. So, they work the system. They suppress. They cheat, not through voter fraud (which hardly exists anywhere, including Alabama), but through voter manipulation. If they don’t cheat, they know they don’t win.

The only real voter fraud in the United States are all these Republicans trying to keep my students or my African-American and LatinX friends, my Muslim and Asian pals, my gay and lesbian and transgender buddies, from ever even voting.

That, friends, is how bad these Republicans are. They are bad, and they’re getting worse.

The For the People Act could have started to make that better. But better for all Americans is not part of the Republican agenda. Only better for “their kind,” a number they know, with fear in their eyes and shaky ballots in their trembling hands, is shrinking every year.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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