Has the Republican Party given up on democracy?

Democracy is the foundation of the Constitution, the fact that the people have a say in who represents and leads us. The majority sets the agenda for governing while many constitutional provisions protect the rights of political, religious and ethnic minorities.

Many amendments have expanded the access to the vote, thereby furthering democracy: Amendment 15 – black suffrage, Amendment 17 – direct election of senators by the people, Amendment 19 – women's suffrage, Amendment 23 – suffrage in Washington, D.C., Amendment 24 – abolition of poll taxes and Amendment 26 – lowering the voting age to 18.

If you don't support democracy, it doesn't matter if you wrap yourself in the flag, stand for the national anthem or say the Pledge of Allegiance daily: You don't support the essence of what makes America great.

If the purpose of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections of 2016 and 2020 was to produce distrust in our democratic institutions, they may have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. It appears that distrust in democracy seems to be centered in the Republican Party.

Without offering any solid evidence or proof (only unsupported allegations), former president Donald Trump has convinced a significant portion of the 47% of voters who supported him that the election was stolen and many say their faith in democracy has been shaken.

But even that 50% who voted for President Biden have had their faith in democracy shaken.

The Texas lawsuit that the U.S. Supreme Court rejected had 126 Republican members of Congress supporting it (24% of all members of Congress). Even after the Capitol was stormed by a mob that didn't appear too picky about whom to harm, 145 Republican senators and representatives (27%) voted to support at least one of the objections.

That so many Republican members of Congress were willing to reject the will of the voters in the absence of solid evidence of fraud should scare every voter regardless of party.

One would think that a party that has so often lost the popular vote in recent national elections would be inclined to move away from its increasingly far-right stance in order to attract moderate voters.

Instead, in Republican-controlled state legislatures, numerous bills are being considered that have the potential to restrict citizens' access to the vote by curtailing vote-by-mail, shortening early voting, reducing the numbers of polling places and other restrictions targeted at voting groups that tend to not vote strongly for Republicans.

A bill passed by the U.S. House to counter such voter repression laws appears to have a slim chance to pass the U.S. Senate unless the filibuster is abolished.

The U.S. Constitution was designed to guard against the tyranny of the majority. However, current Republican efforts have the potential to create a tyranny of the minority.

So where do we go from here?

The first reasonable action would be to hold elected officials accountable at the polls for their anti-democratic actions or votes.

While he had the common sense not to vote to support any of the objections to the Electoral College, local representative Darin LaHood added his name to the spurious Texas lawsuit.

Three of the five Illinois Republican members of Congress (including Rodney Davis) had the courage to stand up for democracy and reject the dubious legal logic and unsubstantiated claims of the Texas lawsuit. We need to remember this when we vote in 2022.

During election campaigns, particular attention should be paid to what candidates say about the voting process. Many candidates who want to suppress voting camouflage their comments as wanting to promote voting integrity, even though they can point to no solid evidence of voting irregularities under current standards.

I also urge readers to write their state legislators urging them to pass legislation requiring rank-choice voting for all primary and general elections. In elections where there are multiple candidates and no one candidate has a least 50% plus 1 vote, ranked choice voting tends to result in more moderate candidates being elected, rather than candidates at either extreme of the political spectrum.

We need to be ever vigilant for the actions of those who would erode the right of citizens to cast legitimate votes. Democracy is fragile.

Dr. Soltys of Springfield is a retired physician who still teaches medical students at SIU on a volunteer basis.

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