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Jerry Kremer

The party of Lincoln becomes the party of George Wallace

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The 2020 presidential election produced the highest voter turnout in American history. Both candidates received record numbers of votes. This was America at its best, but not for the Republican Party. So it’s no wonder that legislatures in dozens of states have proposed more than 200 laws, aimed mostly at Black voters, that would dramatically cut voter turnout.

If many of the proposals were ever to become law, America would be turning back the clock to the dark Jim Crow era when states deliberately prevented Blacks from going to the polls. There is no secret behind the Republican effort to stop them from casting ballots. Thanks to massive turnouts in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Joe Biden was elected president.

Biden often says, “Here’s the deal.” And here’s the deal: The Republican Party has morphed into a white man’s party. It is slowly but surely being outvoted by minorities in the inner cities and the suburbs. If you can’t win fair and square, why not change the rules to stop large voter turnout? What’s the excuse for these draconian laws? According to the Republicans, the 2020 election was riddled with voter fraud.

Over the past four months, 60 state and federal judges, many of them appointed by former President Donald Trump, have ruled that there was no fraud in any of the election counts. As late as this month, an Arizona judge fined the state Republican Party for bringing a “frivolous” lawsuit, claiming that there were “voter irregularities.” Had Biden won the election by a narrow margin, the voter-fraud argument might have had an impact, but he defeated Trump by seven million votes.

Here’s a sampling of the kinds of bills that have been introduced by state legislators. In Alabama, the legislature is being asked to ban the distribution of water bottles to voters who are standing on line at the polls. In addition, it has been proposed that voters pay a fee to vote, just like the historic poll taxes that were thrown out by the courts decades ago. In Alabama, legislators want to ban Sunday voting to prevent churches from encouraging “souls to the polls.”

A number of states want to ban absentee ballots, just like the ones that Trump himself cast as late as the first week of March in Palm Beach County. Arizona legislators want to ban all forms of mail-in voting, and want voters to have absentee ballots notarized. Those proposals are aimed at Latino voters, who helped elect former astronaut Mark Kelly to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat.

Most of us want to believe that many forms of subtle racism have been eradicated, and that we’re on the road to becoming a more inclusive nation. Sadly, almost all of the bills being considered in so many states are aimed at depressing black turnout. The same meanness that dominates at the state level is part of the rhetoric in Washington D.C. Sen. Ron Johnson, a lightweight from Wisconsin, recently stated that he wasn’t afraid of the rioters who broke into the halls of Congress, but he would have been concerned if they were Black Lives Matter protesters.

Sen. Lindsey Graham complained bitterly after the passage of the Covid-19 relief bill, that the aid to black farmers was like “reparations.”

Other minorities aren’t doing much better during the process of filling cabinet positions for the Biden administration. U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, of New Mexico, was confirmed as secretary of the interior with only four Republican votes in the Senate. She is the first Native American cabinet secretary in U.S. history, but failed to get the approval of Republicans senators who have large numbers of Native Americans in their states.

Similar voting patterns have been recorded for other minority nominees. One has to wonder why the party of Lincoln seems to be gradually becoming the party of George Wallace.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.