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Saturday, October 1, 2016

By Joe Miller, The Century Foundation

Americans have it pretty good. We’re the third-richest nation on the planet. Scholars debate whether we’re a hyperpower (à la Rome in its heyday), or “merely” the world’s only superpower. We enjoy a level of personal freedom that is the envy of the world.

In fact, we have so much money and wield so much influence in the world that we spend millions of dollars each year to export our freedoms to those who weren’t fortunate enough to be born in the U.S.A.

Sadly, though, while we’re spending money protecting freedoms abroad, we’re slowly frittering them away back home.

Take voting rights, for example.

In fiscal year 2013, the U.S. will spend about $118 million funding a program called the National Endowment for Democracy, an organization “dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world.” Another $115 million will go to USAID’s Democracy Fund, which supports free and fair elections around the world. According to USAID, free elections have 10 necessary elements:

1. Impartial electoral frameworks
2. Credible electoral administration
3. Effective oversight of electoral processes
4. Informed and active citizens
5. Representative and competitive multi-party systems
6. Effective governance by elected leaders and bodies
7. Inclusion of women and disadvantaged groups
8. Effective transfer of political power
9. Consensus-building for democratic reform
10. Sustainable local engagement

Notice that 7th one? The one about the inclusion of disadvantaged groups?

We have some of those here in the U.S., too. They include pretty much everyone without white skin. And for a very long time, people without white skin were systematically disenfranchised throughout the South. So a generation or so ago, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act to make sure that elections in those same Southern states actually included disadvantaged groups.

And guess what? It turns out that people in the very states targeted by the Voting Rights Act are still more racist than their counterparts in other states.

So of course, earlier today, the Supreme Court of the United States invalidated the part of the Voting Rights Act that required federal approval of changes to voting requirements for the very states that lead the Most Racist Citizenry rankings.

Perhaps next year USAID can kick some of those funds for supporting free and fair elections down toward Mississippi. They’ll no doubt be needed.

Follow Joe Miller and The Century Foundation on Twitter at @jjosephmiller and @TCFdotorg

  • Dominick Vila

    We do have freedoms that are the envy of the world and that we must preserve at all cost. Undermining or raising impediments to ensure ALL Americans can vote is not one of them, the same goes for freedom of speech which we often interpret as freedom to insult or denigrate the integrity of others, or our tendency to “export”, I prefer to say impose, our values on others. The latter is not a freedom, it is a deliberate arrogant decision influenced by our conviction that what works for us must work for everyone else and that we have a subliminal right to demand others to do as we say, but not as we do.

    • Lorr

      Hopefully History will not be kind to SCOTUS because since 2004 they began their journey of bringing down the integrity and respect that was once part of the Supreme Court. They are now nothing more than an extension of the Republican Party and they are living proof as to why there should be term limits. They are supposed to be basing their rulings on law and the Constitution and not their own personal or political beliefs. Moments after their decision came down, 3 Republican Controlled States are enforcing new Voter ID laws that will impact the poor, the elderly and people of color.
      Congratulations SCOTUS you have just taken us back almost 50 years. You want Congress to take action – have you been paying attention we have the worst Congress in history that does nothing but collect a paycheck.

      • midway54

        Yes, the rightwingers in robes are on an increasingly fast track to return the Country to its status quo ante 1937, a time when ordinary citizens suffered under the unrelenting policies of laissez faire economics inspired by the corporations and trusts, including the violent battles against the formation and effectiveness of labor unions, and the attacks on social safety legislation grounded in the charge that such legislation was un-American, citing socialism and communism and anarchism, that would end the American Way. We could use another Teddy Roosevelt who fought these “malefactors of great wealth” through his progressivism that especially was enunciated in the election of 1912 in which he was the Progressive Party candidate for president.

  • Allan Richardson

    Here’s an interesting thought: since SCOTUS has said that Section 5 is constitutional EXCEPT for the list of states that have to abide by it, that could be interpreted to mean that ALL states have to abide by it. The President, conferring with the Attorney General, should announce that, in order to implement the FAIRNESS that the Court has mandated, he will immediately treat the law as applying to ALL states and counties UNTIL Congress replaces the formula with a new one. Then let the Right Wing waste their gigabucks fighting each case!

    • whodatbob

      WOW! You read the decision and are not being swayed by spin from those holier than though Northeasterners. They now most live by the same rules as the South.

      • mah101

        Just to be fair, Michigan was affected by the VRA too.

  • Lovefacts

    Interesting how Scalia and Thomas claim to be ardent Federalists. Yet, their decision on this case and the reasons given violate every tenet of Federalism. Truth is, they are ardent right-wing Republicans who can not see beyond their ideology. Their every decision is based upon their political beliefs, not the US Constitution.

  • Americans can have nice things when we start treating everyone the way we would want them to treat us.

  • mah101

    1. Impartial electoral frameworks: Voter ID laws, voting restrictions in the name of preventing non existent “fraud”? CHECK

    2. Credible electoral administration: Still mostly have (hanging chads, anyone?)

    3. Effective oversight of electoral processes: Still mostly have

    4. Informed and active citizens: Do we need to discuss this one, eh Fox, Rush, Beck?

    5. Representative and competitive multi-party systems: Not at the federal level…

    6. Effective governance by elected leaders and bodies: Congress, anyone?

    7. Inclusion of women and disadvantaged groups: Could do better…

    8. Effective transfer of political power: So far, until those 2nd Amendment solutions kick in.

    9. Consensus-building for democratic reform: ‘Face palm’

    10. Sustainable local engagement: Still have

    Ok, so we’re batting about 500 – not bad if this were baseball but doesn’t really give us the right to go around telling other countries how to behave.