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Tag: gop voter suppression

VIDEO: Texas Republicans Admit Voting Curbs Are All About Winning

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A handful of Republican state lawmakers in Texas were caught on camera saying the voter suppression bill the GOP is trying to pass in the Lone Star State is intended to keep Republicans in power.

The footage was captured by Lauren Windsor, a progressive activist who posed as a supporter of Donald Trump as she spoke about the legislation to the lawmakers.

"We just want to make sure that Texas stays red and it doesn't become like Georgia," state Rep. Matt Krause told Windsor. President Joe Biden carried Georgia in 2020, becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee since 1992 to carry the state. Trump then tried to coerce Republican election officials in the state to "find" the exact number of votes he'd need to be declared the winner.

State Rep. Justin Holland made similar comments, responding to Windsor's prompt, "We had to get engaged in the fight to make sure that Democrats don't take over the state, and so we just want to make sure that y'all get the election bill passed." Holland responded, "That's what we're here for. Yep... they're gonna lose seats, they're not gonna gain seats next time. They're not gonna take over. They're gonna actually erode. And so we're going to make sure we come back with more Republicans next time."

Texas has seen Democratic candidates picking up seats in both Congress and the state Legislature over the last decade.

Publicly, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has claimed that the bill, which limits early voting, makes it harder to vote by mail, and gives more authority to poll watchers, is about "election integrity."

"There's really one thing all of us can and should agree upon, and that is we must have trust and confidence in our elections," Abbott said in March. "One way to do that is to make sure that we reduce the potential for voter fraud in our elections."

However, Democratic state legislators, a number of whom have left the state to deny Republicans a quorum in the Legislature to vote on the bill, say the newly released video is more proof that the bill is about keeping Republicans in power.

"It was never about 'election integrity,'" Democratic state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, one of the Democratic lawmakers who left the state to keep the bill from coming to a vote, tweeted in response to the video. "It was about an unpopular party, in an increasingly diverse Texas, doing whatever it takes to hold onto power - even if it means sacrificing our democracy. Texans deserve better."

Democratic state Rep. Julie Johnson tweeted, "This bill we are fighting in #Texas is not about 'election integrity. It never really was. Texas Republicans have openly admitted they only want to retain power."

Abbott had called a special session of the Legislature to pass the bill, along with a list of other right-wing bills that would do everything from prohibiting transgender youth from playing on school sports teams of their gender to limiting access to abortion. That session ended on Friday without any bills being passed, and Abbott called a second special session that began on Saturday.

But the Democratic state lawmakers haven't returned to allow a quorum for voting and have filed a lawsuit against Republican leaders in Texas who are trying to compel them to come back, while also telling Congress to pass federal voting rights bills to combat efforts to restrict voting access such as the ones Texas Republicans are attempting to pass.

"This is not about election integrity, it's to keep anyone from voting that isn't a Republican," Democratic state Rep. Jarvis Johnson tweeted. "They just want to keep the state red. There is no shame."

’Stop The Steal’ Impresario Will Now Push Voter Suppression Campaign

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

"Stop the Steal" organizer and far-right figure Ali Alexander said in an online stream on July 27 that "several members of Congress and their chiefs of staff have asked if they could see" a new "election integrity memo" he is allegedly releasing.

In the online stream, Alexander said the memo would make "a very compelling case that Republicans must address election integrity, that state legislative bodies must pass reforms, and that failure will reduce turnout." Alexander also said the memo calls for a "full frontal offense" over the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol, adding that he was "really excited" about a press conference from Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) over the treatment of what he called "political prisoners" who were arrested for their alleged participation in the insurrection. (He also claimed "none of them were plotting an actual insurrection" and falsely claimed that "none of them took guns into the Capitol.")

He promised that the memo would help coordination for "all of these groups that are running around asking for some guidance, asking for some slogans, asking for stats so that they can confront their lawmakers," adding, "We're going to arm everybody with a big ol' political bazooka." He also told his followers to "tell everybody on Twitter, 'Ali Alexander is back.'"

(Due to technical issues while obtaining the audio recordings, some typing and clicking can be heard in the background.)

During the same stream, Alexander urged followers to use his "movement memo" to aid the Arizona "audit" and other possible state "audits" pushing false voter fraud claims. Alexander told his followers regarding his memo, "I want you to print it out. I want you to give it to your state lawmakers. I want you to memorize it. I want you to be equipped to better organize these audits and these protests that need to happen around the audits." He also said the memo "calls out a lot of idiots that are blocking election integrity."

Alexander also said that in addition to "all these grassroot leaders" and "people who coordinate ... state capitol protests" receiving the memo, "several members of Congress and their chiefs of staff have asked if they could see it."

Alexander also claimed that former President Donald Trump "used the Stop the Steal press release that we sent out on the 21st [of July]" to target House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in his released statement. He also credited his supporters with sharing the press release on social media, saying that it was "pretty rewarding" to see that "it made it to the president." Alexander thanked his supporters for being "the firepower that I need to get things done inside the Republican Party and the conservative movement."

Alexander has previously claimed that he was in touch with figures in Trump's orbit and administration as well as in Congress regarding his "Stop the Steal" efforts leading up to the insurrection. With the latter, he has specifically said that Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), and Gosar helped plan his January 6 rally (Gosar's chief of staff has also said he kept in regular contact with Alexander).

Following the insurrection, Alexander claimed he was waiting for certain "legal liabilities" to expire the "further away I get from January 6th" before resuming political activities. In June, he promised to "return to ... political activity here soon." But by then he was already advocating for state "audits" of the 2020 presidential election and harassment of government workers. (In July, he claimed he would resume his public activities once there are three state "audits.")

Alexander has also called for violence against his perceived enemies and threatened authorities, encouraging his followers to prepare for "civil war" and a possible "revolution."

How Samuel Alito Is Returning Jim Crow To The Supreme Court

In recent decades, voting rights progress has consisted of expanding access to a ballot and the ways to cast it—such as online registration, voting from home with mailed-out ballots and other options to vote before Election Day. Those innovations have been widely embraced, especially during the 2020 election in response to health concerns during a pandemic. In the general election, 56 million people voted in a different manner than they had in 2016.

But the Supreme Court's latest major decision on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has imposed new standards that election law scholars say are hostile to the more expansive and convenient voting options that have surfaced in recent years. Even more troubling, the court's conservative majority has done so in a way that is reminiscent of the arguments put forth by last century's opponents of equal voting opportunities for racial minorities.

In Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the court eviscerated the strongest remaining section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), Section 2, which held that election laws and voting rules that had a racially discriminatory impact could be blocked. (In 2013, the court, in Shelby v. Holder, neutered the VRA's sections that allowed federal authorities to block regressive new election laws or voting rules in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination.) Perhaps most alarmingly in Brnovich, Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion resurrected a legal strategy embraced by the opponents of last century's major civil rights reforms.

Brnovich held that some discriminatory impacts of an election law do not alone invalidate that law. That standard, put forth in "guideposts" laid out by Alito, means that suits challenging laws and rules that make voting harder must go beyond showing a discriminatory result. Those challenging a law must prove that its authors intended to discriminate—making it much harder to sue and win. Shifting the burden of proof from the result or effect of a law to its authors' intent was a tactic of 1970s anti-civil rights litigants.

But Brnovich went even further by also reviving the states' rights strategy cited by mid-20th-century segregationists. It held that state legislatures could cite an interest in policing voter fraud—which, factually, barely exists—as a pretext to pass stricter new election laws. And the ruling said that it didn't matter if a new law advantaged the party that authored the law.

"Effectively, most of the VRA is now dead," David Schultz, a Hamline University scholar specializing in elections and democracy, wrote in an email.

"The proof issue is critical," he continued. "[First, t]he court gives the benefit of the doubt to states that their laws are valid. Second, the court dismisses mere inconveniences as proof of creating less opportunity. It also dismisses small disparities as minor. And it also imposes a difficult burden on statistical evidence. Finally, even if someone can surmount all this, the court seems to dismiss some burdens by saying in the totality of the circumstances the overall voting system may be fine. In effect, despite the fact that voting is a fundamental constitutional right which is supposed to force the state to prove why its restrictions are valid, it shifts the burden to challengers with a near-impossible argument to make."

Other legal scholars have also written that Brnovich's dark implications are sinking in.

"[E]ach time I read Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the angrier I become," Rick Hasen, a University of California, Irvine election law scholar, wrote on July 8 for Slate. "I'm angry not only about what the court did but also about how much of the public does not realize what a hit American democracy has taken."

Segregationist Revival

In strict terms, Hasen noted that the Brnovich ruling rolls back "the clock on voting rights to 1982," a date cited by Alito's majority opinion. That date is legally and politically significant. In fact, Brnovich cannot be seen as apolitical. As Schultz noted, "What makes this so bad is that the decision does not look neutral, and it makes the court look even more like a political institution where justices are simply partisan politicians with robes."

The early 1980s were the heyday of Ronald Reagan's presidency. At that time, both Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts held senior positions in the Justice Department, where the Reagan administration not only resisted enforcing federal voting rights law but also sought to weaken the same section of the VRA that is the focus of 2021's Brnovich decision. Today, few may recall that candidate Reagan gave a reactionary states' rights speech in August 1980 at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi—near where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. The murders were one of many events that propelled passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Southern states' rights advocates and their conservative descendants have long resisted broad voting rights—today, during Reagan's day, in the 1960s, and in the earlier Jim Crow era. Congress passed other civil rights laws by the late 1960s, such as in housing and employment. After the VRA's passage, its advocates' early focus was registering voters for 1968's presidential election and dealing with the legacy of exclusion.

Richard Nixon, who won that election, ran on a states' rights "Southern strategy" that conveyed his support for segregationist values. Once in office, Nixon appointed judges vetted by South Carolina's Republican Senator Strom Thurmond, a white supremacist, in exchange for his endorsement over segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace, said Chris Sautter, an election lawyer and American University adjunct professor.

By the mid-1970s, Nixon had resigned. But the impact of his judicial appointments was being seen. In civil rights litigation outside the voting sphere, civil rights opponents and conservative judges chipped away at new civil rights laws by changing the burden of proof required by those suing to enforce those laws. The cudgel concerned altering the burden of proof from showing a law's discriminatory effect to proving discriminatory intent. In short, the prosecutorial burdens that Alito revived in Brnovich didn't come out of thin air but were used by segregationists in his formative years as a young Reagan administration lawyer.

By 1980, the reactionary push to alter the burden of proof in new civil rights laws reached the voting sphere. In City of Mobile v. Bolden, the Supreme Court held that Section 2 challenges required proving discriminatory intent—a ruling that contradicted the law's text. At that time, race-based electioneering was returning to GOP circles. In New Jersey's 1981 elections, the Republican National Committee used Jim Crow-like thuggish tactics to try to intimidate Black and Hispanic voters. The Democratic National Committee sued and won a now expired court order that restrained the RNC. (Election lawyers point to the RNC's tactics as foreshadowing the modern Republican Party's voter suppression playbook.)

Some of that backlash also was due to Jimmy Carter's presidency (1977-1981), Sautter said, which enforced another part of the VRA: its preclearance provisions. These sections required states and counties with histories of discriminatory elections to get federal approval before implementing any new election law or rule. (In 2013, the court, in Shelby v. Holder, a majority opinion written by Roberts, gutted the VRA's preclearance provisions.)

In 1982, the 97th Congress reacted to the Supreme Court's Mobile ruling by restoring Section 2's original burden of proof—those who sued only needed to show that a new law's effect was discriminatory. The VRA's 1982 amendments said that courts should consider the "totality of the circumstances" to protect voting rights. The Reagan administration opposed reviving the law's original standard, an effort led by Roberts, as Hasen noted in his recent Slate piece.

"Congress disagreed with the Supreme Court's [1980] interpretation of Section 2, and in 1982 Congress passed a revised Section 2. This revision came despite fierce opposition from the Reagan administration and the president's point person on the issue, John Roberts, who now happens to be the chief justice of the Supreme Court," Hasen writes. At that time, Alito worked in the solicitor general's office, arguing for the Reagan administration in federal court.

In Brnovich, Alito laid out five "guideposts" for courts to judge Section 2 claims, including the harder burden of proof.

"In truth, these are less guideposts and more roadblocks looking to stop plaintiffs at every turn when they assert their Section 2 claims," Hasen writes. "One of the guideposts specifically tells courts to compare the voting restrictions being challenged in a Section 2 case to the burdens of voting as they existed in 1982."

Back to 1982?

What does it mean when a big slice of voting rights law is rolled back to 1982? The first take by scholars like Hasen is that recent voting options—such as allowing early voting on Sundays to accommodate "souls to the polls" drives led by clergy—have little basis for federal protection.

"[I]magine a state passes a law barring early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, because white Republican legislators know that reliably Democratic Black voters often run 'souls to the polls' events to take church-going voters straight to vote after services," he writes. "While a challenge to such a rollback under Section 2 had a good chance of going forward before, how could it survive the 1982 benchmark now, when Sunday voting, and early voting as a whole, was rare?"

Consider the Texas legislature's current machinations to ban the expanded voting options that Harris County—home to Houston—implemented in 2020 to make voting more accessible in the pandemic, such as 24-hour voting centers and mailing out absentee ballot applications. These GOP-led reforms are unfolding despite the statewide victories in fall 2020 elections by Texas Republicans.

"States are [now] mostly free to do what they want with voting and there appears to be little federal remedies or help to protect voting rights," said Schultz. "More than a decade ago, I said we were in the middle of a Second Great Disenfranchisement in America (the first was after the Civil War Reconstruction ended). This decision [Brnovich] is confirmation that the Second Great Disenfranchisement is in full swing, and we can expect more restrictions on voting rights in the years to come."

Brnovich's reach may be even bigger. The way that Americans vote today is completely different from 1982. What is called convenience voting—such as decades of mailing out ballots to every voter in some states, and the options to vote from home or in person before Election Day—did not exist in 1982. Neither did the voting technology and related election rules in wide use today.

"The expansion of voting rights since the 1980s has repeatedly been met with conservative resistance, first in the form of Republican Party initiated so-called ballot security programs and eventually with extreme voter suppression laws," said Sautter. "But the strategy to eviscerate voting rights with an ultra-conservative controlled judiciary goes back to Nixon and the presidential election of 1968. Until the makeup of the Supreme Court changes, progressives will have a difficult time winning these battles."

In the meantime, the best progressives might hope for is passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which restores and fortifies the VRA, which Sautter said would "seriously undermine the rationale of Alito's opinion." That scenario hinges on all Senate Democrats voting to create a voting-right exception to the filibuster rule.

On July 13, President Biden gave a passionate speech where he decried the Brnovich ruling and called Republican efforts to subvert voting rights and election results "21st-century Jim Crow." Biden called on Congress to pass sweeping federal voting rights legislation, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but he did not mention the Senate filibuster.

"Just weeks ago, the Supreme Court yet again weakened the Voting Rights Act and upheld what Justice Kagan called, quote, 'a significant race-based disparity in voting opportunities,'" Biden said. "The court's decision, as harmful as it is, does not limit the Congress' ability to repair the damage done. That's the important point. It puts the burden back on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act to its intended strength."

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Senate Republicans Attack Biden Nominee For Voting Rights Advocacy

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Senate Republicans on Wednesday came out against President Joe Biden's nominee for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, criticizing her support for voting rights and advocacy against the type of voter suppression tactics Republican lawmakers across the country have sought to implement.

The senators said during a Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Myrna Pérez that she would not be able to rule impartially on voting rights issues if she were seated on the court.

Pérez is currently on leave from her role as the director of the Brennan Center for Justice's Voting Rights and Elections Project, where she analyzed and criticized voter suppression laws that have been passed by GOP-controlled state legislatures in the wake of Donald Trump's loss of the 2020 presidential election.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took issue with Pérez's advocacy against voter suppression laws.

"You have waged litigation campaigns and opposed voter ID laws, you have opposed voter integrity laws, you have opposed prohibitions on ballot harvesting, you have advocated for felons being able to vote," Cruz said, calling her a "radical activist."

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said she didn't believe Pérez could be neutral, tweeting, "Myrna Pérez is too busy being an activist to concentrate on being a second circuit judge," Blackburn tweeted, sharing a video of her questioning of Pérez.

Pérez responded, "In the great genius of our Constitution, people play different roles," according to the Hill newspaper. "Advocates zealously argue on behalf of their clients in as many forms as they can. I have had the privilege and pleasure of doing that."

Democrats and voting rights groups responded to the Judiciary Committee Republicans as well.

"Sen. Ted Cruz claims that Myrna Pérez is a 'radical' activist because of her advocacy for the right to vote. Guaranteeing access to the polls is anything but radical, and we need judges with civil rights experience like Pérez on our courts," the Alliance for Justice tweeted, urging Pérez's confirmation.

The NAACP's Legal Defense Fund also tweeted support for Pérez, writing, "Federal judges play vital roles in preserving constitutional democracy. It's critical that judges have a demonstrated commitment to fairness and the rule of law. Myrna Pérez has dedicated her career to strengthening and protecting voting rights and our democracy."

Senate Democrats are taking advantage of their slim majority in the chamber to prioritize the confirmation of Biden's judicial nominees.

The pace at which they are confirming his court picks is faster than any president in the last 50 years, according to a report by CBS affiliate WUSA9 in Washington, D.C. To date, seven of Biden's judicial nominees have been confirmed, more than the two judges Trump had confirmed at this same point in his term.

Republicans have yet to block one of Biden's judicial nominees — who have been far more diverse than Trump's picks.

If Pérez is confirmed, she'll be the only Latina to serve on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, and the first since then-Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Poll: Almost Half Of GOP Voters Want Legislators Enabled To Overturn Election Results

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A study published on Thursday of support for the "Stop the Steal" movement found nearly half of Republican voters believe their state legislatures should simply be able to overturn the results of elections.

The report, published by the Voter Study Group research collaborative, finds 46 percent of Republican voters believing "that it was appropriate for 'Republican legislators in states won by Joe Biden to try to assign their state's electoral votes to Donald Trump.'"

However, just 23 percent of Americans overall believe lawmakers should have the power to overturn an election, a dichotomy the report's author, Lee Drutman, says could pose a challenge for Republicans in future elections.

"As Republican states continue to restrict the franchise around manufactured concerns of 'electoral integrity,' and Republican leaders both local and national work to purge the party of those who accept the legitimacy of the 2020 election results, there are lingering questions about whether relitigating the 2020 election is a viable path forward for the GOP," Drutman writes.

The report also finds that nearly 62 percent of Republican voters don't think Biden is the legitimate president, and two-thirds believe the lie that Trump really won, figures that indicate how hard it will be for Republicans to wrest control of their party from those who are pushing voter fraud lies.

"It's clear that some Republicans accept the legitimacy of the 2020 election, are eager to move past Trump, have more moderate positions on race and immigration, and have at least a degree of acceptance of Democrats," Drutman wrote. "But they are clearly a minority within the party — and, at this point, there is not a clear path for such a faction to retake control of the Republican Party."

The results come as former President Donald Trump continues to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, telling the Christian Broadcasting Network on Monday, "I never admitted defeat. ... No, I never, the word is 'concede,' [and] I have not conceded."

Earlier in June Trump was reported to have been telling those around him that he plans to be reinstated as president in August.

The new report is the latest to demonstrate that the lies Trump and other Republican officials have told about voter fraud have been internalized by GOP voters.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll in early June found that 17 percent of Republican voters believe the lie that Trump will be reinstated.

And a CBS News poll in May found that two-thirds of Republican voters, or 67 percent, believe that President Joe Biden did not legitimately win the election.

However, multiple reviews have found that there was no fraud in the 2020 election, including a report released Wednesday by the Republican-controlled Michigan state Senate, which debunked voter fraud lies pushed by Trump and his supporters.

Still, Republican state lawmakers across the country have used those lies to pass voter suppression legislation across the country, some of which gives them more control over election administration, provoking fears that Republicans will overturn results in majority-Democratic areas.

Republican lawmakers in Texas tried to pass a law that would make it easier for election judges to overturn results based on nebulous claims of "fraud."

That bill failed after Democrats walked out of the state Senate to deny their Republican colleagues a quorum, stopping the bill from passing just before the legislative session expired.

GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has called a special session of the Legislature to begin on July 8 to take up the bill again.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Poll: Americans Love Democracy But Fear For Its Future

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

There aren't many polling questions these days that draw 90 percent-plus agreement, but Americans are united by one central idea: They believe the country should remain a democracy.

A newly released Daily Kos/Civiqs poll found that fully 93 percent of registered voters said they believed America "should remain a democracy." Just three percent favored "some other form of government," and four percent said they were unsure.

Another question also revealed a great deal of anxiety among respondents about the future of democracy in America. Asked if they feel worried the U.S. is "becoming less of a democracy," 87 percent expressed concern. Here's the breakdown:

  • Yes, very worried: 61 percent
  • Yes, somewhat worried: 26 percent
  • No, not too worried: 7 percent
  • No, not worried at all: 4 percent
  • Unsure: 2 percent

Those are pretty stunning numbers, frankly, about the level of alarm in this country over the seemingly tectonic political shift taking place, with just 11 percent saying they aren't concerned.

Where the consensus breaks down along partisan lines is on what represents a threat to U.S. democracy. The survey gauged respondents' views on both the GOP voter suppression laws being passed in the states and Democrats' attempt to pass voting rights legislation at the federal level, and it found an almost even split on which efforts represented an attack on democracy or a good-faith effort to protect it.

One question asked, "As you may know, Republican legislators in many states have recently passed new voting laws. Do you think these new laws are an attack on American democracy or an attempt to protect it?"

  • An attempt to protect American democracy: 44 percent
  • An attack on American democracy: 50 percent
  • Neither: 3 percent
  • I don't know enough to say: 4 percent

The next query stated, "Democrats in Congress are currently proposing new voting rights legislation. Do you think this legislation is an attack on American democracy or an attempt to protect it?"

  • An attempt to protect American democracy: 46 percent
  • An attack on American democracy: 43 percent
  • Neither: 3 percent
  • I don't know enough to say: 8 percent

The takeaway from this series of questions is clear: The overwhelming majority of Americans feel like the country is at a crossroads, but they are also split almost evenly about how to best protect U.S. democracy moving forward. The key difference, of course, is that perceptions on one side of the fault line have been almost entirely informed and driven by Donald Trump's baseless lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him when, in fact, he was the rightful loser.

Republican voters have basically bought into that narrative hook, line, and sinker, as many polls have shown. But this survey demonstrates just how effectively GOP lawmakers have seized on that baseless narrative to justify passing laws that will help them lock in minority rule at both the state and federal levels.

The New York Times Serves Up Another ‘Both Sides’ Fiasco

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Republicans want to make it harder for people to vote and easier for the GOP to invalidate election results. That's the distressing, historic truth as the party fully embraces an anti-democratic agenda.

Hiding behind Both Sides journalism, which portrays all political skirmishes as being the product of each party, the D.C. press continues to struggle to be honest about the GOP's radical turn. Recently the New York Times, as if trying to create a Both Sides archetype, including flawless examples of everything that's wrong and dangerous about the faulty form of journalism, published a painfully bad piece about GOP voter suppression. "Museum quality," was how New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen dubbed the Times' pitch-perfect Both Sides entry.

Strictly adhering to the he said/she said construct that the Times newsroom finds so comforting, the article made no effort to reach a logical conclusion in terms of which side in the voting 'debate' was being honest and accurate. Functioning as a clearing house for the Democratic and Republican quotes that were collected, the Times saw its job not as illuminating news consumers about a gravely important topic, but to simple type up competing quotes.

After reading the piece, former Seattle Times editor Mike Fancher tweeted it was, "an example of journalism that is accurate but not truthful. It is also harmful to democracy." Addressing the Times' executive editor he added, "Please, @deanbaquet, hire a public editor to help your newsroom become stewards of democracy."

The car wreck began with the headline: "In Congress, Republicans Shrug at Warnings of Democracy in Peril." Making clear that the article would view the topic through the eyes of the GOP, the headline stressed that Republicans were unconcerned about the issue at hand, which is exactly the message Republicans want to portray — it's no big deal.

Then the sub-headline: "As G.O.P. legislatures move to curtail voting rules, congressional Democrats say authoritarianism looms, but Republicans dismiss the concerns as politics as usual."

First, Republicans across the country are passing an unprecedented collection of voter suppression laws. But the Times won't use that clear language, instead opting for the watered down, "curtail voting rules." The word choice is important because if the Times had framed the article as one about "voter suppression" laws, it would make it much harder for Republicans to "shrug off" the allegations about putting democracy in peril.

Second, the Times places alongside each other the claims that voter suppression is a function of Republican authoritarianism, and that the GOP's dismissal that it's all "politics as usual." In the eyes of the Times those are equally valid and important points for readers to know. Democrats are saying our democracy is in clear danger and Republican says it's "politics as usual," which makes no sense. It's not "usual" for one of the two major political parties in this country to warn that America's nearly two-and-a-half centuries of democratic rule faces a looming internal and deliberate danger. In fact, that's the opposite of "usual" — it's unheard of.

From the outset, the Times frames the article as an impossible-to-solve disagreement between both parties, with the implication being that Both Sides have a valid point. They do not.

The avalanche of current GOP bills aim to shorten the early voting period, reduce the number of hours that people can vote on Election Day, eliminate drive-through voting centers, create stricter deadlines for returning absentee ballots, block early voting on Sunday, limit ballot drop boxes, restrict mail-in voting —basically any possible initiative Republicans can think of that would suppress the vote.

"The playbook that the Republican Party is executing at the state and national levels is very much consistent with actions taken by illiberal, anti-democratic, anti-pluralist parties in other democracies that have slipped away from free and fair elections," Lee Drutman, senior fellow at the New America think tank recently told the Washington Post.

Still, the Times clings to Both Sides.

Specifically, the daily blamed Democrats for partly creating the voting controversy. "Missteps by Democrats have fortified Republicans' attempts to downplay the dangers," the Times reported. "Some of them, including President Biden, have mischaracterized Georgia's voting law, handing Republicans ammunition to say that Democrats were willfully distorting what was happening at the state level." The example the article pointed to was when Biden once mistakenly said the Georgia voter suppression law would end voting at 5 p.m.

Republicans are doing everything in their power to invalidate future elections by passing voter suppression laws and empowering state legislatures to refuse to certify state tallies. It all represents a massive attempt to roll back democracy.

One quick example: This spring, Arkansas's Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law seven different voting bills. One prohibits people from going within 100 feet of a polling place except with the intention of entering or exiting it. That would effectively ban giving food and water to voters stuck in long lines. Another bill invalidates absentee ballots that arrive on Election Day.

Yet against that stark and historic backdrop, the Times claimed that by misstating a single provision contained within one of the dozens of the GOP's voter suppression bills, Biden had "hand[ed] Republicans ammunition."

If so, he's not alone. The Times, with its shoddy Both Sides journalism, is also handing the GOP plenty of ammunition.

What Manchin Knows — And What Progressives Could Learn

The 2010 Senate candidate was almost a caricature of the sort of Republican who drives Democrats crazy. He bragged about his endorsement by the National Rifle Association, criticized "Obamacare" and dramatized his support for coal by picking up a rifle and blasting away at a bill aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

But the guy who turned those themes into a victory was not a Republican. He was a Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. And he's somehow proven to be both the indispensable senator for President Joe Biden and a villain to many in his party.

You might think Democrats would be building shrines to the person who has kept them in control of the Senate. A Democrat has about as much business representing West Virginia — which Donald Trump won by a 39-point margin — as a vegan sandwich has on the Burger King menu.

Of course, Burger King does offer a vegan sandwich — the Impossible Burger. And it has succeeded much as Manchin has, by doing an excellent impersonation of something people like. Impossible Foods offers an appealing oxymoron — "meat made from plants," as it advertises.

Manchin does the same, compiling a center-right voting record from his desk on the liberal side of the chamber. An analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that during Trump's tenure, he sided with the administration 50.4 percent of the time. He scores low with both the American Conservative Union (27 percent) and the American Civil Liberties Union (23 percent). The website GovTrack grades Manchin as more conservative than two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

It's no wonder that liberals differ with him on many issues. But they have let his refusal to support reform of the filibuster or the Democratic election reform bill cloud their minds. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) called Manchin "the new Mitch McConnell." Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) accused him of complicity in "voter suppression."

The attacks bring to mind what Biden recalls his own father saying: "Don't compare me to the Almighty; compare me to the alternative." It doesn't seem to occur to Bowman that if not for Manchin, the Senate would be under the control of the real Mitch McConnell, who would use a GOP majority to block Biden on almost every front. For Manchin to align himself with Ocasio-Cortez would produce a different type of voter suppression — of West Virginians willing to cast their ballots for him.

It's easy for politicians like these to fault Manchin for being insufficiently progressive, because they don't have to run for office in West Virginia. Bowman's district went for Biden by a 52-point margin; Ocasio-Cortez's by 45 points. They can lurch as far left as they want without fearing defeat at the polls.

A Democratic politician in West Virginia, however, has to carefully balance party priorities with political survival. That Manchin has been able to win statewide over and over is not an achievement; it's a miracle. He's been able to do it largely by consistently staying arms-length from the prevailing ideology of his party.

In that endeavor, his recent vilification by progressives is more likely to help him at home than to hurt him. It reinforces Manchin's priceless reputation as a different kind of Democrat.

But they have reason to be grateful to him. One reason is that he's not entirely averse to taking political risks on behalf of his party's agenda. The website FiveThirtyEight found he has voted with Biden 100 percent of the time so far.

Without Manchin, Biden would be unable to get many of his judicial nominees confirmed. Republicans would chair all Senate committees and determine the legislative calendar. The president would face a stone wall of GOP opposition. Today's Democratic frustration would give way to outright despair.

What the party needs is not fewer people like Manchin but more. The Democratic approach works well in presidential elections, but it has yet to produce lasting majorities in Congress — and it has been a dismal failure in state elections.

Manchin has demonstrated that it's possible for a Democrat to win in the reddest of states by selectively straying from liberal orthodoxy. If many others would follow his example, Democrats would have a stronger hand, which would make Manchin less of an impediment to their agenda.

Progressives who think they are at odds with him are really at odds with political reality. Manchin never forgets that, as Shakespeare wrote, there is no virtue like necessity.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.