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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: In a state of convulsion

by John Brummett | April 7, 2021 at 3:29 a.m.

Republicans hadn't figured on losing the presidential race in Georgia and two big U.S. Senate races there.

It happened narrowly, but epically, because of an uncommonly high turnout facilitated by Democratic get-out-the-vote initiatives aided by heavy reliance during the pandemic on mail-voting convenience. Suburban rejection of Donald Trump also was a factor.

So, Georgia Republicans have used their state legislative majorities and governor's office occupancy to impose new restrictions to make it less convenient for Georgians to vote.

If you lose by only a little, then all you need is to put up a few impediments to the other side.

Mail-voting conveniences will be lessened from those in November. By a new formula, drop boxes in highly populated areas will be reduced in number. All drop boxes will be confined to locations inside government buildings or early-voting sites, and unavailable after normal business hours.

Voters going to the wrong polling place--in part from a lack of information while partisan election commissions have redrawn precincts and reduced polling places--won't be allowed to cast provisional ballots. They'll be told they have to get to the right place, which probably won't be in easy walking distance.

The Legislature gave itself the right to remove county election commissioners and wrested control of the state election board from the secretary of state. You will recall that the Georgia secretary of state, a Republican, distinguished himself for standing up to the bullying vote-thievery attempts of Trump.

So, Republican legislators are saying that Trump need only call them for the next insurrection.

Republicans tend to equate voter convenience with fraud, though they are entirely different things--one democratic and the other criminal, one beneficial to the masses and the other rarely shown by evidence, and, when shown, cutting both ways.

Republicans say these are simple election-integrity initiatives not out of line with the norm across the country. They say Georgia's new law is still more permissive than laws in many states, notably Joe Biden's Delaware, which has no early voting at all.

They're not factually wrong, although it's a complex comparison, as many comparisons are. But complexity has little place in the new Democratic intolerance of old Republican intolerance, and vice versa. It has little currency nowadays amid the typically simplistic and effective poll-tested Republican branding of this new Democratic intolerance as "wokeness" and a "cancel culture."

Delaware has a liberalized voting law taking effect in 2022 that includes early voting. Beyond that, Democrats control three-fifths of the current Delaware legislature, which is on the verge of passing automatic voter registration tied to driver licensing, election-day registration, no-excuse absentee voting and drop-box availability.

Republicans have a viable talking point in comparing existing policies in Georgia and Delaware. But the question of which direction each state is going is clearer--and more significant--than a direct comparison of where they are.

What is crystal clear is that Delaware is moving toward more convenient voting and Georgia has moved toward less convenient voting.

That clear counter-democratic direction in Georgia is why Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines have decried the action in their home state. It's why Major League Baseball has jerked this summer's all-star game out of Atlanta.

Major corporations and national organizations understand they must move in the direction of generational, demographic and cultural evolution toward a nonwhite majority stressing confession, repentance and atonement for America's plainly bigoted and non-inclusive history.

Static rural white cultures like Arkansas' fear this inevitable change. Legislators in Arkansas revel in wrong-direction bills.

Walmart and Tyson Foods don't like it and have worked to move Arkansas the other way. But they have yet to go as far in public disapproval as Coca-Cola and Delta.

It probably wouldn't matter. The modern Arkansas Republican legislator thinks Walmart is far-left.

The "woke" direction, for all the likely effective Republican derision of it in the short term, is the inevitable long-term one.

What we're currently enduring is the convulsion of emerging and always-painful change. The nation is not "woke" yet, at least as long as lightly populated rural areas have inordinate voting power for the presidency and Senate.

Barack Obama's election, owing to his inspirational essence, rushed the calendar a bit, and the American convulsions were great.

Trump was a tragic overreaction to the convulsion.

Joe Biden's victory rushed the calendar a bit again, based as it was less on policy change than personal change.

Now the convulsions have grown stronger as voters' messages are mixed and we creep toward the inevitable.

Red-state American baseball-lovers are aghast and irate. They're saying that baseball, of all things, should never be politicized. But, you know, Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson got political in 1947, convulsively and gloriously.

The midterms of 2022 and the presidential race of 2024 will be directional and convulsive events. Blue states will align with the future. Red states will try to cut out all this voter-friendly business to cling to the fading now.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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