In a perfect democracy, each citizen possesses the same power of self-governance as all other individuals, no matter how poor or rich, no matter their religion or skin color, no matter their country of origin or ancestry.
This equity is unnerving to some 1 percenters who believe their wealth proves their inherent higher value than other human beings, which they feel gives them the right to rule or, at least, the absolute right to choose who rules. Democracy is tough for 1 percenters.
They’ve got all that money but, hypothetically, no more voting power than their chauffeur or nanny in a one-person, one-vote democracy.
In this one-person, one-vote democracy, though, they’ve got a plan to fix all that for themselves. They’re paying for it. And they’re accomplishing it, even though that means stripping voting rights from non-rich minority groups. Their goal is to make America more of a one-dollar, one-vote plutocracy.
Their attempts to distort the democratic system go back decades. In 1980, their hired hand Paul Weyrich explained “Our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up as the voting populace goes down,” Weyrich said. He used tens of millions donated by the 1 percent to create the right-wing Heritage Foundation to promote plutarchy and to launch the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization dedicated to entertaining state lawmakers at fancy resorts to get them to pass 1 percenter-friendly laws.
In 2014, $8-billionaire Tom Perkins said the rich should get more votes. Perkins recommended the country be run like a corporation: “You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes.”
The 1 percent have schemed and manipulated Congress, courts and local and state governments to do their bidding by purging voter rolls of poor people; curtailing early voting favoured by poor people who often have trouble getting time off to vote on election day; reducing the number of polling places in poor neighborhoods and frequently moving them elsewhere to cause travel expenses; requiring excessively specific types of identification to vote; and gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act that stood for decades between people of color and attempts by 1 percenters to deny them their voting rights.
The 1 percent have achieved gerrymandered voting districts across the country. These densely pack people of color, other working folks and the poor into a small number of districts while placing the wealthy and upper middle class in a greater number of districts containing fewer people. The effect is to give the rich—usually Republicans—greater representation in government than the rest. Effectively, that makes the votes of the rich count more.
In June, the Brennan Center for Justice issued its annual State of Voting report detailing restrictions to ballot access nationwide. It said the seven-year-old legislative crusade to limit poor and working people’s franchise means that in the midterm elections this fall, voters in 23 states will find it harder to make their voices heard. That includes eight states that restricted voting rights in just the past two years. In July, the Public Religion Research Institute and the Atlantic magazine released results of a poll they conducted on access to the ballot, which shows America’s promise of one-person, one-vote is unfulfilled—and deliberately so. Then, just last week, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a 498-page report documenting and condemning voting restrictions and calling on Congress to correct the threat to democracy.
The commission chair Catherine Lhamon’s made a damning statement describing the situation: “Today’s report reflects the reality that citizens in the United States, across many states, not limited only to some parts of the country, continue to suffer significant, and profoundly unequal, limitations on their ability to vote. That stark reality denigrates our democracy and diminishes our ideals.”
In striking down Republican-passed voter-suppression laws in North Carolina in 2016, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote, “In what comes as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times, the State’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race—specifically its concern that African Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, had too much access to the franchise.” The judge also wrote that the provisions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”