Washington and Berlin – On Monday, September 28th, the film "Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook" will be shown in Berlin at the Lichtblick Kino, Kastanienallee 77. The film starts at 8 PM and a discussion of it at 9:15 PM.
For the discussion and a critique of the film, Doug Hillmer and I will be joining by Zoom from the USA (3:15 PM EDT).
The film can also be viewed at any time at https://www.riggedthefilm.com/watch-at-home.
The "playbook" is presented in nine parts to explain systematic approaches to rigging elections: 1. The Red Map Plan; 2. Gerrymandering; 3. Voter Residency Laws; 4. The Voting Rights Act; 5. Voter Fraud; 6. Voter Purges; 7. Voter Intimidation; 8. Voter IDs; 9. Change the Courts. Each part in the film has its share of memorable characters, both perpetrators and victims.
Some of the parts show lamentably successful election-rigging to be within the law; other parts show pure corruption at work. Legal or not, malign intent is pervasive in all the playbook techniques. The film benefits by drawing on authoritative sources like Jane Mayer, the author of Dark Money.
Viewed through my métier (political science), what I see is the Republican Party being taken over by unprincipled and cynical corporate interests, falsely posing as traditional conservatives, that see election-rigging as a means to increase power and profits to levels never before imagined. I see the Democratic Party as largely blind to this development until it became too late to stop it.
The result is a country on the verge of losing its very democracy.
The failures of the two political parties reflect weaknesses in the constituencies of both when it comes to understanding how American government works.
In my experience, both in teaching and in the practice of government, Republicans too often associate American patriotism with its symbols rather than looking behind what the symbols stand for. To many Republicans, it's all about saluting the flag, cheering on the 4th of July, and interpreting the term "American exceptionalism" to mean national superiority. That's as far as it goes. The party has long been vulnerable to a take-over from authoritarian election-riggers who traffic in symbol manipulation while blatantly undermining the meanings behind the symbols. Republicans now cheer voter suppression in the name of America First.
Democrats, in my experience, are prone to misunderstanding the relationships between the different levels of government. Their conception of American government is often a pyramid with the national government at the apex and state and local governments under it. They put excessive reliance on winning the presidency, to the neglect of state and local offices. They too often do not understand that the U.S. Constitution creates a system of dual sovereignty, with the states responsible for elections among other areas of jurisdiction. This misconception became particularly pronounced after the 2008 elections and has contributed to the current crisis in American democracy. Democrats neglected state and local elections and now have lost the presidency as well, with a diminishing chance of regaining it from a reckless autocrat and serial prevaricator who does not abide by democratic norms.
Saving American democracy will likely not come about through the traditional Republican Party, which has all but vanished. It has been replaced by a claque directed by a power-hungry chief executive. Democrats are in disarray, unsure how to respond responsibly to the unravelling situation.
The film stops without moving on to discuss lawful tools available to countermand the techniques of the playbook. Among those would be the authority of conscientious state officials to prevent rigged election returns from being certified to the Electoral College, forcing the selection of president into the House of Representatives as provided in the 12th Amendment to the Constitution.
Another tool would be the Constitutional provision in Article I, Section 5, which specifies that "Each House shall be the Judge of ... its own Members," meaning that there is no obligation or requirement to seat gerrymandered delegations. If the House selects the president, let it be on the basis of votes NOT gerrymandered, thereby removing a linchpin of the election-rigging playbook.
"Rigged..." enlightens us as to how democracy has been corrupted. The next step is to identify and take countermeasures to restore our democratic ideals under the rule of law.