"Hurricane" Photo by Chalky Lives (Flikr)

What matters more, the right to vote or adherence to local voting rules and schedules even if a force of nature intrudes? We might find out the answer to that question if a perfect storm disrupts voting in the Northeast or Midwest or both.

As a twitter follower reminded me, in 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court basically decided that the right to vote was secondary to process. Of course, the Court’s political desire to appoint George W. Bush was so obvious the justices took the trouble of stating that their opinion could not be used as precedent.

Hurricane Sandy is expected to hit the coast and then duke it out with two winter storm systems coming at it head-on from the north and west. The timing and duration of the storm – and the devastation that could be left in its wake – will determine how much the will be disrupted. Coping with such a disaster’s impact on voting may prove difficult since election administration is left largely to individual states. One state might extend the time for voting while another does not.

The bad weather is also running into a perfect political storm as Republicans in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia pull out all the stops to disenfranchise as many Democratic voters as they can. Let’s say GOP election officials in Ohio do what they’ve done in the past and put one voting machine in Democratic areas for every three machines they put in Republican precincts. The point of this tactic is to cause long lines and delays for Democrats. Now imagine voters have to endure those lines in the wind, wet and cold. Maybe their homes are flooded. Maybe their electricity is still off. Maybe they are running short of food and water.

If it takes a lifeboat to get to the polls after one’s already been evacuated to an emergency shelter, what then? This is, at the moment, just a thought experiment. But it’s one we should think about now, not later.

The Republicans’ voter suppression efforts make clear what they will argue if weather becomes a barrier to voting – especially if it looks like enough folks will be kept from the polls that Romney and/or other GOP down ballot candidates look like they are ahead. The result is shipwrecked democracy.

The Right has always been about getting and maintaining power. Authority is their imperative. Popular democracy is their enemy. Try as they might to disguise it, they really believe that only those that agree with them should have voting rights. Everyone who disagrees with them is less than a citizen.

Texas Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, one of the nation’s greatest enemies of voting rights, has gone so far as to threaten foreign election observers with arrest and criminal prosecution if they show up at the polls. What does Abbott want to hide?

Well, that’s obvious. Once again, right-wing vigilantes will be out in force challenging and intimidating African-American and Hispanic voters. The courts enjoined the new Texas voter ID law, but you can bet GOP election officials and their election-watcher thugs will be telling voters they need a picture ID anyway.

The AP poll released this weekend showed that a majority of Americans hold a bigoted view of African-Americans. This explains, in part, the conscious or unconscious rationalizations of the Right’s anti-democratic voter suppression efforts. People are divided into human and sub-human categories, and it becomes the imperative for those who place themselves in the human category to make damn sure they are in charge of the sub-human.

I don’t think the voter suppressors think they are doing something wrong. They think they are carrying out their moral responsibility. You can see it in their gazes of superiority. So just imagine, when Nature intervenes and does a little of the work of suppression for them, what will they think? They’ll think it is the natural world confirming their beliefs about their own superiority.

America is not polarized around issues of health care, education or jobs. It is divided – profoundly and maybe irrevocably divided – among those who believe their superiority demands their authority over others and egalitarians who believe us all deserving of equal recognition and opportunity.

We do not have to wait for this perfect political storm to arrive. It arrived long ago. It is time the press and pundit class saw the storm for what it is and quit pretending everyone is an egalitarian democrat in their hearts. Today it looks life half of America likes democracy only when they control enough of it to guarantee the outcomes they seek. Otherwise, democracy must be subverted in the name of their Natural Superiority.

Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith