There are two chief aspects to the current Republican legislative strategy that mirror the actions of Vladimir Putin: suppress dissent and suppress the opposition.
Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, boasted passage of the strongest “anti-riot” bill in existence. Other Republican state legislatures are following suit with their versions. The New York Times and other outlets have extensive coverage and analysis. The bottom line is that these bills use “anti-riot” and “anti-violence” language to directly target the First Amendment right to peaceful protest.
The other factor in these bills, particularly the Florida version, is that they absolve someone who hits pedestrians if they happen to drive through a protest. Had it existed then, would this type of law have protected the murderer of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville in 2017? That is an uncomfortable thought.
The fact is that the right to dissent is a distinctly American attribute guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. And it is clearly under attack in Republican-led state legislatures around the country. According to Truthout.org, 81 bills are being considered or have passed.
The message from these politicians is clearly, “We don’t care to hear what you have to say and you have no right to say it.”
Anyone even remotely following the news of protests in other countries, notably Russia, is hearing that about 1,500 protestors have been arrested in the last day over their vocal support for jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Are Republicans really trying to move in the direction of this type of suppression? It appears so.
Alexei Navalny’s situation should be viewed as a bellwether for us as well. While there are no bills to allow the outright jailing of opposition candidates, Republicans are taking the tack of trying to prevent their supporters from voting for their opposition. In Putin’s world you get rid of opposition by killing them or jailing them on trumped up charges. Lucky for us Republicans can’t do that here. Yet.
But by passing voter suppression laws designed to make voting harder instead of easier, they are moving in Vlad’s direction. Get rid of the voters that don’t like you and soon you too can achieve Putin’s holy grail of just setting yourself up for another decade and a half in office with the stroke of a pen.
Republican legislatures are between a rock and a hard place. Their biggest donors have come out and said pointedly that they oppose the suppression of votes. Smart, because each of those suppressed votes also has another vote: their wallet. Any savvy corporate executive knows that his and his company’s wealth depends on customers paying them. This is the most powerful voting block in existence.
But this is not keeping anti-voting bills from being pushed in numerous states. The notorious bill in Georgia was passed. The website FiveThirtyEight.com has complete coverage all of these bills.
There will be a lot more action, both legislative and in the courts, on this subject.
One has to wonder, “What country do these Republicans think they are living in?” With the anti-protest and anti-voting bills they are pushing, it is a valid question.