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Republicans aren’t ‘looking forward.’ They’re stepping into a Jim Crow past

Move along, the Republicans say. Nothing to see here.

“I’m looking forward not backward,” says Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).

“A lot of our members,” affirms Senate GOP whip John Thune (S.D.), “want to be moving forward and not looking backward.”

“We want to be united in looking, moving forward,” offers House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.).

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt picked up the theme in his Washington Post column, published Sunday with this subhead: “As the GOP gears up for 2022, it’s not looking back.”

Yet, on the very day that pronouncement of forward motion appeared, Republicans took two giant steps backward.

That day in Texas, the Republican-controlled legislature tried to ram through a bill so flagrantly restricting the ability of Blacks and Latinos to vote that it wouldn’t have been entirely out of place in the Jim Crow era, before the Voting Rights Act of 1965. After Democrats temporarily foiled the plan by walking out and denying the legislature a quorum, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tried some Lone Star authoritarianism: He threatened to defund the legislature.

Also Sunday, and also in Texas, former president Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, told a gathering of QAnon followers that a military coup “should” happen in the United States. (Former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell earlier told the assembly that Trump could be “reinstated.”) Taking the stage at the same conference were Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tex., and state Republican Party Chairman Allen West, a former congressman. Gohmert, who posed with a self-proclaimed participant in the insurrection, told the QAnon faithful that the Capitol attack wasn’t so bad (he drew laughs for mockingly calling Jan. 6 “a day that will live in infamy”) and that “it wasn’t just right-wing extremists in there.”

This is looking forward? Republicans may not wish to examine the attack on the Capitol, and Trump’s role in it, but they are otherwise pining for the past — and willing to circumvent democracy to restore it.

The Texas legislation proposed to abolish drive-up voting and 24-hour voting, both methods used disproportionately by non-White voters. As The Post’s Amy Gardner reported, Black and Latino voters in Harris County, home to Houston, accounted for more than half of those using such methods, though they are just 38% of the electorate. The Texas bill also aimed to ban voting before 1 p.m. on Sundays — directly aiming at the traditional “souls to the polls” get-out-the-vote efforts among Black churchgoers. Republicans also planned to restrict people from driving churchgoers to the polls in such efforts. An earlier draft of the bill even used language about maintaining the “purity of the ballot box” — language once used in defense of White-only voting.

Such attempts to disenfranchise racial minorities are now commonplace in Republican-controlled states. According to the latest tally by the Brennan Center for Justice, a voting-rights group, at least 14 states have enacted laws this year restricting the right to vote. That’s on pace to set a modern record, with more such bills moving through 18 state legislatures. Among the most infamous new restrictions is Georgia’s law making it illegal for anybody to offer food or drink — even water — to voters waiting in long lines. Such lines exist primarily in Black precincts, because Republicans have reduced the number of polling places and hours of voting in those areas.

The impetus is obvious. The 2020 election showed that if voters turn out in large numbers, Democrats win. This will only become more so as America becomes more multicultural. The Republican response has been to stop non-White people from voting, in the name of stopping nonexistent voter fraud.

Republicans in Congress, for their part, are blocking H.R. 1, the Democrats’ attempt to protect voting rights against such incursions. Republicans are also resisting action on an attempt to restore provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act gutted by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority in 2013. Apparently, the Republicans’ idea of “moving forward” is restoring the status quo ante - ante 1965, that is.

Or maybe even ante 1789. A questioner at the QAnon confab asked Flynn, a retired general, “why what happened in Minamar (sic) can’t happen here,” referring to the military coup in Myanmar.

“No reason, I mean, it should happen here. No reason. That’s right,” Flynn replied.

After a social media uproar, Flynn later walked back his endorsement of the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. But he offered no such retreat from the lies that caused the deadly attack on the Capitol. “Trump won,” he told the QAnon faithful. “He won the popular vote, and he won the electoral college vote.”

And that would be true — if you counted only the votes of White people.

Distributed by The Washington Post Writer’s Group.

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