Blog: Adding Insult To Injury
Black Leadership Taken In By GOP’s Fake ‘Russian’ Voter Suppression Reports
Oakland, California, December, 2018
On December 16th 2018, the Republican-controlled Senate Select Committee On Intelligence released two reports about the suppression of the 2016 black vote. Created by the New Knowledge Consultants, an Austin, Texas cybersecurity company and the UK research firm, Graphika, the reports cite independent research from Columbia and Oxford claiming that Russians suppressed the African-American vote in the 2016 election. The GOP Senate staff said that the Internet Research Agency ___ owned by businessman, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian President, Vladimir Putin ___ influenced black voters by creating dozens of fake websites using names that would appeal to African Americans, such as blackmattersus.com, blacktivist.info, blacktolive.org and blacksoul.us. In addition, the St. Petersburg company operated YouTube channels and Facebook social media platform to cover the Black Lives Matter movement and to report on police brutality incidents.
From the very beginning, these GOP reports on Russian interference in the 2016 election smelled ‘fishy.’ While the ‘Russians Did It!” has been the Democratic Party’s narrative since 2016, these GOP reports are standing the ‘Russian’ narrative on its head. Applying some modicum of critical thinking, it is clear that the Republicans would not have supported the Democratic narrative unless they were up to something, That something was that the GOP was using “fake news” to discredit the Mueller investigation and [rove that there was no collusion. The GOP operatives who dreamed this one up must have had a good laugh at their 21st century minstrel show.
The minstrel show was a 19th century form of entertainment that mocked African-American people as dim-witted, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious and happy-go-lucky. White people in make-up or blackface performed the roles of black minstrel characters including the faithful slave and the dandy; the mammy and the old darky; and the mulatto gal and the black soldier.
By claiming that the ‘Russians’ targeted black people for voter suppression using topics like Black history or the Black Panther Party, the GOP got a good laugh. The Republican were trying to show that black voters were so easily manipulated that even foreigners thousands could influence their behavior. The Intellegence Select Committee Republican staff not only poked fun at black people, in general, but discredited the entire Democratic narrative of ‘Russian’ collusion. By suggesting that Russians were responsible for making black people aware of the murder of unarmed blacks by racist cops, the ongoing decline of black jobs and homeownership and the denial of basic facilities such as drinking water in predominantly black communities ___ and having black leadership support their claim ___ the GOP replayed the dominant themes of 19th century minstrel shows and exposed black politicians as being like those depicted in The Birth Of A Nation.
White people have not observed black folks expressing any critical thinking ability, whatsoever. They believe black people know only what they are told by black preachers and black politicians. So the GOP had no doubt that by lampooning black people with the ‘Russian narrative’ the very idea of Russian collusion could be discredited. To that end the GOP Select Committee states:
“These campaigns pushed a message that the best way to advance the cause of the African-American community was to boycott the election and focus on other issues instead,” declared the Oxford report.
“The most prolific [Russian] efforts on Facebook and Instagram specifically targeted black American communities and appear to have been focused on developing black audiences and recruiting black Americans as assets,” revealed the New Knowledge report.
The reports say that the Russians used 30 Facebook pages and 10 YouTube channels posting 571 videos related to police violence against African-Americans. D.L. Chandler of HipHopWired concluded that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election was more extensive than originally believed. From these GOP-inspired reports, black people are led to conclude that the Republicans have uncovered a Russian conspiracy against them and that the Republicans are concerned abobut the suppression of the black vote, Nothing could be further from the truth, But expressing more than a little irony, Chandler says that the GOP researchers confirmed Mueller’s findings, that the Russian Internet Research Agency efforts in the 2016 presidential election generated distrust among left-leaning groups, including African-Americans which led to Donald Trump’s election.
Blacks Perform In GOP Minstrel Show
Black leaders took the bait and eagerly supported the GOP’s Russian narrative.
Commenting on the Republican charge that the Russians were involved in voter suppression, Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, called upon the Republican Congress to conduct an investigation into Facebook. The NAACP president claimed that Russian ‘hackers’ were preying upon America’s racial tensions and accused Facebook of delivering information about racism in America to the Russians on a “silver platter.” Johnson told NewsOne Media organization that the GOP senate report added urgency to the NAACP’s “LogOut Facebook” digital protest planned for December 18th 2018. “We’re holding Facebook accountable for the role it played in the proliferation of propaganda against people of color,” Johnson said. “As a corporation, Facebook needs to acknowledge this negligence, and we’re empowering people to use #LogOutFacebook as a means to express their discontent.” The GOP operatives must have had a good chuckle over that.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law also weighed in on the discovery of Russia’s suppression of the black vote. The Lawyers’ Committee ___ since 1963, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed to combat racial discrimination in the legal profession___ works quietly to advance diversity in the court system by selecting the ‘right sort’ of minorities for entrance into and advancement through the legal profession. Yet the Lawyers’ Committee decided to raise itself from obscurity to comment on the GOP Senate report. Kristen Clark, president and executive director of the the Lawyers’ Committee issued the following statement:
“As Russia takes aim at African-American voters, we can’t ignore the fact that people of color remain the primary targets for voter suppression schemes right here on American soil. In setting its main target on African Americans, Russia is taking a page out of the U.S. voter suppression playbook; by allowing voter suppression domestically, we send a dangerous message to bad actors such as Russia that Black votes don’t matter.”
Probably the most important response to the GOP Senate report was from a group of black leaders who, up to now, seemed completely unaware that the black vote had been suppressed. Under the leadership of L. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), the Congressional Black Caucus issued a statement about ‘Russian’ voter suppression which they had discovered from the Republican Select Committee staff.
“During the 2016 presidential election cycle, hundreds of thousands of minority voters were disenfranchised before they even had a chance to walk into the voting booth. As today’s report produced for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence makes clear – this was a carefully orchestrated effort by Russian actors to exploit social media platforms in order to suppress turnout among black voters. This campaign of disinformation is extremely disconcerting because black voter turnout declined in 2016 – for the first time in 20 years. While this next Congress gives both Democrats and Republicans an opportunity to address election security, we call upon the President to take the security of our elections seriously and work with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the FBI to stop foreign election meddling efforts. The CBC would also like to hear directly from Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, and CEOs of other companies whose platforms were weaponized, about what they knew, and concrete steps they will implement to address future attempts at disinformation campaigns. We cannot allow the deceit and misinformation that characterized the 2016 elections to be repeated in the future.”
CBC Statement on Russian Attempts to Suppress African American Turnout in the 2016 Election Analysis: African American lawmakers blast Silicon Valley companies [Washington Post]
It is interesting that the Black Congressional Caucus mentions “election security” which, up to now, has been the code phrase that the Republican Party had used to justify its massive voter suppression effort. In this way, the Congressional Black Caucus is a major participant in the GOP’s minstrel show about Russian interference in the 2016 election ___ while avoiding any meaningful challenge to the Republican Party’s own massive voter suppression effort.
The GOP’s Voter Suppression: A Criminal Enterprise
Prior to the 2016 election, Republican Party operatives knew that normal campaign propaganda would not defeat the Democrats in 2016. So the GOP decided to undermine the election process using the false narrative of ‘election security’ and ‘voter fraud.’ Since 2000, only 40 cases of voter fraud had been identified in the entire United States, but that did not dissuade the GOP from claiming election security to be a national crisis. The Republicans used this crisis to mask their removal of millions of black, brown and poor voters from registration rolls. The GOP gerrymandered congressional districts, passed punitive voter ID laws, implemented interstate crosscheck voter computer programs, deployed defective voter machines, reduced the number of polling places, changed rules for early and absentee voting, denied legal recounts and engaged in every other illegal scheme it could devise to suppress the vote ___ pursuing a national strategy to make it easier for them to win elections by making it difficult for their opponents to vote.
Since 1994, Ohio had been purging infrequent voters from the rolls. In
April 2016, a lawsuit was filed, challenging this policy on the grounds that it
violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote
Act of 2002. In 2016, a Reuters study found that the Ohio Republican Party had purged 153,000
voters from three of it's largest counties targeting the poor whites and
African-Americans most likely to vote Democratic. The Reuters study also found that Ohio’s Republican leadership struck
voters from the rolls in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods at roughly twice the
rate as in Republican neighborhoods.
In 2011, the Florida legislature passed a law, which reduced the days available for early voting, barred voter-registration activities of groups like the League of Women Voters and made it more difficult for those who moved to a different county within the state to vote. Even though Democrats cast a majority of early voting ballots and minority voters were more likely to move, Republicans claimed the law was passed to curtail voter fraud and insure election security. Florida’s Republican officials revealed that their political operatives had intended to suppress the Democratic vote. The result of GOP suppression efforts was that at least 201,000 Floridians did not vote in the 2016 election because of hours long election-day lines.
In Maryland's Montgomery County, Republicans moved two early-voting sites from the densely populated areas of Bethesda and Burtonsville to the sparsely populated communities of Brookville and Potomac. The Burtonsville site had the most minority voters of all the early-voting sites in the county, while the proposed new locations were Republican-friendly areas with few minority residents.
From 2008 to 2016, Arizona cut polling locations down from 200 to 40. The Governor Doug Ducey and other Republican officials claimed cost savings inspired the polling place reductions. But despite high turnout in 2016, many Arizona voters spent over five hours in lines at many polling stations.
In May, 2018, a federal judge ordered the state of Kansas to begin registering approximately 18,000 voters whose registrations had been delayed by Kris Kobach, Kansas secretary of state. Kobach ___ who had been sued repeatedly for restricting voting rights in Kansas and throughout the United State ___ was running for governor of Kansas and defied the judge. As the architect of the infamous Interstate Crosscheck Voter program used by 27 Republican-controlled states to disenfranchise millions of minority citizens throughout the country, Kobach continued to defy the court until after the election.
In April 2016, 125,000 Brooklyn, New York voters were removed from the voter rolls for no reason whatsoever. The state claimed that it was a computer ‘glitch.’
In 2013, North Carolina passed a photo voter ID bill. In July 2016, a three-judge panel struck down the law's photo ID requirement, finding that its voting provisions targeted African Americans "with almost surgical precision," and that the legislators had acted with clear "discriminatory intent." The GOP designed their strict election rules to offset specific African-American registration and voting patterns. Even after the court struck down North Carolina’s restrictive voter law, the Republican party continued to use ‘ballot-harvesting’ ___ obtaining black absentee ballots through theft, intimidation and fraud ___ to elect Republican candidates in black-majority North Carolina counties.
A Voter ID law in North Dakota, based upon non-existent voter fraud, disenfranchised large numbers of Native Americans in the November, 2018 election. North Dakota required that voter ID cards contain specific numbered addresses. The Republicans knew that the addresses of Native Americans, living on reservations did not contain the required numbered addresses.
A study by Priorities USA estimates that Wisconsin’s strict Voter ID laws led to a significant decrease in voter turnout among African-American and Democratic-leaning voters in 2016. In addition, Wisconsin cut back early voting, required people to live in a ward for at least 28 days before voting and prohibited emailing absentee ballots to voters. Priorities USA, a progressive voting rights organization, reported in The Nation magazine that after Wisconsin’s Republican-led statehouse changed its voter registration law, 200,000 mostly African-American voters were disenfranchised for the 2016 election.
Although they had all submitted valid voter
registration applications, Pennsylvania prevented 26,000 citizens from voting
in the 2016 election. The majority of disenfranchised voters were in the
Democratic strongholds of Philadelphia. In addition, Pennsylvania refused
early voting, same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting. Pennsylvania
also implemented the Kris Kobach-initiated Interstate Crosscheck Program, which
removed thousands of voters from the rolls.
In Michigan, a Trump campaign official told Bloomberg Businessweek in October 2016 that the Republicans would win the state using their voter suppression operation. After the 2016 election,. It was discovered that thousands of ballots in the Detroit area had been “spoiled” when defective voting machines failed to tally them. However, the voter’s intent was clear when the ballots were physically examined. Though the Green Party challenged the election results, the Democratic Party refused to take legal action. Michigan’s attorney general cut short the 2016 recount ___ and for the second time in the 21st century allowed the GOP to steal another national election.
In the 2016 election, millions of black, brown, Asian, poor and disabled Democratic-leaning citizens were deprived of the vote. The Republicans closed polling places, violated ADA laws and used a number of other disenfranchisement tactics. Yet, the Democrat party claimed that the Russians Did It while ignoring all evidence of the GOPs criminal enterprise to subvert the entire American political system. Neither the Democrats nor the NAACP, National Lawyer’s Committee nor the Congressional Black Caucus ___ all of which boast of abundant legal resources___ responded to the GOP’s voter suppression enterprise in any meaningful way. So the Republican staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence ____ made black people a laughingstock in their 21st century minstrel show.
The Voting Rights Act Of 1965The Strategy Institute for Intersectional Policy [SIIP] provides an insight into what anyone interested in combatting the GOP’s criminal voter suppression campaign should do. SIIP says that although the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it did not overturn it. Sections 2 and 11 remain intact and can be used to combat voter suppression.
Section 11 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 says that no person can USE THE LAW to refuse any person the right to vote or willfully fail to tabulate, count and report such a person’s vote.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 specifies that no voting qualification or prerequisite to voting shall be imposed by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote ON ACCOUNT OF RACE OR COLOR.
Accordingly, there is a straight-forward challenge to the GOP’s assault on voting rights. Voter suppression is a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The purge of voter rolls, the enactment of voter ID laws, the gerrymandering of political districts, the deployment of defective voting machines, the refusal to allow recounts, the theft and fraudulent use of absentee ballots, the reduction and movement of polling places and all the other GOP strategies to suppress the vote are violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Enforcement of existing provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will restore the voting rights of millions of minority voters. The criminals who undermined the American constitution ___ with Kris Kobach heading the list ___ should be prosecuted and incarcerated for their crimes. The law is clear, yet Democratic Party politicians are either too weak or corrupt to defend our democracy. Rather they would prefer to blame the Russians.
So as the proponents of white nationalism in the White House battle the ‘deep state’s’ neocon/war liberals in Congress, the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Lawyers Committee and everyone else who benefit from minority votes sit back and watch the show. And like a Greek chorus, they shout out on cue when either Democrats or Republicans require them to say: ‘the Russians did it!’ ___ adding insult to injury.