don’t just focus on trump, let’s work to change the system that made him possible

January 20, 2017

We all know that racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia and every phobia against marginalized communities helped to fuel the vehement, albeit overt disregard of human decency this election season. But what you might not know, is how policy and unethical political tactics helped usher in the era of the orange one. Three of these tactics in particular contributed heavily to this election and two of them have been used since the dawn of time to unfairly win elections, but one is relatively new because of the advent and ubiquity of the internet. The tactics are gerrymandering, voter suppression, and “fake news.”

By T. McLendon, AFROPUNK Contributor

Photo by Getty Images

Gerrymandering is the manipulation of voting districts to change the outcome of elections. Does that sound like a tool for democracy? Well, in a simple democracy where every vote counts the same no matter which district it’s in, no. But in the electoral democracy in which we live, where each country or delegation is decided by a few important counties in a select swing states, gerrymandering is the method and the madness. Over the past 8 years, Republicans have been making a concerted effort to change the districts, state by state, until they could overpower liberal leaning voters. The ethics are trash, but luckily for us President Obama and Eric Holder are spearheading a redistricting campaign to help undo some of the damage done. What you can do: pay attention to when your local government announces a plan to redistrict and show up to town halls where it’s being discussed. If you don’t speak up, we’ll find ourselves in the same mess over and over again.

Voter Suppression
Voter suppression in simple terms is making it harder for citizens to vote. There are a number of ways, some seemingly innocent and some downright sinister. In my home state of North Carolina, one way voter suppression has manifested is by requiring a photo ID in order to vote. To many people, having an ID is a part of their everyday lives, but for the poorest and most disadvantaged among us, an ID is an unnecessary barrier to exercising their rights as US citizens. What’s more is that the reasoning for requiring an ID, usually those in support cite voter fraud, isn’t based on any real data. In a NYTimes report, researchers found next to no evidence for it, but this rhetoric helped usher in the passing of laws requiring IDs. Another prominent tactic to suppress voting is limiting the times at which people can vote or the number of voting locations. After the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was gutted by the Supreme Court, polling places and programs like early voting, which assist voters who would otherwise miss the opportunity to vote because of work, have been cut severely. The Nation reported that over 400 polling places were closed in Texas, 200 in Arizona, and 100 in Louisiana, especially in places with higher levels of people of color.

Fake News
After reading an article from The Guardian about “Tech-savvy right-wingers have been able to ‘game’ the algorithms of internet giants and create a new reality where Hitler is a good guy, Jews are evil and… Donald Trump becomes president” I was SHOOK with a capital everything. The theory (and I emphasize theory only because there’s no way to know the source, but the evidence is stacked and the outcome is being inaugurated today) is that right wing coders have created an ecosystem to perpetuate false, inaccurate, bigoted news stories to populate the internet and to infiltrate search engine algorithms, who use a democratized system to show results. The article details how these sites find the loopholes and tricks to move up Google’s PageRank system. It’s bananas and at present, I’m not sure how to mitigate that situation, but I’ll leave that to the tech gurus. For more information on this, visit The Guardian.