Pelosi’s H.R. 1 Is an Authoritarian Outrage

Pelosi’s H.R. 1 Is an Authoritarian Outrage

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 4, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Democrats want to corrode the system because they believe it will help them win.

Democrats like to accuse anyone who doesn’t embrace every one of their brand-new, rapidly evolving, Constitution-corroding positions of being “authoritarians.” It’s often an impressive feat of projection. For a pristine example of the genre, take Jonathan Chait’s recent New York magazine piece alleging that former vice president Mike Pence is laying the “blueprint” for a fascistic GOP state in his new Heritage Foundation op-ed.

What “authoritarian” diktats does Herr Pence have in store for our fragile American democracy? For starters, the former vice president argues that states, as they always have, should conduct their own elections rather than permit a narrow partisan majority led by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to unilaterally nationalize and dictate the rules for every locality in perpetuity — as they did with a House vote on a sweeping measure known as H.R. 1.

To be more precise, Pence writes that he opposes empowering the federal government to:

  • compel states to count mail-in votes that arrive up to ten days after Election Day.
  • compel states to allow ballot harvesting.
  • compel states to ban voter ID laws.
  • compel states to allow bureaucrats to redraw congressional districts.
  • compel states to allow felons to vote.
  • compel states to undermine free-speech rights by imposing “onerous legal and administrative burdens on candidates, civic groups, unions, nonprofit organizations.”

The latter of these initiatives is an outrageous attack on the First Amendment, but all of them are contained in some way in H.R. 1 — which amounts to an integrity-corroding, banana-republic attempt to override the will of states, which most Democrats don’t seem to believe should exist. Or, at least, not for the red ones.

What Pence failed to mention in his op-ed is that the bill would also mandate 15 days of early voting, automatic voter registration, and online voter registration. It would compel states to count ballots cast by voters who are in the wrong precincts, prohibit election officials from reviewing the eligibility of voters, and bar officials from removing ineligible voters from the rolls. It would create a Soviet-sounding “Commission to Protect Democratic Institutions” to circumvent the judicial system.

Now, even if you support some of these proposals on a state level, most of them didn’t exist in any state a few years ago.

Chait contends that Pence’s “most remarkable rhetorical maneuver is to argue that we must ‘heal’ the country, which means not passing any election-law changes in Congress, and then proceeds to argue in the very next paragraph for restoring ‘confidence’ by imposing voter-suppression measures in the states.”

Pence does nothing of the sort. Here is his next paragraph.

To restore public confidence in our elections, our leaders should uphold the Constitution, reject congressional Democrats’ plan to nationalize our elections, and get about the serious work of state-based reform that will protect the integrity of the vote for every American.

Terms such as “voting restrictions” are tantamount to calling traffic laws “driving restrictions.” They are conveniently ominous sounding, leaving room for endless partisan weaponization against existing laws. Unless, that is, Democrats don’t support any “voting restrictions” whatsoever. Which might be the case. Whereas actual “voter suppression” was once maliciously deployed to obstruct the rights of American citizens, the term now basically implicates a Republican failing to personally mail in his illegal immigrant neighbor’s ballot ten days after an election.

Democrats rely on these distorted terms because the vast majority of Americans support some basic voter-integrity laws. Take, for instance, Chait’s assertion that Pence wants to “restrict the franchise with strict photo-ID requirements, limits on early and mail voting, and so on.”

“Strict” does a lot of heavy lifting here. As far as I can tell, 80 percent of Americans support photo-ID laws. Now, we can disagree in good faith about the effects of forcing Americans to get a photo identification before helping decide the fate of the nation, but requiring a citizen to prove his identity falls well short of any definition of “authoritarian.” Or, if it is, then nearly every Western European country admired by the Left should be deemed an autocratic state.

It is quite something to read Chait, who spent years spinning conspiracy theories undermining the veracity of a presidential election (and as far as we know, he still believes the 2000 presidential election was stolen as well), contend that Pence does not have any evidence of “significant voting irregularities.” Now, I happen to agree. But if we’re right, why is it imperative to nationalize and reimagine the entire voting system? We already have constitutional protections for voting rights and a judicial system to adjudicate conflicts.

Those are rhetorical questions, of course. The entire case for H.R. 1 is predicated on bad-faith arguments. Democrats want to corrode the system because they believe it will help them win. “Pence,” claims Chait, “holds a position that represents a synthesis of Trump’s idiosyncratic personal authoritarianism and his party’s longstanding anti-democratic trend.” By “democratic,” liberals mean a direct democracy and centralized control in which a few big states dictate and lord over how everyone lives. This, not a state demanding a photo ID, is an authoritarian attack on the proper role of federal government that is clearly laid out in the Constitution.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

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