"The Right to Vote, Explained" by Vox and Netflix, Sept. 2020

Vox and Netflix team up to produce a three-part series The Right to Vote: Explained, a 'must C'

Vox and Netflix have paired up to offer a three part video series 'The Right to Vote: Explained', directed by Joe Posner. The series runs about 74 minutes and will play automatically in sequence for Netflix subscribers.

I must say, this makes an easy virtual learning class period for high school government and civics class. School systems should use it. (But you could say that about educational videos from some young adult YouTubers, like Tyler Mowery. John Fish, Nate O'Brien, for example. They would work in the classroom.) My little Our Fundamental Rights booklet (1998) has a chapter with this title. At that time, proportional representation was seen as an issue (leading to ballot access petitioning campaigns for the Libertarian Party of Minnesota in which I did participate; women did this better than men!).

The three component videos are (1) The Right to Vote, narrated by Leonardo di Caprio (very much awake, not at one of Cobb's Inception dream level); (2) Can You Buy an Election?, narrated by Selena Gomez (3) Whose Vote Counts? Narrated by Jon Legend.

The first portion talks about securing equality in the right to vote at an individual level. The film focuses particularly on the lack of black suffrage after the Civil War, and all the attempts to block it even during and after the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, such as poll taxes and literacy tests. There is some discussion of the reality that voting by mail, which must happen in much larger volume in 2020 because of the pandemic, will be difficult indeed (despite reassurance from the mainstream media). Certain percentages of mail votes fail to be counted because of lack of proper signatures, particularly with younger and then senior voters. Since Vox is perceived as a center-Left media company, its admission of these difficulties is significant. It notes that the Supreme Court has pushed back on Congress trying to regulate states' discretion (with a 2013 decision).

The portion did not talk about women's suffrage (See Suffragette, 2015) or some of the tragedies in the 1960s over voting rights (the lynching of 3 young activists in Mississippi in 1964).

The second portion talks campaign finance, and the Supreme Court (in the Citizen's United Case, or Hillary the Movie) agreed that soft money is 'political speech' and is protected by the First Amendment. ('Hard money' is not). The end result is end-arounds by 'the 1%' with covert' lobbying on K-street, forming innocuous non-profits to cover up candidate support. Alexandria Octavia-Cortez often speaks in this portion, on how she had to raise grass roots money for her candidacy (some of it out of state) because she wasn't rich like most members of Congress.

There is another aspect to this problem not as well known, that even individual bloggers can hide soft money. The review of Dark Money (July 25, 2018) links to another WordPress blog post of mine giving the old history of this problem, and it could certainly come storming back as a result of left-wing demands for 'allyship' which get diluted by individual efforts.

The third portion is 'Whose Vote Counts?' and it present two major problems. The first problem is gerrymandering, which both parties have used, but most recently Republicans. Consultation for gerrymandering has become a profession. The film notes that the founding fathers didn't even expect major national political parties to form and become divisive. In 1789, the states were almost sovereign on their own, leading to federalism, which makes handling some things (like pandemics) harder.

The second of the problems is that in some contexts, smaller and more rural states have more power, because they have 'para-equal' representation in the Senate. This favors conservative voters, who may not want to pay for health benefits and other perils faced by minorities (PoC) in larger cities. Since 2000, the urban-rural divide has intensified. In fact, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other territories (Virgin Islands) have no comparable block of representation. In presidential elections, voters in swing states individually have unusual political 'power'. The film did not mention specifically the risk of a contingent election (Forbes explains), where the House, voting by state block, picks the electors (and this would be partisan and advantage the Republicans) if Trump were able to force a protracted legal battle (with the help of his new Supreme Court replacing Justice Ginsburg).

I'll add a column from Thomas Friedman, that 'Trump sent us a warning' (in the detention-deserving debate last night).

(Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 12 noon EDT)