Texas Democrats Walk the Walk in Support of Voting Rights
But will these baby steps be enough to save our democracy?

This week saw fireworks in Texas when Democrats walked out of the House chamber, leaving Republicans high and dry without the quorum they needed to ram through Senate Bill 7, a horrible piece of voter suppression legislation. To share some thoughts on the behavior of both the Republicans and Democrats in Texas, I’ve asked Greg Palast to come talk with us.

“It’s not Democrat or Republican, it’s democracy versus dictatorship.”

Rick Smith: So here we are, another state going after and making sure that the Black and brown people and poor people can’t vote, suppressing everywhere they can. But in this case, the Democrats were somewhat united and, for now, they have headed this off.

Greg Palast: Well, I’m sympathetic to the Texas Republican party, because they don’t trust Texas voters. And you can’t blame them. If you actually let Texans vote, it would be a very blue state. So obviously the Texas Republicans simply can’t allow the voters to make the choices. What’s interesting and exciting here is that the Democrats, they kind of danced right out of the room, denying a quorum. Now, understand this has happened before more than a decade ago. The Democrats not only left the Capitol to deny a quorum, but so that the Texas Rangers didn’t handcuff them and drag them into the chamber, which is what they were going to do, they left the state. You had state legislators who lived outside Texas for a couple of months. When their families started screaming, they had to give in, and then Texas gerrymandered. That was in fact about 15 years ago.

Smith: Yeah. If I remember, Wisconsin, they did the same thing. The Democrats went to Illinois.

Palast: Yes, they literally left the state, the Democrats. Now they know that they can’t hold out, which is why they’re challenging the Democrats nationally to say, look, we’ve taken this move, but you’re going to have to pass the two voting rights bills in front of you, the big one that Schumer’s pushing and then the John Lewis Act, which is smaller but I think is much more important. It restores the Voting Rights Act, the pre-clearance. They can’t start jacking with the voter rolls or procedures without getting it cleared by the U.S. Justice Department first. That’s really important. So the Texas Democrats are saying to the national Democrats, look, we can’t be hiding, playing hide and seek with the Texas Rangers forever. We’re going to have to go back into the Senate, into the chambers there. So you’ve got to pass a bill so that we don’t have basically an electronic lynching of the voter rolls. That’s what’s happening in Texas. And by the way, I just came back from Georgia. I’m not going to scoop myself by telling you too much, but let’s just put it this way: There’s a connection. A Texas organization has gone after the voter rolls of Georgia big time. So it’s really important that we control vote the renegade vote rustlers out of Texas because it’s not only Texas that they’re going after. The Texas groups’ vote snatching tentacles are reaching outside the state.

Smith: You look at what’s going on in Arizona, that’s moving, Wisconsin’s kind of doing the same thing. They’ve hired some people to investigate the votes that have already been cast and certified and examined and re-examined and scrutinized… But we gotta do it again because one time we’re going to get the results we’re looking for.

Palast: Well… it comes down to something simple: Will Senators Sinema of Arizona and Manchin of West Virginia, say “yes” when it comes to voting rights, no more filibusters. Understand, the filibuster was never used in American history until about 10 years ago, until Newt Gingrich actually. It was never used except to stop voting rights for Black people. And also in 1922 to stop the [Dyer] Anti-Lynching Act. That was the only time that filibuster was used. And also on voting rights in 1890, when the Senate had voted to eliminate poll taxes, which not only stopped Black folk from voting in the deep south, but also poor white people. Let’s not forget in America, when you talk about taking away voting rights, it’s also part of class war. They don’t want the underclass to be voting either. Because, despite what you see at the Trump rallies, those are actually not poor folk. Just so you know, our team has gone to many Trump rallies. These are middle-class crazies and sons of middle class people who don’t like losing their privileges. They don’t want to lose them to white people, they don’t want to lose them to students, a lot of it is an urban attack too. So Senator Sinema, if you think you’re going to play that game… And Senator Manchin that, oh, if we’re a little bit Republican in a conservative state we’ll keep our seats… That don’t work. If you don’t protect the Hispanic vote, Senator Sinema in Arizona, you will be an ex-Senator. And Joe Manchin, I got to tell you something, my friend, this is an attack on the working class vote of West Virginia and the rural vote of West Virginia too. So they’ve got to move off this, because the filibuster has never been anything, but a Jim Crow weapon. It’s time to cut the crap and get back to democracy, my friends.

Smith: I’m right there with you… You mentioned that the Trump supporters aren’t poor, they’re not the poor folks, they’re the ones who keep preaching about original intent. They want to go back to the way [the Constitution] was originally written, white landowning males over 21 are the only people who get the vote. That’s where they want to go back to.

Palast: Well, they forget that we’ve had several Amendments to the Constitution, which were the result of a civil war, with 600,000 dead Americans that won that right for Black people to vote. And the suffragette woman that won the right for women to vote, that removed the poll tax, finally, after 75 years of filibuster — 75 years that thing was being filibustered. It was removed under Lyndon Johnson. So the Constitution is not just a bunch of guys in powdered wigs. This thing has been [amended to expand] voting rights, including the reduction of the voting age in 1971… when we lowered the voting age to 18. So we’ve had a growing right to the franchise. In other words, the right for democracy to actually happen in America. It’s not the original intent of slave owners from 250 years ago. We’ve paid a big price, white and Black, young and old, to create voting rights, and they’re trying to stop it… The truth is we shouldn’t even need these laws. Why in the world do we need laws to protect the right to vote? It should just be something that we, as Americans, accept as automatic.

And now, you have to understand, the games that they’re playing in Texas, some of the pieces of law, stopping drive-in voting during a pandemic, blocking mail-in voting, cutting early voting hours, the games go on and on. Already, after all, Texas is a horrible place to vote. If it weren’t, it would be a solid blue state. Let me tell you, it is not a red state. It’s not! It is a blue state if they would just let people vote… And now they want to make it worse because they’re panicked. They saw Georgia. Georgia, where you have some of the worst laws, and yet the voters came out, overwhelmed the steal, and Biden took the state and, obviously, senators Warnock and Ossoff took it as well. And by the way, there’s a lesson there; Warnock and Ossoff are two of the most progressive senators we had. They didn’t say, oh, we’re in a conservative state, we have to trim our sails and talk right wing. No, no, no! They said we’re for the people. They have a totally progressive agenda. They’re amazing.

Smith: Yeah, what’s that quote that’s attributed to Harry Truman? If you give voters a choice between a Democrat who acts like a Republican or a Republican, they’re going to choose the real thing every time.

Palast: And as good Texan Jim Hightower said: There ain’t nothing in the middle of the road except the yellow line and dead armadillos. You know, one thing that Hightower, Beto O’Rourke, and others have shown: You can’t win in Texas by being a pretend Republican. And you can’t win an Arizona by being a pretend Republican. You have to defend the people and give young people in Arizona, the new California voters who’ve moved into Arizona and the Hispanic voters a reason to vote for you. And it ain’t going to be by saying I promise to cut Obamacare.

Smith: And it ain’t going to be by doing a little dipsy-do as you vote down a minimum wage increase.

Palast: Exactly… So I think that this is also tremendous in that the Democratic party, for the first time in my memory, has made voting rights a top issue. These guys, they walked out 15 years ago on the issue of gerrymandering, which is basically protecting their own seats, so you understood why they left. This time they’re protecting their voters. This is brand new for the Democratic party.

I have to tell you how much crap I’ve gotten from the Democratic leadership over the past 20 years of my investigations, starting with The Guardian back in the 2000 races. Don’t talk about vote suppression, it’ll discourage people from voting. The Democrats have had that wrong forever, the Democratic leadership. Now they’re waking up. Basically it started with Stacey Abrams raising bloody hell in 2018, saying I was elected but I won’t serve cause they stole the vote. And what they found is that that energized the voters. It didn’t scare away voters, it energized them. Because people understand that if they’re stealing my vote, it must be worth something.

Smith: And this is where Trump and the Republicans understand why this whole [Big Lie is so important], even if there’s no proof or no evidence or any of that. It’s extremely destructive. [The myth that] they stole the election from us is so important to rile the base up, to get them angry so that the next election they come out in full force.

Palast: Well, I want to warn you about one thing… when we’re talking about these recounts of the vote in Georgia, where they’re going to recount Fulton County. In other words, they’ve picked out the Black county of Atlanta, Fulton County, to quote “recount” the mail-in ballots, about 135,000 them. Don’t be surprised, get ready Rick, for them to find Trump’s 12,000 votes. That is disqualify 12,000 Black mail-in ballots. And the reason you can do that is that it’s not fraud what they’re doing… Georgia has these horrible rules called “absolute match” so that if, for example, you sign your mail-in ballot and you left off your middle initial but you registered with your middle initial, they’re going to challenge that and disqualify that ballot. If you put a check mark next to your candidate, if you put in a check mark next to Biden or an X instead of filling in the bubble, they can successfully challenge that. If you used a red pen or a pencil or a magic marker… they can disqualify your ballot. All these crazy, crazy rules that they’re going to use on cockamamie grounds, picayune nonsense which has nothing to do with fraud, but don’t be surprised if they announce, “We found 12,000 votes, Trump won Georgia and he probably won the other states too.” Get ready for that. I’m telling you that in advance because that’s their game. That’s what they’re trying to do.

Smith: Is that where this [idea that] “Trump’s going to be reinstated in August” is coming from?

Palast: The thing is that it’s just the excuse for these monstrous laws. And unfortunately, one of the things that I’ve also railed against, for example in Georgia, MSDNC or whatever you call that station and the others have made this guy Brad Raffensperger, the GOP Secretary of State of Georgia, into a hero because he wouldn’t go to jail for Trump. Understand, when he told Trump, I can’t find you anymore votes, he had already disqualified tens of thousands of votes. This guy was trying to steal the election for Trump. He made 29 phone calls. I noticed he only recorded one. I’d like to know what those others are. This guy’s a scammer. I beat him in federal court. Look out for Georgia, they’re going to try to steal it back. I just went to Georgia. I thought I’m done with Georgia already. Not chance. So Georgia, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania. mischief afoot. I’ll be reporting on it for you Rick.

Smith: Absolutely. And this next election here in Pennsylvania, where I’m at, is so important because you look at the craziness in Georgia or Arizona or Texas or other other states. If we get a Republican governor here in 2022, all of that stuff is on the table and all of that stuff is up and down, voted through on day one.

Palast: Well, let me give you something for Pennsylvania listeners. Your state has just joined something called ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center list. This is a massive racist purge list that is going to be used in your state. You’ve got to stop it. Democrats are too damn dumb to figure out that they’re getting jacked on this because a lot of Democrats have signed on. Because Democrats are so afraid… Saying, oh, well, we’re against fraud, we want to remove fraudulent voters. Well, excuse me. There are no fraudulent voters in Pennsylvania, so why is your state joining Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin, who are trying to join. It’s going to be vetoed by the Democratic governor of Wisconsin. I hope that you can get your Democrats, or anyone who’s for democracy — there might be some Republicans, don’t discount it — anyone who’s for democracy needs to say no to this ERIC CROW menace. It is something which your papers have utterly missed in Pennsylvania. It is going to flip that state red. If the voters go red, hey, that’s their choice. But it’s not that, it’s a blackout of the list. It’s a purge coming your way. I’m giving you the warning, Rick. Let your people know.

Smith: We need to pick that up and run with it. In fact, now I gotta call the governor’s office and find out where the governor is on this. Because ultimately there is a Democratic governor here and hopefully he’s on the right side of this and we’ll make sure of that.

Palast: Mostly they don’t know. This is one of the problems. The Republicans are always sneaking in stuff and Democrats think. well, that’s not so bad. Oh, we’re going to remove voters who’ve moved out of state. Well, don’t trust those lists. I went through them in Wisconsin. This is by the way, a private operation run by GOP hacks, this ERIC list. We went through that list for Black Voters Matter in Wisconsin last year, and we blocked the removal of 135,000 voters. If Black Voters Matter hadn’t taken on that ERIC CROW purge, Biden would have lost Wisconsin. Remember he only officially won by 10,000 votes. We saved that state for Mr. Biden — not that we got any thanks. I don’t need thanks, ‘cause it’s not really saving it for Biden, it’s saving it for the voters to make the choice. That’s what people forget here. It’s not Democrat or Republican, it’s democracy versus dictatorship. Racial dictatorship. Apartheid.

Smith: I spent two months, running up to the election, registering voters for my union. Most of the people I signed up were Trump voters. And I was like, you know, I don’t agree with you, I hope you don’t vote on Election Day, but you have the right to sign up. You have the right. I encourage people to participate. I hope you stay home, but you have the right to sign up.

Palast: Well, I’ll tell you this… The number one thing I would ask people to do — I always do this — check your registration every year, check your registration a couple months before the election so you have time to reregister. I looked up my own registration in California before the 2016 presidential election and it said no such voter. I had to reregister. There’s all kinds of games that are played, all kinds of glitches. Don’t let them take your vote. It’s not as simple as just filling out a mail-in ballot or something like that. You’ve really got to be very careful. And the number one thing is check your registration. 24 million people get purged a year — it could be you.

Smith: It most certainly could. Last question I’ve got for you… There’s a statement out by a bunch of college professors, really intelligent folks who are saying that our democracy is at risk right now. If all of these things that we’ve been talking about right now are put into place, it’s pretty much the end of democracy as we know it. We need to set aside the filibuster. We need to move forward on voting rights… I’ve been saying this stuff for months and been called hyperbolic. Does this give any help to that argument? That you’ve got all these big brains going, hey, we’re in real peril here because you’ve got people who’ve made up this lie and now they’re doing everything they can do to intimidate people and basically steal the right to the vote. You put any hope in this?

Palast: Well, I’m glad the professors have finally woken up. My friends, we don’t have democracy now… Try to vote in Georgia, try to vote in Texas now, they’re just making a horrible scene worse. We have to do more than just stop this whack-a-mole, this bill, that bill. There’s over 250 Jim Crow bills being floated out there. We have got to stop the whole game. And that begins with — and doesn’t end with — it begins with passing those two bills in the Senate, especially the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. So I’m glad that the professors are on board. It’s a little late, but better, late than never. We need every gun we can get.

Rick Smith

From the working-class neighborhoods of Cleveland, where folks didn’t have much and still don’t, Rick Smith went from delivering papers as a boy to a career driving 18 wheelers as a proud union member. Today, in a world of right-wing radio-vangelists with fancy suits and empty souls, Rick has carved out a place where real people can come together and hit back against the forces trying to turn the American Dream into a punchline.

The Rick Smith Show is by working people, for working people. It’s a place that serves up a heaping portion of democracy with a side of fairness, the grit of a Teamster, and no apologies. Where facts are the center, where science is real, and where everyone gets a seat at the table.