Is This What Democracy Looks Like?

I try in this blog to avoid rank partisanship.

While my writings clearly reflect a generally (but not exclusively) conservative approach to political and cultural issues, I strive not to be doctrinaire or partisan in expressing them. I try to examine issues thoughtfully, in the light of Catholic moral and social teaching, and to weigh carefully the arguments of those with different viewpoints.

But I am compelled now to single out New York’s ruling Democratic Party for what I can only describe as a shameless attempt to manipulate our election process to its partisan advantage—in direct defiance of the will of the people, as expressed at the polls less than a month ago.

As I wrote in a previous post, I had become involved in an effort to inform voters about three proposed state constitutional amendments we felt were a threat to voting integrity. Two of them, Election Day voter registration and universal access to absentee balloting, we believed were susceptible to widespread fraud.

The other measure would have undermined the independent redistricting commission that we voters established in 2014 to try to assure nonpartisanship in the redrawing of Congressional and state legislative district lines. As Newsday pointed out in an editorial urging a “No” vote, this amendment was an attempt by “Albany’s Democratic supermajority” to “trash the commission’s work and draw its own maps.”

On Election Day, voters agreed. They defeated the redistricting amendment, along with the Election Day registration and expanded absentee ballot amendments, by a significant margin.

But on Thanksgiving eve, Gov. Kathy Hochul very quietly signed legislation doing exactly what the voters had just rejected: empowering that Democratic legislative supermajority to take control of the redistricting process away from the independent commission.

Can there be a more blatant show of contempt for the will of the people?

Seven years ago, voters spoke clearly, adopting the independent redistricting commission. Then this year, they spoke even more loudly and clearly, rejecting the Democrat-passed amendment that would have undermined that commission.

But rather than accept that, Gov. Hochul and the Democratic state legislature moved to impose by legislative fiat what the voters had just rejected.

This from a party that is forever accusing Republicans and conservatives of “undermining democracy.”  

It seems that New York’s Democrats are all for democracy—until they lose an election.

Then there is the proposal before the New York City Council, expected to pass this week, that would allow non-citizens to vote in city elections.

Of course, the Democratic City Council majority portrays this as something that will “expand democracy.” Skeptics can be forgiven for seeing it as designed to expand the Democratic Party’s voting base.

Sponsors argue, not without merit, that holders of green cards or work authorizations, who are paying taxes and governed by our laws, should be able to vote. But the more persuasive argument, to me, is that people who are not, at least yet, fully invested as citizens of our nation and state— and who are citizens of other countries, including countries hostile to the United States and our interests—should not be empowered to help choose our government leaders.

And, as one who has always been pro-immigration, I have another reason for opposing this bill. It can only heighten resentment and hostility toward immigrants. When voters are told they must share their franchise equally with those who are not permanently invested in America as citizens; when they see that elections and policy choices can be tipped by the votes of those who are citizens of other countries; it will, quite understandably, make more people less welcoming toward immigrants.

For that reason, it frustrates me that many immigrant advocates would support a bill that actually exploits immigrants, for partisan political advantage, in a way that can only prove harmful to them.

New York City residents who share these concerns should contact your city council representatives immediately, urging them to oppose this bill.

Meanwhile, court challenges, both to this bill and Hochul’s redistricting bill, are reportedly already in the works. Let’s hope they succeed—for the sake of our democracy.

Published by Rick Hinshaw

I have spent the last three decades in primarily Catholic communications work: as a reporter, news editor, columnist, and for eight years editor of The Long Island Catholic; several years as co-host and co-producer of The Catholic Forum program on the diocesan Telecare channel; two stints as Director of Communications for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; and a year as Associate Director for Communications at the New York State Catholic Conference. I also served for three years as Public Information Officer for the late Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon, a staunchly Catholic and active pro-life leader. Over that more than 30-year career, I have gained an ever deeper understanding of and appreciation for the moral and social teachings of our Church. In my various roles I have lent my voice to articulating those teachings and their applicability to the critical issues of our time. That is what I intend to do with this blog. Moreover, at a time when our political and social disagreements seem to have degenerated into constant vitriol, vilification, verbal abuse and intolerance of those who hold differing opinions, I hope that this blog can contribute, in some small way, to a restoration of respectful debate and discussion, where we can defend our beliefs forcefully without demonizing any who disagree with us. As a Catholic commentator, that is what I have always striven to do--remembering that even as we are called to stand firmly in defense of our Church, her teachings, and our right to be heard in the public square, we are also called always to be the face of Christ to the world--most especially to those with whom we disagree.

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