Remember well the name Jessica Anderson. She is the executive director of Heritage Action for America. On a budget of $24 million, Anderson is leading a titanic campaign to draft and pass model legislation restricting voting access for people of colour. The measures she promotes have been swiftly adopted this year in the battleground states of Georgia, Florida, Arizona, and Iowa.
The money that funds her work is dark money, corporate money, money of the 1%, money with a vested financial bias favouring tax cuts for the rich. Their goal? To put trickery and underhanded methods to work making it harder for people of colour to vote, in the ostensible service of “voter security.” The real goal is to put Republicans in charge of everything, from the White House to the state house. So far their agendas have been met and their sinister ambitions — in getting legislation written and passed — are a singular success.
In a leaked video of a private meeting last month, Anderson let slip some of her more Machiavellian methods. She was remarkably candid in describing how she ensures that her foundation’s voter suppression methods get written into law. “In some cases, we actually draft [the laws] for them,” she said, “or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.”
That’s just one cynical part of her method, making it look like its origins are of the people instead of the corporation. It’s all supposed to look like it just came straight from the farm, not straight from the boardroom — where it really began.
The claim, of course, is that it’s all being done in the name of keeping America safe from voter fraud. Since voter fraud isn’t a significant problem in America it’s become necessary for Republicans to promote the false idea that it is.
None of this is new, of course. Conservative Washington insiders have been pushing for voter restrictions for decades, with the explicit aim of helping Republicans win elections. The difference now is that Trump’s baseless claims about “massive fraud” in the 2020 presidential election have given new wings to the effort.
This latest incarnation of that old conservative movement is making unprecedented headway in getting Jim Crow-style voting restrictions across the finish line, and it’s attracting dark money from corporations with sinister motives. The more successful Anderson’s group’s efforts are, the more corporations are galvanized into giving Anderson money. And thus does the cycle perpetuate itself.
The good news is that targeted voters are aware of this sinister attempt to frustrate their voting rights. Because Republican methods are so blatant and their motives so pitifully transparent, the very marginalised minority voters Republicans are trying to thwart are now more motivated than ever to do just that— vote. Even so, 2024 is starting to look and feel like 1964. The truth of the matter is we haven’t come very far, and we still have a long, long way to go. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.