What does it mean if we say this thing or that thing is not normal? The refrain has long since been worn out by the daily experience of living under Trump, and the news is by definition the things that are not normal. There were too many of them yesterday, like always. There was the news that the idea of putting a citizenship question on the census had originated not within the regular federal bureaucracy but with Steve Bannon. There was the news of the president saying, on camera, that it would “not be acceptable, to me” if the suspected murder of a United States resident by Saudi operatives in Turkey were to interfere with the Saudis’ ability to spend money on American weapons. There was the news that the Florida panhandle had been smashed by a hurricane. There was a failed rocket launch! Astronauts (or, officially, one astronaut and one cosmonaut) plummeting back to the ground, fortunately alive!
Oh, and Kanye West did whatever he did, the same thing he’s been doing. But in a new place?
But also, finally bobbing up near the surface, there was a two-day-old Associated Press report on the Georgia governor’s race:
Marsha Appling-Nunez was showing the college students she teaches how to check online if they’re registered to vote when she made a troubling discovery. Despite being an active Georgia voter who had cast ballots in recent elections, she was no longer registered….
Appling-Nunez’s application is one of over 53,000 sitting on hold with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office. And unlike Appling-Nunez, many people on that list — which is predominantly black, according to an analysis by The Associated Press — may not even know their voter registration has been held up….
Kemp, who’s also the Republican candidate for governor, is in charge of elections and voter registration in Georgia.
The article goes on to say that Kemp’s office canceled nearly 670,000 registrations last year. That is roughly 10 percent of the number of voters in Georgia.
Is this normal? It is contrary to everything we usually claim about how the political system is supposed to work. It is also how things are done. More often, it’s done the party purging voters to help the party, rather than an individual candidate being in a position to do it to help himself, the way Kemp is evidently doing in his race against Stacey Abrams. But the principle—or the lack of principle—is the same.
The AP story was very well done, and it seems to have gotten attention, which is not something that even a shocking news report can count on doing. Even so, it spoke the language of the normal, of the second-order discussions of politics that the news prefers to have. “Voting Rights Become A Flashpoint In Georgia Governor’s Race,” was how the headline put it—that is, the blocking of 53,000 voters, or 670,000 voters, is a thing for people within the political contest to argue about.
But the mass purge of voters isn’t reducible to a controversy, something for people in the state to weigh as they choose between candidates. It is the contest itself, the process by which one candidate is trying to take office. The election would be what’s left over after the power has already been distributed.