Democracy in America is only a little over five decades old. That’s difficult to square with the America that exists in the storytelling tradition: a brave experiment in a government run for and by the people. In reality, the country has always been defined as much by whom it’s kept from voting as by who is allowed to participate, and the ideal of democracy has always been limited by institutions designed to disenfranchise. Put another way: The great majority of all elections in American history would have been entirely illegitimate under modern law.
Massive purges of minority voters from state rolls will stain the 2018 elections. They won’t be the last.