Anyone even remotely aware of our Nation’s politics over the last half century knows that the Southern Strategy – the republican effort to wrest voters from the democratic party through overt appeals to white racial resentment – has left an indelible mark on both major political parties and on American politics in general. Once considered the “Solid South” because of its consistency in voting for democrats, the southern states – perhaps with the exception of Florida and Virginia – today are all red. Republican voters proudly bear the flag and the sentiments of a morally bankrupt confederacy that the very founders of their party fought against. Though unfortunately of no surprise given their behavior over the last 50 years, republican-controlled legislatures and statehouses across the country have adopted the Jim Crow voter suppression tactics embraced by avowed racists who were once consistently democrat.
Lincoln weeps and Eisenhower spins in his grave.
In Ohio, republicans attempted to expand the hours for early voting in the suburbs while decreasing the hours in urban areas where black and Latino voters live. In the face of justified backlash they since settled for cutting back hours in all areas. Doug Preisse, Chairman of the Franklin County republican party, was explicit about GOP intentions:
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban—read African-American—voter-turnout machine.”
In Pennsylvania, republican officials have specifically stated that their voter suppression efforts were put in place to benefit Mitt Romney. Their efforts so far have been upheld by the Commonwealth Court. In Florida’s first round of voter purges, over 98% of purged Dade County voters actually turned out to be eligible and in spite of the fact that Latinos are 13 percent of the population, they were 58% of the purged voters. The state’s restrictions on voter registration have taken a toll, with democratic registrations, traditionally driven by African-Americans, are down 235,000 relative to 2008. Across the country, republican legislatures are stripping the vote away from elderly women who have been voting all of their lives. Men who fought for this country have no idea that republicans have rendered their current voter registration null and void. In spite of report after report after report confirming that the voter fraud targeted by voter ID and other legislation is virtually non-existent, republicans across the country have elevated the stanching of alleged voter fraud to a top three priority perhaps behind controlling women’s uteri and putting an assault weapon in every household. In state after state after state, republicans themselves confirm that voter ID and similar affronts to voting address a problem that does not actually exist. There is no debating whatsoever the certainty that voter ID and similar republican-led efforts around the country are nothing more than Jim Crow shenanigans dressed up for a new century. Thus republicans in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and other states are no better than the scum-sucking, knuckle-dragging, troglodyte, piece of crap racists from an era that many erroneously thought was long dead and gone. As with all challenges presented by those committed to disenfranchising people of color, the real question is not whether they are engaging in race-based skullduggery. The real question is:
What do we do about it?
To be sure, Attorney General Eric Holder has committed the Justice Department to a heroic effort to protect the sanctity of the constitutional right to equal protection under the law with respect to the vote. He has worked to block those states – like South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia – whose history of institutional racism place their electoral activities under the purview of the Voting Rights Act. He has challenged the efforts of republican officials in other states engaged in disenfranchisement of their own citizens. For his “uppity” stance in favor of the broad application of constitutional rights, he is now the only Attorney General in the history of the United States to have been found in contempt of Congress by a republican caucus that can be only charitably described as utterly contemptuous themselves – a fine example of upholding-the-United-States-Constitution while black. The Attorney General is doing his part.
We must all do ours.
I submit that our ancestors – those who litigated, who marched, who fought, who bled and who died for the rights current generations sometimes seem to take for granted – are screaming from their homes, their offices, their classrooms and their graves for this generation to take action. We cannot sit by and have the Attorney General fight our battle by himself, even if he has the resources of the Justice Department with which to do it. Much work needs to be done on the ground – precinct by precinct – to render republican efforts as impotent as they are un-American. In a recent sermon, Rev. Dr. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock, Senior Pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, correctly pointed out that black people didn’t just sit back and accept Ephesians 6:5 (“slaves obey your masters”). Black people read Exodus too and in so doing may have saved Christianity in America itself. He shared that black people took unwanted scraps and created Soul Food. He correctly pointed out that black people turned “the Blues” into an art form. What do we tell these people about current republican attempts to nullify their dreams and our reaction to those attempts?
Do we tell them that we did nothing?
Do we tell them that we let President Obama and Attorney General Holder fight that battle for us?
What will we say when we meet our ancestors and they ask us “What did you do?”
Its time to get to work.
We will be doing ourselves and our ancestors a grave disservice if we do not render republican voter suppression efforts completely impotent by registering – under the new voter ID laws – record numbers of voters. In every state that has implemented these new Jim Crow voting laws, each of us should be adopting at least five people – youth, elderly, recently incarcerated, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera – and making sure that they are registered and that they get to the polls. Those of us who live in solidly blue states should be in contact with family and friends in purple and red states to get everyone registered and voting. We should be taking full advantage of whatever early voting facilities are available, to the point that news outlets marvel at the sheer volume of votes that have occurred prior to November 6th. Community and grass-roots organizations should be imploring each Secretary of State office to work with those voters whose current information does not match their birth certificate by virtue of a long-ago marriage or other name-changing circumstance. We must render the new-century republican Jim Crow effort a disappointing waste of time by creating a tsunami of new voters.
This is bigger than an Obama second term, folks. Republicans have laid down a gauntlet and we do ourselves, our ancestors and our children a grave disservice if we don’t pick up that gauntlet and smack them across their collective faces with it, as hard as we possibly can. If Attorney General Holder is successful in compelling a judiciary chock full of republican appointees to protect the Constitution, then all the better. But that should not be the only front on which this battle is fought. We should be letting republicans know that if they want to win, then they need to exert their energies toward sharing with us their vision for America and our place in it instead of embracing shortcut, anti-American and near treasonous activities such as disenfranchising voters. So far, republicans are bound and determined to drive themselves to extinction, sinking into the tar pit of their own deeply-felt and well-practiced bigotries. I don’t mind helping them with that, but I don’t think that they should be allowed to take America down with them.
We must render republican Jim Crow-era disenfranchisement efforts a completely wasted effort because of the incrementally voter registrations created afterwards. Anything less would be tantamount to tolerating institutional tyranny.