The new century/ millennium did not begin well. With Gore and Bush at a standoff and lots of suspicious activity in Florida and other states, none of it in favor of the Democrats, it’s likely that Bush and his cronies literally stole the election, aided by the Supreme Court.
And yet, eight years later, something unimaginable in my lifetime actually happened. Of course, I’m talking about:
2008—The Election of Barack Obama
Increased turnout (65% of eligible black voters and likewise from other people of color) helped determine the historic occasion of the nation’s first black President.
2012— Obama Re-elected!
Black turnout increased yet again and white turnout went down slightly in this second historic moment.
And so those Tea-Party Zealots working behind the scenes could see the writing on the wall. Outnumbered, they needed new versions of poll taxes, literacy tests, felony convictions. And so they came up with:
2013. Supreme Court Repeal of Voting Rights Act of 1965
The Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval. Their reasoning was that the election of Barack Obama showed that such measures were no longer necessary. Of course, once given that power, the Republican States immediately set to work to devise new means of making voting for blacks and other people of color (notably Latinx in Arizona, Native Americans in North Dakota) difficult by inventing new obstacles that the Federal Government could not oversee, just as they had with poll taxes and literacy tests after the 15thAmendment. These included:
• ID card requirements that are difficult for some groups (like demanding a physical
address in places like Indian Reservations that used P.O. boxes).
• Purging people from the voter rolls for arbitrary and unclear reasons.
• Gerrymandering— redrawing political lines to benefit Republicans.
• Closing down polling stations so they are difficult to get to.
• Faulty machines in black neighborhoods that break so lines are 8 hours long, as in the
recent Governor race in Georgia.
• Continuing to insist that voting take place on one day only and that day a work day.
• Miscounted and uncounted votes.
• Continued use of an outdated Electoral College that benefits Republicans.
2018: Voting Rights for Felons in Florida
In a landmark decision, Florida decided that felons had paid their debt to society and thus, were eligible to vote. Floridian patriots—ie, those black folks, felons and otherwise, who believed in the importance of and the power of the vote—were overjoyed to finally participate in the democratic process promised to them as U.S. citizens.
But their joy was short-lived.
2020 (September 11)
In a new version of “poll tax,” reactionary legislators in Florida made a new law that felons could not vote until they paid all previous court fees, fees many were never aware existed and/or could not easily afford. Get the picture? Action/ reaction. Point/ Counterpoint. One law in line with America’s promise of inclusion, shared power, justice and freedom, the next law striking it down in favor of the good ol’ boys club, exclusion, injustice and denying the promised paths to shared power. And then the few awake people with a moral conscience and power and determination to keep bending that moral arc toward justice, responding with their next move.
2020 (September 22)
Former New York City mayor Mike Bloomburg (along with Lebron James, Michael Jordan, John Legend and others) raises $16 million to pay for all court fees of some 32,000 voters.
2020 (September 25)
Ashley Moody, Florida’s Republican Attorney General, begins an investigation into the “legality” of Bloomburg’s donation to try to stop it.
American citizens not schooled in history (just about all of us) read the news each day, but have no foundation for understanding it. This little look at the voting side of racial discrimination and white supremacy shows clearly that there is an intentional, systemic, ongoing (every single year of our country’s history) successful attempt to subvert, sidestep, deny the cornerstone of Democracy’s vision—one person, one vote. And that by looking back at the strategies of denying voting rights in the 1700’s, 1800’s, 1900’s and 2000’s, we might understand the ongoing pattern and use that as a way to look at the news from last month (see last three examples).
Summary to come, but do read all these posts again. There will be a test.