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Republicans Make it Harder to Vote, and Cheat to Get Their Way.

2016-11-08

I draw your attention to an article in the Harvard Law Review, dated January 7, 2014 and written by Richard L. Hasen, which discusses Republican attempts to make it harder for people, specifically poor people (who are disproportionately black, Mexican, and Democratic) to VOTE.

This article explains that Republican briefs before the courts have made thinly veiled attempts to decrease the ability of people who are challenged by lack of money, time, and opportunity to vote.  They try to claim that their obstructions are really political in that they are trying to decrease Democratic opportunities, and that their attempts are to be adjudicated in the legislatures rather than in the courts.

The article points out that the Fourteenth Amendment’s “equal protection of the laws” clause should be strictly interpreted:

Courts should apply a more rigorous standard to review arguably discriminatory voting laws. When a legislature passes an election-administration law (outside of the redistricting context) discriminating against a party’s voters or otherwise burdening voters, that fact should not be a defense. Instead, courts should read the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause to require the legislature to produce substantial evidence that it has a good reason for burdening voters and that its means are closely connected to achieving those ends.

Currently, partisan gerrymandering of election districts causes disenfranchisement of minority and poor voters.  Republicans in state legislatures claim that the gerrymandering is purely for the benefit of a party rather than to disadvantage poor or minority voters.  This is disingenuous because Republicans are disproportionately white and well-to-do, while minority and poor voters gravitate to the policies favored by the Democratic Party.

The article begins with a review of the conflict that occurred in turn of the 20th century North Carolina, where the reverse segmentation took place: black voters almost exclusively signed up for the Republican Party, and electoral reforms were enacted by a Republican and Populist-majority state legislature.  Participation in elections soared after the reforms, reaching over 85% of eligible black voters in 1896, but the exclusively white Democrats were appalled.  The Democrats, in a vicious backlash, started a campaign of violence and fraud, preventing blacks from voting; they took over the Legislature  in 1898.  They then passed highly restrictive voting laws, after which blacks could no longer register to vote.  This situation prevailed until the Voting Rights Act was signed into law.

The various laws used by Democratic whites in the South to prevent blacks from voting also had a negative effect on poor whites.  For example, poll taxes made registering prohibitively expensive for poor people regardless of color.  Property requirements, literacy tests, and residency restrictions also worked against poor people, many of them sharecroppers who moved frequently and thus could not establish residence long enough to satisfy the laws.  These laws, in addition to personal intimidation and violence, practically eliminated blacks from the voting rolls in the South until the Voting Rights Act was passed.

The Democratic Party was the beneficiary of voting restrictions and Democrats in Congress prevented blacks from being represented in federal government or receiving federal help against Jim Crow for many years.  The Republican Party was wiped out in the South and became a minority party federally, consisting of a semi-liberal Eastern wing and a dominant, rabidly conservative Midwestern wing.  When the Democrats under Kennedy and Johnson began to legislate black equality, they did it without the help of any Southern Democrats; only the Supreme Court pointed the way.

Suddenly the Democratic Party became the party that helped black people, and Southern whites deserted the party en masse while newly enfranchised blacks joined, admiring Kennedy.  The Republicans, who were already all white because of the disenfranchisement of blacks, accepted the former Democrats into their conservative coalition.  Nixon and Agnew pioneered the deeply illegal policy of the big lie: the claim that Republicans support the “little people” (whites whose power had been infringed.)  This catapulted the Republican Party into power under Reagan, with the Watergate scandal quickly “explained away” as a noble but overzealous mistake that saw Nixon rehabilitated before his death.

Nixon’s politics of resentment and personal destruction, the support of stingy rich people, and the flight of bigoted whites, formed a party that became the essence of all that is evil in politics: hatred of anyone who was different, disgust for those who were less advantaged, envy of those who succeeded by being honestly talented and ethical, and willingness to achieve power by cheating.

There was a union in one party of bigoted whites and the wealthy, who had been in the Republican Party since it became the party of big business in the late 1890’s.  This conjunction of racists and rich people was driven on by Richard Nixon and his tactics of extra-legal aggrandizement of power.  The result was a party that supported the rich and used any tactic available to get and hold on to power, including propaganda, campaigns of slander and libel that spread big lies, harassment by purportedly legal investigations into malfeasance that actually used the power of the prosecutor to frighten and intimidate law-abiding citizens, and finally secret involvement in assassinations.

(All but the last few paragraphs is derived from information in Wikipedia.  The last three paragraphs are my own invention.)

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