There are various Republican-dominated state legislatures from Texas to Pennsylvania engaged in promoting a passel of new laws designed to disenfranchise as many young, minority-group and working-class voter as possible to ensure continued ascendancy of their party. The voter identification laws have been challenged at the federal level by Attorney General Eric Holder and will likely face stiff court battles from citizens groups who will not take the disfranchisement of millions (an estimated 700,000 in Pennsylvania alone, and a million voters in Texas, the biggest states involved) in their respective states lying down.
This goes beyond the sort of healthy rough-and-tumble politics we have had for generations in the United States. This is a giant step backwards to a time when wealthy groups used racism and gender-hegemony and xenophobia against immigrant groups to create a solution to a "problem"---the problem of a mature and open democracy.
The "dangerously radical" idea put forth by many of the Jeffersonian/Jacksonian groups in early America was that an expanded voting franchise was the natural outgrowth of the great Enlightenment experiment in perfecting government. But to the elites there was an inherent flaw--a flaw first grasped upon by elitist forces like the Federalist Party of Alexander Hamilton in the 1790's. The "flaw" is that the "common man" is not to be trusted with the public business.
This elitism had to give way as Western Expansion gave more and more power to voting arenas far from the major cities of the eastern seaboard. The Jacksonian Democrats fought for reform of the franchise for all white men-- taking it as politically feasible. Then came the issue of slavery and freedom and its containment that sent 650,000 men to their graves and wounded and nearly destroyed a nation. There are many causes cited for the American Civil War, but one of them has to be that a powerful agrarian-based culture in the South would not yield to the idea that slavery was a pernicious evil and they were on the wrong side of history to wish for its expansion. Eradication had already happened in nations as diverse from each other as Great Britain and Russia.
To block the newly-freed slaves from voting after the war, the "Jim Crow Laws " were instituted. A quick refresher course in them shows their long-lasting power in many states.
"The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws in the United States enacted between 1876 and 1965. They mandated de jure racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern states of the former Confederacy, with, starting in 1890, a “separate but equal” status for African Americans. The separation in practice led to conditions that tended to be inferior to those provided for white Americans, systematizing a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages. De jure segregation mainly applied to the Southern United States. Northern segregation was generally de facto, with patterns of segregation in housing enforced by covenants, bank lending practices, and job discrimination, including discriminatory union practices for decades."
from Wikipedia entry "Jim Crow Laws"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Crow_laws
The established order of institutional racism and laws that extended to voter supression of poor whites with onerous literacy tests at the polls were all predicated by the notion that African-Americans and many upstart poor people of all stripes were easily swayed by "outside agitators" (northerners, "radicals" of any stripe from liberal to Communist, union organizers, et al.) Many of these "agitators" were citizens falsely tarnished as "unAmerican" or tarnished as being in league with Moscow or Greenwich Village, whichever suited the slanderer.
Voter suppression 1.0 (Old school)
Also targeted were human rights advocacy groups like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association for the Advancent of Colored People (NAACP), dissenting Christian organizations who organized boycotts and demonstrations led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, and Rev William Sloane Coffin. One of the men who fought back in the 1950s and 60 against Jim Crow is Congressman John Lewis. He had been badly injured in a police riot by cops during a peaceful march from Montgomery to Selma Alabama.
"On March 7, 1965, 525 civil rights activists began a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Just outside Selma, heavily armed police and deputies broke up the march with billy clubs and tear gas, injuring sixty-five people and hospitalizing 17 in a melee that became known as "Bloody Sunday."
That same year President Lyndon Johnson got a Voting Rights Act thorough Congress and signed the most signifigant piece of Civil Rights legislation for the first time in US history since the years directly after the end of the Civil War.
Lewis stood his ground again in May of this year over a reintroduction of "states rights" skullduggery, and against a Congressman from his own state of Georgia who wanted to gut the Voting Rights Act.
voter suppression debate: t a
Most would say these are battles that have been fought and won and the "bad old days" are behind America. But the straight linear path of progress occasionally gets caught for a spin.
It's clear that Jim Crow 2.0 will not feature men in white robes and flaming torches burning the crops and houses of blacks people and immigrants. But it is also clear that the aim of these measures is the same---to protect the conservative status quo from the college students, poor seniors, non-Cuban Latinos (especially those in Texas where new Congressional Districts should help Hispanics gain representation), African Amerians and others from voting.
From the Associated Press:
The numbers suggest that the legitimate votes rejected by the laws are far more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent. Thousands more votes could be in jeopardy for this November, when more states with larger populations are looking to have similar rules in place.
More than two dozen states have some form of ID requirement, and 11 of those passed new rules over the past two years largely at the urging of Republicans who say they want to prevent fraud.
Democrats and voting rights groups fear that ID laws could suppress votes among people who may not typically have a driver’s license, and disproportionately affect the elderly, poor and minorities. While the number of votes is a small percentage of the overall total, they have the potential to sway a close election. Remember that the 2000 presidential race was decided by a 537-vote margin in Florida.
A Republican leader in Pennsylvania said recently that the state’s new ID law would allow Romney to win the state over President Barack Obama.
Another Pennsylvania official estimated that state’s law could impact more than 750,000 voters there. As Mother Jones has recently reported, 11 percent of all adults of voting age currently don’t have a valid photo ID. Of them, blacks make up the largest group.
The fight goes on.