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Rebuilding New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast.

Posts Tagged ‘voter suppression’

Mississippi’s Runoff and Memories of Freedom Summer

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun (1950)

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On the night of the Mississippi GOP primary runoff between U.S. senator Thad Cochran and state senator Chris McDaniel, PBS aired Freedom Summer, a powerful American Experience documentary of the summer of 1964. Fifty years ago, on the invitation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), some 700 college students, mostly white and mostly from the North, volunteered to work in Mississippi to register black people to vote and to teach children and adults. The contrast, and the overlaps and continuities, between Tuesday’s election and 1964’s Freedom Summer are striking.

Many Americans do not know that in the early 1960s black people in Mississippi (though not only in Mississippi) risked being murdered simply for registering to vote. At the least, they could be fired from their jobs or driven from their homes. At the time, only 7 percent of the African American population of Mississippi was registered to vote, compared to about 50 to 70 percent in other southern states. Cochran won, but McDaniel has not conceded. It was widely reported before the election that the Cochran campaign realized they must appeal to Democratic voters, which in Mississippi means primarily black voters, to come out and vote for longtime senator Cochran. Mississippi has open primaries, which means that anyone of any party can vote for any candidate. The McDaniel supporters—mostly Tea Party conservatives who regard Cochran as a Democrat-like sell-out—are furious, and some are urging a break from the Republican Party, which they see as not much different from the Democratic Party.

Is It OK to Vote in Another Party’s Primary?

We confess to having some misgivings about the idea of large numbers of citizens who usually vote for one party getting involved in a primary election organized by a different party. We did not like it when, apparently, GOP operatives were behind the 2010 candidacy of an unemployed African American veteran in a senate primary in South Carolina ultimately won by Jim De Mint; this unemployed veteran’s candidacy drew Democratic votes away from other, more serious Democratic contenders. (Then–House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, a Democrat, also found the whole affair very suspicious.) In short, Republicans have played so many dirty tricks on each other and on Democrats over the years that we have no sympathy when fair play brings about a result that displeases one of their candidates. (And, anyway, the McDaniel campaign was behind the sneak-in photographing of elderly Mrs. Cochran in a nursing home for an anti-Cochran video—in connection with which a Tea Party activist has now committed suicide—and just after the June 3 primary several McDaniel supporters were found after hours in the Hinds County Courthouse where the ballots were kept; that still has not been explained.)

In any case, though, it strikes us as reasonable that in a state with an open primary law, which allows any registered voter to give their ballot to any candidate they choose, to vote against a candidate who one has reason to believe will be harmful to oneself or one’s state. It was clear that McDaniel would not continue the flow of federal funding that Thad Cochran has succeeded in bringing to the very poor state of Mississippi, which needs all the money it can get for better roads, schools, water purification systems, and the like. An anti-government Tea Party firebrand like McDaniel somehow did not instill the same confidence as the 36-year veteran of the Senate. So, if you legally could, why not vote against him?

As reported in Talking Points Memo, McDaniel said, “Naturally sometimes it’s difficult to contest an election, obviously, but we do know that 35,000 Democrats crossed over. And we know many of those Democrats did vote in the Democratic primary just three weeks ago which makes it illegal.”

Who Is This Chris McDaniel?

chris mcdanielMany Democrats voted in the primary runoff to keep a Tea Party Republican from replacing a traditional conservative (but comparatively moderate) Republican who at least believes that government can play a beneficial role in public life. McDaniel said he was not sure he would have voted for federal relief funding after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast in late August 2005. He has pointed out that education is not mentioned in the United States Constitution. This time last year McDaniel delivered the keynote address at a gathering in Jackson, Miss., of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a neo-Confederate group that contends that the wrong side won the Civil War. A spokesman for the group said McDaniel has addressed the Sons of Confederate Veterans on other occasions as well. Mr. McDaniel is certainly free to address any group he pleases, at any time, but what does this affinity of his say about someone who seeks to represent an entire state in the nation’s capital? It seems to us that he is more likely to be anti-government, certainly unfriendly to the concept of the federal government, and will have pro-secessionist inclinations. How well would such a person “play with others” in an institution whose work, at least historically, calls for occasional cooperation and compromise? And—just one more question—how sympathetic can such a friend of the Confederate Sons be to the aims of Freedom Summer?

Red State Republicans ‘Free at Last’

“The Court’s finding reflects well on the progress states like Mississippi have made over the last five decades.  I think our state can move forward and continue to ensure that our democratic processes are open and fair for all without being subject to excessive scrutiny by the Justice Department.”Senator Thad Cochran, June 25, 2013

Freedom Summer handshakeAlmost exactly one year to the day after the Supreme Court narrow-mindedly struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and thus opened the way for new restrictions on likely Democratic voters in the former Confederacy—which GOP-led legislatures in southern states began taking advantage of by introducing new voter I.D. laws and other restrictions on the very day the ruling was issued—a Republican candidate finds himself depending on the votes of the very people his party has worked so assiduously to discourage from the polls. Because the mostly white Republican voter base is increasingly a minority, the party must find ways to prevent the other side from going to the polls in substantial numbers.

[ See “Supreme Conservatives Drag U.S. Ceaselessly into the (Jim Crow) Past,” LNW 6/26/13  •  “How Many White Folks Does It Take to Pass a Jim Crow ‘Brain-Teaser’?” LNW 6/30/13  •  and “The (GOP-Driven) Decline of Black Power in the South,” LNW 7/11/13. ]

Now, Mr. Cochran, Stand Up for Voting Rights Act’s Protections

New York Times editorial, “Thad Cochran’s Debt to Mississippi,” asserts that Cochran owes it to the people of his state—particularly those who helped him keep his job—“to return the favor by supporting a stronger Voting Rights Act and actively working to reduce his party’s extreme antigovernment policies.”

Last year, Mr. Cochran praised the Supreme Court decision that gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act. He can now make it clear that bipartisanship goes both ways by crossing party lines to support a new measure that would restore the act’s protections, becoming the first Republican senator to do so.

It remains to be seen what William Thad Cochran will do with the power he continues to wield, and whether McDaniel will contest the election, or form a third party. McDaniel has signaled that he has no interest in remaining in a timid, “pastel” GOP that is sometimes willing to compromise (or even to speak) with Democrats. He is clever, articulate, photogenic, and he has a strong base of support—not only in Mississippi: allies include talk radio hosts Glenn BeckMark Levin, Sean Hannity, and a former GOP vice presidential candidate this blog prefers not to mention by name. Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner

Early on, a tragic pall was cast over Freedom Summer by the disappearance on June 21, 1964, of civil rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (left). Goodman and Schwerner had come to Mississippi earlier than most of the other volunteers and met their SNCC partner James Chaney. It was later found that the three were murdered by members of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Neshoba County’s Sheriff Office, and the Philadelphia Police Department located in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

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Photo of Thad Cochran (top) by Joe Ellis/AP; photo of Chris McDaniel from campaign website.

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The (GOP-Driven) Decline of Black Power in the South . . .

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Confederate-Memorial-Day-via-Shutterstock

“He who controls redistricting can control Congress.” Karl Rove, “The GOP Targets State Legislatures,” The Wall Street Journal, March 4, 2010

“I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president [1948] we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”Trent Lott (R-MS), then Senate majority leader, at 100th birthday party for Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC), Dec. 2002

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. . . And the Decline of Everything We Care About

A principle that many Jewish supporters of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s understood was that if African Americans’ rights were denied, other minorities—other citizens—could suffer the same. Put another way, Am I not my brother’s friend? And if not I, who? If not now, when?

Columbia University journalism professor Thomas B. Edsall posts at the New York Times a disturbing analysis of the gains that Republicans have made in the South in recent decades—and of African Americans’ loss of political influence there—of which the recent Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder was a capstone (or a tombstone). President Lyndon Johnson knew when he pushed for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that white southerners would defect from the Democratic party for a generation. Fifty years later, the results may be even worse than even the savvy LBJ foresaw. The Democrats have been outmaneuvered by the Republicans in every conceivable way, and the consequences will likely be felt for decades, generations to come—and not in a good way. Non pro bono publico.

We strongly recommend that everyone interested in the survival of democracy in the United States read this concise overview of how Republicans have pursued a strategy of gaining power in states and in the U.S. House of Representatives. Their success is bad news for voting rights (minorities, students, the elderly), for social services and the social safety net, and just about every aspect of civic life in this country: reproductive choice, immigration reform, workers’ safety or veterans’ health care; investment in infrastructure; funding for education and the arts, for food inspection, air traffic safety, etc. Edsall’s piece is an epitome—a portrait in miniature—of some aspects of the same systematic dismantling by radical conservatives of the nation’s social and economic order that was held together by the New Deal and the Great Society detailed in Hedrick Smith’s powerful 2012 book Who Stole the American Dream?, due out soon in paperback. (See below for a list of Edsall’s books.)

(more…)
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A Return to Literacy Tests? Take This.

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

How Many White Folks Does It Take to Pass a Jim Crow ‘Brain-Teaser’?

With the Supreme Court’s June 25 decision in Shelby County v. Holder overturning Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and with Republican Jim Crow re-enactors “free at last” to get their electoral racism on, will the United States see a return of the literacy tests once used to block African Americans from voting? We fear they may. Within two days of the decision, two thirds of the states covered by Section 4—including the old Confederate states of Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Virginia—had already rolled out legislation to limit voter participation. ThinkProgress reports:

Less than 48 hours [after the Court’s ruling], six of the nine states that had been covered in their entirety under the law’s “preclearance” formula have already taken steps toward restricting voting. . . . many of which [would] have adverse effects on the abilities of minorities, young people, and the poor to exercise their right to vote

The page below is a word-processed version from a literacy test used in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, in 1964, published by Slate, from the archives of the Civil Rights Movement Veterans. See “Louisiana Literacy Test and How It Worked to Deny Black Voting Rights” by a volunteer in the Freedom Summer of 1964, sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

Try it. See how well you would fare on this test, and on the pages that follow. Remember, “One wrong answer denotes failure on the test.” Good luck!

 

La.Lit-Test1

 



The Strategy Behind “Voter Fraud”

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Conservative “founding father” Paul Weyrich explains long lines in Ohio, Florida, etc.

“Now many of our Christians have what I call the ‘goo-goo syndrome.’ Good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”Paul Weyrich, a founding father of the conservative movement, 1980

“We are different from previous generations of conservatives . . . We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structure of this country.” —Paul Weyrich, 1984

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Read Meteor Blades’s article at Daily Kos—“Paul Weyrich wanted fewer people to vote for a simple reason: When more do, Republicans lose”—and Josh Glasstetter’s at Right Wing Watch:

The right wing and GOP have whipped up hysteria around voter fraud, which is virtually non-existent, in order to justify roadblocks to voting for millions of Americans. I’ll let Paul Weyrich explain why.

Weyrich is widely regarded as the “founding father of the conservative movement.” He founded ALEC and co-founded the Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority, Council for National Policy, and Free Congress Foundation, among others.

Keep reading—and see the video—at Right Wing Watch.

See also Ari Berman’s “Voter Suppression: The Confederacy Rises Again” (The Nation, 9/4/12)

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