February 26, 2021
Little Rock After four years of Twitter torture, I understand how people seem to be following every little cough and sneeze in Washington these days, crossing their fingers for this appointment, that bill, friends with other countries, smiles and not spits at collaborations around peace, climate, and more. Even when not exactly winning, it’s a relief. At the same time, make no mistake, if there was a call to join the resistance after Trump’s election, there is already an embedded resistance from Republicans in legislatures from state to state that is powerful and dangerous without bothering to knit pink hats or hit the street. It is easy to find examples of these grassroots political struggles everywhere.
In Georgia recently, I listened to reporters and lobbyists debating the range of voter repression bills introduced and moving through the legislature there. A bill that had advanced the farthest required a photocopy of a voter’s identification to secure a mail ballot, rather than simply having their signature matched to their voter registration was seen as a win, despite the burden it would put on poorer families without easy access to a copy machine who would be discouraged and disenfranchised. One after another talked about the fact that they could live with this, if this were the worst that emerged from the session. It wasn’t the old story about settling for half a loaf, but more a situation where they were arguing it was a deep wound, but not a fatal blow. Other bills in the hopper were even more draconian. There was a lot of discussion about when the crossover date might hit, when a bill had to move from one house to the other in order to have a chance to pass in the mandated limit for a forty-day session, hoping that some of the bad lot would die on the hard flip of the calendar.
In Arkansas, a board meeting for the radio station began with a heads up from one of our members that a bill had been introduced to make any collective bargaining or union recognition of public employees illegal. Mind you, there is no procedure that allows unions to be recognized now, whether local employees or state workers. For the most part, it just isn’t done. On the other hand, even though as rare as hen’s teeth, there are some limited agreements for city workers in Little Rock and for some school teachers here and there. Given the polarizing fights, place to place, about reopening schools, along with the rest of the economy, in Arkansas, just as elsewhere, the real target of this legislation it to get rid of any semblance of school workers ability to stand in the way.
There are close to 200 voting bills introduced in legislatures around the country to suppress the vote. Louisiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, one state after another, the examples are legion. The fights to just take the wounds, as long as they don’t kill, are happening at the grassroots level everywhere. We have to be careful that in keeping an eye on Washington, we don’t end up with worse trouble right under our noses and close to home.