Alabama Surge Does Not Change the Story on Voter Suppression

Gulfport   Voter suppression is a mark of shame in a democracy. In fact, it beggars the question of whether a democracy exists at all. The principle of any democracy has to be a maximum effort to provide access to all eligible voters to the polls in order to exercise their franchise and give voice to their opinions on the direction of the country and its leadership.

There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. Any part of the political establishment’s attempts to suppress the free expression of voters at the ballot box is anti-democratic. Period. There are no two ways about it. It’s not just politics, it’s an attempt to erode the fundamental values of the country.

A headline in the New York Times read, “Black Turnout in Alabama Complicates Debate Over Voting Laws.” Baloney! The fact that African-American voters were able to overwhelm the obstacles imposed by voter suppression and voter ID requirements does not complicate the debate whatsoever. What was wrong is still wrong. That doesn’t change just because people were able in this one instance to climb over the barriers successfully. The exception simply proves the rule in the Alabama race. Furthermore, as everyone from Republican Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell on down in the anti-voter Republican Party has said, this is a one-time thing in Alabama. How many times can voters find themselves confronted with political choices that are so utterly Manichean with good and evil presented in such stark contrasts? With voter suppression in place, and even more comprehensive in a host of other states, like Texas, a merely bad and terrible Republican would have had a good chance of winning, where the face of evil only lost by less than 2%.

The founder of Alabama’s Black Votes Matter was quoted saying, “Historically and traditionally, there has been a strong voice of resistance to those that are undemocratic,” she said. “I don’t think that this is new; I think that has always been the role that black voters, particularly in the Deep South, have played.” She’s right up to a point. Southern and, frankly, non-Southern states have been suppressing black votes for hundreds of years. I just finished reading a book called, The 1868 St. Bernard Parish Massacre: Blood in the Cane Fields, by Cris Dier, who presented it at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse recently. It was the horrific story of more than 100 African-Americans killed in a parish abutting New Orleans in the effort to suppress the post-Civil War Reconstruction voting base of the Republicans.

My point: suppression is suppression. Violence is of course worse, but so is trickery and legal shenanigans when the purpose is the same.

I worry about the Times on this beat and not just because of the headline. Hardly a week before the election they ran a story that essentially argued that African-American voters were not engaged and were ho-humming the whole affair, didn’t know Doug Jones, didn’t care about Roy Moore, and we’re sleep walking the election. Then a week later they are arguing that voter suppression didn’t work therefore the discussion about state by state efforts to suppress voters is now “complicated.”

We’re living in different realities in the United States for sure, but at the point we can’t even consistently agree of bedrock democratic values, the debate is over, and the country has lost.

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DACA Disgrace

New Orleans   When Jeff Sessions was a Senator in Alabama, he was pretty easy to ignore. Just one of a hundred, a voice in the back of the room where he could be easily ignored, especially if you didn’t live in Alabama. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the other hand is a very, very scary dude and impossible to overlook.

He didn’t announce the new Trump administration policy on the Dreamers and DACA so much as he spit it out. These were no longer children brought unwittingly to the United States by their parents from other countries who had no say in the matter, hardly knew their birthplaces, and did their best to love America and make it their home. In Sessions snarl, these were “illegal aliens.” They were potential terrorists. The program was unconstitutional. Hundreds of thousands of them were stealing jobs from the native born, real Americans.

It hardly matters that none of what he was saying is substantiated or really true. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA is currently covering 800,000 young people. Potential security risks and terrorists? In order to win DACA status all of these young people had to go through rigorous scrutiny, have degrees, be in school, and have job prospects. Unconstitutional? No court has so ruled, and the Justice Department offered no brief to support the claim. Taking jobs from the native born? Really, you think the DACA folks are pushing people aside to be chicken pluckers and farm hands? The estimated adverse economic impact of ejecting the promise of the Dreamers is $400 billion! These are not free loaders or job thieves, but good, solid young men and women trying to make America great again.

Speaking of chicken brings us to President Trump of course. You can hear him clucking far behind Sessions that he “loves” the Dreamers. He kicked the can over to Congress for six-months, because he is one President where the “buck never stops here” at his desk, if he can duck and cover beneath it and point the finger elsewhere. If this is what it means to be loved by the President, like his ex-wives, we should not want any of it but the alimony payments.

The DACA fight is not over. The Dreamers and all of us who support them won’t walk away or hide behind the door. They may end up in the shadows, but they are not there now. They are at risk absolutely, but their addresses and personal information are protected by privacy guarantees.

There will be consequences for Trump and his administration though. It has become clearer and clearer, despite any last hopes any of us might have had, that this is an administration willing to govern by only appealing to the 30 to 40% of the American people willing to support them. That may seem plausible in the first year of an administration, but just as winter is coming, so are elections in 2018 and 2020, and that base isn’t big enough to allow an administration and its policies to be sustainable.

We’ve got some tragically rough days ahead, but mark the calendar, our day is coming as one shameful decision after another is announced from the White House.

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Please enjoy Braindrain by SUN Parade.

Thanks to KABF.

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