Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The March of History Isn't Supposed to Go Backwards

I was born in 1970.  Five years before, the nation passed a Voters Rights Act that ended a century of Jim Crow discrimination denying a sizable portion of our population from the God-given self-evident right to vote.

I didn't read up on history that much until high school, about 1984-85, around the 20-year anniversary.  They had it in the high school textbooks, which basically makes it ancient history to high schoolers.  For all I've known, the right to vote was meant to be as universal as possible regardless of race or gender (age being the only limiter with the 26th Amendment).

From all that I've studied on history - the slow, sometimes messy, march of ideas and ideologies towards an enlightened liberty and freedom of expression - I've rarely seen any situation where rights, once given, were later taken away.  The only times from what I saw was the Jim Crow era that took away the Black Man's right to vote for 100 years... and even then the VRA did away with that.  The rights came back, and it's been like that my whole life.

And now, I'm dreading that the rights are getting taken away again.  Something that shouldn't be happening.

The conservatives on the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that a key provision of the VRA - Section 4, which provided metrics on what parts of the nation (Deep South states and key counties) had to get federal pre-clearance on any drastic changes to voting laws - was unconstitutional.  It basically neuters Section 5 (the authority of the Justice Department to act) until Congress ever decides to draw up a replacement metrics system that would pass Court's approval.  And considering the wingnut-controlled House and filibuster-stalled Senate, that will not happen.

My online friends among the Horde are mostly up in arms.  I'm upset as well.  Having witnessed just recently the Republican-controlled Florida government doing their damnedest in 2012 to deny people the right to vote - taking away early voting days, shutting down precincts, trying to pass a strict voter-photo ID bill, forcing county supervisors to purge voter rolls - I am well aware of how close we are to having one of our key rights - the right to vote, as sacred a right as free speech and right to assemble - taken away.  And not just the minorities like Blacks and Hispanics getting denied the right to vote through some complicated redistricting gerrymandering designed to hit ethnics, but poor people of every ethnicity (and a lot of women to boot) denied because they can't afford a photo ID, or college students denied because they tend to relocate often without a primary residence from which to vote.

For all the bad times I've seen our nation go through in my lifetime, I have never seen a moment where the march of history stepped backwards.  We're back to 1950 now, fighting the same damn fight to get people their self-evident right of equality before the law, their self-evident right to speak up and choose their representation, their self-evident right to be Americans.  And if it keeps going like this we'll be back to 1850 and what that all entails.

I hope to God this has the adverse reaction the goddamn Far Right Wingnuts expect: I hope to God this brings out the moderate voters in droves this midterms - the ones who usually don't show up when there's no President to choose - to vote the goddamn Republicans out of office and vote in people who will actually make government work and vote a new VRA into place.

That still hasn't been taken away: getting out the vote.  Not yet.  So there's work to be done.  Getting people registered right now no matter what.  GET IT DONE, PEOPLE.  Get EVERYONE registered right fucking now.  And get the goddamn vote out against the goddamn wingnuts.  Pardon my Swedish.


J Neo Marvin said...

Question for anyone with better understanding of the legal language than me:

How about, rather than targeting certain historically discriminatory states or localities, we apply the "preclearance" rule to every jurisdiction in the country? Wouldn't that circumvent the court decision AND protect voting rights everywhere they are being challenged?

Paul W said...

To do that, we'd need Congress to pass a law on it. Given that Congress is both 1) coping with a filibuster-stalled Senate and 2) coping with a Far Right-controlled House filled with Republicans screaming about non-existent voter fraud, we're not going to see that in the foreseeable future. It'd be nice to have that - preferably a constitutional amendment that flat out protects everyone's right to vote (oddly enough, the 15th and 19th amendments only go so far, a full universal right isn't established) - but not right now.

CrankyOtter said...

Women's lib is heading straight for 1913... I'd be all over reforming/eradicating the war on drugs and cruel prison sentences but we keep getting dragged back into these fights that *should be* already won, the right to bodily autonomy chief among them.

I think of history more as a constrained pendulum or slinky. We undershoot ideality by a lot. We fix it so it's better (may be "more than" ideal or "not quite" ideal, but definitely better), then people come out in force to rail against the changing of the guard. The pendulum swings back. Not quite as far as before, but definitely moving the wrong way. When it's bad enough, the fight comes back and it swings toward better. Maybe by a little, maybe by a lot.

The long arm of justice bends toward liberty with a high pass filter on it. Take out the low pass data and it swings back and forth all the time. Doesn't mean it's not frustrating as all get out, but it does mean we have to fight the same fight over and over.