By Malik Sekou OSEI and William PLEASANT
“The people who cast the votes don't decide an election, the people who count the votes do.”--Joseph Stalin
July 15, 2012
Perhaps Pres. Barack Obama's most freakish stage routine today is his leading role in de jure disenfranchisement of Blacks and the poor in general. Ironic? Actually, it is quite lawful at this historical juncture characterized by growing convulsive class antagonisms that are sweeping the world. How can it be that the Obama regime at once crows that it is passionately commited to expanding the voter pool of the US and ready-willing-able to mobilize the traditional Democratic Party base--Blacks, Latinos, labor unionists, the elderly and progressive whites--and at the same collaborate in the Republican Party's quite transparent nationwide campaign to drive the poor and the left from the ballot box?
The answer is political. Obama has side-stepped the fundamental issue of democratic rights and equality by engaging the pinata of Voter ID laws under the now moribund 1965 Voting Rights Act.
In the state of Texas there a was week-long trial on a new voter ID law that concluded with members of a three-judge federal court panel indicating they would uphold the federal Department of Justice and block the implementation of the law on the grounds that it has a discriminatory effect on minorities.
Obama's Justice Department presented a compelling 1965 Voting Rights Act case proving that Black people (the poor in general) are far more likely to lack the government-issued photo identification required to vote under the Texas law. One expert witness testified that 11-percent of white registered voters lacked the required ID, compared to 18-percent of Hispanic registered voters and 21-percent of black registered voters. A total of 1.5 million people of all races could have been denied the right to vote under the new Texas law.
Attorneys representing the Texas state government argued that the law would not have a “disproportionate” impact on Latino and African American voters and claimed that “only” 167,000 current voters would be disenfranchised by the new ID requirements. Predictably, the Texas legal team never bothered to bring a single state legislator nor executive official (overwhelmingly right wing Republicans) to the witness stand The reason was simple: They would be subjected to cross-examination by the federal lawyers. That would have of course put the Texans on the record stating that their reasons for snatching the ballot from minorities and the poor was purely a political ploy to keep non-whites from voting AGAINST REPUBLICANS, not preventing voter fraud, as the Lone Star ballot bandits pleaded.
The Texans did not challenge evidence that 80 of the state’s 200 counties have no location where photo IDs can be obtained, and that many residents would have to drive more than 120 miles (one way) to get such an identification card. They also went mum when it was pointed out that the IDs runs at least $22, a hardship, particularly onerous to the elderly and the poor.
At one point, Mr. Robert Hughes, one of the Texas state attorneys, stated that he also regarded literacy tests as permissible, although they were one of the primary KKK-driven tactics for excluding Black people from the ballot box for 90 years!. Literacy tests and poll taxes were supposedly permanently barred by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In other words, for the Texas Attorney General--circa 2012, "The hand that once had the right to pick a president can now get back to picking cotton!"
The Texan's case was so tranparently threadbare that it immdiately exposed the underlying national strategy of the Republican Party, namely to force an appeal in the US Supreme Court aimed at obliterating the 1965 Voting Rights Act altogether. Texas is one of 16 states required under the Voting Rights Act to obtain “clearance” by the federal Justice Department before any significant changes can be made to statewide or even county-level voting protocols.
Texas is not the only Republican-run state to have recently enacted voter ID requirements and other measures aimed at curbing voter registration and reducing the number of people able to vote, in the name of a fight against “vote fraud.” Voter fraud is merely a euphemism for the strong tendency for non-whites and their allies to reject Republican Party candidates. It is a very WHITE ELEPHANT, since there have been no significant nor documented patterns of voter impersonation, the type of fraud that could be forestalled by a photo ID requirement. For example: not a single person has been convicted in Texas for such an offense. The song remains the same in the other states that have pushed for voter supression.
In Michigan, according to a report by the Republican Secretary of State, out of nearly 1.2 million ballots cast in the February 28, 2012 presidential primary, there were half a dozen believed to have been ineligible to vote.
In Florida, where the state attempted to purge 182,000 people from the voter rolls by employing a dubious list of supposed “illegal aliens,” the number was first whittled down to 2,600, then to only 47, after press revelations that the “illegals” on the list included such individuals as the state’s former Republican governor, Rick Scott, a principal sponsor of the law, and a 91-year-old decorated veteran of World War II's Battle of the Bulge.
Since a reactionary 2008 US Supreme Court decree upholding a photo ID requirement for voting in Indiana, such measures have been adopted in a total of 17 states. The Justice Department has blocked implementation of these laws in Texas, Florida and South Carolina, relying on its powers under the Voting Rights Act. But in states that lie out side the jurisdiction of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, legal disenfranchisement of non-white voters is in full swing. By one estimate, as many as five million voters could be summarily driven from the polls by such laws on Election Day 2012..
For example: Pennsylvania's voter ID law takes effect for the first time in November. According to state officials, some 750,000 people, or nine percent of the state’s 8.2 million voters, do not have an acceptable ID card. In Philadelphia, the state’s largest city, which has a Black majority, that figure rises to 18-percent!
Pennsylvania's Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai openly confessed to the political purpose of the bill, declaring that voter ID “[I]s gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
The clear intent of these laws is to speed up the “vote suppression” tactics applied by the Republican Party in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, which included massive purges of Black and Latino voters from the registration lists in the name of eliminating felons and undocumented workers. The vast majority of those removed were, in fact, US citizens eligible to vote, whose democratic rights were denied in order to obtain an electoral advantage for the Republican Party's candidates..
Of course, the most egregious case of “vote fraud” in recent years was the stolen election of 2000, when Republican state officials in Florida intentionally suppressed turnout in African American precincts and then declared George W. Bush the victor by a 537-vote margin. When the Florida state Supreme Court ordered a full recount that threatened Bush’s supposed victory, the US Supreme Court intervened with its notorious Bush v. Gore decision.This crippled the vote re-count and the installed Bush in the White House. The Democratic Party surrendered to this attack on democratic rights, setting the stage for the anti-working class onslaught that has followed.
We have noted in earlier articles that the 2000 Supreme Court action and the decision by Democratic candidate Al Gore and the Democratic Party to accept the virtual coronation of Bush--who had actually lost the popular vote by a margin of nearly one million--demonstrated that there was no longer any significant constituency within the US ruling stratum for the defense of democratic rights.
Likewise, there is really no substance to the Obama regime's opposition to the voter supression campaign. Why did not the Justice Department subpoena the
Republican masterminds behind Texas disenfranchisement last week? Why did Obama's legal eagles merely argue against the Texas voter ID law on the basis of the 1965
Voting Rights Act--which applies almost exclusively to the former Confederacy--when voter supression is a nationwide phenomenon in 2012? It should be plainly clear that the 1965 Voting Rights Act is pathetically obsolete today. Doesn't the 19th Amendment of the US Constitution (1920), which granted euqal voting righs to males and females by extension grant the federal executive and legislative branches the absolute power to protect access to the ballot? It reads: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
Substitute "race" or "income level" or "geographic location" or "party affiliation" for "sex" and you can see our point. Does Obama support equal democratic rights for minorities and the poor. His Justice Department's performance in Texas leaves strong evidence that he is at most indifferent.
While the Democrats, for short-term electoral purposes, oppose the Republican attacks on voter turnout in minority areas, the Obama administration has in every other respect continued and accelerated the attacks on democratic rights carried out by the Bush administration, including stepped-up political surveillence on the American. Obama has effectively politically disarmed Blacks and other people of color through a highly sophisticate campaign by which the demands of minorities and poor are submerged in the politically neutral jargon of "Middle Class" shared self-interests. This bourgeois populism, propelled by the cultural nationalistic placebo of "Black faces in high places" has rendered Black political resistance to a mush of apologies for Obama's very open disdain for anything approaching a pro-Black or pro-working class political agenda, even of the mildest reformist specie.
Now is the time for a profound reality check:
“What” are the material and political interests of the Black community and the larger working class community?
Can Pres. Buckwheat, a representative of the American capitalist/imperialist system really have the same interests as the Black community and the working poor? There is, of course, the argument that we need to support the lesser (Obama) of the two evils. But where in Buckwheat's historical practice of the last four years have we seen him as anything other than evil? Buckwheat was simply the more efficient of the two evils.Let that sink in.
For Black people and the 99-percent in the US, history is on their side, but not time.