Tag Archives: 1965 Voting Rights Act

So This Is Who We Have?

“I don’t make jokes.  I just watch the government and report the facts.”

Will Rogers

Both the 2020 Democratic and Republican National Conventions have come to an end, and I couldn’t be happier.  Last week former Vice-President Joe Biden accepted the Democrat’s nomination for president, while Sen. Kamala Harris accepted the vice-presidential role.  And, over the last few days, incumbent President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence accepted their respective nominations from the GOP.  Aside from watching these political love fests conclude, the only thing that excites me more about this entire process is that the demise of the 2020 presidential race is in sight.  I feel even more disenfranchised than I did four years ago.

Okay, one other thing that truly excites me is the prospect that Donald Trump will be voted out of office in November.  But I have to concede that I’m not too thrilled with the idea of a Biden presidency.  Joe Biden was good as vice-president, but I feel less secure with him in the role of Chief Executive.  I’m certain, though, he’ll be much better than Trump.  Hell, a stray dog would be better than Trump!

In 2016 I voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.  A physician, Stein had been the Green Party’s candidate four years earlier.  I knew Iceland would see 80-degree temperatures on Christmas Day before Stein would win the U.S. presidency.  But I didn’t like either Trump or the Democratic choice of Hillary Clinton.  Clinton supporters blamed people like me for Clinton’s loss in 2016.  But we didn’t cause Hillary Clinton to lose the 2016 presidential election.  Hillary Clinton caused Hillary Clinton to lose the 2016 presidential election.  Her and the Russians.  As we now know, Russia essentially elected Trump; just like the U.S. Supreme Court elected George W. Bush in 2000.  America’s role as the beacon of democracy seems to have been shredded over the past 20 years.

I just never liked Hillary Clinton.  I loved Bill (Whose Your Daddy?) Clinton, but I never took a liking to Hillary.  By 2016, she had acquired top much baggage; more baggage than a Samsonite warehouse or a Lufthansa flight fresh in from Berlin.

And I definitely didn’t like Trump.  Donald Trump had been running for president for some 30 years by the time he made it official in 2015.  The idea had arisen back in the 1980s, when his name and persona first became public, and much of the nation had grown enamored with the concept of rapid-fire wealth and public prestige.  As AIDS and cocaine rampaged, many in the U.S. found the likes of Trump appealing.  He survived the collapse of the financial industry related to the savings-and-loan crisis and the string of high-profile prosecutions that ensued.  It seemed there was a price to pay for fiduciary recklessness.  No one knew at the time, though, that Trump was actually a womanizing failed businessman and tax cheat.  We know that well enough now.  But he’s president.  And, as another massive health crisis grips the nation and the world, we see how incompetent and ineffective Donald Trump really is.

I’m sure Joe Biden can do better.  But I keep thinking Biden should have called it a political life after his vice-presidency ended in January of 2017.  He should have retired to his estate in Delaware to consult on other political campaigns, give speeches and write books.  He’d served his time in office; he’d done his duty.

For the Democratic Party, the 2020 presidential campaign had started with high promises and an extraordinarily bright future.  The field of candidates was the most diverse that had ever existed among any political party.  But, by March, we’d ended up with two old White guys: Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders.  Kind of like the Republican Party.  And I say this with all due respect to old White men.  I mean, I’m a mostly White man myself – in the golden days of middle age.  And, as I’ve declared before, White men aren’t the nexus of evil in America they’re often portrayed to be.  But I personally had hoped Sen. Elizabeth Warren would be the Democrats’ choice.  I would definitely be more excited with her at the head of the ticket.

As usual, there has been no real mention of either the Green or Libertarian Parties.  They’ve essentially been locked out of the convention hall – again.  And Americans are overwhelmed by the demagoguery of the Democratic and Republican Parties – again.  Indeed, the U.S. is becoming less and less like a democracy and more like an oligarchy.  Does my vote – or the vote of any individual – truly count?  Throughout the year the U.S. has seen covert attempts by the Trump Administration to thwart the right to vote – one of the foundational pillars of any free society.  That’s typical of social and political conservatives.  While the Republican Party of the 19th century pushed for the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it was the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that propelled many conservatives into the arms of the GOP.  Recent efforts to enforce voter identifications, calls for limiting early voting days and ongoing battles to undermine mail-in voting prove that conservatives – the ones who will move Heaven and Earth to protect their sacred gun rights – will do anything possible to circumvent the voting process.

And here we are: stuck with two old men who represent more of America’s past than its future.  I was enthralled with Bill Clinton and I liked Barack Obama.  Yet, I just can’t bring myself to get excited with the current campaign.

My two biggest fears?  If Trump is reelected, the nation will descend further into social chaos and economic madness.  If Biden is elected, he may die in office, which will send the nation into equally unending chaos.

I know I will vote nonetheless.  People have fought and died for this right – even within the past 100 years.  There are literally millions of people across the globe who would relish the chance to choose between the lesser of two or three evils.  The people of Belarus certainly wish they had that opportunity now.  Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic and a rash of voter suppression tactics, I will stand in line to select a candidate for the U.S. presidency.  It’s my right and my obligation.  Besides, I have nothing else to do two days before my 57th birthday.

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Vote Like It Counts

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One of the many elements that came out of the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” was a loud call for the United States to honor its commitment to voting.  People here often don’t think much about it, but voting is a critical factor in any democracy.  If you look at what’s happening in Syria right now, I’m certain a number of that country’s citizens wish they had the luxury of just voting, or impeaching, Bashar al-Assad right out of office.

A positive effect of the March on Washington was the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed that the U.S. would uphold that right for every proper citizen to cast one vote for the candidate of their choice.  It struck down poll taxes and literacy tests; measures often used, particularly in the Southeast, against non-Whites and poor people.  Why don’t people take this seriously?

I’m especially concerned after a report showing my beloved home state of Texas ranks 51st, after the District of Columbia, in voter turnout.  On average, declares the Texas Civic Health Index, only about a third of eligible voters in the nation’s second-most populous state make a concerted effort to vote.  I think that explains why Texas looks to be a blood-red bastion of far-right lunatics.  It’s why Rick Perry has been able to hold onto the governorship like the Pope and why Ted Cruz easily won a Senate seat last year, despite his extremist views.

The state’s Democratic Party hopes to turn its political establishment a striking royal blue.  I personally don’t want to see Texas metamorphose into another California or Illinois where extreme taxation and heavy regulations drive away businesses.  But, I definitely don’t want it to remain mired in crimson red.  A nice fuchsia would be more palatable, but I’m not a color maven.

The study noted – not surprisingly – that people with higher levels of education are more likely to vote.  Thus, it recommended improving civic literacy through education, starting at the grade school level.  But, recent cuts by the Texas legislature in education funding may make that challenging.  Conservative state officials moved Heaven and Earth to ban abortion, but don’t have too much concern for those children once they reach school.  Hence, the need for voting.

It’s actually an embarrassment.  I’ve made a concerted effort to vote in every major state and national election since 1992.  Obviously, I haven’t always seen the results I’d like – but, at least I tried to make a difference.

Low voter turnouts appears to be a national trend.  Last year only some 57.5% of eligible voters made it to the polls; lower than in the 2 previous elections, but surpassing the dismal rate of 54.2% set in 2000.  Critics at the time liked to point out that more people voted in “American Idol” than in the 2000 presidential elections.  When you realize that, in 2012, Mexican voters turned out at a rate of 62.45% – despite the omnipresent threats of violence and endemic corruption – it certainly speaks poorly of Americans.

Voting is like budgeting: you just can’t let things go and hope for the best.  It requires work and patience.  It’s what any civilized society – not just the United States – is all about.  It’s the foundation of democracy.  It really does count.

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Stupid Quote of the Week #1

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“Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this.  I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement.  It’s been written about.  Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, during oral arguments about the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the Act because of a lawsuit brought by Shelby County, Alabama.  Attorneys for Shelby County claim that the Act has essentially worn out its welcome because the nation has a biracial president and plenty of non-Caucasians in positions of power.  If it isn’t for the fact that the state of Alabama has a vitriolic history of voter suppression and intimidation, the lawsuit might have some validity.  But, the images of White police officers beating Black people protesting for their right to vote keeps swinging through my mind.  Despite the election of Obama, some Republican-dominated districts have made an attempt in recent years to reconfigure some areas that could ensure GOP wins.  Many of these areas are in the Southeastern U.S. where – if anyone has done their research – racial discrimination was more entrenched just a half century ago.  Selma, Alabama is the site of one of the most vicious attacks on unarmed citizens by police in U.S. history.

It doesn’t surprise me that Scalia would make such a statement.  As far as I know, he’s never experienced firsthand the feeling of a water hose against his face just because he wanted to be treated as a human being.  Then again, neither have I.  But, the Voting Rights Act and its predecessor, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, were meant to ensure that.  I guess Scalia – sitting up on his ivory throne – still hasn’t figured that out.

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