The late Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist cut his political teeth suppressing the vote in Arizona. It was an issue at his confirmation hearings, but it didn't prevent his being seated.
One of the more under-reported stories about the stolen Florida presidential election of 2000 was the racist and partisan purging of legitimate voters, to suppress the Democratic vote count. And in Florida, it didn't end there.
In October 2004, Joe Conason wrote:
And in cities and states across the country, the cruder racist techniques are being revived again. In Florida, as Bob Herbert reported in the New York Times last summer, state officials sent armed officers into certain Orlando neighborhoods to scare elderly black registrants. In Kentucky, Nevada, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio, Republicans have planned to challenge voters en masse in minority neighborhoods. That return to the methods of the bad old days is the Republican response to the upsurge in minority registration -- and the enormous threat that Republican strategists perceive in those new voters. Last week, Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio summarized his findings in a report on the battleground states by noting that "minority turnout is a wildcard in this race and represents a huge upside for Senator Kerry and a considerable challenge for the President's campaign."
So despite all the blood and toil expended to expand American democracy over the past four decades, the right to vote and to be counted is still unfinished business for both sides.
We later found out that the Bush White House had been replacing U.S. attorneys for refusing to play along with their attempts to intimidate voters.
In 2007, the Republican Secretary of State of Louisiana purged tens of thousands of mostly minority voters, without going through proper procedures.
This year, groups tied to Koch Industries are continuing their efforts to suppress the vote in Wisconsin, where a champion of campaign reform may lose his Senate seat to a climate denier and enabler of pederasts.
Does anyone need to be reminded that women had to wait more than a century after this nation was founded before they were allowed to vote? Does anyone need to be reminded that nearly a century after the Fifteenth Amendment it still required a federal Voting Rights Act to help protect blacks who wanted to avail themselves of their basic Constitutional right to vote?
Opponents of progress have a long history of trying to suppress democracy. It's both racist and partisan. And it reflects their understanding that in completely fair and just electoral processes they most often lose. Their real agendas necessitate that people be distracted and confused and that money makes the world go around, but it also necessitates that as many people as possible be barred from participating in the political process.
The lesson here is obvious. We're hearing a lot about an enthusiasm gap. We know from the polling that if Democrats turn out in anything close to the usual numbers, this election will turn out much better than is being predicted. And if any apathetic voters need a little extra motivation, what could be more fun than once again turning the corporatist media's conventional wisdom upside down? Not to mention the potential profits to be made in popcorn futures, should the Republicans fail to win the House, and then commence cannibalizing themselves. But it's really about appreciating that however disappointing our leaders sometimes are, it's still our process, and our basic right, and the imperative that we continue to push forward, even if, at times, dishearteningly incrementally.
The Republicans want you to stay home. They're counting on it. They know that many Democrats are disappointed in the pace of progress, which is one of many reasons they worked so hard to obstruct it. Now they want to stop progress dead. An enthusiasm gap is their greatest joy. All the efforts they make to suppress the Democratic vote are as trivial compared to the possibility of Democrats suppressing their own votes. If you don't avail yourself of your right to vote, you will be doing the Republicans' bidding. You will be doing their work for them.