Today in Pennsylvania, our Republican-controlled state legislature passed a voter-ID law designed to disenfranchise democrats. Republicans know that many low-income democrats lack the forms of ID that the law requires. Of course, the Rs want to knock them out so Obama loses Pennsylvania in November.
Last year I had to get my son a non-driver's picture ID from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The process took hours and hours even though we had all the required paperwork at hand. Make no mistake: literally thousands and thousands of voters will not be able to meet the requirements to get photo IDs without overcoming tough, time-consuming barriers. The Right is counting on the strong likelihood that many Democrats will just give up. This dagger through the heart of democracy in our state is an outrageous, illegal and unconstitutional abuse of power.The gloves are off and have been for some time. This is how it is now in America: The Right has no interest in policy discussions and convincing people through peaceful dialogue that their candidates have better ideas. Forget about reasoned discourse. Instead they have chosen the politics of naked aggression and brute force. Here's what the Republicans are saying: Hey you, poor people and people of color, we don't like how you vote. So here's what we're going to do. We're going to insult your integrity. We're going to legislatively punch you in the face and knock you out of the ballot box. We're going to erect harsh legal barriers to your civic participation and use the muscle of our government to dominate you and minimize your voice in the political process.
We have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves a serious question. Are we going to lie down and take this??? I say, to hell with that. Below the fold I offer a specific idea about how to fight back. We need to move beyond complaining and demonstrating to strategic action. We need to use this stark injustice to gain momentum.
Democrats must respond to voter suppression by organizing the biggest voter registration and GOTV campaign in American history. The campaign will not only register voters. It will not only make sure they have IDs. It will go further: Educate them about exactly how this latest right-wing assault on low-income voters fits into the sordid history of voter suppression. Help the disenfranchised become passionate, life-long voters who never sit out another election.
Painstaking political organizing at the grassroots level is the only effective cure for what ails us at this moment. Our strategy:
1. We use their own voter suppression law against them as an organizing platform, connecting the act of voting in this specific election to the Civil Rights movement itself, showing that the tactics and purposes of their voter suppression law are the same as those used after the Civil War to suppress the votes of poor minorities.
2. The new Pennsylvania law allows voters to use student IDs issued by accredited public and private higher learning institutions. We can use this to our advantage. We find an academic partner to create a short course -- a fifteen minute viral video about the history of voter suppression in America and the importance of political participation. The course will help citizens learn about the injustice of laws that make it more difficult for people to vote. Under the auspices of our accredited higher learning partner, people who register for the course will receive Student IDs that allow them to vote. They might look something like this. Those who complete the course will become instructors who pass on the course to others, issuing additional Student IDs in the process. This system will become viral as the course encourages waves of citizens to get their IDs, make plans to vote, and reach out to yet other voters who need IDs. We must develop an online strategy for this component and also employ a network of community-based partners: churches, CBOs and small businesses. In every state that has these laws, we need a viral campaign to get people their IDs that frames the act of getting your ID and voting in this specific election as an act of protest against those who would suppress the vote.
3. In this way we will transform a Republican-led attack using the nuclear missile of voter suppression into the biggest voter turnout in history. I want a T-shirt that says, "The Republicans tried to take away my vote, and when I voted, I told them to go to hell." Or maybe, "I'll give up my vote when you can take it from my cold, dead hands." Or substitute other appropriate words to express your anger at this outrageous attempted injustice.
Listen: It's not enough for us to be pissed off and rant. We can't just wail and march about this. It is time to act: swiftly, decisively, effectively.
We cannot stand by and do nothing while the Republicans turn our legislative process into a flagrant instrument of oppression.
Nietzsche: What does not kill me makes me stronger.
Gandhi: Be the change you want to see in the world.
King: No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
7:10 PM PT: Thanks so much to all who recommended... this is my first visit on the recommended list!
7:14 PM PT: I have a meeting with a University President Sunday night to pitch the idea; wish me luck.