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As of this writing some 30 US states require some form of identification, beyond the voter registration card, in order to vote.  The first of these voter indentification laws were passed in 2003, but the majority have come into affect since the election of President Barack Obama.  The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School conducted a recent study which shows ten of these state's laws are so repressive that they will have a dramatic chilling effect on the 2012 election: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

This is nothing short of a full-throated attempt to re-impose Jim Crow-style laws that inhibit the rights of the poor, African Americans, Hispanics, and even senior citizens to cast their vote.  

The following is from a July 18 Chicago Tribune story on the Brennan Center's report:

About one-quarter of African Americans, 16 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of Americans over age 65 do not have the type of ID that the voting laws require, the Brennan Center report said.


The report said that more than 10 million eligible voters live more than 10 miles from the nearest full-time state ID-issuing office. About 500,000 of them do not have access to a vehicle, and most live in rural areas with limited public transportation, the report said.


"What this report demonstrates is the potential impact on voters and possibly some potential impact on the upcoming election," said Keesha Gaskins, a co-author of the report. "We really are talking about a population of individuals that really could influence the outcome."

The highest proportion of those affected by the new laws are African Americans, a key component of President Obama's base.  Mitt Romney's polling with African Americans is comically low - often only garnering a mere 1% of support in national polls.  In point of fact, the only demographic block Romney leads with is white males.  The attempts being made to suppress the vote in these states is more than just about an attempt to maintain or expand Republican power - they are attempts, as well, to maintain America's white hegemony.  

I am, by profession, a historian.  I wrote my MA thesis on the rise of Jim Crow in the state of Texas.  Most Americans don't realize that after the Civil War - during the period known as Reconstruction - African Americans were fully enfranchised.  They could and did vote and many were elected to prominent political offices.  It was only through time, with the tacit approval of the federal government and Supreme Court, that throughout the South laws were passed that literally stripped blacks of their citizenship.  Not only were the races segregated publically, laws were passed, ranging from literacy tests to poll taxes, that prevented African Americans from voting.  When they insisted on voting anyway, they were often met on their way to the polls by agents of organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.  

It was not until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that African Americans again became fully enfranchised.  However, as we see above, disenfranchisement is once again on the rise.  And, for that matter, so is segregation.  The Harvard Civil Rights Project concluded that school desegregation peaked in 1988.  With the coming of "white flight" to suburban areas, Harvard found that racial segregation in schools is now at its highest point since 1968.  

Though the United States has elected its first black president, this nation still has a very serious race problem.  It's more hidden, now, than it was only a few decades ago, when Richard Nixon proclaimed his famous Southern Strategy.  Make no mistake about it - these voter ID laws are a part of a racially motivated political strategy.  We saw a clear example of this in Bob Ehrlich's 2010 run for Maryland governor on the GOP ticket.  One of his political consultants stated:  "the first and most desired outcome is voter suppression", in the form of having "African-American voters stay home."  Behind closed doors, the advocates of this strategy openly admit what they're doing.  

The University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication performed a recent study to determine the link between attitudes about race and support for voter ID laws.  They determined that the higher one's "racial resentment," the more ardently they supported the laws.  Further, the study shows that liberals are not exempt from racial resentment simply as a virtue of their politics.  

From Science Daily:

The survey reveals strong partisan and ideological divisions on racial resentment. Republicans and conservatives have the highest "racial resentment" scores, and Democrats and liberals have the lowest; Independents and moderates are in the middle. In addition, Democrats and liberals are least supportive of voter ID laws, whereas Republicans and conservatives are most supportive. The link between "racial resentment" and support for such laws persists even after controlling for the effects of partisanship, ideology, and a range of demographic variables.


Here, CPC researchers found an interesting pattern in the data: it is Democrats and liberals whose opinions on voter ID laws are most likely to depend on their racial attitudes. Republicans and conservatives overwhelmingly support voter ID laws regardless of how much "racial resentment" they express. In contrast, Democrats and liberals with the highest "racial resentment" express much more support for voter ID laws than those with the least resentment.

The Left, itself, is not immune to racism nor is it immune to supporting policies which aid the preservation of white hegemony.  The great Phil Ochs famously mocked this tendency in the lyrics to his song "Love Me, Love Me, I'm a Liberal":
I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I'm glad the commies were thrown out
of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
as long as they don't move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal
The recent activities to suppress the vote are not an accident.  They're done on purpose and the supporters of these initiatives know exactly what they're doing.  Many of these voter ID laws were written by the Tea Party-loving American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Such laws are an attempt to "take the country back" to a model that prevents "the Other" from gaining political power in the face of the inevitable march of demographic shift.  White Americans will not remain the majority for much longer and, as a result, we can expect a more diverse population of political representatives.  That is, of course, unless those who express the sentiments of "racial resentment" are unsuccessful at securing power through what is nothing less than a new kind of American apartheid.  

Thus far, the Mitt Romney presidential campaign seems the be cheefully going along with stoking American voters' race resentment.  Of course Romney's remarks at the NAACP are a key example.  But he has been more explicit on the stump of late, stating the following: "The course we`re on right now is foreign to us. It changes America" and "This idea of criticizing and attacking success, of demonizing
those in all walks of life who have been successful, is something which is
so foreign to us, we simply can`t understand it."

Earlier in the week, Romney surrogate John Sununu stated: "I wish this president would learn how to be an American."

This is an odd statement coming from Mr. Sununu, himself born in Cuba to parents from Palestine and El Salvador.  Mr. Romney himself is proud of his own family's Mexican heritage and is even running ads in Spanish language media touting it.  

The word "foreign" in this sense, means something different.  Though Mr. Romney and Mr. Sununu have personal heritages as diverse as President Obama's - Romney and Sununu are, of course, white.  This talk of foreignness and un-Americanism is directed at those who have dark skin, capitalizing, in coded language, on that spirit of racial resentment expressed above in the CPC poll.  

The election of 2012 is about more than just who will be leading our country for the next four years, but the way in which it is going to be led.  Do we want to live in a nation where states can suppress the votes of minorities who, by virtue of their swelling numbers, now have very real power?  Do we want a federal justice system and an appointed Attorney General who turns a blind eye to enforcing the Civil Rights Act?  Are we willing to allow our own uncomfortableness with "the Other" to influence our support for laws that can disenfranchise our fellow Americans?  

This is a very real series of conversations that need to be had and these discussions need to be framed in the correct historical context: the politics of race and the attempted disenfranchisement of minorities in order to maintain American white supremacy.  


Originally posted to CrazyHorse on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 06:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community, White Privilege Working Group, Barriers and Bridges, and LatinoKos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

    by CrazyHorse on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 06:00:45 AM PDT

  •  Yes - this is the new jim crow (11+ / 0-)

    the bottom line for us all is the vote. Which is why so many groups are trying to stave off disenfranchisement efforts by registering more voters of color, and taking legislatures who have put these laws into effect to court.


    "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now". Rev. William Barber, If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 06:10:49 AM PDT

  •  This won't influence the presidential race. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CrazyHorse, MKSinSA, JGibson

    Romney will carry the armpit of America going away.

    Where it will hurt - seriously - is down ballot.  And, were it not for the prospect of Willard Mitt appointing Supreme Court justices, that would be at least as important.

    If Obama is president he will "repeal and replace" what Romney would have done to the Supreme Court, and even if the GOP takes the House and the Senate, he will be the ultimate obstacle to their brown shirt legislation - assuming of course there are enough Dems left in the congress to prevent veto overrides.

    Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

    by ZedMont on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 06:13:43 AM PDT

    •  Pennsylvania (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cotterperson, OnlyWords, swansong50

      I am worried about Penn is a serious way.  Getting an ID in that state is a pain already - the new voter ID law makes it worse. It is a state Obama needs.  Their new voter ID law stretches the margin by which he needs to win and forces the need for a much stronger GOTV in that state.

      But, yes, you are correct.  Down ballot voting is where this is really going to hurt.  A state like Texas literally must have laws like this on the books to hold their conservative congressional delegation together.  

      No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

      by CrazyHorse on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 06:18:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're right. Wasn't thinking about Pennsylvania. (0+ / 0-)
        A state like Texas literally must have laws like this on the books to hold their conservative congressional delegation together.
        Actually, these Dominionist inbreds have laws like this on the books so it will be much easier to disenfranchise the entire Democratic party once they worm their way into every branch of government (they're almost there, if you noticed).

        Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

        by ZedMont on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 11:55:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Senator Paul from KY has expressed his (5+ / 0-)

    opinion that we do not need civil rights laws.  He is fully OK with businesses having the right to refuse to serve non white customers.  Republicans are fine with government having control over women's reproductive rights. Republicans are fine with telling schools what to teach our children.  Voter suppression is not happening in a vacuum, it is part of an across the board effort to roll back civil rights for anyone who is not a rich, white, straight, fundamental Christian man.

    “when Democrats don’t vote, Democrats don’t win.” Alan Grayson

    by ahumbleopinion on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 06:42:22 AM PDT

  •  Department of labor special report (0+ / 0-)

    Hispanics are within a half a percent of whites for participating in the labor force.

    You need photo ID to work or even if you are self-employed; you need photo ID to set up a bank account and I think to obtain permits and business licenses.

    Most Hispanics (especially where I live) have been harassed by the police or know someone who has.  So it's probably a good idea to carry ID.

  •  Our challenge is to live up to our promises. (4+ / 0-)

    There is no question that these "voter id" laws are a modern day poll tax.  It is the first salvo to bring back Jim Crow.

    Most Americans don't realize that after the Civil War - during the period known as Reconstruction - African Americans were fully enfranchised.  
    I cried when I watched the PBS program, Finding Your Roots.  In the segment following Cory Booker and John Lewis we learn in 1866 Representative Lewis' ancestor (a former slave) was registered to vote in Alabama.  A right denied Lewis' ancestors for the next 100 years!

    Whenever I come across someone who just doesn't get the race issue, I point them to another PBS series, RACE - The Power of Illusion.  It is one of the most succinct explanations about race in America.  I send out copies as Christmas presents to my uninformed acquaintances.

  •  Several other things you could well have added: (4+ / 0-)

    1.   The effect on disabled people, many of whom don't drive.  Obviously it would be more diffcult to obtain not only the ID but the supporting documents.

    2.  Many people of Latino/Portugese/Brazilian descent express their names in several different styles, for example using maternal as well as paternal surnames. If the names on documents do not match up exactly, these folks will be subject to a challenge.

    3.  Low income people tend to move more frequently that middle- and upper- income homeowners.  Even those with drivers licences find it difficult to correct the address, as they lack time to visit the licence office, and may not have computers to do this on line.

    4.  The discretionary powers given to local officials.  Voting rules may seem neutral, but are subject to wide variations in interpretation and enforcement.

    Back in the 60's the late Art Buchwald wrote a great piece where a Black PHD was made to jump through hoops to pass a literacy test, being rejected when he made a minor error translating a Dead Sea scroll.  He was followed by a white man who was approved for spelling "cat" with a K.

    "I never let my schooling interfere with my education." - Mark Twain

    by brae70 on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 07:07:43 AM PDT

  •  good diary! Plz fix typo in 2nd sentence (0+ / 0-)

    The word you want is effect not affect.

    And yes, this rollback of civil rights is frightening.  I'm glad you compared it to the disenfranchisement that occurred after Reconstruction.

    In capitalist America, bank robs you!

    by madhaus on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 08:06:07 AM PDT

  •  Fine Diary, CrazyHorse, But You Need To Correct (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brae70, MKSinSA, CrazyHorse, swansong50


    In point of fact, the only demographic block Romney leads with is white males.
    According to Quinnipiac's July 11th Poll, Romney also leads Obama with White women, 50 - 38 (he leads Obama with White men 55 - 34). This is nothing new as not once in the ten presidential elections since 1972 has the Democratic candidate won more than 48% of the White woman vote, while the RepubliKlan candidate has won more than 48% of the White woman vote 8 times.

    So I would say, instead, that

    In point of fact, the only demographic block Romney leads with is White people.
    That is, if you want to be factually correct. Let's not forget that in 2008, 53% of White women voted for PaleInsanity, and in 2010, 58% of White women voted for the TeaBigots.

    To keep it simple, whenever one discusses politics and race, just remember this.

    I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party.

    by OnlyWords on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 08:09:54 AM PDT

  •  You make several good points here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and I have particular appreciation for two of them:

    1) Progress in civil rights can be (and has been) rolled backwards, and

    2) The way to boil a frog is to turn up the heat one infinitesimal fraction of a degree at a time. Today photo ID's; tomorrow "qualification tests" and poll taxes...

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