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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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