Since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, nothing is stopping politicians from disenfranchising poor, elderly, and student voters.
The Deep South of 2013 is not the Deep South of 1963. That much is obvious to anyone who has bothered to visit. There are no places segregated by law; water fountains are few and far between, let alone segregated. That doesn’t mean racism is completely washed from the soil below the Mason-Dixon, but apparently, no one has told the Supreme Court. The decision to de-claw the Voting Rights Act reflects a naivete that one would not expect from the highest judges in the United States.
The legislators and executives of the states comprising the former Confederacy are probably, on the whole, decent people- as decent as Northern politicians, at least. The difference is that the Southern politicians know racism in a much different way. Alabama governor Robert Bentley was twenty-one years old when the Voting Rights Act of 1964 was passed. When Gov. Bentley enrolled at the University of Alabama, the campus was lily-white. Former Governor George Wallace’s famous “Stand in the Schoolhouse Doors” would come in the summer preceding Bentley’s sophomore year.
That’s not to say that Governor Robert Bentley is a venom-spitting racist like George Wallace, but there’s a good chance that he and other Southern politicians of a similar age were raised by that ilk. Older politicians in The South (fifties and older) were likely raised by wolves and they’ve been given the run of the chicken coop.
More than that, disenfranchising black voters could only benefit Southern Republicans. Black voters vote for Democrats at an overwhelming majority. In the deeply red states, much is gained by containing the amount of Democrat voters into as few districts as possible. Southern states tend to have few major metropolitan areas (only two or three in Alabama) with large proportions of blacks. A state such as Alabama could feasibly combine large parts of the Black Belt with the city of Birmingham and reduce the majority of Alabama blacks into one solidly Democrat district. The other six districts would easily be held by Republicans. This sort of racial politics is not one of malice but of pragmatism. Now that the Supreme Court has crippled the Voting Rights Act, nothing stands in the way of this sort of Machiavellian politics.
Optimism (or naivete) seems to have written the majority decision on the Voting Rights Act. Time will tell how disastrous it proves to be, but it would be in the best interests of white Southern conservatives to return to disenfranchising blacks. I find that terrifying.
This week, North Carolina passed legislation that can only be called voter suppression. You can read a more substantial recount of the legislation here, but suffice it to say that there are no benevolent motives to be found. Some of the most damaging parts of the law are: A ban on paid voter registration drives, a week sliced off Early Voting, and a repeal of the current mandate for high-school registration drives. None of these provisions serves the people of North Carolina in any way other than discouraging young people and those occupied with kids and jobs from voting. The most significant assault on voting rights is an oldie but a goodie, a battle-tested right wing method to snuff out the vote: voter ID laws. These restrictive laws ban student IDs and out-of-state IDs. You know who has out-of-state IDs and student IDs? College students. Granted, there are always some College Republicans but they’re few and they’re generally derided; someone with access to his/her parents’ bank account doesn’t know much about ‘rugged individualism’. The majority of college students vote Democrat. Now, out-of-state students will be barred from voting in the North Carolina districts they live in.
Of the 318,000 registered voters who do not have proper identification, 55% are registered Democrats. I’m sure the ruling classes in much of the Old Confederacy are drafting similar legislation to secure their stranglehold on power.
This is not democracy. This is mob rule. This is two wolves and one sheep voting on whom to eat for dinner.
Photo- Flickr/Pablo Sanchez