The guy on the ground there? He's a congressman today. Just sayin'.
The latest thing that happened was that a judge in Wisconsin on Super Tuesday issued a temporary injunction against that state's new voter-ID law that will keep the law from being used in Wisconsin's presidential primary election on April 3. However, the ongoing campaign of voter suppression around the country continues apace. It's important always to remember that none of this is happening by accident, that the fault in the system these laws are alleged to address does not really exist, and that this is actually a legacy of looking-forward-not-back. These various laws are a direct result of the U. S. Attorneys scandal during the administration of C-Plus Augustus. Local conservative pols in New Mexico, for example, wanted U.S. Attorney David Iglesias canned because he wouldn't pursue spurious voter-fraud claims with sufficient political enthusiasm. It was for this precise purpose that Karl Rove and the rest of the White House political team at the time sought to turn the Department Of Justice into a second-rate political chop-shop staffed by ambitious hacks and/or the product of Christianist diploma mills. Remember Monica Goodling? She was a prize. Because these people were allowed to skate without substantial penalties, the virus they loosed into the American political system was allowed to run wild in the states. There was no national consensus developed around the notion that voter-suppression is not a legitimate function of the government, not even when you try to gussy it up as some sort of consumer protection racket.
Nevertheless, it's clear that the fall elections will take place within two radically new contexts. One is the money context created by the Citizens United decision. The other, closer to the ground, is the context of the voter-suppression laws — and that's what they are, and suppressing votes is what they were meant to do — in the several states. This, I would almost guarantee, is going to set off ugly scenes at polling places around the country, as well as further disillusioning the very voters who lack any other avenue to exercise what little political power they have, which is also the point of these laws.
The Reverend Al Sharpton and Congressman John Lewis are currently in the middle of a re-enactment of the famous 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting-rights march on which Lewis was nearly beaten to death by the forces of Alabama law. You may have missed this because the coverage of it has been, well, sparse. But listening to the reaction by the other side, you find yourself in a genuine timewarp:
"I understand that most of these leaders are out-of-state agitators and they're here because the law is working," said Alabama Federation of Republican Women president Elois Zeanah.
You know who else was an out-of-state agitator? Viola Liuzzo. Rev. James Reeb. Three kids in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Old dog, Elois Zeanah. Still hunts, though.
In 1965, John Lewis was not really an out-of-state agitator. He was born in Troy and went to school in Brundage. But he went to college at Fisk in Nashville so, when the Alabama state troopers broke his head for him because he was trying to register to vote, I guess he was sort of an out-of-state agitator. And now, since he's a congressman from Georgia, he's one again. This is how John Lewis agitates:
"But in many parts of America today people are passing voter ID laws, making it difficult for many people to participate in a democratic process. The Brennan Center based in New York has reported that maybe more than 5 million people would be denied the right to participate in a democratic process. Because of these voter IDs, early voting, making it hard and difficult for young people, minority, seniors and others to vote on Election Day...
I feel like we're still marching and it's necessary to march again. It is not right. It's not fair. It's unjust to treat the Latino population or any population the way people are being treated. In the state of Alabama and in so many other states in America, Hispanics, Latinos live in constant fear. These laws are bad. They are bad for our fellow human beings. I don't think there's any such thing as an illegal human being. We all are legal. People must be treated with a sense of dignity. We must respect the dignity and the worth of every human being."I'm certainly agitated. How about you?
Over the last couple of weeks, as the presidential debate turned laughably into an argument about contraception, I have heard a lot of people complain that this issue "was settled back in the 1950's/1960's." This is a complaint I never have heard from any veteran of the civil rights movement, and they've seen the achievements that many of them bled and died for rolled back in one way or another ever since St. Reagan kicked off his triumphant 1980 campaign talking about States Rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi, not all that far from where they'd once dug Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney out of an earthen dam. They all know how fragile were the victories they'd won. They accepted that as the ongoing part of the struggle that continues today. John Lewis is marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge again this week. People should be listening to him. Nobody, god willing, will try to kill him this time. They're satisfied merely with killing his legacy, one state at a time. The worst crimes against democracy are always the ones committed under the law.