The Right’s Dreams of American Apartheid

voter IDiocy

It’s tragic but not surprising that the election of the nation’s first black president would accelerate a racist, nationwide movement to disenfranchise people of color, the poor and the elderly. A new map of states with restrictive voting laws indicates the scope of the problem: racism is not restricted to the former Confederacy.

Many conservatives, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, argue that 1965’s historic Voting Rights Act is obsolete and in need of repeal. The opposite is the case. The VRA, which currently applies to a limited number of states, counties and townships, should be expanded to include all 50 states.

Conservative arguments for repeal are based in part on the election of Barack Obama. The New York Times 2008 election-night headline, “Obama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls,” says it all. Charles P. Pierce chides Americans about their “post-racial” wishful hallucinations with his repeated sarcasm, “It’s Not About Race because It’s Never About Race.” By 2011, though, even the NYT’s was forced back up a bit on the wish, running a piece by Toure′ pleading for an end to claims of a “post-racial America.”

We are not a nation devoid of racial discrimination nor are we a nation where race does not matter. Race and racism are still critical factors in determining what happens and who gets ahead in America.

Todd Donovan’s intriguing 2010 study, “Obama and the White Vote,” shows that racial context influences voting behavior. Obama did less well in states with large African American populations, confirming the “racial threat” theory that says racist attitudes among whites grow as the population of people of color increases. Donovan concluded:

Race was clearly a factor in the 2008 presidential election. Independent of innuendo about Obama that was associated with his race, there are reasons to expect that some white voters might still find it difficult to support an African American candidate for president.

The right-wing voter suppression movement is not new, but it has picked up steam. Every honest, thinking person knows that so-called “voter ID” laws are intended to suppress the votes of blacks, Latinos, the elderly, the infirm, and young college students – all constituencies that historically favor Democratic candidates.

The Right hides behind dubious claims of widespread voter impersonation fraud. Smiling innocently, voter ID advocates say they only want to guard the integrity of the voting system. Give me a break. These are the same people who in the past have, among other anti-democratic practices: 1) hired police impersonators to stand around polling places intimidating voters; 2) organized phone banks giving incorrect voting dates, times and places; 3) purged voter rolls with fraudulent felon lists.

As arguments in the Texas case concluded Friday before a federal appeals court panel in Washington, D.C., voter ID proponents had still failed to present evidence of voter impersonation fraud. While the federal government showed that about 1.4 million Texans lacked the necessary ID (and many lived 200 miles from a place where they could get one), Texas’ lawyers could dig up out of history only five instances of voter impersonation.

Because many would-be voters have to spend money on travel or fees for birth certificates etc. to secure the required documentation, voter ID represents a return to Jim Crow poll taxes and other barriers to the polls. Revealingly, John Hughes, an attorney for Texas, said in his closing arguments that even literacy tests would be okay under the VRA!

Just as revealingly, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai bragged to a private audience of Republicans following passage of the new restrictive law: “Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win Pennsylvania, done.”

Texas’ voter ID law will likely be overturned as violating Section 5 of the VRA. That’s the part of the law that requires Justice Department clearance of changes in voting laws and procedures. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott will appeal to the Supreme Court in hopes of getting the court to declare Section 5 unconstitutional. That would gut the VRA.

American apartheid is the goal of the Right. That’s a fact hiding in plain sight. As the nation’s demographics shift, the Republican Party, which by its own admission is too white, is trying to protect its power by taking voting rights away from blacks, Hispanics, Asians and others.

Here is a chapter on voter suppression from my book, “The Threatened Habitats of Democracy” in The Politics of Deceit.

The Threated Habitats of Democracy

Author: Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as MoveOn.org. In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”

26 thoughts on “The Right’s Dreams of American Apartheid”

  1. You forgot to place the '2)' in front of "organized phone banks giving incorrect voting dates, times and places;".

    1. Good catch, Larry! Thanks. I fixed it. And thanks for all your thinking on these issues and frequent on-target comments at facebook, here, and elsewhere.

  2. While reading this welcome article, I couldn't help thinking of all the racist birther nonsense, racist lies about ACORN (which the Democrats shamefully wouldn't defend), the wholesale NRA-spawned lying about imminent federal gun-grabbing, and the unlikely horrors and vapors the GOP suddenly felt about presidential overreach, as well as other opportunistic butcheries of the truth and reality. I'd noticed the obvious venality and amorality contained therein this right-wing counterattack on Obama's surprise rise and electoral victory, and I'd thought the effect on the national electorate would be limited and not fatal. What Glenn's article revealed to me, however, was that the concerted GOP hysterics, including its central organizing and funding roles in the immaculate birth of the tea party pantomine, wasn't aimed at the national electorate. It was aimed at the racist GOP base, which I think today is about 90-something% of the GOP, and its statewide and local campaigns to ramp up fervor and momentum for what's becoming a quasi-legal – though undoubtedly unconstitutional – attempt of a 2012 electoral coup, accomplished by state legislature voter suppression through disingenuous Voter ID laws. It's always about rallying the debased GOP base in GOP politics, and, though the GOP dog-whistle is still thoroughly effective with its intended wrong-information voters, we now should constantly be aware and vigilant of what's always fomenting beneath the surface of the GOP political brain trust, and that is the stealing of elections in any way possible. The Supreme Court won't even be needed this time. This is another instance also of the GOP projection syndrome, in which they accuse the other side of what they themselves are actively doing. The only possibly effective response to an opponent who is without both scruple and conscience is to declare them effectively virtual enemies of the state – which the GOP has literally been accusing the Democrats of anyway! – and treat them as they deserve to be treated, with not an ounce of trust that they have the slightest interest of the country at heart. It's all about power to them, by hook, crook, and electoral apartheid. My gut feeling is that they truly would stop at nothing, including all that could potentially entail. I wish that weren't so.

  3. Republicans know the demographics and they know it's all over for them, if this democracy business is allowed to continue. So they are committed to ending it, right here and now.

    2000 demonstrated the bind they face. They "fixed" it that time, saddling us with the disaster of Bush / Cheney by judicial fiat.

    2008 showed them the inevitability of a future they are not prepared to accept. In the words of John Boehner on the final night of the health care debate: "HELL NO YOU CAN'T!"

    2010 showed them what they could do about it by harnessing a historically large and psychologically sophisticated propaganda apparatus. Result: the incalculable damage of the Bush / Cheney era was compounded by the chaos, wrack and ruin of the Tea Party House and statehouses across the country.

    It's 2012 and all the chips are on the table. The menu reads, Out With America, In With plutocracy. That is what's at stake here.

    Speak. Act. Vote. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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