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Friday, October 26, 2018


Maybe there will be postcards?

by Tom Sullivan

Turtle Mountain Reservation, North Dakota

Purveyors of the voter fraud myth have expanded their palette. Retromingent Jim Crow tactics for preventing darker-skinned, not-really Americans from voting are still barely too gauche for the president's party, or too messy. Everyone knows how squeamish Mr. Tough Guy is about the sight of other people's blood, no matter where he thinks it's oozing from. Don't expect the red hats to be. During Jim Crow, people posed for postcards in front of human trophies.

Logistical shenanigans more arcane than beatings and literacy tests have been deployed to stop Others from voting this election. But stealing elections in broad daylight is likely in beta testing. Driving the sabotage of democratic process is demographic shifts and the emergence of what Atlantic's Adam Serwer sees as identity politics for white people. Those who claim to oppose identity politics, of course, apply the term exclusively "to efforts by historically marginalized constituencies to claim rights others already possess."

Serwer explains:

Underlying the American discourse on identity politics has always been the unstated assumption that, as a white man’s country, white identity politics—such as that practiced by Trump and the Republican Party—is legitimate, while opposition to such politics is not. For Americans whose Americanness is considered conditional, accepting this implicit racial hierarchy is the only praiseworthy or acceptable reaction.
For millennia, one supposes, people who gave it thought assumed the world was flat because their senses reinforced that assumption daily. So too with assumptions about America's formation as a bastion of whiteness and Protestantness and maleness. For questioning the heliocentric model of the universe, the Holy See convicted Galileo of heresy. Because Others challenge how things are and ought to be, white America elected Donald Trump.

His election was merely the capstone to decades of Republicans inflating the myth of voter fraud to the point it would barely hide anti-democratic actions to shrink the franchise to back to a size that would again guarantee America's whiteness and Protestantness and maleness. Just the way America was meant to be.

The New Yorker's Jelani Cobb examines vote suppression in the age of Trump, beginning with the reemergence of an old joke:
Decades ago, amid the most overt privations of Jim Crow, African-Americans used to tell a joke about a black Harvard professor who moves to the Deep South and tries to register to vote. A white clerk tells him that he will first have to read aloud a paragraph from the Constitution. When he easily does so, the clerk says that he will also have to read and translate a section written in Spanish. Again he complies. The clerk then demands that he read sections in French, German, and Russian, all of which he happens to speak fluently. Finally, the clerk shows him a passage in Arabic. The professor looks at it and says, “My Arabic is rusty, but I believe this translates to ‘Negroes cannot vote in this county.’ ”
These days, however, making America great again means pickaninny caricatures in racist robocalls in Florida. It means bringing back Jim Crow voting restrictions that put Them back in their proper places, as Republican secretary of state, Brian Kemp, means to in putting "a white thumb on the demographic scale" (emphasis mine):
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, ninety-nine bills designed to diminish voter access were introduced last year in thirty-one state legislatures. Many of the recent Republican-led efforts stem from the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby v. Holder. In an opinion that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that discrimination still exists, but not sufficiently to warrant the “extraordinary” remediation measures that the act imposed on the states of the former Confederacy. That argument is roughly equivalent to saying that a decline in the prevalence of an infectious disease means that we should stop vaccinating against it. Within hours of the decision, Texas announced a strict new voter-I.D. law. Mississippi and Alabama shortly afterward began enforcing similar laws that previously had been barred.

The decision added a layer of severity to a voter-access crisis precipitated by state laws that prohibit six million Americans with past convictions from voting. In three Southern states—Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky—this means that at least twenty per cent of eligible-age African-Americans cannot vote. Meanwhile, North Carolina enacted restrictions on early voting, a policy that particularly affects African-Americans, who are likely to be hourly-wage workers and cannot always get to the polls on Election Day. Last year, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to reinstate a voter-I.D. law in North Carolina that a federal court had found targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.” In effect, the question posed by Roberts’s ruling is how much discrimination there has to be before you can justify protecting voters.
Jim Crow 2.0 is already a national crisis, Cobb writes, appearing even in North Dakota which did not become a state until decades after the Civil War. North Dakota is insisting tribe members have identity cards with street addresses for voting. With a tight senatorial election pending, tribal identity cards suddenly are not enough.

The New York Times sent Maggie Astor to North Dakota to look at the hurdles tribal members (who incidentally tend to vote Democrat) face in casting a ballot this year. She chronicled her own addressing problem on Twitter:

When Astor left for the Turtle Mountain Reservation an hour and a half away, same problem again. Even the tribal headquarters, the largest buildings on the reservations, do not have street addresses. Daily Kos last week raised $450,000 to help the tribes produce updated tribal ID cards with residential addresses. First People had better be able to read them in Arabic.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.