Saturday, April 30, 2011

Worthy of Contempt

There is a fair number of ideas, attitudes, or policies that I truly despise and consider worthy of contempt. Three prime examples that come to mind are wage theft, tax avoidance, and voter suppression. Obviously they are not on the same immoral level as, say, genocide, but they are all too common, tolerated, and even defended by our politicians, parties, and corporate leaders. And they are mostly ignored by a feckless media.

I have posted on wage theft before, and will do so again. I will address tax avoidance as well, in part because it is becoming increasingly prevalent. 

Voter suppression; where to start? How about the fact that over time and throughout the world it has been overwhelmingly a political weapon of conservatives, the overclass, the wealthy, monarchists, and other authoritarian-types. In the United States, voter suppression has been consistently utilized, sometimes with decisive results, by the same groups who bleat endlessly about the constitution, their love of democracy, and the sanctity of the rule of law.

Voter suppression isn't voter fraud. The latter is extremely rare though claims of voter fraud have become an increasingly common charge or scare tactic promoted by those who want to make the voting process more difficult, onerous, and discouraging than it already is.

And as it turns out, that means Republicans. This conclusion is unavoidable for one reason distilled into two words: massive evidence. Think about the various state efforts to tighten voting requirements, to require more personal identification, or limit voting hours and precincts.  How about "voter caging"? Republicans are behind them all.

Now I am not saying only Republicans will resort to dirty tricks, or use questionable methods to discredit an opponent. I am reminded of LBJ's rise to the US Senate where his operatives, under his direction, most likely did some creative ballot stuffing. And that was not just a hard-ball tactic; it was clearly illegal.

Voter suppression isn't even always illegal. And what is contemptible to one may be realistic tactics to another. So there is a gray area as to what is smart and tough, and what is unethical or crosses the legal line.

My real point is that regardless of how one feels about election season ethics, it has been conservatives, including Southern Dixiecrats of the past, and now almost always Republicans, who most consistently work to prevent high voter turnout and to restrict eligibility. This reflects sentiments entirely consistent with American conservatism. It was conservatives who opposed the right of women to vote, who implemented unconstitutional poll taxes, and for whom giving voting rights to former slaves was anathema. 

There has been much academic ink written on this phenomenon. The reasons why Republicans are more likely to indulge in voter suppression are well-documented and based on sound theoretical foundations. For those who would like to see how voter suppression relates to personality, especially an authoritarian personality, see the work of Professor Bob Altemeyer, especially his classic, The Authoritarians.

ThinkProgress recently posted From Poll Taxes to Voter ID Laws: A Short History of Conservative Voter Suppression
 Conservatives have said voter id laws are necessary to combat mass voter fraud. Yet according to the Brennan Center for Justice, Americans are more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning than commit voter fraud. And the Bush administration’s five-year national “war on voter fraud” resulted in only 86 convictions of illegal voting out of more than 196 million votes cast. Instead conservatives are employing an old tactic: using the specter of false voting to restrict the voting rights of minorities and the poor...
There is more at the link above. And while you are at, see the excellent investigative reporting by Greg Palast from last fall, where he explores the motives of Arizona's show-me-your-papers legislation espoused by Republicans; you know, the ones that bray endlessly on personal freedom and how they will get government off your back.

The backdrop, as Palast explains, is that Republicans were insisting there was serious voter fraud:
In 2008, working for Rolling Stone with civil rights attorney Bobby Kennedy, our team flew to Arizona to investigate what smelled like an electoral pogrom against Chicano voters ... directed by one Jan Brewer.

Brewer, then Secretary of State, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer's command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected.

That statistic caught my attention. Voting or registering to vote if you're not a citizen is a felony, a big-time jail-time crime. And arresting such criminal voters is easy: after all, they give their names and addresses.
So I asked Brewer's office, had she busted a single one of these thousands of allegedly illegal voters? Did she turn over even one name to the feds for prosecution?

No, not one.
 Good job, Greg. That is how investigative reporting is done.

No comments:

Post a Comment