In 1854, when some twenty people gathered in Rippon, Wisconsin in a little white schoolhouse to help found the Republican Party, Anti-slavery members of the Free Soil and Liberty Parties, conscience Whigs, and progressive-minded Northern Democrats all had a place to rally. The party was founded on the idea that the ownership of one human being by another was wrong; that American slavery should at least be restricted to where it was in the Fifteen Southern slave states and go no further. The party’s great success of 1860, Abraham Lincoln, said that slavery would then be on its way to its “ultimate extinction.”
The Party led the charge in preserving the Union and abolishing slavery, and after the Civil War its Radical elements (yes Republicans were not just liberal but radicals in those days) led the fight to get a Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution making black people citizens of the United States. A Fifteenth Amendment giving black men the right to vote was passed. It was these Constitutional provisions that formed the basis for the gains in civil rights in the 1960’s with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that lines up with the Fourteenth Amendment, ending segregation and job discrimination on the basis of race, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that pairs with the Fifteenth calling for an end to literacy tests and intimidation of black registrants to vote.
Now, Ron Paul, actively opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and believes business owners should have the right to refuse service to black people. Newt Gingrich wants to fire public employees who support families and put kids in those jobs in black inner city schools. Rick Santorum does not want to help the black underclass get food stamps and welfare not realizing that more white people use those programs both historically and now. Fourteen States controlled by Republican Governors and legislatures have passed new Voter ID laws that attempt to suppress voter participation by upwards of six percent or more according to political scientists who’ve studied this question. The Voter ID laws specifically target people of color along with the young college student, the elderly, and the poor generally. Combatting voter fraud is the goal. Only it takes 593 million votes to get 317 fraudulent ones in this country, a rate of a fraction of a one hundredth of a percentage point.
And the disproportionate number of people, both brown and black and sometimes yellow who occupy our prisons often are barred from voting. Some should not ever vote of course, but most are not violent and have substance abuse problems that need treatment instead of incarceration. Too many are innocent of what they’ve been charged with. It is the Republican Party that trumpets being “tough on crime.” Candidates for the GOP’s presidential nomination can’t wait to beat up on Latinos in general, connecting them with being “illegals” a framing of the immigration issue in this nation that takes away their basic humanity. They are Americans of Latin descent and most are as legal as the people who are seeking to throw them out and take the huddled masses yearning to breathe free and mock the nation’s inclusiveness regarding the American democratic experiment.
Yesterday on Fox News Fox Business Correspondent John Stossel suggested that too many people exercise the right to vote; that it would be best if the uninformed voter courageously act to withhold their vote and not participate. Two university peer reviewed studies in just the last two years have shown that Fox viewers are the least informed Americans. Even people who don’t vote or pay attention to news information in the media are better informed citizens. If Stossel’s logic were followed, Fox viewers, the overwhelming majority of them Republican Party activists, shouldn’t be voting in 2012. They are ignorant and science tells us so. Of course Republicans reject science and education in favor of mass ignorance so the upper one percent of us can more easily rule.
Struggles for Justice supports a legal environment in regard to voting that will promote rather than retard voter participation in this nation. Voting absentee, on Sundays, and same-day voter registration with a variety of identification should be enough. Having to get someone to get you to a Department of Transportation State office not necessarily near you, laying down thirty bucks, and getting a voter photo ID or having a valid passport is a restrictive and undemocratic strategy Note the small “d” here.
Stossel’s commentary reminds us that today’s GOP is no friend of anyone of color or the oppressed, beyond their former party chair, Allen West a Florida Congressman, and the wild rantings of Herman Cain and his female entourage. The nation will have no racial majority by 2045. Instead of reaching out to the brown and black people and the Asians, religious minorities, and perhaps even those two Swedish guys who got lost in the Twin Cities last week, the party rejects everybody but those who are racially white and Anglo-Saxon, and rich. The Tea Party wing cannot even get comfortable with religious diversity, where in Bible belt states and Iowa, we see Mormans and even Catholics rejected.
Though Lincoln did not live to grow to support black equality, his party did! The GOP of 2012 offers us token support for an inclusive racial environment not to mention slapping all other elderly voters in the face and not taking young people seriously. Stossell compounded the error on Fox by saying that “the kids are not paying attention.” But it was college students who began the Occupy Wall Street movement. And whatever you think of Ron Paul and his racist newsletters and opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, something even rabid segregationists came to accept a generation ago, there are lots of twenty something supporters of Paul on the campaign trail. Most of all, a lot of young people are fighting and dying at this moment for Stossell. They are too young to pay attention and in his view ought not vote this November.
The GOP used to be made up of liberals and progressive anti-slavery elements who wanted a more egalitarian society. The party included women promoting suffrage as well. In 2012 the GOP will by be by everything it stands for precisely the opposite of those principles it stood for so proudly in that little white schoolhouse in Rippon in 1854. Shame! Shame! Shame!