by Joe Courter
They don’t want everyone to vote. They engineer the system, and will make alterations to the system, so that the folks they don’t want to vote have a harder time, or simply can’t vote. Or if they can vote, they can not, as an unfavored interest group, win. That is what gerrymandering and voter suppression is all about. Blatantly in the beginning of this country, no women, no Blacks when it came to voting. They even tried to have voting restricted to just property owners (themselves). Maybe that is still what it is all about. The rich, the corporations, they are the owners. They want to stay in command.
What we are seeing with the red-baiting going on now is not new. These tactics were used against the New Deal and the concerted effort to help poor folks after the Depression. Roosevelt was too popular for their tastes, and not in their financial interest. Later, organizers who wanted to empower Black folks to vote in the fifties and sixties, who wanted to break the segregation and economic oppression, and who were using the power of the vote to do that, had to be put down. Even into the universities, as with the University of Florida with the notorious Johns Committee, created to track down those who would dare advocate for social and economic justice, who believed in civic rights for all – those people were seen as a threat to “their” system. Root them out, vilify them. Call them Communists or Socialists
This fear of the evil Left is culturally entrenched in the way it is talked about historically, internationally, and especially as the lurking monster of a totalitarian future (“… the end of America”). How far that can drive people over the edge was just seen on Jan. 6 in D.C. In the service of a delusional authoritarian trying to whip up a coup, an organized mob action invaded the Capital Building. Perhaps coincidentally but significantly in my book, as they first entered the doors at one point, a visible sign read “The Real Invisible Enemy is Communism.” People are conditioned to hate taxes and hate big government. There is a libertarian mentality of not giving anyone a free ride, that they just need to work harder. Systemic racism, systemic poverty and lack of opportunity is off their radar of concern. Programs that use government money to help people are abhorrent to them. Thing is, programs that help people who need help are popular with both people who need help AND the people who prioritize trying to get those people help. And there are a lot of those people, and if they were to all vote, well … there’s the problem they worry about.
I am on the side of those folks who have and are leading the fight to help the poor, to increase human and civil rights, to have disenfranchised people step up, organize in their own interests, and yes, to vote. To my mind, that is the participatory part of participatory democracy. The way I understand the Constitution, it gives us the opportunity, maybe even the obligation, to work for our betterment as a society. Many aspects of our electoral system right now are not optimal. We do not get the best candidates in that it pre-selects those that can succeed in that hugely expensive electoral process, either by raising tons of money or having tons of money. That goes for both getting elected and staying there. Many are quite insulated from the struggles of the poor and disadvantaged, and the ranks of the those people is growing by leaps and bounds with the onset of the pandemic. And unfortunately many of the disadvantaged have been seriously deluded and confused by both corporate media and unhinged from reality due to a social media phenomena which has trumped science and rational thought. The election is over, but the polarized instability remains. Yet there is a great window for organizing, because we need to help one another in this period of pandemic stress.
The victory of Biden/Harris, and getting control of the agenda in the Senate (thank you Georgia!) are a start in a transition to saner policies. Whether it becomes transformational is not on them, it is on us, to try and push to create a more just society. The forces of fear will not be going away. We have just seen first hand how fragile this democracy is. Replacing fear with hope, and arrogance with empathy, is part of the task that lies ahead. Stay healthy, be smart, see you in March.