Another pandemic: Republican voter suppression

Ed Raymond

In an address to a joint session of Congress on November 27, 1963, President Lyndon Johnson requested quick action on a civil rights bill. (LBJ Library)

Hey! Hey! Hey! Supremes! How many Badgers did you kill today?

We are in the middle of a deadly COVID-19 pandemic that may last years, but we have been attacked for 244 years by another pandemic which started in Philadelphia when 56 white guys signed a proclamation that “all men are created equal.” I guess signing it wasn’t much of a problem for 27 who owned slaves or made lots of money off the slave trade. But it started a pandemic of voter suppression decimating us every year since.  

Let’s see. If all “men” are created equal, shouldn’t all sane men and women regardless of color or wealth or social position be able to vote? But white guys have always come up with reasons to suppress the vote of “them” by limiting the voting power of “them” who don’t look like them--or who do not think like them – or don’t have property and assets to match them. Remember when only property owners could vote? When only men could vote? When only whites could vote? When those who did not have a street address couldn’t vote? When the polls were open only one day? When Tuesday was picked as Election Day because  horses took two days to travel to the polls? The list goes on and on and on…

Why do we need 544 federal politicians? Aren’t 535 enough?

When the decision was made in 1932 to put the phrase “Equal Justice Under the Law” on the Supreme Court building, some suggested the word “equal” was unnecessary because “justice” implied it was already “equal.” But Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes refused to drop “equal”: “It’s appropriate to place a strong emphasis upon impartiality.” It’s too bad the members of the Supreme Court don’t remember the phrase when they enter the building. Court watchers say the recent decision by the Republicans on the two Supreme Courts upholding the Wisconsin Republican Party in the legal cases surrounding the possible postponement of the spring voting day was the worst decision ever made by the court in its 231-year history. When I was principal of Fargo South High School I often had to deal with students protesting the Vietnam War and the draft. The angry shouts of “Hey! Hey! LBJ! How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?!” often were heard in the school activities.

Both the Wisconsin Republican Supreme Court and the U.S. Republican Supreme Court observed the “home/shelter” rules of COVID-19 by voting by teleconference for the Wisconsin Republican Party’s position out of sight and place of each other. That’s why I have used the phrase “Hey! Hey! Hey! Supremes! How many Badgers Have You killed Today?!”

If you did not follow nonsensical rules regarding mail-in ballots, you could stand in line for hours to vote and commit suicide. Five polling places for possibly more than 300,000 voters in Milwaukee when they normally use 180? Poll workers in hazmat suits and goggles? That’s democracy? The hell it is; it’s fascism. It’s two pounds of shit in a one-pound bag.

Both courts forced Badgers to play Russian roulette with COVID-19 in order to vote! Beyond despicable. In the end, I wonder how many Badgers will have died because both Supreme Courts had forced them to the polls during a pandemic.
The five Republican Supremes didn’t even have the guts to sign the decision while they were “saying”: “Some of you may die, but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make!” Members of both courts should be charged with attempted murder.

Leaders without empathy are often killed

“Fragging” may be a new term for some readers, but the practice has been around for centuries in both civilian and military life.

Military leaders – from squad leaders to generals – have been killed by their own troops because they have failed to show empathy for human life. In World War I officers of both armies were shot in the back by their own troops when ordered to leave the trenches and cross into No-Man’s Land. Leave the trenches to be sawed in half by Maxim machine guns? Crazy! You don’t give a damn about me!

We have lots of fragging in civilian life also. We have mass shootings every week. Disgruntled employees are killing supervisors and employers after they have been fired for some reason – or no reason at all. That’s fragging.
When the American people, particularly its draftees, got fed up with the stupidity, waste, and senseless killing in the Vietnam War (such as capturing a hill in the afternoon and then giving it up at night – only to attack the same damn hill the next day), troops often ended up “fragging” superiors by throwing fragmentation grenades into their tents. Between 1969 and 1972 the military had nearly 900 incidents of “fragging.”

We are in a COVID-19 War today that has already killed 36,000 Americans from babies to centenarians in three months. Do Republican Supreme Court justices sending voters to their deaths for political reasons think they are immune to fragging? They had better read some history.  

And now that we have 400 million firearms, from .50 caliber sniper rifles to semi-automatic AR-15s to 12-gauge shotguns, civilians can frag  too.

Some “leaders” do such stupid things, like stupid and naïve former Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Molby, who flew 8,000 miles to Guam spending $243,000 of taxpayer money, to tell 4,900 sailors on the Theodore Roosevelt that their captain was “stupid and naïve” trying to save them from COVID-19. He was booed off the ship. I’m a little surprised he wasn’t fragged by pissed-off sailors.

Now more than 700 sailors from the carrier have tested positive and one has died. The only leader to come clean out of this mess is Captain Brett Crozier. He should get his command back immediately. Trump and the admirals involved are the type of “leaders’ that get you killed quick in combat.

Civil rights leaders in the Oval Office in January 1964. From left, Roy Wilkins, executive director of the NAACP; James Farmer, national director of the Congress of Racial Equality; Martin Luther King, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Whitney Young, executive director of the National Urban League. (LBJ Library)

A brief history of the voter suppression pandemic

A few blacks voted during Reconstruction days after the Civil War. They even elected members to Congress. But the assassination of Lincoln resulted in the resurrection of forces opposed to voting by former slaves.

The scarecrows of Jim Crow were raised in every former Confederate state, essentially institutionalizing slavery again. The Ku Klux Klan in their dunce caps and white sheets raced through the South from Wilmington to Amarillo lynching, burning, raping, intimidating and killing the Emmet Tills and the Medgar Evers.

Corky and I spent more than three years in Jim Crow territory in the 1950s while I was a Marine Corps officer, experiencing “WHITE” and “COLORED” signs first-hand. Jim Crow laws enforced segregation and essentially reconstituted slavery. (In Birmingham, Alabama blacks and whites could not play checkers together. In Oklahoma blacks and whites could not be in the same boat.)

My three top sergeants were black decorated Korean War veterans who had to walk in the streets of Jacksonville, North Carolina, instead of on “white” sidewalks. Walking on the sidewalks got you beaten. Trying to vote got you killed.
Viral pandemics come and go – but the U.S. voter suppression pandemic has been 24/7 for 244 years.

A southern president who fought to end voter suppression

President Lyndon Baines Johnson, an early Texas segregationist, gave his finest speech urging Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I wish I had the space to print all of it: “Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes. Every device of which human ingenuity is capable has been used to deny this right. The Negro citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent.

And if he persists, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name or because he abbreviated a word on the application. And if he manages to fill out an application he is given a test. The registrar is the sole judge of whether he passes this test. He may be asked to recite the entire Constitution, or explain the most complex provisions of state law. And even a college graduate degree cannot be used to prove that he can read and write. For the fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin…Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

The Voting Rights bill was passed, but many of the outrages listed by LBJ then mutated to more outrageous state laws to keep minorities from voting.

Decisions that helped make voting a virus pandemic

1976: Money is First Amendment protected speech. Whatever happened to “One Man, One Vote?” Does one dollar equal one vote? Why does free speech cost money? How many votes does Jeff Bezos of Amazon get with his $138 billion? One? A hundred thousand? A million? Do you still get one vote if you’re bankrupt?

How many words do you get for a dollar or a billion dollars? Why do politicians need campaign money? If they say something worthwhile and beneficial to the country, isn’t it repeated by the free press?

2010: Citizens United Case flooded politics With billions. This 5-4 decision by the Republican Supreme Court changed campaign spending laws that had existed for more than a century. Republicans salivated over this decision until they drowned democracy in Grover Nordquist’s bathtub. They increased the value of “free” speech” a billion-fold by spending billions to buy school boards, town boards, county commissioners, city councils, legislatures and legislators, and finally buying, leasing and renting Congressmen.

2013: (Shelby v. Holder) Chief Justice John Roberts claimed race discrimination was over because Obama had been elected. In another 5/4 decision the Republican Supreme Court gutted, filleted and threw away the head from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by removing the supervision of elections in seven states from the Justice Department. Southern states immediately went fishing for every possible way to keep the poor and minorities from voting. They became geniuses and mobsters at it with about 300 different voting restrictions, so far.

2019: Roberts: Gerrymandering districts? What’s that?

Roberts: “Courts can’t do anything with that. It’s a political question.”

After all, it’s only destroying democracy. What’s wrong with “purple” Wisconsin when Republicans have 10 representatives and Democrats three in Congress? What is that called, Mr. Roberts?

P.S. Why not nominate Bernie Sanders or Nancy Pelosi for president at the convention? They are both twice as smart as Joe Biden, speak with articulate authority, and with their experiences in leadership, are currently the most effective leaders of the Democratic Party – and the nation. And Bernie has also supplied the party platform. Of the last 10 Democrats running for the presidential nomination, nine of them are smarter than Joe. Guess who was “Moscow” Mitch McConnell’s favorite Democratic senator? Yup, it was Joe.