Disenfranchisement: The Real American Dream.
“I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down” Conservative activist Paul Weyrich said this to a group of evangelical leaders in 1980.
Fast forward to 2011, and the Republican Party is adhering to this mission statement. With the help of the Weyrich founded and Koch brothers funded conservative advocacy group, The American Legislative Exchange Council, over 38 states have introduced legislation this year to impede voting every step of the way. Of those 38 states, 12 have been successful. Of course all of this has been masterminded under the guise of preventing voter fraud.
I call bullshit, as do many of you. Taking Democracy out of the hands of the “unwashed masses” is nothing new to this country. In the late 18th century, after the Revolutionary War, and before the Constitution was concocted and ratified, the states nearly put Democracy in the hands of the people in full force. Under the Articles of Confederation, many state legislatures were comprised of a single assembly, with a governor that had little to no power. In most states, as long as you were a citizen and paid taxes, you could vote. The national government had very little control over the states. Of course, women, native Americans, blacks both free and slave, and any white men who paid no taxes were completely fucked with no representation, or rights of any kind for that matter, but you get the picture of just how much direct representation there was. However, a Revolutionary War hero by the name of Daniel Shays was about to unwittingly change all that.
After the war, many soldiers who were not officers returned home to their farms in New England with none of the pay they were promised, and lots of debt. Creditors would only accept gold and silver for payment at that time, and since specie was available to only the wealthy, most debtors were fucked; they lost their farms and most likely went to jail. In Massachusetts, a large number of these men lead by Daniel Shays and Job Shattuck, decide to participate in a little direct democracy and put an end to this.
What these men did was intimidating, but non-violent: they would march into a town in western Massachusetts where debtor’s court was about to be held, and block the judges and sheriff’s entry to the courthouse. The judges, outnumbered, and obviously not stupid, would cancel the session. This action was repeated time after time, along with demands for creditors to begin accepting paper money or goods for repayment, or extend the loans until many of these debtors could get back on their feet. The plan was working; the Massachusetts assembly was about to concede to the group lead by Shays and Shattuck, and pass legislation that was debtor friendly, allowing them to keep their farms and stay out of prison. Democracy was actually working, until the Federalists stepped in.
The Federalists, who begat the Whigs, who begat the Republicans, were comprised of a group of merchant and planter elites who wanted most of the young republic’s power in the hands of the wealthy. Shay’s rebellion made them fear Democracy in its most simple form. They actually believed that the common man, as well as Native Americans, Women, and Blacks were not capable in deciding on what was best for the country. In their greedy little minds, only the wealthiest were capable of looking out for the common good. And by common good, I mean their own common good. Their answer was build strong central power, limit direct representation, and create a national bank in which the wealthy could profit from the national debt. Oh, and by the way, these Federalists also desired a large standing army in order to guarantee submission from the masses. These Federalists, driven by George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams did just that; they created the Constitution, which essentially took much of the democracy out of the hands of the people, and placed it into the back pocket of the elites. Voting was restricted to only the white property owners, and those few who could now vote could only directly elect in the House of Representatives. Until 1913, the Senate was chosen by the assembly, and even now the President is chosen by the bogus Electoral College, which, back then was chosen by congress. To dupe the common people into supporting the Constitution, the Bill of Rights was tacked on later, which can be largely ignored as the government sees fit.
What I’m getting at is this; Our country has a long established tradition of disenfranchisement, in order to secure the power that was placed in the hands of the wealthy ever since our ancestors set foot in Jamestown, Plymouth, and Salem. No matter how much the elites force feed the myth of liberty and democracy to us, it’s just that: a myth. The fact that 12 states have already, and 26 more states are attempting to disenfranchise millions is proof of that.
Thomas Jefferson once stated that direct democracy every now and then is not a bad thing; I like the way he thought, at least in that regard.