Der amerikanische Autor und Edgar-Gewinner Thomas Adcock berichtet exklusiv für CULTurMAG in seiner wöchentlichen Kolumne von dem täglichen Wahnsinn des US-Wahlkampfs. Heute:
Soon after New Year’s Day of 1012, Willard Mitt Romney and confederated Caucasians of the Republican Party inaugurated a state-by-state strategy for winning November’s federal elections. They would engage lawyers to draft sophisticated new “Jim Crow” laws aimed at dissuading persons of certain socio-economic castes from attaining a critical mass of voter opposition.
And who is Jim Crow?
Along with prohibitions against inclusive patronage of restaurants and other public facilities, racially biased voting statutes of the 19th and 20th Centuries were collectively known as Jim Crow law—an homage of sorts to Thomas Dartmouth Rice (1808-1860), the first white Vaudeville performer to appear on stage in raggedy clothes and burnt cork “blackface” as a dancing, grinning fool. Mr. Rice routinely opened his act with a dialectical song he titled “Jim Crow”:
I’m g’wan to sing a li’l song.
My name is Jim Crow, it is.
Weel about and turn about,
and do jis so,
Eb’ry time I weel about—
I jump Jim Crow!“
Come listen all you galls and boys,
I’m g’wan to sing a li’l song.
My name is Jim Crow, it is.
Weel about and turn about,
And do jis so,
Eb’ry time I weel about—
I jump Jim Crow!
In the spirit of Mr. Rice’s ditty, persons of unglamorous complexion were long excluded from the electoral process by comically overt means of voter suppression. From the 1870s through the mid-1960s, registrars throughout the South refused to certify prospective African American voters who could not correctly answer a preposterous question: “How many bubbles in a bar of soap?” Seriously, such method was protected by law.
Now come well-tailored attorneys of our present time, as esquires in lucrative service to governors and legislators of states controlled by the Republican Party—Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin in the north; New Hampshire and Virginia in the East; Florida, North Carolina and Georgia in the South; Texas and Nevada in the West. Acting purely by accident in trans-continental consensus (nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say-no-more), the lawyers drafted legislation aimed at restricting undesirables from exercising their constitutional right to vote. Republican lawmakers hastily adopted the drafts as state election rules, effective this November.
In place of accurate soap bubble enumerations, contemporary Jim Crow law demands pictorial evidence of one’s existence. A goodly number of the usual suspects find this difficult to obtain, due to expense. And in other cases, due to municipal offices where evidentiary documents might be purchased being few and far between—and administered at inconvenient, unannounced, and unpredictable hours. Never mind such obstacles, Republican officials insist that photographic identification is essential to vigilant defense against potential hordes of voting site impersonators.
With reference to scheming Republican consiglieres as stand-ins for cigar chomping, Ku Klux Klan-friendly southern politicos of yore, the New York social activist and television personality Al Sharpton says, “Jim Crow has gone away. Today, we’ve got James Crow Jr., Esq.”
But alas, the hopes of Mr. Romney, et al., seem to have been largely dashed by “activist judges,” as Republicans call jurists who rule against them. As the result of alleged activism—and to the horror of Republicans who are beginning to realize that demographics in the United States no longer favor blackface moronics—the usual suspects are now largely free to support candidates of the Democratic Party, a slate that includes the country’s first African American president.
Black voters—along with Latinos, some of whom speak English with what Republicans call “funny accents”—are overwhelmingly disinclined to support Mr. Romney and his Republican co-religionists. Blacks, accounting for fourteen percent of the population, prefer President Barack Obama over Mr. Romney by the ratio of ninety-five to one, according to a leading opinion poll. Eighty percent of Latinos, now constituting the largest minority group in the United States at sixteen percent of the population, favor Mr. Obama.
And this year, the harsh philosophical platform adopted at the Republican National Convention last August—seen as exclusionary by blacks and Latinos, among others—has produced about an expanded definition of assembled undesirables. As Mr. Romney explained last month to wealthy partisans at a $50,000 per plate banquet, fully forty-seven percent of the American populace eschew “personal responsibility and care for their lives” and would, therefore, never support him for the presidency.
The irresponsible slackers presumably include voters cited by opinion polls as most decidedly unsupportive of Mr. Romney and his Republican confreres: pensioners dependent on Medicare, the government health service at Ground Zero for the Republican plan of attack on programs of social benefit; university students dependent on federally-sponsored tuition loans, likewise targeted for extinction; women of all classes, dependent on workplace equity under the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law by President Obama nine days after his inauguration in January 2009—a law opposed by virtually all Republicans in Congress, including all fifteen women of the lower house; the blind and lame, who tend not to possess driver’s licenses or passports, or other forms of official photographic documentation that they are adult citizens of the U.S.; and anyone else who hasn’t the decency to own bank accounts in overseas tax havens.
Last week in Pennsylvania, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson became the latest “activist” to quash a modern-day Jim Crow law—in his case, the most pernicious of the lot, as evidenced by a proud declaration of partisan accomplishments made by State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai. Mr. Turzai told a recent gathering of fellow Republicans: “Voter I.D., which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania—done!” Mr. Turzai’s pride, the judge noted, ran counter to Republican assurances that the law was not meant to further partisan gain.
If left in effect, Pennsylvania restrictions could have disenfranchised up to 760,000 urban voters, mostly black and Latino, representing as much as ten percent of the state electorate. Victory comes of margins far slimmer. Lawyers for the Republican champions of Jim Crow, Pennsylvania-style, were unable to say anything beyond “None” to Judge Simpson’s obvious question, “Well, just how many cases of voter impersonation have there been?”
Still, Judge Simpson’s order allows Republican voting officials to demand photo I.D.s. Pennsylvanians, in turn, may say something like “Go to hell” to needless harassment. (Seriously.)
The question of in-person voter fraud incidence was similarly asked and answered in the courtrooms of Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Nevada. Judges in those states, as in Pennsylvania, were inspired to activism.
But Jim Crow was allowed to stand, in part, in New Hampshire and Georgia. Although New Hampsherites may cast ballots without producing photo-I.D.s, they must prove themselves, graphic-wise, within thirty days of doing so. (Seriously.) And should a Georgian lack graphic affirmation of person-hood, he or she may request an absentee ballot— no questions asked. (Seriously.)
“The law is a ass—a idiot,” as Mr. Bumble famously said in Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”
Republicans are likely to engage in continuing—and continually more inventive—voter suppression schemes because the face of America is literally changing, from majority white to minority white—while they are not. The only non-Caucasian faces seen at recent Republican conventions were dancing, singing, tambourine-banging stage performers, an entertainment genre that would appeal to the late Mr. Rice.
“This is a country that has changed dramatically over the past fifty years. This is becoming a country of so-called minorities,” according to University of Maryland Professor Maurice Berger. “Obama represents that—dynamically. We may see the Obama presidency as the beginning of a trend, not just an anomaly.”
Charles Lane, a columnist for the Washington Post newspaper, wrote in April: “It’s hard to see much future for a [political party] that has minimal support from blacks and Latinos…[P]arty racialization is approaching the point of diminishing returns. …[T]he losing party in 2012 will conclude that it must broaden its base, or die.”
U.S. history is replete with voting rules that run contrary to democracy. A few highlights:
• At the nation’s beginning in the 1770s, only white male property owners of Christian persuasion held the franchise
• Under the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hildago, ending the Mexican-American War, U.S. citizenship was granted to citizens of Mexican heritage in the newly-acquired territories of Texas, Arizona, Calfornia, New Mexico and Nevada—expressly minus voting privileges (a codicil later repealed)
• Blacks could not vote until slavery was ended by civil war, and the 15th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted by Congress in 1870—soon thereafter consigned to irrelevance by the initial rise of Jim Crow
• The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (repealed in 1943) barred the “yellow peril” from voting, as Kluxers phrased it
• Women could not vote until 1920 with passage of the 19th Amendment
• Jim Crow’s first iteration ended with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965
• Literacy tests—which in the South often included an affirmed ability to recite the Declaration of Independence forward and backward—were banned by the 1970 Voting Rights Act
Back in 1981, Republicans were given fair warning that they should probably change tactics—from voter suppression to voter attraction. The Republican National Committee was sued in court that year for sponsorship of the “National Ballot Security Task Force,” the intimidating squadrons of off-duty white police officers sent to polling places in African American neighborhoods. Wearing blue armbands and toting loaded service revolvers, the political mercenaries were effective in the Republican Party cause.
Back in ‘81, activist judges may have thought they put an end to a long train of abuses and disgrace.
Tidbits from the campaign trail
Mr. Romney’s vice-presidential running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, claimed in an interview last week on Republican-friendly Fox TV News that it would “take me too long” to explain the mathematical specifics of an entirely new plutocrat-friendly income tax code the would-be Republican administration plans to affect on “Day One,” as the team is fond of saying. Unless there actually are no specifics—given the mendacity of the Romney-Ryan campaign thus far, this is entirely possible—the time barrier might well have been a true factor in Mr. Ryan’s begging off a detailed explanation.
By the same token, the staggering number of misrepresentations, distortions of fact, contradictions and bald lies spouted by Mr. Romney last Wednesday evening during the first of a series of three televised debates between presidential candidates is likely to involve weeks before a list of necessary refutations may be assembled by objective fact-checkers. Neil Newhouse, an aide in the employ of Mr. Romney, famously said of his boss’s Pinocchio-like propensity, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Such audacious campaign ethic, combined with Mr. Romney’s fusillade of falsehoods Wednesday evening, may well have been the principal factor in Mr. Obama’s remarkably weak debate performance. After all, he had only his half-share of the ninety minutes allotted in debate to challenge Mr. Romney. And in television, as Mr. Ryan would surely agree, mere five minutes is an eternity.
Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota, darling of institutionalized Americans and a contender for the Republican presidential nomination earlier this year, made a surprise visit to a Chicago synagogue on the eve of Yom Kippur services. Ms. Bachmann is a Christian evangelical. As such, she is ardently pro-Israel due to biblical prophecy that she and her co-religionists understand to mean protecting Israel guarantees the second coming of Jesus Christ. It is a belief that many Jews, including one Gary Sircus of Chicago’s Anshe Emet Synagogue find irritating, if not downright insulting. Not to mention that Mr. Sircus finds offense in Ms. Bachmann’s ardently right-wing philosophy. He and many others walked out of the synagogue rather than sit in the same place of worship as she.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune newspaper, Mr. Sircus said, “The holiness of the room and the holiness of the evening was greatly diminished for me, if not completely destroyed. Our congregation values and embodies tolerance, compassion, respect for individual rights, intelligence, science—all of the things Michele Bachmann stands against.”
Hours after walking out on her, Mr. Sircus wired money to Ms. Bachmann’s opponent in her Republican re-election campaign. A week later, Jim Graves reported a useful windfall of financial contributions from Chicagoans to his Democratic campaign against Ms. Bachmann.
Latest polling from Ms. Bachmann’s district reveals that her once commanding lead has collapsed. Mr. Graves and people of tolerance everywhere are rightly encouraged.
Among Ms. Bachmann’s allies in the right-wing extremist caucus of Congressional Republicans is Allen West of Florida, famous for many outrageous utterances, including this complaint: “All of these women that have been neutering American men [have brought] us to the point of this incredible weakness.”
Last week, a Florida journalist by the name of Jose Lambiet published the text of a 2003 letter from Iraq, handwritten by Mr. West during his military duty there, addressed to his wife—Dr. Angela West, a trustee on the board of Florida Atlantic University. In the letter, Mr. West says that while he may not be an Adonis, he is surely a “clean cut, healthy and affectionate man” who desires a return to certain “non-negotiable” wifely conduct upon his return to America. “Angela,” he wrote, “I need to know: are you committed to being my porn star? I do not want to hear ‘no,’ or ‘we’ll see about that.’ God has authorized you.”
While Mr. West’s desires are clear, Mrs. West’s notions of porn queenship are unknown. She did not respond to Mr. Lambiet’s request for comment.
Copyright © 2012 by Thomas Adcock
THOMAS ADCOCK is a novelist and journalist based in New York City. Winner of the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award, given by Mystery Writers of America, his books and articles have been published worldwide. Writing as Tom Dey, he is currently completing a new novel titled “Lovers & Corpses.” Mehr zu Thomas Adcock hier und hier.