State’s Rights. It sounds good and in fact had a noble intent. Over now three centuries of American history it has been used to justify bad.
The idea comes from the Tenth Amendment which reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” 28 words. One sentence. Like the 27-word, one sentence Second Amendment it has long been abused and misinterpreted.
In the 19th century – or perhaps more accurately in later day excuses for the sins of the 19th century – it was used to justify a Civil War fought over slavery. The Lost Cause myth still lives to today and millions of indoctrinated will argue that the Civil War was fought over state’s rights and not slavery. Right wing mythology may have changed political parties over the years but it has a long history. Suppression of the truth in necessary to maintain belief in right wing mythology.
In the 20th century state’s rights was used as a justification for voter suppression under Jim Crow. Who are those out-of-state people to come down and tell us who we should allow to vote and under what conditions? Sound familiar history buffs and those of us old enough to remember the mid-20th century?
The term of the moment for today’s Republicans is Critical Race Theory. By their definition it is teaching the truth that America has and still does (thankfully to a lesser degree) discriminate against non-whites, non-Christians and non-cisgender heterosexual males is unacceptable because it will teach little white boys and girls to think less of themselves and that America isn’t and hasn’t always been perfect. In other words, teach the truth and reality.
Today’s voter suppression has taken an ugly turn. At the state level (remember state’s rights). Republican controlled states are instituting a variety of measures aimed at nullifying the votes of the people. Laws are being passed making it more difficult to register and vote. Voter rolls are being purged in a manner to disproportionately remove the names of likely Democratic voters. Voting hours, sites and methods are being removed, relocated, made less accessible or eliminated expressly to negatively impact young, female, more highly educated, lower wage and non-white voters.
One frequently found provision in GOP voter suppression bills is allowing “observers” inside polling places and in many cases to follow voters into the booth and photograph them in the process of voting. That is the most blatant form of voter intimidation I can think of!
Staying inside the polling place for a bit, workers will now face serious penalties including jail time and/or fines for simple errors. Most poll workers are either volunteers or more likely temporary employees who receive a small amount of compensation. My personal experience is that almost all poll workers, regardless of party affiliation, play it straight. Over the years I have made Republican friends based on their actions as polling officials who left their Party at the door and worked the polls as Americans who believe in democracy and fair elections.
If all of the above fails in many states the Republicans are leaving themselves one last and diabolical “out”. They are giving state legislatures the option of simply nullifying the vote of the people. In many instances all that is necessary to throw the election to the state legislature is an accusation that there were voting irregularities. Not a credible or proven accusation; but simply an accusation. In the era of the Big Lie and Italygate, etc. just how hard is it to come up with an accusation?
I may have taken some liberty with assigning certain actions to certain centuries. In reality they overlapped. It is impossible to assign blame to a single political party. For decades it was southern Democrats who perpetuated voter suppression and discrimination. Today, not all Republicans are racists and you don’t have to be a racist to be a Republican but it would have you fitting in pretty well.
State’s rights is a noble concept our Founders put in our Constitution in the interest of creating a federalist republic but for too long men of evil intent have been hiding behind it.
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