Back in the day when H. Rap Brown was still known as H. Rap Brown, he stated that “Violence is as American as cherry pie.” The man knew his history and his pie. There’s nothing more American than the violence deployed throughout centuries to intimidate, threaten, and prevent poor people, people of color, the oppressed, the exploited, from voting.
Voting is not the defining feature of the US republic embedded in the US Constitution. Limiting the vote is the defining feature embedded in the property relations of that republic.
From the battles of the-not-quite-defeated ex-slaveholders against the Reconstruction governments to the night-riding terrorism maintaining Jim Crow;
from the phony Lecompton constitution of 1857 in Kansas, to the 1964 executions of Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman during Freedom Summer;
from the poll taxes and literacy tests to hanging chads;
from the police clubs used on Edmund Pettis bridge (named after the once US senator and leader of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan) to the gerrymandering in Wisconsin, North Carolina and elsewhere;
from the 1960s Operation Eagle Eye, where Republican Party poll watchers in Arizona “challenged” those who looked “unqualified,” meaning Hispanic or Native-American, and administered literacy tests, to the ascension of one special Eagle Eyer, William Rehnquist to Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court;
from the refusal of the Democratic Party in 1964 to seat the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party as the true representatives of the party, to the decision of the Texas governor to limit ballot collection boxes to a single box per county;
from the 1981 Ballot Security Task Force, another Republican invention that hired armed off-duty police officers to “patrol” polling places and scare off African-American voters with methods so egregious that the party signed a consent agreement stipulating it would not deploy poll-watchers for at least 35 years, to the ascendancy and triumph of John Roberts to the Chief Justice position where he gutted the US Voting Rights Act of 1965;
from Trump’s Voting Integrity Commission which could provide no data to prove claims of wide-scale voter fraud, to Trump’s current appeals to “supporters” to go to the polling places and do what they have always done best, threaten and intimidate;
nothing has driven the bourgeoisie to embrace and advertise their madness like the prospect of poor people, people of color, exploited people, casting ballots.
Madness as a political program is formed at the intersection of power, expedience, ideology, and pathology, and the Republicans have been directing traffic at that intersection for decades.
The other side of that madness seeks to preserve exactly those intermediate stations, the institutions on the roads to that intersection– the electoral college, the bi-cameral legislature, the Supreme Court.
On that side stand the Democrats, urging people to “vote like this is the most important election of your life, of anyone’s life; like this is the most important election ever.” This most important election cannot remedy the threat to institutions brought about by the economic, social forces preserved in the institutions themselves.
The militias, the white supremacists, the police with and without badges are not going away.
Voter suppression is today’s method through which the governing apparatus mobilizes, animates, and binds to itself the disparate forces of reaction, official and unofficial. Voter suppression links judges and goons, white supremacists and “libertarians,” lawyers with evangelists, and it links them by giving them common targets; living, breathing targets.
So the task is not now, not ever to “protect the vote.” The task is to protect the most vulnerable, most scorned layers of the working class against these particular attacks that are prelude to attacks on the class as a whole. This is not a protection of a “democratic right,” but protection of the class’ ability to organize and defend itself.
It takes the form, at this moment, of voter protection. Its content is class struggle.
October 5, 2020