Republicans and the KKK – an ugly coupling…
It’s déjà vu all over again. American philosopher Yogi Berra
Indeed, it’s déjà vu all over again. Fifty-six years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Republican Party is taking us back to the 1930s, `40’s, `50s, `60s. Republicans are dead set on denying people of color the right to vote.
Frankly, today’s “Republican Party” is not even a party. It is a mean-spirited cult centered on Donald Trump, the personification of evil, and the lies he spews. In their militant campaign to suppress the voting ability of people of color, the Republican cultists are using the Ku Klux Klan playbook.
The hypocrisy is nauseating! The Republican cultists talk a big game about patriotism and patriots, etc. Yet, they are militantly working to prevent people – those who don’t look like them –from voting, a quintessential patriotic duty.
Let’s trample on the Constitution…
The right of Americans to vote is enshrined in the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution. That Amendment is straightforward: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The 14th Amendment speaks to the issues of due process of law and equal protection of the laws. The U.S. Supreme Court applied these principles to voting by limiting restrictions on voting rights that place a “severe burden” on voters.
In their fevered frenzy to curtail the voting rights of non-white people, the Republican cultists are trampling all over the 14th and 15th amendments. More than 400 bills whose purpose is to restrict voting access have been introduced by Republicans in 49 states in 2021. In the period between January and July, 2021, 18 states have enacted 30 laws that restrict access to the vote. Among other things, these laws make mail voting and early voting more difficult, shorten voting hours, decrease the number of polling places, make voter purges more likely, and impose harsher voter ID requirements.
These voter-suppression laws target people of color. A blatant example: North Dakota passed a law that requires voters to produce at the polls an ID with a “current residential street address.” The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t provide residential mail delivery in remote areas. Thus, many members of North Dakota’s Indigenous tribes don’t have street addresses and use their mailing addresses, like P.O. boxes, on their IDs. This disqualifies them from voting.
The Republican cultists are even wanting to nullify the results of elections whose results they don’t like! Anytime a Democrat is legally elected to an office, the Republican cultists want to throw out those results and arbitrarily install one of their flunkies in that office. That was the basis of the Jan. 6 insurrection, when armed Republican cultists invaded the capitol seeking to murder Vice President Pence because he would not reverse the results of the 2020 election. The Republican cultists defend that armed assault on democracy. [Remember when in the 1970s the Black Panthers stood watch at polling places to assure Black voters were not intimidated (they didn’t harm or threaten anyone), and the Republicans had a major conniption?]
Let’s criminalize acts of decency…
Even acts of common decency, as it relates to voting, are being criminalized by the Republican cultists. The laws they’re passing make it a crime to give a bottle of water or a sandwich to someone standing in line to vote – keep in mind that in certain localities, people have waited in line to vote for over 8 hours. It’s also a crime to do a favor for a disabled or elderly neighbor or relative by taking their sealed mail-in ballot to a Ballot Drop Box.
Old white men and their friends refuse to act…
It’s outrageous that after 56 years after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, we are having to fight that fight again. Two bills that address voting rights (For the People Act; John R. Lewis Voting Rights Enactment Act) are before the U.S. Senate. Every single Republican in the House voted against both bills. And every Senate Republican has indicated he or she will not vote for either bill. The Republican cultists in the House and Senate are overwhelmingly old white men who no doubt view nostalgically the days when only white men were allowed to vote.
Shamefully, the Senate Republican cultists are being aided by their Democratic allies, Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Joe Manchin (WV).
Republican cultists mimic the Ku Klux Klan…
This frenzied wave of restrictions on voting is rooted in false and racist allegations about voter fraud. In their intent, their effect, their racism, the actions of today’s Republican cultists mimic the intent, effect, and racism of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1930s, `40’s, `50s, and `60s and their Jim Crow laws and policies.
As a frame of reference: Founded in the late 1860s, the Klan required its members to pledge support to the notion of the supremacy of the White race, to oppose the mixing of the races, to resist the social and political encroachment of foreigners, and to maintain White control of the government. Besides Blacks, the Klan also targeted Catholics and Jews. The KKK is usually associated with the South and its persecution of Blacks. But the KKK was also very active in the southwestern states, such as Texas, California, and Arizona.
The “Ku Klanes” come to the southwest…
A friend remembers cross burnings in the Arizona mining town she grew up in when she was a child in the 1950s. Her mother told her these were the work of the “Ku Klanes.” Mine Mill, and Smelter (now Steelworkers) union officials also told me of KKK activity in Arizona mining towns in those days. [The Journal of Arizona History (Vol. 14, No. 1, Spring 1973) also documents the attempts of the KKK to gain footholds in Arizona.]
What brought the KKK to the southwest? They were alarmed at the growing population of Mexican Americans in Arizona and the other southwestern states. We were “triple whammied”: we were non-white, considered “foreigners,” and perceived to be all Catholic. The KKK’s goal was to intimidate Mexican Americans so as to discourage them from registering to vote and from voting.
Examples of some of the laws and policies the KKK passed in the South and promoted in the Southwest:
* Poll tax laws that required that Black – and in the southwest, Mexican American – citizens be current with respect to payment of their property taxes (which are paid on an annual basis). If one was behind even one year on those taxes, then he would be disqualified from voting. In essence, poll taxes were a fee required to vote that was applied only to non-white folks.
* A related Jim Crow law mandated that only property owners could vote, which for all intents and purposes disqualified non-white people in many communities.
* Literacy tests were also a KKK staple. For example, people attempting to register to vote were required to recite or write out, verbatim, randomly-selected portions of the state constitution.
* The “grandfather” criterion stipulated that if your grandfather had not voted in previous elections, then you couldn’t vote.
And, intimidation by physical violence –even murder –was also a standard KKK tactic to keep non-white people from voting or registering to vote.
Qualitatively, then, there is no difference between the KKK of old and the current Republican cultists with respect to their intent, their effect, their racism.
Wearing sheets is too uncomfortable…
The KKK of old enjoyed the support of elected officials, from mayors to members of Congress, and of law enforcement officials – sheriffs, chiefs of police. So do today’s Republican cultists. But there is one big difference between the KKK of old and today’s Republican cultists, viz.:
Members of the KKK of old knew that what they were doing was wrong, was evil. They were embarrassed and ashamed, and they didn’t want people to know they were part of the evil KKK cabal. So they hid under the infamous white sheets.
Today’s Republican cultists also know that what they are doing is wrong, is evil. But they are proud of their evilness and want the world to know they are part of the Trump cult. Wearing sheets is too uncomfortable and inconvenient for them. They elbow each other out of the way in order to get to the microphones or to appear on a right-wing television or radio program to proclaim their loyalty to Trump and the evilness he represents. There is nothing that is below them. They draw the line at nothing.
We win when…
We have to fight the Republican cultists fiercely. In a very real sense, our community has been under attack of one form or another since 1848. We have won when we have fought evil head-on on a sustained and serious basis. Symbolic MLK and César Chávez marches are not going to cut it. These have devolved into social affairs where people – particularly elected officials and candidates – go to be seen and spout platitudes.
Our movement must not revolve around egos and personalities or elected officials. Our movement must be principled and disciplined and be rooted in ethnic pride and respect for our history and for those who fought at great cost (not only political and financial, etc., but who were beaten and even killed) to get us to where we are today in terms of voting rights. When we go vote – as we all should! – we should give a “Thank You” to those who fought for our right to do so.
Make no mistake – the Republican cultists are dead serious about rolling back the clock to the 1930s, `40s, `50s and `60s. We need to be just as dead serious that we will not allow the political situation to be déjà vu all over again. c/s