Posted by: mutantpoodle | January 16, 2012

On Martin Luther King & Civil Rights

When I interrupted my long posting hiatus, I said that it was “safe to assume that whatever Charlie Pierce writes, I will nod aggressively and wish I’d written it first.”

Today, on the holiday that honors Martin Luther King, I’ll send you Pierce’s way.

Race has popped up in the campaign this year. Newt Gingrich tripped over it while talking about food stamps and let’s not even deal with the preposterous lie that Rick Santorum told about how he really said “blah people.” Both of them were talking in gussied-up code, and they professed to be mystified as to how anyone could possibly think such a thing. And, of course, race has been a central theme (never a subtext; don’t even try to make that case) in the irrational hatred directed at the current occupant of the White House. And it’s not possible to read Lyndon’s [Johnson’s] great speech — in which he called out  “every device of which human ingenuity is capable, has been used to deny this right” — and not think of all the smart little clerks all over the country with their smart little voter-ID laws who are so damned mystified as to why people are so upset.

We are all children of the civil-rights movement, whether we want to be or not, whether we are its direct descendants or whether we were adopted into it through the profound changes that movement wrought in the definition of what an American is. We are all children of the civil-rights movement, and this weekend is our national holiday. There is nothing mysterious about that. We make ourselves mysteries to each other because the cost of knowing our solution may be too ugly to bear.

Read it all, and Johnson’s speech.  And think about why this is a holiday in the first place.



  1. Thanks for posting that speech. It is historically interesting to read past speeches.

    I still don’t understand why in today’s day and age anyone would be against a Voter ID law, though.

  2. The question is, what is the greater danger: actual voter fraud (where someone shows up to vote who shouldn’t) or disenfranchisement of people who would be eligible to vote but for an inability to acquire/afford the ID the state requires. (Note that some states require photo ID, but exclude student ID, which suggests it’s not about preventing ineligible voters from casting ballots but preventing voters Republicans – and it’s always Republicans – don’t want voting.)

    Voter ID is a burden on the poor and the elderly to address a virtually non-existent problem. Don’t believe me? Look here.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Someone casting a fraudulent ballot for candidate A disenfranchises an honest voter who voted for candidate B.

    Indiana has a voter ID law and the Supreme Court ruled it Constitutional. South Carolina has provisions in their voter ID law that a state issued ID to be given free of charge and the state will provide free transportation for people to receive their ID if it is needed.

    Various polls show 70 – 80% of Americans support voter ID laws. At minimum, that would mean close to half of democrats must support it.

  4. Sure. But then the question is: how many cases of documented voter fraud are there? The answer is very few. (Did you look at the link I posted before?)

    And yes, I know the Supreme Court ruled Indiana’s law constitutional, while at the same time saying that voter fraud WASN’T a serious problem. (I’d add, by the way, that the Supreme Court held, at one time, that slaves were property and that separate but equal in education – which was, in fact, never equal – was constitutional, so they are not my guide for right and wrong, even if they can adjudicate constitutionality.)

    I’d actually b OK if there was a national ID, free of charge, and people could use that to vote. Keep in mind, however, that “free” is only free if there’ a mechanism that allows people to obtain it – getting to a government office (and not losing work time), which involved having a car, money for transport, or someone to take you. These aren’t always minor obstacles.

    Voter ID sounds good, because of course – who wants people voting illegally? But if the solution disenfranchises many times more people than the law purports to prevent from acting illegally, I think that’s a serious problem.

    Show me that we have a Voter fraud wave in this country, and we’ll talk. But we don’t.

  5. I read the link.

    I agree absentee ballots are the greater area of fraud, but we certainly need to do what we can to ensure a lawful election. I’m for doing whatever we need to do to get make sure people have every opportunity to vote if they want to. I agree that Voter ID laws need to be carefully constructed and respect people not supporting them. I think that is an important part of the whole process. Be careful what we wish for. I think there is much common ground once the noise dies down.

    Thanks for the discussion. BTW, here is just a few examples of existing fraud:

    Wisconsin, 2008, at least 33,000 ACORN-submitted registrations in Milwaukee have been called into question after it was found that the organizations had been using felons as registration workers, in violation of state election rules. Two people involved in the ongoing Wisconsin voter fraud investigation have been charged with felonies.

    Texas, 2008, in Harris County, nearly 10,000 ACORN-submitted registrations were found to be invalid, including many with clearly fraudulent addresses or other personal information. ACORN turned in the voter registration form of David Young, who told reporters “The signature is not my signature. It’s not even close.” His social security number and date of birth were also incorrect.

    Florida, 2009, 11 ACORN workers were accused of forging voter registration applications in Miami-Dade County during the last election. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state attorney’s office scoured hundreds of suspicious applications provided by ACORN and found 197 of 260 contained personal ID information that did not match any living person.

    2010/2011, Troy Democratic City Councilman Michael LoPorto and Edward McDonough, Democratic Commissioner of the Rensselaer County Board of Elections, face 116-count indictment charges with forgery and criminal possession of a forged instrument.


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