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The South, Its Political Past and Present

A little history:. In the aftermath of the 1876 presidential election, when the electoral vote between the Democrat, William J. Tilden of New York, and the Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, was tied, and thus was to be decided by Congress, the Republicans made a deal with sufficient Congressional Southern Democrats. In exchange for them voting for Hayes, and making him president, Hayes would pull all of the federal troops out of the South, thus ending Reconstruction.

The incumbent president, Ulysses S. Grant, began to enforce the unwritten deal, and pull out troops. Hayes continued it, and all the troops were gone. Freed from federal regulation of their state laws and voting systems, the Jim Crow era in the South began. So “the party of Lincoln” ultimately became the party which betrayed his legacy, in order to win a presidential election.

Various devices were used to disenfranchise Black people in the South. There was the poll tax, which required payment of up to $200 in some cases, to be allowed to vote. Most Black people, newly freed from slavery, many working as underpaid sharecroppers, could not afford them. To get rid of the rest of the Black voters, they instituted literacy tests, which most of the uneducated could not pass. And then, the grandfather clauses, where you were exempt from a property requirement or poll tax, if you or your ancestors here had voted before 1865. But Black people were only given the right to vote in 1870, so they were obviously all banned by these “clever’ provisions cooked up by Southerners.

Imagine this: it took until 1915 for the Supreme Court to declare grandfather clauses unconstitutional, as violating the 15th Amendment right to vote. As to the poll taxes, it took the 24th Amendment; and even then, Southern states looked for ways to get around that; until a 1965 Supreme Court decision completely invalidated them. Ah the days of a fair and judicial Supreme Court.

As to the literacy tests, since many White Southerners were also illiterate, some states adopted “reasonable interpretation” rules, where voting registrars could decide what constituted passing such a test. Of course, most Whites were decided to have passed the tests, while most Blacks were decided to have failed them.

By 1905, virtually not one single Black person in the South was able to vote. That is the history and legacy of the post-Civil War South.

As we know, in the era of 1790-1865, the Democrats were essentially the party of the South and of slavery. The Republicans were the party of big business, and the abolitionists. After the Civil War, the South remained staunchly Democratic, because Lincoln had been a Republican, and Republicans in Congress had implemented Reconstruction.

The South always voted Democratic, even when the national Democratic Party had evolved into a party of the working class, which championed liberal reforms in all areas. It was President Kennedy who sent in federal troops to enforce integration. It was President Johnson who got the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts passed. Finally, Republicans figured out that their “law and order” slogans, and their opposition to Democratic presidents, would fit perfectly in the South, so they adopted a “Southern Strategy,” designed to make what had been previously been called the “Democratic Solid South,” completely Republican. This was building upon what the “Dixiecrats” of 1948 had done, walking out of the Democratic Convention because President Truman supported a strong civil rights plank.

And the Southern Strategy worked, as all of those states eventually overwhelmingly became Republican. The few exceptions were when the Democrats ran a Southerner such as Carter or Clinton; and then Georgia in 2020, which so shocked them, that they immediately sought to make sure that a Democrat could never win an election in that state again.

Now, Southern states like Georgia and Texas are not the only ones run by Republicans which are passing draconian voter suppression laws. But Southern states originally provided the template.

It was the Supreme Court, filled with the choices of Republican Presidents, who were largely elected by Southern states and Southern voters, which tossed out a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and is ready to find that the vote suppression being passed now, is legitimately the province of the states to run their own elections. If they indeed decide that way, we will likely see various states finding other insidious means to keep Democrats, and particularly Black Democrats, from voting.

Can anything be done? Yes, passage of the HR1 and the new Voting Rights Act, would go a long way, though do not be surprised if the states tried to ignore them, get around them, dare themselves to be sued. Remember, all they need to do is to win back the Senate in 2022 (and suppressing votes in Georgia and Arizona, where there will be full term Senate elections would most likely get them there), and then they take over the Senate. If they can use it to win the presidency in 2024, they can install their full fascist state. If they cannot, they can still use the Senate to block any Democratic legislation, of course including voter rights laws; and they will still dare the Democrats to send federal troops in to enforce them. But they are figuring that the Supreme Court will obviate any of that.

And passing these current bills is contingent upon abolishing the filibuster, even just for these particular bills.. And that is a major task, but we have to hope that somehow Senators Manchin and Sinema have to be convinced that permanently losing voting rights for tens of millions of Americans is not worth maintaining the filibuster.

Past that, there needs to be a major mobilization of Democrats. Somehow getting people prepared to vote even with the strictures; finding IDs for those who have moved and lost them. etc. Filing as many lawsuits as possible against these laws and those state officials. Boycotting companies which are quartered in those states. Calling for boycotts of sporting events which are played by teams from those states. I do realize that doing this could cost innocent people money and jobs, but what is the alternative? To just complain and express outrage, while the Republicans sweep up all the chips, put them in their pockets, and walk away from the table with their riches?

The South did that, for at least fifty years following the the Civil War which was said to have been fought for the soul of our nation. The South honed this craft to a science, over the decades, and their descendants well understand how to do it. And I would say that people like Brian Kemp and the Republican legislators in Georgia are in a direct historical line from their forebears in the 1870’s who got all the Jim Crow laws and rules enacted.

They are very bad people. They are racists. They are authoritarians. They will do anything to get their way, They must be stopped by any non-violent means possible. They are not just going to go away. They didn’t go away after 1865, or 1915, or 1965. They will never relent or soften or see reason. The ghosts of the Confederacy, of John Wilkes Booth, the KKK, Lester Maddox and Bull Connor and Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, are urging them on.

Republican voters in all Republican states are screwed after Georgia

What the Georgia legislature and executive branch did last night was made it impossible to vote them out of office. Even massive turnout won’t help because the legislature can overturn the results in any county and make the voters revote until they get the correct result.

I thought Georgia Republican voters had more of a fascist streak in them but much to my surprise, something like 70+% of all Georgia voters are opposed to the new law. That means that only the other 22-25% of voters in Georgia really count because what can that majority do now? They can’t vote the legislature out now. Having second thoughts about Brian Kemp? Maybe Stacey Abrams would have been better? Too bad. You’ll never have a governor Stacey as long as the state legislature is in Republican hands.

We’re pretty lucky here in PA. We have a Republican legislature, mostly because voters were caught off guard last year and didn’t realize that that legislature would be more than happy to nullify all their votes for Biden. But as long as Tom Wolf is governor and John Fetterman is Lt Governor and Josh Shapiro is AG, any Georgia-esque voter suppression bills will never be signed into law.

I’m not so sure about West Virginia though. Let’s take a look at its state legislature, shall we?

Well, that’s not good. It looks like Republicans have the upper hand so to speak.

But that’s ok as long as the governor isn’t going to sign any voter suppression laws. Oh wait, Jim Justice is governor there and he’s a Republican.

Now, I’m going to guess that West Virginia, the state that did such an amazing job vaccinating it’s people against Covid is full of similarly smart voters as the 70+% voters in Georgia who are not on board with the new law.

You know why?

Because you can’t be a belligerent asshole and rebel against authority in a free country if you haven’t got a choice and a minority of voters dictates how you’re going to live.

It’s not productive to be oppositionally defiant (R) or righteously indignant (D) if the battle is over and the fascists who used to run your state Republican Party have declared victory because they can never be voted out.

Heck, even Trumpy business owners will quickly understand what that means when they try to bid for government contracts and are expected to pony up some kickback for them. Where there are no choices, corruption is sure to follow.

Write that down and put it in your pocket. Pull it out and read it two years from now.

Anyway, Joe Manchin seems bound and determined to find 10 good Republicans in the Senate who will join him so Democrats won’t have to set aside the filibuster for HR1-S1. The ancient texts are full of men on a search for good men to save their lands from destruction by angry gods. So Joe M will be going on an expedition to find those 10 men and women because heaven knows, you don’t want to be the single hero of this story.

Good luck with that, Senator. You might get Romney, Sasse and Murkowski onboard but count on Collins to look back.