Thursday, November 29, 2012

War goes on.

"If it were probable that every man would give his vote freely, and without influence of any kind, then, upon the true theory and genuine principles of liberty, every member of the community, however poor, should have a vote… But since that can hardly be expected, in persons of indigent fortunes, or such as are under the immediate dominion of others, all popular states have been obliged to establish certain qualifications, whereby, some who are suspected to have no will of their own, are excluded from voting; in order to set other individuals, whose wills may be supposed independent, more thoroughly upon a level with each other."

From Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961-79), 1:106. [Hamilton is quoting Blackstone’s Commentaries, bk. 1, ch. 2:] Hamilton made the argument for limiting voting rights to adult males who own property: so that voters are excluded who are dependent on the wills of others for their livelihood. You know, like women and poor people.

Mitt Romney's chief campaign strategist Stuart Stevens took to the Opinion page of the Washington Post yesterday to make a rather strange argument; that by winning a majority of votes from white and wealthy Americans, his candidate had secured some sort of pyrrhic victory. 

“On Nov. 6, Mitt Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income,” Stevens wrote. “That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters. While John McCain lost white voters under 30 by 10 points, Romney won those voters by seven points, a 17-point shift.”“The Republican Party has problems, but as we go forward, let’s remember that any party that captures the majority of the middle class must be doing something right.” As a result, “Republican ideals — Mitt Romney — carried the day.”

Call me a fussbudget but I find such talk frankly appalling. For months Republicans have accused the Democrats of stoking the fires of class and caste divisions and now we see what they really feel, post election. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. From Limbaugh and O'Reilly laying blame for the defeat on not enough white voters coming out to now this.

Stevens is promulgating a dangerous canard that a poor and minority person's vote is not as important as those of white males. This type of thinking is both disturbing on its face and to my mind, quite anti-american. It is also a difficult argument to understand politically as half of the nation's population have a median income of 50k or less.

There have been quite a few echoes of this type of thinking going around of late. Like this teaparty website's headline "What would this country be like of only taxpayers could vote?  Restrict voting to only those that pay taxes, sounds like a great way to disenfranchise the poor and the economic underclass, who tend to have both a high minority representation and vote democrat.

I have heard versions of this theme quite often lately, quite surprising, even in our supposedly color blind, post racial society.

The theme is actually not new. Federalists and Hamiltonians argued for a country where only a patrician class would have a vote. Andrew Jackson expanded the vote so that voting rights should be extended to all white men .

By 1820, universal white male suffrage was the norm, and by 1850 nearly all requirements to own property or pay taxes had been dropped.

The Fifteenth Amendment (Amendment XV) extended the right to vote to people of color. The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits each government in the United States from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude" (for example, slavery). It was ratified on February 3, 1870.

The Twenty-fourth Amendment (Amendment XXIV) prohibits both Congress and the states from conditioning the right to vote in federal elections on payment of a poll tax or other types of tax. The amendment was proposed by Congress to the states on August 27, 1962, and was ratified by the states on January 23, 1964.

Poll taxes had been instituted in the south to keep blacks from voting. Such taxes had been held to be constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in the 1937 decision Breedlove v. Suttles. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6–3 in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections (1966) that poll taxes for state elections were unconstitutional because they violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
There was also a religious test. From Wiki:

In several British North American colonies, before and after the 1776 Declaration of Independence, Jews, Quakers and/or Catholics were excluded from the franchise and/or from running for elections.[11]
The Delaware Constitution of 1776 stated that "Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust, before taking his seat, or entering upon the execution of his office, shall (...) also make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: I, A B. do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.".[12] This was repealed by article I, section 2. of the 1792 Constitution: "No religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, under this State.".[13] The 1778 Constitution of the State of South Carolina stated that "No person shall be eligible to sit in the house of representatives unless he be of the Protestant religion",[14] the 1777 Constitution of the State of Georgia (art. VI) that "The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county (...) and they shall be of the Protestant religion".[15]

Women were even given the right to vote in 1920, finally ratifying an amendment drafted 41 years earlier. From Wiki:

The Nineteenth Amendment (Amendment XIX) to the United States Constitution prohibits any United States citizen to be denied the right to vote based on sex. It was ratified on August 18, 1920. The Constitution allows the states to determine the qualifications for voting, and until the 1910s most states disenfranchised women. The amendment was the culmination of the women's suffrage movement in the United States, which fought at both state and national levels to achieve the vote. It effectively overruled Minor v. Happersett, in which a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to women or give them a right to vote.

The whole pay tax to vote idea is so preposterous. Should really rich people who pay a lot of taxes get even more votes? Doesn't everybody pay sales tax? Doesn't the poor bastard who holds up the lantern on your lawn deserve to have his voice heard to, assuming that he is a citizen? Or the guy who cuts the lawn? These are the dangerous radicals, folks.

Funny, after all the protestations about wanting to be president of the 100% and not just the 47?, they lose the election and we see the true colors. We really only cared about the rich, white guys the whole time. Who knew? 

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