politics

2018 Midterm Elections: Voter Suppression, Racism and Chauvinism

Long lines of black voters waiting to vote in Atlanta, GA

The 2018 elections were a scandalous fraud, even by the standards of capitalist legality. The fact that the AFL-CIO completely ignored this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the absence of an independent working class voice within the election process, as we will see.

In the 1960s, a mass movement of black people, along with whites, won the right to vote for blacks in the South. Now, that right to vote is being whittled away on a national basis. We can compare how this is being done to how Jim Crow replaced official slavery. As Michelle Alexander explains in “The New Jim Crow”, a new form of unofficial slavery arose after the civil war under a different name: The chain gangs. Now, a similar process is at work. Black voters (and others too!) aren’t being officially and openly barred because they are black; it’s just being done through new voter laws – voter suppression. (In addition to what’s reported below, also see this article for a more general round-up of the issue.)

“Crosscheck”
One of the main schemes is the use of a relatively new program called “Crosscheck”, which has been coordinated by the former Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach. (Kobach was the main politician to respond to and participate in Trump’s failed attempt to set up a federal panel to investigate “voter fraud”.) Originally set up for Midwestern states, the program reviewed the registration records of Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska to supposedly find double registrations. According to one review the program found 7.2 million “potential duplicate registrants” out of 98 million reviewed.  However, the standards were so loose (only matching surname and birth date) that it was found a 75% false positive rate. But that’s not all: It was also found that “50% of Communities of color share a common surname, while only 30% of white people do.” The result was that “white voters are underrepresented by 8%, African Americans are overrepresented by 45%; Hispanic (i.e. Latino) voters are overrepresented by 24%; and Asian voters are overrepresented by 31%.”

The alleged purpose of Crosscheck is to prevent fraudulent voting by a person voting in two different states. But “despite over 7 million ‘potential double registrants’ being ‘flagged’… in 2014, less than four people were charged with voting more than once.” Nobody has ever been convicted of double voting. In other words, the problem it’s supposedly set up to prevent doesn’t exist.

Georgia
In Georgia, semi-liberal Stacey Abrams ran against far right bigot Brian Kemp. As secretary of state, Kemp was in charge of the voting procedure during the entire election. One study revealed that he’d purged about 1.3 million voters from the rolls between 2013 and 2017. About one third were removed for legally valid reasons, such as being deceased, ineligible, etc. That leaves over 850,000 who were removed, some simply because they hadn’t voted in the previous two elections. According to Greg Palast (who’s made a career in investigating voter suppression), “Despite Kemp’s denial, our experts found that 108,000 Georgia voters were also found on the Crosscheck list… 106,000 of these never left the state – yet lost their right to vote because of these supposed moves.” In other words, Kemp had been coordinating with Kobach in suppressing the vote. Bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of these would have been people of color and/or younger voters – in other words, votes for Abrams.

But wait, there’s more. The Atlanta Journal describes what happened one night in July, 2017, when all Georgia’s registered voters’ names were run through a computer, and in the morning “more than 500,000 people were registered no more. This purge, according to election-law experts, may represent the largest mass disenfranchisement in U.S. history.

“It also underscores how Georgia – where people once died for the right to vote – has systematically enacted some of the strictest voting laws in the nation over the past two decades. While officials say the laws are aimed at preventing election fraud, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says no state has done more than Georgia in recent years to make voting difficult, especially for minorities.”

This was with the “exact match” voter law. This law requires that a voter’s registration exactly match state records of that voter. If there is a hyphen different, then the voter is purged. Again, studies have found that black and Latino voters were overrepresented in this purge.

In addition to this voter purge, voter suppression was carried out by making it difficult for black people to vote simply by failing to have enough voting machines at predominantly black precincts. In one predominantly black precinct in Atlanta, for example, there were 3,000 registered voters but only 3 voting machines at the polling place. The long lines would inevitably have meant that workers who came to vote before going to work would have had to leave before voting.    

As of this writing (Thursday, Nov. 8) Kemp is ahead by a slim margin, but all the votes have not been tallied. Whatever the outcome, given these massive numbers, Abrams should have clearly been the winner if the election had been held according to “the rule of law”.

Florida
In Florida, one of the main means of voter suppression is by permanently disenfranchising anybody convicted of a felony. This has denied the right to vote of some one million people. (That was changed in a ballot initiative in these elections.) But there were also extra-legal methods, including simply placing the polling place inside buildings in gated communities. Numerous voters reported serious difficulties getting past the guards at the gates of those communities. Guess which ones had the most problems.

In North Dakota, a different trick was used: A new law required that all registered voters have a physical address. The state’s Native American voters who live on reservations, by culture and by habit, often don’t have such an address. According to reports, however, this attempt backfired as the tribal councils went into overdrive to get their members “legally” registered and get them to vote, and, as a result the voter turnout increased.

It is an absolute scandal that the leadership of the only mass working class organizations in the US – the union leadership – has ignored this issue. Their web site carries numerous stories about the supposed successes of the mid-term elections, but not a peep about voter suppression. The only organization of any size that claims to be socialist – Democratic Socialists of America, with some 50,000 members – is similar. Their web site also is silent on the issue, as was a national e-mailing sent out by its central office after the elections.

Nancy Pelosi
The silence simply mirrors that of the official wing of the Democratic Party, which is also silent. So is its current most prominent spokesperson, probable Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. In the run up to the election, and in her post-election statement, she said not a word about the issue. Instead, she commented
 “We believe that we have a responsibility to seek common ground where we can. Openness and transparency, accountability [and] bipartisanship [are] a very important part of how we will go forward.” She also used the example of her having “worked well” with Bush and said that she’d talked with Trump on election night about how to work together. Trump, for his part, tweeted that Pelosi “deserves the great honor” of taking the speakership.

The plan, in other words, was to bury the hatchet and both try to gain kudos by passing infrastructure spending and similar measures. While this once more shows the real nature of the Democratic Party (as if that didn’t have to be shown again!), it seems doubtful that it will be possible. That’s because of Trump’s criminal past as a money launderer for the Russian mafia. (See the numerous articles documenting this here.) Due to this past, he cannot allow the Mueller investigation to reach its conclusion, even despite the fact that the evidence is that they wish to avoid this central issue. (Again, the reason for that is that such criminal activity is rampant throughout the entire real estate industry.)

Where do these elections and these dynamics leave us?

Throughout the election campaign, Trump whipped up his hard core supporters to a frenzy using racist and chauvinist hysteria, especially around the caravan issue. His efforts were partly successful in motivating his hard core to vote, but they also apparently turned off a layer of middle class white voters. Many of these were traditional Republicans who in this case voted for the Democrats. In the more rural districts, Trumpsters tended to get elected. One of the worst is Steve King in Iowa. Elected to the Assembly, he has openly supported known racists and Nazi sympathizers in Europe.

Sessions fired; Mueller investigation in the cross hairs
On the very day after the elections, Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointed Sessions’ second-in-command,

Who is Matthew Whitaker?
Whitaker got his start in politics when he ran for Iowa State Treasurer in 2002. He lost that race. In 2004, he was appointed as US attorney for the southern district of Iowa in the Bush administration. Following that, he went into private practice for awhile. In 2014, he ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate. During that race, he commented that he would only support “people of faith” and those who “have a biblical view of justice” for federal court nominee. “As long as they have that worldview, then they’ll be a good judge,” he said. “And if they have a secular worldview, where this is all we have here on earth, then I’m going to be very concerned about how they judge.”
In 2014, Whitaker joined the board of directors of World Patent Marketing company. According to Wikipedia, this company advertised to would-be inventors that they could obtain a “global patent” for their inventions. There is no such patent. Among other things, Whitaker appeared in videos marketing this company. The Federal Trade Commission shut down the company as a fraudulent business, but not before it had bilked customers out of some $24 million. Republican congressman Brian Mast was also on the board of directors. But in a true show of bipartisanship, so was Omar Rivero, founder of “Occupy Democrats”, a pro-Democratic Party group.
In 2016 he became a commentator for CNN. In that role, he urged Rod Rosenstein to “limit the scope of this (Mueller) investigation.”
According to the Washington Post (11/07/2018), he referred to the investigation as a “lynch mob”. The same article reports “When Trump complained about the Mueller investigation, Whitaker often smiled knowingly and nodded in assent, the official said.” The same article reported on how Whitaker had suggesting taking steps so that “the investigation grinds to a halt.”
Whitaker has also said that any investigation of Trump’s personal finances (i.e., into his links with the Russian mafia) would be “crossing a red line.” He also has close ties with Sam Clovis, whose election committee he chaired when Clovis ran for Iowa state treasurer. This is important, because Clovis is also a subject in the Mueller investigation.
In other words, aside from the fact of his extreme right wing ties and his personal corruption, Whitaker has been appointed to shut down the investigation.

Matthew Whitaker, as acting attorney general. This is to clear the way for neutering and/or covering up the Mueller investigation. Anybody who thinks that Whittaker’s not recusing himself from overseeing the investigation wasn’t explicitly agreed-to between him and Trump in advance should join Rip Van Winkle. Whitaker has several means at his disposal:

  • While the funding for this year has apparently been already set, he can reassign most or all of Mueller’s staff so that Mueller has nobody to work with.
  • He can veto any plans Mueller has to subpoena and or indict anybody. (Apparently, Trump’s long-term associate Roger Stone has been in Mueller’s cross-hairs recently.)
  • He can refuse to allow Mueller to testify before congress.
  • He can rule that any final report is kept in secret.

Try as she might, it’s hard to see how even Pelosi can ignore this. And the more she tries, the more tensions and cracks will appear within the Democrats. How far will these cracks go?

We should look at the voter fraud in the 2000 Bush v Gore election as an example. There, as we previously reported, the AFL-CIO followed the lead of the Democratic Party and refused to support public protests. It was not just the mainstream of the Democrats; the entire party went along with it because they didn’t “want to seem like they don’t have faith in the legal system.”

As for Whittaker, himself, he makes Jerry Falwell seem like a liberal secularist and his links with the most fraudulent business practices would even make Trump blush. (See column on right.)

Trump will gather even more control
The appointment of Whittaker as acting attorney general is only a tip-off to the direction Trump will move in. Having doubled down on racism and nationalism in this election, he will have to move even further down this path if for no other reason than that he’s so alienated all voting blocs of people of color. Already, five states  (Hawaii, New Mexico, California, Texas and Nevada) as well as Washington DC are made up by a majority of people of color and it is predicted
that by 2027 that will be the case among young voters nationally.

Trump and economy
Most of Trump’s support is based on bigotry, but not all. A significant amount is based on the booming economy. As a result of this, unemployment, including black unemployment, is at historic lows, and as a result of that, approval
for Trump among black voters is now at 21%, according to an NAACP poll. If that’s true for black people in the US, it must be a factor in Trump’s approval ratings for whites too. (See this article for more on the economic perspectives.) If the economy falters or worse, much of this support will fall away, although much may well turn even further to the right.

Trump will continue to gather the power into his own hands personally. Meanwhile, the Democrats will continue to appeal to the middle ground – mainly white middle class voters. Unless a mass movement from below breaks out, they will continue to play down voter suppression, figuring that people of color have no other choice but to vote for them. (They haven’t ignored it entirely, but they haven’t done and won’t do anything to seriously challenge the legitimacy of the “rule of law” as they call it.)

The more the labor leaders and groups like DSA continue in the thrall of the Democrats, including the liberal wing (even those who call themselves “democratic socialists), the more difficult it will be for them to really lead a movement from below. But that is what is necessary to stop and reverse the present direction.

Looming environmental crisis and need for radical, fighting working class party
If the issues of racism and bigotry in general weren’t enough to convince people that that is urgent, then the issue of environmental collapse should be. Nearly ignored during the election campaign, we are now given little more than a dozen years to radically change how we produce and use energy before global warming becomes a runaway process. As this article shows, it’s possible to do so. Just not without a mass, radical, working class socialist movement and a mass working class party to lead it.

Update: Twenty-four hours after Sessions was fired, protests were held throughout the United States around this issue. Here a few photos of the one that was hastily organized in Oakland. We should note: Oaklandsocialist has no illusions in the Democratic Party nor in Mueller and his investigation. We have written extensively on Trump’s criminality and why the Mueller investigation is at best nibbling around the edges. Here is an example. But the dismissal of Sessions is one more step down the road towards autocratic one-man rule by Trump. We think that all those who oppose this direction should join together and, within that movement we can discuss our differences. Meanwhile, here are some photos of the protest in Oakland”

It was about 250 that gathered here – quite a good turnout for less than 24 hours notice. We post the different signs as well as the message put up on City Hall to give a sense of what people were thinking.

Long lines of black voters waiting to vote in Atlanta, GA

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