Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Diversity and Tolerance

After the 2008 election, Democrats had President Obama, a House with more Democrats than at any time since 1992, and their party held a majority in the Senate.
Republican lawmakers had a choice to make.  They could either embrace a younger, diverse and tolerant America of the 21st century, or attempt to disenfranchise those who had voted for a more representative democracy.
At private dinner in Washington DC on the day Obama was sworn in as president, top Republican lawmakers and strategists decided they weren’t going to negotiate on anything.  They were determined to make it Obama’s economy.  Today they still don’t have any interest in improving the lives of the average American. 
Then, a Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United transformed our politics by allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.
In the 2010 midterms, outside groups spent nearly 60 percent more than in 2006.  In 2014, the top 100 donors spent nearly as much as all 4.75 million small donors combined.  National networks of big-money donors funneled mountains of cash into targeted state races.  By 2014, one party controlled both the governor's mansion and the state legislature in 36 states, the most since the 1950s.
Republicans launched a campaign to restrict voting rights across the country.  After the 2010 midterms, lawmakers in 41 states introduced at least 180 measures designed to make it harder for people to vote.  Their effort got a boost in 2013 when the Supreme Court made another disastrous ruling, striking down hard-won Voting Rights Act protections.  Today, 21 states have new laws restricting voting rights.
Some of the greatest damage to voting rights has come in states with single-party control like North Carolina, which eliminated same-day voter registration and slashed early voting.  In Florida, the Republican party instituted such heavy restrictions on voter registration drives that the League of Women Voters had to shut down operations.  In Alabama, lawmakers passed a strict photo ID requirement and then closed dozens of driver's license offices across the state, making it much harder for citizens to get the IDs they now need to vote.
The flood of corporate money in our elections, the rise of single-party control of state governments, and the sharp increase in voting-rights restrictions has damaged our representative democracy.  The voices of a diverse and tolerant America has been muted.  Our democracy isn’t working.


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