[sixties-l] The Burden of Florida

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 12/18/00

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    The Burden of Florida
    The cavalcade of racial injustice that was the Florida recount
    By Jack Beatty
    The Atlantic Monthly
    December 14, 2000
    Race and class haunted the Florida recount. Political equality has been 
    taken away from people whose ancestors died for the right to vote.
    According to a Washington Post analysis, the higher the percentage of black 
    voters in a given precinct, the higher the rate of ballot rejection. In 
    Jacksonville, a third of the ballots cast in black precincts were rejected, 
    four times the number in white precincts. The columnist Arianna Huffington 
    sees a reminder here that "[W]e are indeed two Americas.... In the 
    precincts of the other America, there were longer lines, more unreliable 
    voting machines and less access to technology that instantly identified 
    mismarked ballots and gave voters a second chance." Even George W. Bush has 
    said this disenfranchisement should be looked into, after the election, 
    which the U.S. Supreme Court has now decided. The right to speak and, as 
    the Florida Supreme Court wrote in its moving opinion that uncounted legal 
    ballots must be counted, "the right to be heard" have been denied by the 
    verdict of the conservative majority in Bush v. Gore.
    Let's review the cavalcade of injustice, starting with the chief 
    injusticer, William Rehnquist.
    Years before President Nixon put him on the Court, he was a Republican 
    heavy in Arizona, where he personally challenged black voters at the polls, 
    much as white officials are reported to have done at polling places 
    throughout Florida.
    Antonin, order over liberty, accelerate death for the disproportionately 
    high number of African-American men convicted in capital cases and never 
    mind that their buck-an-hour appointed lawyers fell asleep in court, Scalia 
    is the mind of the far right. He's all brilliance joined to an infirm heart.
    Clarence Thomas, who never speaks during oral arguments, as if afraid of 
    betraying his mediocrity, continues to give affirmative action an 
    undeserved bad name. These three justices, one of whom (Rehnquist) has said 
    he hopes to retire with Bush in the White House and two of whom (Scalia and 
    Thomas) have relatives connected to the Bush lawyers or the Bush transition 
    team, formed the political core of the five-vote majority finding for Bush, 
    and against Gore, the Florida Supreme Court, and the people of Florida. To 
    do so, they had to forget all the contumely they have heaped in past 
    decisions on "judicial activism" and to set aside the fetish they have long 
    made of federalism.
    The Supreme Court should not intervene in matters of state law except when 
    the majority's presidential candidate needs to win a tainted victory. Such 
    is the principle established in Bush v. Gore.
    In Florida we have Governor Jeb Bush, who abolished affirmative action in 
    the state, triggering the mass mobilization of African-American voters 
    against his brother that Florida's secretary of state sought to contain by 
    hiring a private company to disqualify them. We have the redoubtable 
    secretary herself, bidding for her ambassadorship. We have the 
    anti-democrats in the Florida legislature, eager to nullify the will of the 
    people and substitute their own. We have the bully boys dispatched to 
    Florida by Tom DeLay to intimidate the Miami-Dade canvassing board, 
    paladins of the First Amendment rewarded (or is it punished?) for their 
    foot-stomping with tickets to hear Wayne Newton. We have the Republican 
    governors auditioning for parts in the Bush Administration by vilifying the 
    vote counters, canvassing-board members, voters, and the Florida Supreme 
    Court. We have old Bob Dole being the old Bob Dole, denouncing the Broward 
    County counters for "stealing the election." We have James Baker destroying 
    his reputation. Dragged back into the arena by the ungrateful Bushes, Baker 
    has made us forget that the political mechanic blackguarding the Florida 
    judiciary was ever U.S. secretary of state. The Republicans, who have 
    flourished by depicting Democrats as elitists, are showing a streak of 
    royalism, throwing popular sovereignty overboard to elevate George II.
    Finally, in history we have the election of 1876 and the Electoral College. 
    The talking heads have invoked 1876 to make surface parallels to today. But 
    the significance of 1876 does not lie in the machinations that brought 
    "Rutherfraud" B. Hayes to the White House. The low deal cut between the 
    parties ended Reconstruction in the South, leaving newly enfranchised 
    slaves under the dominion of white-supremacist state governments that used 
    fraud and terror to keep blacks from voting for the next ninety years.
    Would it be asking too much of the pundits to draw the parallel between 
    that disenfranchisement and the disenfranchisement in Florida documented by 
    The Washington Post? Or to remark the sad irony of the Bush lawyers' using 
    "equal protection of the laws"the pith of the post-Civil War Fourteenth 
    Amendment granting the rights of citizenship to freed slaves, to shut down 
    the recount, when the real equal-protection violation is that poor and 
    minority districts had to make do with antiquated voting machines while 
    more affluent districts had the latest technology?
    In the same vein, would it overtax the pontificators' diminished capacity 
    for depth to stop discussing the Electoral College as if it were the 
    plumbing of presidential elections and to say the truth, that this is an 
    institution conceived to preserve and perpetuate slavery? "If the president 
    was elected simply by the people," the Stanford historian Jack Rakove 
    writes, explaining the rationale that led the Constitutional Convention to 
    adopt the Electoral College, "with each qualified citizen casting a vote, 
    the southern states would be at a serious and lasting disadvantage because 
    so high a proportion of their population consisted of African-American 
    slaves who would never vote. In a single national constituency, comprising 
    voters only, the slaveholding population of the plantation states would 
    gain no extra boost for owning property in people."
    Robert Frost once said that poetry has only one subject: death. American 
    history, morally, has only one subject, too, and it shouldn't be left to 
    Jesse Jackson to say so. The burden of our history is to right the 
    bestaining wrong of slavery and its afterspread in segregation, juridical 
    racism, economic marginalization, and the unequal provision of public 
    services. Florida has added to that burden.

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