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  The  Last Call for Democracy

By Chris Poh

                      Photograph by Chris Poh                  

"My great-grandfather, a highly literate, landowning farmer in South Carolina, often told me, “Never tear down a wall until you determine why some man built it in the first place.”
 ROLAND NICHOLSON Jr.                  

                                                    Stockbridge, Mass., June 26, 2013  

(An excerpt from a letter on The Opinion Pages of The New York Times, June 27,2013)

While I am as confounded as the next American as to the workings and to some of the judgments of our Supreme Court, I do agree that the conditions have changed since the Voting Rights Act was first enacted in 1965. We have in fact made substantial progress toward achieving equality for our minority populations. But while there is undeniably a greater degree of tolerance for those groups, there is also a prevalent political intolerance of their perceived voting preferences—as evidenced recently by those elected officials that have attempted to suppress or diminish minority voting through various tactics of state legislated chicanery. Now in the short-term, the Court has paved the way for further disenfranchisement by way of judicial fiat.

I would like to believe in the possibility that Chief Justice Robert’s majority opinion striking down Section 4 of the act will prompt Congress to craft legislation that would provide equal protection and effective remedies in all fifty states, rather than the narrowly applied original statute. But considering the mood and makeup of the current presiding body in Washington, there is little hope of such profound statesmanship. Quite frankly, I question if the proposed additional walling off of our southern border is as much about blocking a path to future citizenship as it is about blocking a future path to the voting booth. I’m sure that had Mitt Romney been able to somehow endear himself and the Republican cause to Latinos during the last election cycle even the lower house of Congress might consider spiking their tea with a bit of tequila. But as things stand at the moment, the 43 billion dollar militarization along the Mexican border may amount to nothing more than the ultimate gerrymandering project, endorsed and propagated by some of those same voices that claimed they wanted to save future generations from the ravages of wasteful government spending.

While I support the right of individual states to regulate their own elections, I find it difficult to believe that there isn’t some level of manipulation of the electorate occurring when it becomes easier to purchase a gun than to cast a vote. But historically, when our politicians have had little more to offer other than a glutton’s measure of fear mongering, false piety and flawed policy, that small portion of their constituents willing to drink from that poisoned trough tend to award them elected office.

The majority of Americans, no matter what their political leanings or point of origin, are good people with good intentions and good ideas. But in order to achieve balanced representation that accurately reflects those values and principles, the majority must show up to vote. And those honorable men and women entrusted with that vote are obliged to do everything within their power to promote and protect that binding pact between government and the people.     


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