USA – Banana Republic

     Black citizens who seek the right to vote have been driven to seek help from a state court in the Deep South to protect them from the federal government.
     That’s how far backward our nation has fallen under President George W. Bush.
     As anyone who lived through it will remember, the hard-fought legal gains of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s depended upon black citizens, and a few white ones – gassed, beaten, murdered, poll-taxed and pole-axed – losing legal challenges in state courts in the Deep South, then appealing to the federal district courts, and eventually to the Supreme Court, for redress.
     In a region where racism, violence and murder of black people had become institutionalized, and governmentalized, and where those vile sentiments polluted even the justice system, black citizens’ only hope – aside from mass protest or outright war – lay in appeal to the federal courts.
     Well, last week, the Georgia Democratic Party challenged Georgia’s 2006 Photo ID Act in Fulton County Court, Atlanta.
     Finley Peter Dunne’s immortal bartender, Mr. Dooley, proclaimed that “the U.S. Supreme Court reads the election returns,” but Mr. Dooley never prophesied that the Supreme Court would determine the election returns as well.
     The United States has become a banana republic. Executive control of the courts – and through the courts, everything else – is the hallmark of a corrupt nation. Throw in torture, warrantless wiretaps, and a supine legislature, and the ballgame is just about over.
     In its lawsuit, the Georgia Democratic Party “asserts no claims that arise under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States.”
     To defend the rights of black, elderly and poor voters, the plaintiffs decided they’d get a fairer shot from Fulton County than from the U.S. Supreme Court – and they were right to feel that way.
     The plaintiffs make the reasonable argument that Georgia’s photo voter ID law is an illegal “retroactive law” because “it applies to citizens of Georgia who were lawfully registered to vote before the effective date” of the law.
     Georgia’s Photo ID Act, in other words, is a voter disenfranchisement law. So is every other state law – 100 percent of them passed by Republican legislatures – that demands state-issued photo ID from anyone who wants to vote.
     Plaintiffs in the Fulton County case claim the bill violates the Georgia Constitution “because it imposes an unauthorized additional condition on the fundamental right to vote”.
     And they claim, reasonably and accurately, that it “discriminates against African-American voters in particular,” as poor people are less likely to have driver’s licenses, passports or other state-issued identification.
     One could argue that the Bush administration has created, endorsed and enforced racist policies. Or one could argue, also correctly, that the Bush administration is willing to use any tool whatsoever – including institutional racism – to get what it wants, which, in this case, is an edge at the ballot box.
     I’ve lived in Mexico, whose people I love and respect, but whose government for decades was pretty much just a bunch of organized gangsters. But to give Mexico’s government its due, the gangsters who run the PRI have not stooped to anything that the U.S. government has not done now.
     Ahh, equality.

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