From the very beginning those in power in the United States have been afraid of allowing everyone to vote. If one looks at the Federalist papers written by Madison, Hamilton et al. one sees a clear fear of the “rabble.” The republican structures of government like the Senate and the Electoral College are to prevent one person, one vote from having the effect it would normally have. The mythos of a democracy has really meant the democracy among a select group. At various times this group has been defined by race, gender, property ownership, economic position, birthplace, grandfather clauses, knowledge of legal documents, and now government issued ID’s. Nowadays this is further compounded by voter apathy in which even those who can vote, don’t vote. Although they don’t admit it those in power are not unhappy about this because it ensures their power. Not only do they get their followers out to vote they prevent potential voters for other candidates from voting by gerrymandering, voting ID laws that discriminate against the poor, and other obstacles to voting.

If, to quote a line from one of my favorite movies The Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,” then the greatest trick those in power have pulled is convincing potential voters for their opponents that they are wasting their time voting. I know, I know that voting doesn’t cure all the things in one’s life and sometimes not even the most important things. However these people must be stopped.  Not only are they tearing down the social fabric of the safety net, they are destroying any pretense of democracy, urging wars that will kill thousands, and dooming the middle class to an ever constricting life. They are ensuring that they and their friends benefit while the rest of us suffer.

Lest we forget it was only fifty years ago that people were marching, being beaten, and dying so that a Voting Rights Law could be passed.  It is a law that now is being unraveled by Supreme Court justices appointed by elected conservatives. We cannot allow this to continue.  It is a betrayal of our ancestors and a a neglect of our responsibilities to those who come after us.

The latest news is that two African Americans have been elected to the City Council of Ferguson, Missouri.  We are long past the naivete that this automatically means that things will get better for Ferguson’s African American population. Too much of their misery is caused by things not under the control of the city council. We have also learned that every brother ain’t a brother and every sister ain’t a sister. A black face does not guarantee policies that favor the folk. Time will tell if this is going to make a difference for Ferguson. However now the possibility exists that the police force will know it is under scrutiny.  The murder and exploitation of the African American population will continue at its own peril and the police now face the discretion of African Americans in oversight positions.

The problem is there are thousands of Ferguson’s and a bewildering array of candidates for local elections. Who has the time to learn enough about them to cast informed votes? We must.  It is becoming a matter of doing so or literally having local governments for whom black lives do not matter. Voting has moved from an option to the only form of self defense we have against the conservatives and Tea Partiers at all levels. We Americans have a long and proud history of not fixing the roof until we are in the middle of a storm and it is leaking. Look around you; the roof is leaking.

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