Friday, May 9, 2008

It’s the franchise, stupid!

(cross posted, with additional graphics, here)

In a democracy, nothing matters more than the right to vote, and for one’s vote to count meaningfully.

The right to vote, to be represented meaningfully, to have political voice literally birthed the United States of America. Remember: the colonists' original grievance against England was that they lacked representation in the British Parliament, yet the British Parliament was ruling the colonies with an iron hand.

Apparently, the current Democratic National Party either does not remember this fact or cannot understand the significance of a meaningful franchise. The D.N.C., under the auspices of Dr. Dean and the sway of Senator Obama, will not seat the voters of Michigan and Florida commensurate with the way the people in those states voted in their primaries.

At this point, this refusal has nothing to do with penalizing Michigan and Florida for breaking Party rules. Democrats in both states were willing to bear the burden of revoting and Senator Clinton’s supporters have been willing to bear the costs, all in the name of the franchise.

The American colonists were not the last to fight for the franchise in our country. The franchise created by our founders did not extend to all adult citizens. So, many more Americans, of all races and both genders, fought to make sure that every adult in the country has a federally guaranteed right to vote in state and federal elections. African American men gained a Constitutional guarantee of this right in 1870 with the passage of the 15th Amendment of the to the U.S. Constitution.

The Fifteenth Amendment {At the time of passage, citizens = men} Section. 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Section. 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Not until fifty years later did women (of any and all) races gain the same Constitutional guarantee. In 1920, the 19th Amendment passed. (That same year the League of Women Voters came into being.)

The Nineteenth Amendment Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Section 2: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Interestingly, the State of Kentucky brought the Amendment past the two-thirds threshold required for the passage of a Constitutional Amendment

Pay attention to Section 2 of these Amendments

Constitutional guarantees are one thing, actual enfranchisement another. As students of civil rights in this country know full well the battle for meaningful voting rights in this country for goes on. Congress passed legislation in 1957, 1960, and 1964 that contained voting-related provisions, meant to give teeth to guarantees of the franchise. But it took until 1965, and the passage of the original Voting Righting Act, to give real voice to the disenfranchised.

The Democratic National Party has about three weeks – not decades – to afford meaningful franchise to the voters of Michigan and Florida

The Democrats will have 3,253 pledged delegates and 796 superdelegates at the Democratic National Convention, if Michigan and Florida are excluded. Without those two states, the eventual Democratic nominee will need 2,025 delegates. If those states’ delegations are ultimately seated, then a candidate will need 2,209 delegates to secure the nomination. Without revotes, the only meaningful way to protect the D.N.C. franchise of the voters of Michigan and Florida primary voters is to award Senator Clinton all the votes cast for her, and only those cast specifically to Senator Obama to him. Apparently the D.N.C. does not get this.

Terry McAuliffe on the latest plan for seating Michigan: “I think we ought to get all the delegates. [Obama] took his name off the ballot, deliberately, politically; it’s a political decision which he made, which is fine, but they are going to give him all the uncommitted, I guess, John Edwards’ and everyone else’s.”

The Democratic National Party, like the Republican National Party, is not the creation of the federal government. But they certainly play a major role in determining the make-up and nature of that government. If the U.S. Congress was able to admit that it needed to redress the shortcomings of its original efforts to guarantee the franchise to black men and to all women, how can the Democratic National Party do less for the voters of Michigan and Florida? Are those voters the new women and black men of the D.N.C, to be deprived of the voice they expressed when they went to the voting booths and cast their ballots?

Votes – the Peacekeepers of Democracy

There is more than one way to take control of a political outcome. Backroom deals, military coups, war. But what makes a democracy operate according to the rule of law, rather than the reign of terror, is robust recognition of every voter who pulls a lever or presses a button or submits a paper ballot indicating his or her choice. The Democratic National Party should certainly not be less sensitive to this than the United States Congress.

The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.

Lyndon B. Johnson
American 36th US president (1963-69). 1908-1973


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