Bill Fletcher Jr.ColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

Why Aren’t We Discussing Voter Suppression During an Election Year?

Bill Fletcher says that time and again throughout the history of the United States if the ruling elite wants to push through a nefarious measure, they first implement it in communities of color.
Bill Fletcher says that time and again throughout the history of the United States if the ruling elite wants to push through a nefarious measure, they first implement it in communities of color.

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA News Wire Columnist

There are many peculiar things about the 2016 election cycle, but one of them is what is not being discussed.

There are two items that immediately jump to mind and, believe it or not they both have to do with elections. The first is, that in the state of Michigan, there have been a series of silent coups taking place in which Black-majority cities are losing control over their own affairs to a White, Republican Governor Snyder who intervenes supposedly in order to address various crises. This matter most recently became very public in the context of the travesty surrounding the revelation of water poisoning in Flint, Michigan. In the recent past, Flint was run by an emergency manager appointed by the governor.

Despite the existence of these silent coups, very little attention has surfaced in the mainstream media. Certainly part of the reason is that these are Black-majority cities in question and, as a result, the problem of the deprival of democracy can seem to only affect Black people. I hate to put it that way, but that is the reality of the situation.

The fact that these silent coups have been taking place, and yet there has been little to no outrage in non-black communities, should alert us to a growing danger of declining democracy. That these cities can be deprived of local control and, in effect, disenfranchise the voters, means that such an approach can be taken in any city. This is not a problem limited to the situation facing African Americans. A precedent has been set and, as has been demonstrated time and again throughout the history of the United States, if the ruling elite—or a segment—wants to push through a nefarious measure, they first implement it in communities of color. Once it is successfully implemented in communities of color, there are no longer any arguments about its legitimacy when used more broadly. The disenfranchisement of the Black vote in the South with Jim Crow at the turn of the 20th century, which ended up disenfranchising much of the poor White vote, is a case in point.

Yet here we are in an election year, and there has been near silence about this effort to suppress the black vote. These silent coups should be added to other mean-spirited efforts to restrict the ability of citizens to vote. Using the duplicitous suggestion of widespread voter fraud, the Republicans have whipped up a panic—largely among whites—about alleged illegitimate voters affecting election outcomes. While the chances of voter fraud are less than the chance of being hit by lightning, the Republicans have met with success in moving various onerous steps to restrict voting times, days, as well as eligibility. These efforts gained renewed Republican vigor in the aftermath of the 2008 election of President Obama.

What a coincidence!

Here we are in the 2016 and this suppression of democracy has received almost no attention from the candidates. While I would not expect the Republicans to highlight their own authoritarian moves, it is curious that this has not been a central theme for either Senator Sanders or former Secretary of State Clinton.
Apparently the conclusion is that we, the voters, will have to make this central to the 2016 election cycle.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk-show host, writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter at @BillFletcherJr, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

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Bill Fletcher Jr.

Bill Fletcher Jr has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941”; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web.

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