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Last best hope

To the editor:

Any informed reflection on our nation’s past reveals that the “good old days” weren’t so good for all of those who call themselves Americans. Any such reflection clearly reveals an ever present campaign to consciously marginalize targeted groups of Americans in order to ensure the economic advantage of others. Empirical evidence to support the existence and magnitude of this chronic social malignancy abounds, yet many Americans prefer to believe that they are completely “self-made” men and women; long-suffering triumphant warriors on the battlefield of capitalism.

In a representative democracy, power ultimately lies with the electorate. At the end of the day, if you can’t vote, you don’t matter. The history of who could and who couldn’t vote in the US is quite complex. The Cliff note version is, basically, if you were a white guy who owned property, you were pretty much good to go. If you were a woman or a black man, not so much. Around the time of the civil war, the Fifteenth Amendment supposedly eliminated “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” as grounds for disenfranchising citizens. Southern states quickly passed Jim Crow laws to effectively prevent blacks from voting.

Women across the US finally gained the right to vote in 1920.

There was a time when Native Americans could only earn the right to vote by renouncing their tribal membership.

Now, Republicans are reinvigorating their efforts to effectively re-disenfranchise any target group members who don’t pay appropriate levels of homage to the tradition of white male dominance. You see, we seem to believe in free markets and blood-sport level capitalism, unless and until it appears that other, less deserving, groups rather selfishly want a fair piece of the pie that they, and their ancestors, built by the sweat of their brows.

Racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and general ignorance of history are the national cancers that are posing the greatest risk to our future as a nation. Lincoln wrote, “We know how to save the Union….in giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”

In spite of a resurgence of state legislative efforts to make it harder and harder for poor and older Americans to vote, I pray that those Americans answer the call again and again.

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