Monday, April 12, 2021

Forward the GOP white brigade

            Half a league, half a league, half a league onward.

            All in the valley of Death rode the 10 thousand.

            "Forward the White Brigade!"

            Apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson, but a certain full-of-self Republican in Texas has made the appropriation too easy.

            Last week the Washington Post shared video of an unidentified GOP official calling for 10,000 volunteers to brave the darker reaches of urban Houston to find -- and fight! -- voter fraud.

            Sounding like a Trumpian brigadier (Eric?), he exhorts the troops, saying that to brave a harrowing urban center frequented by people of varied colors calls for "confidence and courage."

            You see, he says, "This is where the fraud is occurring."

            Courage. Courage.

            Might this also be where the voter intimidation will be once the GOP "army" besets heavily minority precincts?

            "Army" is not my terminology but that of the Harris County Republican chairman in explaining to the Post what the white knight might have had in mind in rallying the troops: "an army" recruited "to engage voters for the whole ballot, top to bottom, and ensure every legal vote is counted."

            Presumably this will not entail handing voters any bottled beverage, something which, last we checked, remains legal in Texas.

            Water for he who thirsts. No matter how biblical, it's an Election Day misdemeanor now in Georgia.

            A Texas reader is not stirred: "Oh, my, how sad! Well, can't some people do some things for themselves? What is wrong with taking their own bottle of water?"

            Of course, the issue isn't packing one's own Perrier. The issue isn't concerned citizens volunteering to make sure that elections run smoothly.

            The issue is two-fold

            (1) All of these maneuvers are framed around a lie – the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

            (2) All are aimed at voters of color.

            A big lie. A big, racist lie.

            Call it a brigade. Call it an army. The GOP has identified the enemy, and it is voters of color.

            It is voters who traditionally endure longer lines in urban centers. And they do endure. We see them every Election Day entrusting a system that doesn't always trust them.

            They don't live out among the white picket fences where Escalades roam free. They live in the land of row houses and bus stops.

            It's a sweeping claim to call a major political party racist, or race-motivated.

            But we look at the Big Lie, and we look at the frantic maneuvers to overturn the 2020 presidential results and now to suppress the vote under the guise of "vote security." It's all about challenging or tamping down the votes of minorities. And by review, it's all motivated by a lie.

            In the words of the Brennan Center for Justice, which monitors voting rights, these vote suppression measures are "a solution in search of a problem."

            Ask Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, long and loud in trumpeting the Big Lie.

            His staff last year devoted 22,000 hours investigating voter fraud and found just 16 cases of it.

            Gov. Greg Abbott preceded Paxton in the same role and launched his own futile quest to find the kind of rampant voter fraud that would justify increasing levels of "vote security."

            There is no other reason for what we see today in a host of red states but that Donald Trump said the election was stolen – and stolen by heavily minority districts – and that's that.

            A big, racist lie.

            So it doesn't matter what the "army" calls itself. That's not the issue. Presuming it doesn't break the law in intimidating voters, the visitors are welcome down where all those urban dwellers dwell.

            The issue is that the Republican Party's quest is that few people of color vote.

            Forward, White Brigade.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Vote suppression: the GOP national pastime

            Wanted: a new location for the Major League All-Star Game. Qualifications: (1) must love baseball; (2) must show fidelity to self-government, meaning opposition to chicanery that makes it harder for poor people to vote.

            Georgia, you're out, says Commissioner Rob Manfred.

            Hey, MLB, pick my state, Colorado. It has done great things to increase voter turnout.

            My state loves democracy as much as it loves baseball. Our governor has put out the word to MLB. Pick us.

            Atlanta just lost the All-Star Game and baseball's draft because the major leagues joined the swelling ranks of those repulsed by Georgia's newly restrictive voting laws.

            Hopefully it's just the beginning of pain for a host of Republican leaders who have aimed a dark stream of spittle at our democracy.

            President Biden calls what Georgia has done "Jim Crow on steroids." That's not hyperbole when, in addition to decimating the number of ballot drop-off boxes, Georgia goes so far as to forbid giving water to voters standing in line.

            This is not a new initiative. Baseball is America's pastime. Vote suppression has become the Republican Party's pastime.

            That condition has not beset my state. Colorado leads the nation in making voting easy and accessible.

            Colorado has demonstrated that Donald Trump's screeching about the perils of mail-in voting is just blather.

            Colorado has universal mail-in voting. It works.

            Not only does Colorado not restrict when people can register or vote, it has same-day voter registration. It works.

            Colorado supplies a plentitude of drop-off boxes for mail ballots. It works.

            What baseball has said to Georgia is that you can't host a game treasured by Americans if you spit on something even more cherished: the right to vote.

            Not surprisingly, Texas Republicans are winding up to deliver a loogie.

            You would think Republicans in Texas wouldn't need to go all Houston Astros to retain their political advantage. Well, bang that trash can.

            A Senate bill would submarine local efforts to increase voter turnout – like extended early voting and the wide availability of voter drop-off boxes.

            It would prohibit extended hours meant for shift workers. It would outlaw drive-through voting. It would take decisions about polling places out of the hands of local officials. It would allow partisan poll-waters to videotape voters they deem "suspicious."

            It's offensive. It's wrong. It's hyper-partisan. It's driven by racism.

            Just as surely as Republicans tried to overturn the votes of minority-heavy precincts in the 2020 election, these laws draw a target on poor people and those of color attempting to carry out their citizenly duty.

            Republicans cannot deny this. They know it. People of color know it.

            Republicans say this is about "election integrity." It is just the opposite. It's election dishonesty.

            Fortunately, some other players know it, like Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines in Georgia. Like American Airlines and Dell Technologies, which have registered their revulsion with what the Texas Senate has voted to do.

            What's most scandalous about the flurry of vote-suppression measures in red states is that their pretext is Donald Trump's Big Lie about the election. Worse still is the transparent, Trump-style racism inherent.

            It's heartening to see the blowback.

            The next blowback will be from black and brown voters.

            Godspeed to Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Beto O'Rourke in Texas and progressive forces in Arizona who impress on voters what the Republican Party has attempted to do. I predict it will backfire with increased minority turnout.

            The first shoe to drop is what Major League Baseball did last week.

            Again, MLB: For your All-Star Game, let me offer a state that loves democracy as much as it loves baseball.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com

 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Kneel before gleaming utensils of death

          Louis Klarevas is alive only because it was a shotgun pointed in his face that day and not an AR-15.

            The gunman got off only one errant shot when Klarevas and his two frantic friends knocked the shotgun to the side and disarmed the maniac.

            Klarevas later learned that the nut wasn't your textbook gun nut, not one with an arsenal fit for a Third World army like so many mass assailants. The weapon was a vintage family heirloom.

            Writes Klarevas, "Had the shooter been carrying a concealed, light-weight, high-capacity semi automatic weapon, the outcome would have been dramatically different."

            For one, Klarevas likely wouldn't be alive to appeal for sane gun laws in his 2013 book "Rampage Nation."

            As for countless dead and maimed Americans, their families, their communities, reasonable people must appeal for them.

            Tragically, public policies are in grips of a love triangle: the Republican Party, gun hobbyists, gun lobbyists.

            Despite clear and pronounced majority support in this country for reasoned gun laws proven to save lives, we remain sitting ducks in a shooting gallery.

            Most of what comes from the gun lobby is ridiculous and whiny pleadings based on buyer convenience.

            The most ridiculous argument is that stricter gun laws serve no purpose. Wrong.

            The first four years of the 10-year Assault Weapons Ban, in effect from 1994 to 2004 when it lapsed at the hands of a Republican-controlled Congress, the United States had not even one gun massacre (six or more killed by one gunman). That law saved lives.

            Another ridiculous argument is hobbyists' attempt to parse away any distinction from military-style weapons and hunting arms. As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography, we know an assault weapon when we see it. And we can ban it.

            What is an assault weapon? It's whatever we, the governing powers of a democratic republic, say it is. The Second Amendment allows it, say the courts.

            As for that amendment's broad-brush application, former Chief Justice Warren Burger, a Republican appointee, said, "The Gun Lobby's interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word 'fraud,' on the American people by special interest groups that I have even seen in my lifetime."

            That amendment was about a well-regulated militia, not convenience for a deranged individual who decides to mow down grocery shoppers.

            To treat only a portion of that amendment the whole of "Second Amendment rights" is akin to those who saw the 2020 election count on Election Night, ignored the count of subsequent mornings, and said Donald Trump won.

            Freedom to bear arms? How about a Stinger missile? How about an Abrams tank? How about dynamite?

            Again, it is we who decide what weapons shouldn't be on dealers' shelves.

            In the wake of the Aurora theater shooting, in 2013 Colorado banned the sale and transfer of high-capacity magazines that carried more than 15 rounds.

            The gun lobby staged a slobbery tantrum. A manufacturer of the killer wares moved to Wyoming. Good riddance.

            Trying to understand the dynamics of a school shooting in writing his 1994 book, "Lethal Passage," Erik Larson asked far and wide for a civilian justification for high-capacity magazines. He found only one lucid one from a hobbyist: "simply to save time on reloading while you're at the range." Hey, gun ranges charge by the hour, you know.

            Let Ted Cruz preen about the sanctity of gun rights. We know what this is all about: commerce -- the filthiest lucre on the planet.

            And the gun industry isn't the only beneficiary of all this. In the 2018 election cycle, Cruz received $311,151 from gun-rights interests.

            As one reader wrote me after the Boulder massacre:

            "Those who fight to maintain this nightmare are cowards. They worship false idols, which their guns have become. They should be fearful of the day when they discover what weapons of death they have become."

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.