Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I Lift My Lamp

a few days ago my wife and i took a day trip to visit three small towns near our home, shopping for christmas gifts along the way.  this loop took us through some beautiful countryside, and several off-the-beaten-path communities.  looking at several confederate flags waving in isolated yards along the way, we were reminded of the racism that has surfaced during the past election campaign and the days of transition leading to donald trump's inauguration.  one home had a united states flag, a confederate flag, and a christian flag displayed on tall flagpoles near the highway.  we wondered how the three could be reconciled.

the analyses of the votes cast during the election has begun, and it is apparent that, in large measure, trump owes his victory to the overwhelming support of white evangelicals, 81% of whom voted for him.  their support, coupled with the failure of some key groups to turn out to vote for secretary clinton in several battleground states, enabled a candidate who espoused racist, mysogynistic views to prevail.  those of us who supported hilliary clinton are heartened that she has won the popular vote, and calls for the abolition of the electoral college have grown stronger and more numerous.  after all, this is the second time in the last twenty years that a progressive candidate has won the popular vote, while losing the election due to the peculiarity of the electoral college system.

we cannot say with accuracy that the american populace has abandoned the progressive philosophy.  we can trace the failure of hilliary clinton and al gore to win elections to a compromise made when the constitution was drafted over two hundred years ago.  in order to assuage the fears of small, less populous states the electoral system was established to give more weight to the states whose leaders were afraid that they would be overwhelmed by the more populous states, just as the founders compromised on the counting of slaves as part of the population, deciding that a slave was only 3/5 of a person in counting the population of a state.  this abominable decision was reversed by a bloody civil war that freed the slaves and made them 5/5 of a person for purposes of the census and voting power, thus increasing the electoral power of the states that had formerly been "slave states."

throughout the history of the usa there has been this battle between the forces of progressive and regressive policies.  in the aftermath of the civil war, a regime of "reconstruction" was instituted that insured that southern whites would develop a sense of alienation from the rest of the nation, a sense that has persisted for amost 150 years.  these draconian measures alienated the poor white southerners from the newly freed slaves, and it was not until the era of franklin delano roosevelt that a common bond between these two groups was forged, a bond that was broken when progressive policies were enacted that insured that full voting rights would be extended to black americans in the south.

regressive policies, like the poll tax, that made it difficult for blacks to exercise the right to vote were abolished.  the civil rights movement worked to register large number of black southerners, often with great resistance from the white political establishment in southern states.  the voting rights act gave black americans, who were overwhelmingly loyal to the party of fdr, new tools for their own enfranchisement and placed restrictions on powerful white "states' rights" advocates in the south.  the result was a stark division in party affiliation between white and black southerners, giving rise to a strengthened republican party in a region that had been uniformly loyal to the democrats.

once again we have seen measures adopted to disenfranchise black southerners and other minorities.  ascendant republicans in southern state houses and legislatures have instituted identification requirements for voting, purged voter rolls willy-nilly, decreased the days available for early voting, reduced the number of polling stations and the hours for voting, making it more difficult for those at the lower rungs of the economic ladder to vote.  the supreme court has removed most of the restrictions on white power that were part of the voting rights act, undoing much that this legislation accomplished.  these regressive policies played a role in the republican victory in the latest election.

many factors contributed to trump's victory, but the fact remains that a majority of americans voted in favor of the more progressive of the two major-party candidates.  the liberal political philosophy in the usa is not dead, though the archaic constitutional election process dealt it a blow.  the forces of progressivism must regroup and prepare for the next election in two years.  perhaps the policies of the new administration will create a sense of "buyer's remorse" among those who cast a protest vote by voting for mr. trump, and the democratic party will field candidates that will cause these angry voters to return to their democrat roots.  history has a way of surprising us, and it may be that this latest election was a quirk that will be reversed.

as we look forward to the ultimate victory of progressivism in the usa and the world, may we stay true to our principles.  may we oppose the forces of regression which see those who are different as "others" who are to be ostracized.  may the progressive ideals that protect those who have come through the "golden door" to find freedom and prosperity in this country ultimately prevail.  shalom.

No comments:

Post a Comment