Archive for August 2020

Vote Suppression   Leave a comment

Above:  The Gerrymander

Image in the Public Domain

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Vote suppression is wrong in all circumstances.  When a political party seeks to boost its electoral odds to suppressing votes, it damages the structure of the republic.  Such a party deserves scorn for doing so.

I know enough about United States history to list vote suppression efforts since the earliest days of the republic.

  1. Gerrymandering (a practice older than the label) dates to at least 1788, when Patrick Henry of Virginia tried to draw Congressional district lines to deny James Madison a seat.  The germane historical records tell us Madison won the seat anyway.  The term derives from Elbridge Gerry, the Governor of Massachusetts, who presided over the redrawing of district lines in 1812 to favor his (Jeffersonian) Republican Party.  A famous political cartoon from the time depicts a district the shape of which resembles a salamander.  Gerrymandering entails politicians choosing the voters, not the voters selecting the politicians.  The practice suppresses votes by making voting futile for many potential voters.  Many may choose not to vote because there is no point in doing so.  In 2020, too few Congressional districts are politically competitive.  Some politically secure seats exist apart from gerrymandering, of course.  However, many exist only because of the practice.
  2. The annals of the John Adams Administration (1797-1801) document the Naturalization Act of 1798, which made the minimum period of time to naturalize fourteen years, as opposed to the previous standard of five years.  When one examines the politics of the late 1790s, one realizes that the Federalist Party was trying to maintain its grip on power.  One may also understand that the targeted immigrants were Irish, therefore anti-British.  Perhaps one recalls that the Federalist Party, with its pro-British foreign policy, was unlikely to receive the votes of naturalized Irish-American immigrant men, who tended to favor the (Jeffersonian) Republican Party.  The historical record also tells us that the Naturalization Act of 1798 backfired on the Federalist Party when immigrants hastened to complete their naturalization process than voted (Jeffersonian) Republican enthusiastically.
  3. The Democratic Party committed vote suppression in the post-Civil War South in the name of restoring and maintaining white supremacy.  Methods of vote suppression for nearly a century included lynchings, other forms of violence, informal social pressure, poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and literacy tests.  Literacy tests varied widely, from having to read Latin to guessing how many jelly beans were in a jar.  In Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1890s, voting officials used a literacy test to prevent the brilliant W. E. B. DuBois, a professor at Atlanta University, from registering to vote.  DuBois was literate, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
  4. The Republican Party has been committing vote suppression lately.  Some party officials have even candidly admitted this, without apology.  Their efforts have often had a racist edge, given the rate at which African Americans vote for Democratic candidates.  Since the Republican Party launched its Southern Strategy in the 1960s and began to appeal to White Southern racists, some portion of that party has maintained the Southern Strategy.  Donald Trump has made no secret of his racism.  His dog whistles have been so loud that one does not need canine ears to hear them.  And he has called neo-Nazis “very fine people.”
  5. Voting by mail is safe.  Trump, one who has voted via mail, is lying about it being untrustworthy.  I recall having voted absentee–by mail–more than once.  Some states have much experience conducting elections entirely via mail.  Actually, I prefer voting by mail.  I recall that, earlier this year, I sat down with my ballot, looked up candidates, and marked my ballot.  I also remember that, more than once, I wrote in “None of the above,” even in uncontested races.
  6. No political party has a monopoly on vote suppression.  No major political party in the United States has a clean record regarding opposing this practice.

I hesitate to apply “sacred” to secular institutions, such as the republic.  However, some principles come close to being sacred.  Among these principles are these:

  1. Any political party that has difficulty appealing to voters should seek methods of appealing to them without betraying the highest ideals of human equality.
  2. In a republic, governments should facilitate voting by citizens, not discourage it.

Here I stand.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Fifteen Years in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

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I grew up moving with my family every two years, on average.  Since 2005, however, I have lived in Athens-Clarke County.  I have recently acquired my third address within Athens-Clarke County.  I have put down roots.

I moved to Athens-Clarke County on Tuesday, August 9, 2005.  I was about to start a doctoral program in history at The University of Georgia.  My major professor cut me from the program in the Fall Semester of 2006.  This action was unjust.  I was neither the first nor the last graduate student to run afoul of a misanthropic major professor.  I remained in Athens, though, and build a new life.

I have been active in St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church since August 2005.  As time has passed, I have become more active, in different ways.  People have come to think of me whenever a task needs an organized person to complete it.  I have, therefore, come to lead the lectors and the money counters, to choose movies for a film series, and to teach a Sunday School class.  That class has moved to Zoom on Thursday evenings since the pandemic started.

My life has been in a drawn-out transitional state since Bonny died on October 14, 2019.  Her death drew boldfaced double lines through my life, with “before” on one side and “after” on the other.  Parts of my life have fallen away.  I have not regretted the departure of most of them.  I have been in a stage of simplification, reorientation, reevaluation, and rebirth.  The process has not ended.

I wonder what I will become.

I still hope for a new, professional relationship to The University of Georgia (UGA).  I bear the university no ill will.  I also recognize that I am the kind of person who can fit in there, if only someone will answer one of my applications for full-time employment there affirmatively.  I have no relationship to UGA, as of today.  Whether that status will change depends mostly on others.  A university or college campus is my natural habitat.  UGA offers an inviting habitat with many opportunities to put skills and talents to productive use.

2020 has been a terrible year, mainly because of the pandemic.  2019 had been my worst year to date before COVID-19 started spreading as far and wide as it has been doing.

Assuming, for the sake of discussion, that I will be alive and well a year from now, I wonder what my life and the world will be like.  I pray that the answer will be “much better.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2020 COMMON ERA

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