The Republican Campaign to Suppress the Black Vote – A Racist Conspiracy

The right to vote is fundamental to any real democracy. The African American people from slavery to today have had to wage a hard, bitter and bloody struggle for this right: it is therefore a sacred and basic part of achieving full democracy and equality for all and an important gauge of the strength of US democracy.

As our nation approaches one of the most important elections in its history, the Bush administration, the Republican Party and the right-wing are waging a well-financed campaign to weaken and destroy the impact of the African American vote.

Why? Eighty-three percent of Black registered voters told CBS/BET they would definitely vote this year, up from a record 71 percent in 2000. Needless to say, this vote that will have a decisive impact on who is elected president in a few weeks. In order to avoid defeat, the GOP is determined to stop it.

This campaign is in direct violation of the Voting Rights Act (1965) and the principal of one person, one vote and is a clear example of the racist nature of the Bush administration. For all of their demagogic talk of a 'color blind' society, the Bush administration has been totally color conscious. They are attacking the whole idea of universal suffrage and a multiracial democracy.

Bush’s behavior in 2000 and since is the behavior of an enemy of democracy. Thus, the fight back against their continuing efforts to suppress the Black vote is decisive to preserving and extending democracy. In fact, one of the most important reasons to defeat Bush this year is his theft of the election in 2000. The former Texas governor could not have become president were it not for the suppression of the African American vote – an event that occurred not only in Florida but around the country. This was a racist conspiracy, carried out in the name of fighting voter fraud. In fact the theft of thousands of Black votes by the Republicans was a fraud in itself in which thousands of mainly Black voters were both prevented from getting to polls by state police roadblocks and purged from the voting lists in a phony scheme to remove convicted felons. Consider that of those removed, 80 percent were not felons.

In addition, faulty voting machines were concentrated in Black and Democratic districts. If this weren’t enough, leaflets were distributed in these communities featuring the wrong election date along with warnings that people with outstanding parking tickets or tax problems might get in trouble if they voted. At the polls, additional pieces of photo identification were demanded.

Republicans would like to sweep these tactics under the rug, but the facts are undeniable. But that isn’t stopping them: they are doing it again. The Bush camp has apparently concluded that they cannot win without resorting to those same violations of the US Constitution and the civil rights laws. The Republicans have already been caught purging voters from the list in Florida. They are trying to disrupt voter registration efforts and are preparing for election day disruption aimed at mainly Black voters. These efforts to effectively take away the right to vote from so many citizens show the Republicans know they do not have the support of the people and will stop at nothing to win.

Bush Agenda and African Americans

In all major areas of life: employment, poverty, incarceration rates, education, homelessness and hunger, things have gotten much worse for African Americans since Bush took office.

Black Americans still suffer from double the rate of unemployment and poverty figures of other Americans. Recent reports show an astounding 50 percent of African American males in New York City are unemployed. Racial profiling is rampant especially after 9/11 and half of all men incarcerated in the US are Black. Higher rates of poverty and lower opportunities for decent education and jobs are forcing disproportionate numbers of African American youth into the military.

This is why the Bush administration has almost no support among African Americans. That reality should be a wake up call for any president concerned about the well being of our nation. The Bush administration and the Republican majority in Congress do not support efforts to alleviate the problems of poverty, inadequate public schools and the urban crisis because these goals are in contradiction to their pro-corporate political agenda.

The Bush Attack 2004

The Bush campaign has calculated that a one or two percent increase in Black votes for them, or a comparable decrease in the African American votes for the Democrats, would help their cause a lot.

In order to achieve this they will try anything, including buying votes. Between elections this administration hardly has spare change to spend in the African American community, but at election time millions of dollars start to flow in an effort to persuade Black voters to vote for the GOP, efforts that have minimal effect. Outside of the administration there are very few African American public figures willing to identify with Bush.

What the Republican’s can’t buy they’re ready to intimidate and even use violence. For example, in 2003 during the mayoral race in Philadelphia, over 300 sedans with magnetic signs designed to look like law enforcement insignia, full of uniformed men carrying clip boards, invaded the Black community approaching voters and challenging their legitimacy. This unsuccessful attempt to take away votes from Black Democratic Mayor John Street and elect a white Republican in a predominantly African American city, was racism and intimidation.

Reports have surfaced that Vice President Dick Cheney has set aside $750,000 to hire professional thugs from the Vance International and Security (formally the Pinkertons) to go into voting places in working-class and non-white neighborhoods this November. Fortunately, many voters are aware of what happened in 2000 and are deeply concerned, it not happen again.

There is a fight back.

On July 16th Congresswomen Corrine Brown (D-Fl.) spoke in favor of the need for United Nations monitoring the coming election. In her district in 2000, faulty machines wrongly rejected 27,000 ballots from African Americans. She boldly charged that the Republican leadership of the House participated in a coup d’etat by helping steal the election. Republicans shouted her down, struck her words from the record, censured her and passed a resolution forbidding the use of any UN money for the purpose of monitoring elections in the US.

Representative Brown, standing before the Congress of the United State representing 600,000 constituents, was carrying on Fannie Lou Hamer’s noble fight for democracy. Hamer, another southern Black woman, was jailed and brutally beaten by the local KKK/state police 41 years ago because she was fighting for the right to vote. The dominant southern Dixiecrat Democratic Party knew if Black voters gained the franchise their racist rule would come to an end. Like the Repbulican’s today, they feared Black voters and set up a legal structure and a brutal system to prevent them from voting. They used violence and intimidation and murder to stop their vote. Fanny Lou Hamer helped form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which was an integrated Party. As more civil rights victories were won in the South, the old Dixiecrats shifted en mass to the Republican Party.

The Republican majority of the US Congress today represents the political kin of the KKK state police who brutally beat Ms. Hamer in a Mississippi jail. This is the kind of democracy and open debate the Republican majority in the Congress believes in.

How to Meet the Challenge

All across the country tens of thousands of volunteers from the labor movement, the youth and student groups, women’s and senior groups are registering and educating voters about what is at stake in this election. The atmosphere is like Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964) when hundreds of mainly young volunteers headed to this southern state to register voters. This time it’s all over the country, with the hope that a massive number of new anti-Bush voters will come to the polls on November 2nd.

The major civil rights organizations are registering millions of voters in the Black and Latino communities. Those voters can make the difference. As Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association of Colored People (NAACP), put it at their recent convention: 'Any NAACP chapter that is not involved in voter registration should turn in their charter.'

The NAACP and People for the American Way are fighting against the suppression of the Black vote. Their excellent study,' The Long Shadow of Jim Crow,' documents the current efforts of the GOP to suppress the Black vote.

Ron Walters, writing in The Crisis (July/August 04), points out that if the unregistered Black voters were registered and came to the polls in Florida, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, and Arkansas, all states that Bush won in 2000, he would be defeated.

Groups like Rock the Vote, Move On, peace groups, the Black Radical Congress, churches, the Hip Hop community, the AFL/CIO, Jobs with Justice, Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) and many unions are sending their staffs into the battle ground states to register and educate voters.

The Communist Party USA and the Young Communist League, recognizing the urgency of this great struggle against racism, injustice and war, are also organizing members and supporters to go to the battle ground states. From their actions it is clear that a widespread understanding that democracy itself is at stake in this election.

Major efforts are being undertaken in Florida and all over the South to maximize the anti-Bush vote. On Election Day the new and emerging Black and labor vote in the South could deliver an unexpected defeat for Bush. This vote could also upset the Republican majorities in the. House and Senate.

This effort is also planting the seeds for a new political independence in the country. Maximizing the voter rolls among working families and racially oppressed people will strengthen the number of independent progressive voters, and the struggle for peace jobs and equality beyond this election.

This Racist Conspiracy can be Defeated

It will take a lot of hard work and determination but Bush and his agenda can be defeated.

Two years ago African American Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (GA), one of the most consistent fighters against the Bush agenda, was a victim of the administration’s attempt to silence outspoken African American elected officials. In this election thousands of Republican voters crossed over and defeated her in the Democratic Party primary.

Rather than giving up, Cynthia McKinney kept campaigning. In July 2004 she won the Democratic primary back. This victory shows that with struggle the racist conspiracy can be defeated.

While many issues of equality are not by any means settled, African American voters know that with Democrats in power it is possible to debate those issues and win victories. But with the Republicans it has been one setback after another.

At the Democratic National Convention, Rev. Al Sharpton said of the Republicans, 'They promised us 40 acres and a mule. We waited and nothing happened. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Bush, we waited around with the Republican Party through Herbert Hoover. Still didn't get the 40 acres. Didn't even get the mule. So we decided we'd ride this (Democratic) donkey as far as it would take us.'

This is a good summary of the history of the African American people’s relationship to the two major parties. Black people have a history of supporting political parties based on the extent that those parties have supported their fight for freedom. Black voters have at times used independent parties as well when it was needed to advance the cause. Throughout history the cause has always been more important than the Party or candidate.

There is a new spirit of struggle among Democrats. People of all political stripes including some Republicans recognize that four more years of Bush will place our nation and this world in even greater danger. Among African American people there is a stronger mood of rejection of Bush than in the last presidential contest. This is true among Latino voters as well, reflecting concern about Bush’s overall policies and his recent stepped up attacks on immigrants and on progressive Latino elected officials.

On Election Day

The Kerry Campaign, labor and others are organizing hundreds of volunteer lawyers in every state to be available on Election Day with special hot line numbers. The election protection movement is responding to the potential danger of vote suppression.

To guarantee the defeat of the Bush racist conspiracy, volunteers are needed on the scene at polling places, especially in African American and Latino areas expected to vote heavily against Bush. Trained grass roots watchdog committees are needed to answer questions, handle complaints and challenge provocations and illegal actions by state officials. The key is vigilance along with a strong spirit of struggle.

All progressive minded voters who know what is at stake on November 2nd are needed to volunteer on Election Day as part of the growing grass roots movement to make sure that every vote is counted.

--Jarvis Tyner is executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA.

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