Voting Rights and Wrongs
-Sitting Bull, Powder River Conference, 1877
Not to make myself appear more scholarly that I really am, I have to confess to you that the quote above was lifted from Hunter S. Thompson's classic, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. I just finished reading it yet again. I've read it every presidential election cycle since I first discovered it thirty years ago. By my reckoning this is the ninth time I've dissolved it from cover to cover. What the Great Chief Sitting Bull had to say in 1877 still resonates one-hundred and thirty-five years later. What Dr. Thompson wrote at the end of that same chapter also strikes a resonant chord forty years after the fact:
"This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it - that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable."
Indeed. At least in 1972 we were at a point where we could comfort ourselves by the (delusional as it turns out) notion that the worst aspects of out national character had been eternally consigned to history's shit pile. The Jim Crow laws that had for over a century denied certain "undesirables" the opportunity to cast their precious ballots were forever behind us. Progress would move slowly, we lied to ourselves, but it would move surely. It was a case of mass self-deception. Any hope for progress in this doomed country is going the way of the Passenger Pigeon and Betamax videotapes.
Four years ago the Plutocratic (WHITE) Power Structure in this diseased land became apoplectic when the first African American in history successfully bulldozed that most sacred of all racial barriers and was handed the keys to the Executive Mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC, 20500. "HOW COULD SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPEN???" they asked themselves positively aghast. They never made a serious inquiry into finding out the answer to that question. Had they done so they would have realized that America was at the dawn of a major (and inevitable) sociological shift in its voting demographic. But the answer didn't matter in the least to them. All that mattered was the fact that they were determined, come hell or high water, to make goddamned-good-and-sure that it never happen again.
What to do? The same thing reactionaries always do; the same thing Hitler did eighty years ago: conjure up phantoms.
It was an epidemic that did not exist. It was all make believe: the "plague" of voter fraud. But they were desperate for an excuse - any one would do - to crack down on this nonexistent crime wave, despite the fact that during the last twenty years, the proven cases of fraudulent voting nationwide are of a number so miniscule that no one ever bothered to pay attention to them - until now.
Incredibly, they still deny the very real epidemic of election fraud - which allowed them to steal the White House in 2000 and 2004 - which will assist them in stealing it again in 2012. But that was beside the point to these treasonous assholes. 2000 and 2004 produced a rock-ribbed, right winged good ol' boy they could relate to - not some slick, commie nigger from Chicago. Stop frettin', Bubbah! THE MAN is gonna be running the minstrel show again come Inauguration Day 2013. Jes you wait and see! Ain't nothin' like Barack Obama ever gonna happen again! Now shut up and pass me them grits, ya hear?
Of course the proposed Voter ID laws would be expected in dear old Dixie. They kinda have a history of this sort of weird behavior, and we're not too many generations removed from it. I could live with that. Honest! But now Jim Crow has taken his strange act on a Nationwide Comeback Tour. And the targets this time around are not only black people, but college kids, the elderly, city dwellers, Latinos - in other words, the traditional progressive constituency. What the right wing extremists who control the Republican party have in mind for this November the sixth is nothing less than an electoral coup d'etat. If you're not deeply alarmed by that observation you really should be. And bear in mind that these murderous jackasses usually get their way.
The Voter ID Law has just been upheld in Pennsylvania. It's now being appealed to a higher court. If it is upheld again - and given to the Supremes to ponder - you might as well start singing democracy's requiem. If Mitt Romney is elected in November (as it appears he very well might be) and is allowed the appointment of even one more hard-line, dim-witted extremist to the highest court in the land, it's all over. So long, America. It's been good to know you. Bye bye!
FUN FACT: Two months ago the Texas State Republican Party announced that part of their platform at the 2012 National Convention will be the demand that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 be repealed as unconstitutional. Since they made that announcement there has not been a single word of reprimand toward them from the RNC - nary a peep. Was this a great country or what!
Dick Gregory once said that repression is more detrimental to the ones doing the repressing than it is to the ones being repressed. Now there's something to think about, boys and girls. The plutocracy has seen the writing on the wall. They have no intention of going down - with or without a fight. They are attempting to avoid the unavoidable truth - the undeniable truth - that within a matter of a quarter century this will no longer be a "white man's world". It is my belief that if they have their way, within a decade dissent in America will be federally outlawed. Denying the ballot to so huge a segment of the American electorate is merely the first, baby step on the road to totalitarianism. If these hideous thugs have their way, in ten years you won't recognize this fucking place. It can't happen here? Don't be too sure.
Do you think I'm overreacting? Do you think I'm being just bit paranoid? I'll tell you what: let's all vote for the Republicans on Election Day and see what happens. On that happy note....
I get weary and sick of tryin'
I'm tired of livin' and scared of dyin'
But old man river, he just keeps rollin' along....
-Oscar Hammerstein II
On Election Night 1972 when George McGovern went down to defeat at the hands of Dick Nixon, Hunter Thompson was also a man defeated - bitterly so. Here is how he concluded his book on the '72 Campaign:
"The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes and all his imprecise talk about 'new politics' and 'honesty in government' is one of the few men who've run for President of the United States in this century who really understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon."
On February 20, 2005, at his home in Woody Creek, Colorado, Hunter Thompson pointed a gun to his head and ended his life. Years of hard living were starting to catch up with him, and his chronic health problems had made his life nearly unbearable. By all accounts he also sank into a deep depression when George W. Bush was reelected three months earlier. As despairing as he felt at the end of the Campaign of 1972, Election Day 2004 was the final nail in the coffin. The good Doctor was quite a perceptive guy. It's a fairly good bet that he saw the future all-too-clearly and wanted to cash in his chips - get out while the getting was good as it were. I won't stand in judgement of Hunter Thompson. I can't.
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72
by Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
by Hunter S. Thompson
The Great Shark Hunt
by Hunter S. Thompson
ANYTHING BY HUNTER THOMPSONSUGGESTED VIEWING:
GONZO: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
This is a warts-and-all documentary on one of the most important American journalists of the twentieth century. It is well worth a look. Hunter's writings are spoken by Johnny Depp. Here is a link to order it off of Amazon.com: