I’ve been reading a new book called Fear Itself that describes the unholy alliance between the South Progressives and Racists and the Northern Progressives that created the New Deal.
What the author can not explain but describes is how Southern Progressives and Racists who wanted to see a more robust active social order for the white man wanted to keep everyone else in their place.
Without those Southern Progressives the New Deal doesn’t happen.
At the same time their racism defined the limits of the New Deal.
An example of this is the voting process. The Federal Government wanted to create a Federal ballot for the military for state elections. The Southern states, leery of any federal involvement in their peculiar institutions (how about historians start calling them evil?) … did everything in their power to prevent the emergence of a Federal vote. Net effect during the Second World War, the men fighting the war couldn’t vote.
Which brings me to the SCOTUS decision. The only reason we don’t have a federal ballot is so that states can gerrymander outcomes to their majority preferences. And the only reason we have that is because we have states that want to preserve power for one majority at the expense of another majority. And the only reason that ever existed existed is so that the White South could guarantee that no slave would ever get a vote.
In a less elegant way, states want to preserve the right to exclude certain groups from participating in the democracy and so want control over the ballot.
What the Supreme Court did was to ask Congress to come up with new rules. The Supreme Court made the right technical decision. The problem is that the right technical decision coupled with political reality translates into less Federal oversight.
And that causes me alarm.
And all of this would be – well academic in interest – if it wasn’t for the Republican party’s desperate attempts to prevent the wrong groups from voting during the last election.
And so when I see these decisions it reminds me that the project of democracy in America is still a rough work in progress. And if we want a better America, we all have a lot of work to do.
The good news is that time is on our side if we don’t lose faith.