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Great Moments in States’ “Rights”


The 1892 Republican platform declared the principle “that every citizen of the United States shall be allowed to cast one free and unrestricted ballot in all public elections, and that such ballot shall be counted and returned as cast; that such laws shall be enacted and enforced as will secure to every citizen, be he rich or poor, native or foreign-born, white or black, this sovereign right, guaranteed by the Constitution.” Admittedly, by this time the Republican commitment to the principle was just words. But words were too much for the Democratic Party, who denounced the gross tyranny of guaranteed federal access to the ballot:

We warn the people of our common country, jealous for the preservation of their free institutions, that the policy of Federal control of elections, to which the Republican party has committed itself, is fraught with the gravest dangers, scarcely less momentous than would result from a revolution practically establishing monarchy on the ruins of the Republic. It strikes at the North as well as at the South, and injures the colored citizen even more than the white; it means a horde of deputy marshals at every polling place, armed with Federal power; returning boards appointed and controlled by Federal authority, the outrage of the electoral rights of the people in the several States, the subjugation of the colored people to the control of the party in power, and the reviving of race antagonisms, now happily abated, of the utmost peril to the safety and happiness of all…

The Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Calhoun. And hence this Orwellian language is familiar to anyone who’s spent any time listening to a national Republican politician recently. Protecting civil rights is the source of racial antagonism. People who point out racism are the real racists. The party that represents racial minorities is “subjugating” them. The non-existent “rights” of states should be used to trump the actual federal rights of individuals.

Cf. also this Wall Street Journal op-ed, outraged that Eric Holder would file lawsuits against vote suppression merely because he’s authorized to by statute. Everyone knows that Sunday voting is a grave threat to Republicans the integrity of the ballot! When will Eric Holder stop “subjugating” racial minorities by protecting their access to the ballot?

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