By José Antonio López
Voting in Texas during the recent primary election races was one of the easiest and bureaucracy-free civic duties a citizen can experience. You show up at your precinct voting location, a friendly volunteer takes and reviews your registration card, another volunteer confirms your name and address on a master voters list that you are asked to sign. Then, you are shown to the booth, you vote and you leave.
In other words, Texas already has a proven system that works. Superbly simple, it gives credence to the old adage, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
So, why do conservatives in Texas and other like-minded state legislatures want to enact Voter ID laws that will turn the volunteers into Homeland Security agents checking citizens’ papers before allowing them to vote in the land of the free?
Critics accuse conservatives of 1930s totalitarian state style of intimidation toward racial and ethnic groups they do not like. The conservatives insist that it’s not about abusing their power, but rather elimination of voter fraud.
The answer requires a look at two important documents written when the Thirteen Colonies achieved their independence from England.
Seemingly, both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution guarantee freedom to all U.S. citizens. Not so. Ironically, when they were written, they did not apply to everyone.
In truth, the documents were developed by White, Anglo Saxon Protestant men for White, Anglo Saxon Protestant men. The documents did not apply to women, Native Americans, or slaves. (Note: When the U.S. conquered and subsumed Mexico’s northern territories in 1848 (Texas and the Southwest), its Spanish Mexican-descent inhabitants experienced the same prejudice.)
In fact, in 1776 the British author Thomas Day questioned the truthfulness of the Declaration of Independence. He said “If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature, it is an American patriot, signing resolutions of independency with the one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves.”
The question is how did minorities gain equality at a par with White, Anglo Saxon Protestant males?
It wasn’t easy. The Constitution was amended numerous times to extend the blanket of justice to cover minority groups in the U.S. Also, special human rights acts were passed to ensure equality for Blacks, Hispanics, women, and minorities.
This method of inclusion is what made the difference. For example, President Truman’s Executive Order integrated our Armed Forces in 1948. Today’s Blacks and Hispanics can vote, enter a college or university of their choice, own homes in better neighborhoods, and receive equal pay for equal work thanks to Congressional Acts.
Among the major actions are the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court “Class Apart” Decision liberating Mexican-descent citizens in Texas, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In the end, the hard-fought war against racism was won because of the many heroes and martyrs who courageously refused to accept the status quo.
It was a tough battle between right and wrong and it appeared that right had won. That is until we freely elected the first Black President in 2008. Since then, a well-orchestrated conservative movement began to find ways to turn the clock back to the days of intolerance.
In enacting Voter ID laws, conservative legislators of today are reviving the ugly dragon of bigotry. Since 2003, over 30 conservative-led state legislatures have passed Voter ID laws (the 21st Century equivalent to the Poll Tax) to eliminate voter fraud.
There is one big problem.
Based on countless investigations, there is no proof of voter fraud! Hiding behind the flag while denying justice to minorities just as in 1776, conservatives reek of duplicity.
Finally, America was once a land of brown-neck people. It is poised to be so again. Why do conservatives seem to have a problem with this?
The re-browning of America has stopped Manifest Destiny in its tracks. Why can’t they accept it? Why can’t conservatives compete fairly to win minorities’ vote in an open electorate? There is no better time for conservatives to see their hypocrisy than the next time they recite the Pledge of Allegiance and end it with the words “…with liberty and justice for all”.
What would Thomas Day say?
At a minimum, he would note that it is an object truly ridiculous in nature for conservatives to wear their U.S. flag pins on their lapels whilst they embrace oppressive laws such as Voter ID that only hurt minorities.
No tienen vergüenza!
(LL Editor’s note: A longer version of this post appeared in the Rio Grande Guardian.)
José Antonio (Joe) López was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and is a USAF Veteran. He is the author of two books: “The Last Knight (Don Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara Uribe, A Texas Hero)”, and “Nights of Wailing, Days of Pain (Life in 1920s South Texas).” Lopez is also the founder of the Tejano Learning Center, LLC, a Web site dedicated to Spanish Mexican people and events in U.S. history that are mostly overlooked in mainstream history books.