The Second Leg Of The New Jim Crow Is Here: We Must Abolish Trump's So-Called 'Election Integrity Commission'

07/20/2017 08:25 am ET Updated Jul 31, 2017
Trump speaks alongside Kansas Secretary of  State Kris Kobach, left, and Vice President Mike Pence during the first  meeting
Saul Loeb/AFP - Getty Images
Trump speaks alongside Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, left, and Vice President Mike Pence during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House in Washington on July 19, 2017.

Yesterday, while Trump's so-called "Election Integrity Commission" had its first meeting and swearing-in ceremony inside, I was humbled to closeout the (nationally trending) #RespectMyVote Rally outside of the White House on behalf of Democracy Spring (a colorful, nonviolent direct action history-making, millennial-led movement formation committed to winning the fundamental electoral reforms necessary to make democracy real in America). We partnered with the Hip Hop Caucus, NAACP, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, ACLU, Common Cause, The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Public Citizen, People For the American Way, Democracy Awakening, Democracy Initiative, Rock the Vote, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and other nationally recognized civic organizations to call out this commission for what it really is: a sham!

In the wake of both (1) historically low voter turnout, and (2) the biggest rollback to voting rights since the Jim Crow era, we should be making it easier to vote, not harder -- particularly since studies show that a person's more likely to be struck by lightening than he is to commit voting fraud.

Nevertheless, we know that this commission is nothing more than a sinister opportunity for its new Vice-Chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (whose record of voter suppression makes Jim Crow Segregationists and Nixonian Southern Strategists smile from the grave, and who was most recently fined $1,000 by a judge for making "patently misleading representations to the court" during litigation in a voter registration case), to nationalize what a U.S. Appeals Court, last year, said he did in Kansas: he used the pretext of voter fraud to deny 18,000 ELIGIBLE Kansans their right to vote! Furthermore, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, UPenn, and Microsoft researchers have shown that just a conservative use of Kobach's Crosscheck system (which about 30 Republican-controlled states have already used) would impede 200 votes for every double vote prevented.

I tried to do my part to warn Congress and the nation that this would come when I mobilized with a handful of other Democracy Spring activists to employ the sacred tool of civil disobedience at the Congressional Certification of the Electoral College Vote on January 6th, and it brings me no pleasure today to say that I was right.

This is why I refer to this phenomenon as "The Second Leg of The New Jim Crow" (Political Disenfranchisement), the first leg being Socio-Economic Disenfranchisement (which we've seen most prominently through mass incarceration and deportation; but also through the redlining, reverse-redlining, and segregation that persists today in housing; healthcare; under-resourced public schools; the soaring costs of higher education; employment discriminationextrajudicial killings and police brutality; death penalty; economic inequality; and, perhaps most importantly, the "divide and conquer" dog whistle politics that cyclically bring demagogues like Trump to power).

Of course these two legs stand on the ground or foundation of Environmental Disenfranchisement (or the acceleration of environmental degradation and extinction via corporate pollution and climate change), and this trilateral disenfranchisement combines to disparately overwhelm communities of color.

If we are to have a fighting chance of taking on this trilateral assault on the very future of America, we must acknowledge the Democracy Movement as the defining movement of our time. Yes, it's not until we enact automatic voter registration, make election day a national holiday, restore and expand the Voting Rights Act (to include the 6 million who have been disenfranchised due to felonies -- 3 million who have already served their time), stop allowing politicians to elect their voters through gerrymandering, and enact campaign finance reform that allows the dollars of the 99% to be just a powerful as the 1% who disproportionately fund elections, that we will win a truly democratic government that is responsive to the public interest (i.e. "of, for, and by the people"). In other words, we will continue to face diminishing returns on all other fronts until we advance on the intersectional democracy front.

So, what can you do right now?

  1. You can join and/or contribute to Democracy Spring. We have trained leaders in over 30 states (and counting) and we’re literally on the front lines resisting attacks on the American People and American democracy.
  2. You should see Greg Palast's best-selling documentary, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" on Amazon to learn more about how Kobach used his racist #InterstateCrosscheck voter purge system to help Trump steal the White House.
  3. And you should pressure your local, state, and federal officials to join our call to abolish this dangerous commission before they destroy what's left of our democracy.
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