While politicans battle over voting rights, Ray Baker writes political parties don’t matter.
He argues access to the ballot box and counting every voting is a matter of justice.
The professor calls on Americans to “disavow bipartisanship that asks us to compromise our morals.”
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The fight for voting rights is once again in the news.
Between President Joe Biden’s major policy speech on voting rights in Philadelphia Tuesday, to Texas Democratic legislators “fleeing” to prevent voter suppression laws from passing through their legislature, the nation’s attention is forced once again to the issue of voting rights.
One party in Congress trudges ahead in an attempt to pass federal voting laws that protect access to the ballot but continues to be stymied by opposition from across the aisle.
Over the course of US history, exactly which party supports justice may vary – and shouldn’t matter. Folks shouldn’t get consumed by the brands like “Democrat” or “Republican,” but rather their values.
Who is expanding voting rights? Who is ensuring fair and equitable access to the ballot?
The tug of war is about more than politics. It’s a question of justice. But debates about voting rights and easy access to the ballot are being treated as a good faith debate. It is not.
There are no two sides to justice. There is one side that believes the US is a place of representative democracy and it’s in the best interest of the nation-state to have as many voices participate as possible.
Belief in anything otherwise is injustice.
If voting rights is the contemporary example of this Faustian bargain, bipartisanship is that bargain’s most current euphemism – allowing Americans to feel a fair compromise has been reached, when in actuality one party has traded away their morality for relative peace.
That is what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. refers to in his eloquent “Letter From a Birmingham Jail:” Negative peace is the absence of tension, not the presence of justice.
Bipartisanship demands both parties be afforded the same respect despite one party advocating on the side of injustice.
It was true when the country’s Founding Fathers considered the question of slavery at the Constitutional Convention, and was true every time the country then tried to avoid a Civil War with failed compromises.
America, seeking reunification following the Civil War, abandoned Reconstruction in the name of bipartisanship because humanity and justice weren’t important. The absence of tension, or “negative peace,” was.
Nowadays, countless GOP state legislators who sponsor and support voter suppression laws maintain they want to instill confidence in the public that the outcomes of elections are fair.
But this “public” they reference doesn’t believe the outcomes of elections are fair only because their preferred candidate lost.
Republican senators who boast of bipartisanship didn’t see former President Donald Trump as an threat to justice that needed to be confronted and ultimately removed. They saw him as representative of an equally valuable point of view that must be taken seriously.
As a result, we’ve since Trump ratchet up the same vile and venomous white supremacists rhetoric that culminated in the violence of the attempted insurrection on January 6.
White nationalists don’t doubt the fairness because of any reasonable evidence of improper elections. They do it, because MAGA acolytes don’t believe enough Black and Brown voters exist or would cast enough ballots that Trump would lose in a state such as Georgia.
When you doubt the humanity of Black people, whatever human thing Black people do – like voting – will seem unbelievable. These white nationalists and their apologists are who bipartisans court.
Apologists recognize the white nationalists as that “other” in the “both sides” debate.
Reconciling justice with injustice is how the US has always tried to balance its rhetoric of “liberty and justice for all,” even as white Americans consistently attempted to deny it to some.
This country will never be all that it purports itself to be until the silent majority of white people believe in justice and behave like they do.
But first they must divorce themselves from the need to appeal to those who are steadfastly unjust, and instead work toward what Dr. King called a positive peace.
To do that means we disavow bipartisanship that asks us to compromise our morals. Equating a white supremacist position, such as creating burdens to the ballot that uniquely and specifically affect Black and Brown voters, with humanity overall is a choice for the absence of tension – negative peace – over the presence of justice.
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