Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman,
THE STRIP & FLIP SELECTION OF 2016:
Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election
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Just because a crisis situation seems impossible to address effectively, there is no reason to give up, but every reason to keep wheels turning--inside out, as does this masterful dissection of elections and voting as a system between the Civil War and today.
Quite a time period to cover in less than 100 pages, but authors Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman face this challenge, prefaced and introduced by the famed author and investigative reporter Greg Palest and actress and activist (head of Progressive Democrats of America) Mimi Kennedy.
First readers are told what we must and can do in the short term and then in the long term, including the idealistic six-step "Ohio Plan" that will clean up the entire election system. I kid you not: manual, transparently counted paper ballots, automatic registration, a 4-day "Election Day" holiday, and banning of anything electronic anywhere near the polls, which will be manned by high school and university students paid $15 per hour--that's how to spread the ideals and tasks of democracy to future generations relying on tried-and-true methods from 100 years ago (this time effectively supervised). Pay students stipends for an indescribable experience that they will want to go back to time and again.
In the long term we must 1) ban corporate money from the campaign process; 2) abolish the Electoral College; 3) end gerrymandering; and 4) provide free public media access for all candidates meeting certain universal basic requirements. (Footnote: For all those large states with smaller populations that feel cheated at the Electoral College level, take heart--those of us on the coasts will be migrating to central US to swell your populations and fill your states, so that your Electoral College representation will rise, but at what price? Space is at such a premium, especially when global warming floods over the coastlines. Besides that, all of our votes will be counted fairly once this blight on democracy is eliminated.
The next sections divide the issues into two major parts, "Stripping" and "Flipping." "Stripping" analyzes what's wrong with our system--we are being stripped of our rights; and "Flipping" sketches the history of what exactly has happened, focusing in on Ohio in exquisite, or should I say "harrowing" detail. The latter two divisions comprise five sections focus on various features of Jim Crow: past, present, and projected future.
All in so few pages. Extreme knowledge and brilliant perspectives are needed and the authors, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, more than measure up. Bob is an attorney, academic, and Green Party activist who has dedicated himself to election integrity and the environment since 2004. He is a masterful public speaker--totally riveting, spontaneous, and emotional when he needs to be, calm and forceful otherwise. Harvey, an activist and academic historian, is a commanding presence as a speaker and as a writer, also a member of the Green Party focused on election issues and the environment. He spearheaded people's histories before Howard Zinn created his important series, and what an important genre that is. We all know about John Calhoun and Woodrow Wilson, but Harvey's work and then Zinn's shine a spotlight on the people who made all of the pompous publicized events possible and how they did and what they said and thought to change the system as much as they could and make history in this process that even mainstream authors can't quite ignore. Every act makes history. There is no reason to confine it to property-owning, overeducated and dead white males.
Between their two webpages, freepress.org and solartopia.org, they span the gamut of worldwide issues that for some reason draw a largely progressive readership with the hope that the word will spread. And it must.
Bob and Harvey's work is also pioneering. In their many books and publications they inform us almost exclusively about events the mainstream media don't go near: unsung heroes and underground or backstage atrocities we are forced to live with every day for as long as we can. Either the Earth will cave from all the abuse we are heaping on it, or else democracy will collapse, burned out by corruption of the super-wealthy aimed like gunfire at the rest of us. And the ripple effect will do a grand tour of the world.
Elections and voting are a prime target, democracy's bottom line. Pull that out from under us and the coup is complete. Keep on fighting, day in and day out, and we can tread water until things get better. Democracy is hard work, warned the Founders. Either do or die. Bob and Harvey show us how. The Recommendations in the third section of the Prologue, "Election Protection 2016: Threats to the Primary Election Vote and Actions for Activists," are herculean. Divide (at least we can divide it up) and conquer, but sweat bullets, from (1) "Monitor[ing of] all directives and advisories from the Secretary of State's office (or highest state election official)" to (15) "[Taking] Screenshots of Election Results."
The roots of the first Jim Crow, recently revived since 2010 with the advent of the Tea Party invasion of Congress and the Citizens United decision, are slavery, pure and simple, which has existed since the era of "civilized" humanity began. After the Civil War, to appease the "rebel" states that feared being overpowered by the far more populous North, each of their slaves was counted as three-fifths of a person for presidential elections, though themselves not allowed to vote. The issue was "equitable" distribution of electoral votes since the North was far more heavily populated than the largely rural South.
Nostalgia for the antebellum status of blacks, with the slave code fully reproduced by the authors in their text, revived it. Jim Crow I turned being black into inhabiting a concentration camp in many ways in the South: confinement to certain ramshackle neighborhoods, unpunished murders and lynchings, imprisonment for no reason except to mark them as felons and thus exclude them from the vote, slave wages and sweatshop-level employment, and worse. Several voting laws originated in this climate, virtually undoing the 13th through 15th Amendments soon after they were enacted. What resulted was disgustingly unconstitutional.