Letter: Progress on voting now being reversed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Gettysburg address was required reading at Nolan Junior High School in Detroit circa 1972. We learned that the Civil War was fought to preserve the idea that ordinary people can govern themselves and enslavement caused the carnage. John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln after his discussion of Black voting and citizenship. The trajectory of casting ballots was increased inclusion. That progress is now being reversed with targeted racial restrictions.

Expanded enfranchisement began with the elimination of property requirements. Fearing the fusion of poor white males and enslaved Black males, the American aristocracy used voting as the ultimate wedge. Participation soared resulting in the election of President Andrew Jackson, an enslaving populist president. Next, the enfranchisement of the formerly enslaved males. Black legislators championed a public education system across the south, banking reforms and universal medical coverage. Terrified of “fusion” politics, and using the “zero sum” strategy, wealthy southerners ushered in Jim Crow, disenfranchising Black voters. Poor and low wealth whites were disenfranchised, too. White women’s suffrage came next, though they voted for public policies that continued the restrictions on Blacks.

After signing the Voting Rights Act of 1964 President Lyndon Baines Johnson remarked to an aide, “We’ve lost the South for a generation.”

Voting is the basis of our citizenship. It gives agency in of how our lives are lived. It ensures “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It places everyone on an equal footing. Current proposed and enacted restrictions deny full citizenship. People who are prohibited from voting should be exempt from paying taxes. After all, I also learned about “taxation without representation.”

The party of Trump, devoid of ideas to improve our lives, only has the mendacity of voter fraud. Increasing voting rights, raising the minimum wage, broadband, and Medicaid expansion are impeded by our North Carolina legislature. This agenda requires “for the people” to vote and remove from office representatives determined to obstruct the will “of the people.”

— Michael D. Stringer