CHARLANE OLIVER: “IF YOUR VOTE DIDN’T MATTER THEY WOULDN’T BE TRYING SO HARD TO STOP YOU”
I know most of y’all won’t read this long post but nerds like me be tryna put y’all up on game for the Free 99 and some of y’all still be yelling “my vote doesn’t matter” but don’t understand that it actually does.
The Alabama abortion ban – and other restrictive laws in recent months – have been 10 years in the making by Republicans. It’s no coincidence that many states with the worst voting, education, healthcare, and incarceration rates are also the states with the most regressive laws, and mostly in the South.
When we say “local elections matter” or “elections have consequences” or “this is voter suppression” or “please go vote” this is the shorthand version of what we mean… Let’s revisit a series of unfortunate events shall we…
2008-2009: America elects the first black president, Barack Obama.
Early 2010: SCOTUS rules in ‘Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC)’ that political spending is a form of free speech protected under the First Amendment. The controversial 5-4 decision effectively opened the door for corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to support their chosen political candidates.
Hate that your politicians are bought and sold by corporations? Blame this.
Late 2010: Ahead of the midterms, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell vows to make President Obama a “one-term president” and Republicans declare a nationwide takeover of state legislatures.
2010 Midterms: Thanks to the Citizens United case, Republicans flood the airwaves with political advertising to influence down-ballot elections. Republicans pick up 675 state legislative seats; swept several governorships, including Tennessee; and Republican control increased from 14 states to 26 state legislatures.
They also take control of the U.S. House of Representatives, winning 58 seats.
2011: Now that Republicans effectively have the states on lock, states begin to enact strict voter ID laws, including Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and… wait for it…… Tennessee.
2012: President Obama is re-elected. All is well with the world because we now have Obamacare and our president is still Black. Meanwhile…
2013: SCOTUS guts the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the ‘Shelby County v. Holder’ case. As in, Shelby County, ALABAMA versus Attorney General Eric Holder. Yeah as in, the same Voting Rights Act championed by civil rights activists like Dr. Martin Luther King and Congressman John Lewis who marched in Selma, ALABAMA.
The ruling basically said, nope racism doesn’t exist anymore so Southern states no longer need permission (i.e. “pre-clearance”) from the federal government to change their voting laws. The decision allowed 846 jurisdictions to close, move or change the availability of local polling places (mostly in predominantly African American counties) without federal oversight. There were also cuts to early voting and purges of voter rolls.
Virtually all restrictions on voting after the ruling were by Republicans.
2014: Here’s where it gets bad. Republicans continue their congressional takeover during the 2014 midterms. Democrats are asleep at the wheel and stayed home on Election Day…. because all is well in the world – my president is Black.
Meanwhile… Republicans gained control of U.S. Senate and picked up more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. This is the year that TENNESSEE RANKED 50th IN VOTER TURNOUT.
Only 28% of eligible voters voted in this election.
Early 2016: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dies. Which means a replacement is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate (both are elected by the voters, btw). President Obama names Merrick Garland as his nominee, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks the nomination, claiming it’s too close to a presidential election so the next president should pick.
Late 2016: Donald Trump is elected president. Now Republicans are in control of the legislative branch and executive branch. Time to take over the judicial branch.
2017: Trump begins stacking the Courts by nominating conservative judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. (Remember, elections have consequences and in 2014, just 36.4% of eligible voters nationwide turned out in 2014 – the lowest since World War II— and Republicans gained control of the Senate, who confirms all federal judges.)
2018: By now, 34 states have some form of voter ID laws. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announces his retirement. Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh as his replacement. Senate confirms Kavanaugh in October, shortly before the midterms, solidifying the bench as a reliably conservative 5-4 majority.
2019: Republicans control the state legislature in 31 states. Congress is divided – Democrats take back the House, and Republicans still control the Senate, Presidency, and Supreme Court.
What we’re seeing play out today is a deliberate playbook, run by ALEC and their model bills, to challenge everything in the courts. The bills introduced by legislative branches across the country are so egregious and blatantly unconstitutional in an attempt to move the battle to friendly territory – the courts.
Muslim travel ban. The courts.
Separation of migrant families at the border. The courts.
School vouchers. The courts.
Partisan gerrymandering. The courts.
Census citizenship question. The courts.
Voter registration criminalization laws. The courts.
Abortion bans to overturn Roe v. Wade. The courts.
All of this is run by people who are elected by the People.
If they can make it a felony to…. say, have an abortion…. or register voters…. or build a wall to keep immigrants out….. and felons and immigrants can’t vote, then you limit the voting power of minorities.
Thus keeping the white male power structure in control over an increasing Majority-Minority America.
There’s an election happening in your city or state somewhere every year. You must pay attention, keep up with the news and current events, and VOTE in every election, every year.
But y’all don’t hear me tho….
Charlane Oliver is a candidate for state senate in District 19 (Nashville)