HILL: Waving the bloody shirt of voter suppression

In this Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, file photo, stacks of ballot envelopes waiting to be mailed are seen at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

President Joe Biden is waving the bloody shirt about legislative attempts in Texas and Georgia to clean up the voting process by saying they represent “the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War”.

“Waving the bloody shirt” was a tactic used by Radical Republicans in post-Civil War elections to arouse the passions of their followers by invoking the “blood” of the mostly Republican Northern veterans that was shed to free the slaves and keep the Union intact. 

Any Democrat in the South should be careful about waving such a bloody shirt, since the worst impediment to our democratic republic since the Civil War was Southern Democratic Party domination of politics for over a century after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. It wasn’t just a “challenge” or a “threat” — it was actual physical and often brutal, bloody and deadly suppression of black voters so white Southern Democrats could control government at every level.

If culture-cancelers ever figure out that most of the Confederate army were Democrats, they will have to cancel the use of “Democrat” nationwide.

North Carolina Southern Democrats were infamous leaders in black voter suppression. Powerful racist Southern Democrats such as Josephus Daniels, Charles Aycock, Furnifold Simmons and Alfred Waddell made an art out of suppressing black, and while they were at it, white, Republican voters with threats and violence, such as the Wilmington Massacre of 1898.

America is not even in the same universe today when it comes to talking about voter suppression as President Biden claims. Comparing the good government policies in Georgia and Texas to the denial of civil rights to blacks before the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is not political hyperbole — it is a gross distortion of historical fact which shows an embarrassing lack of understanding of the trauma black people endured when it came to exercising their right to vote.

Most voter suppression today is self-imposed, not administered by one party or one race over the other.

Less than 3% of registered voters will vote in a primary during a municipal election in the off-off, odd-numbered election years in North Carolina.

Around 10% of registered voters will vote in any municipal office general election in off-off years.

Less than 40% of all adults over age 18 will vote during congressional elections every other year during the off-year, even-numbered, congressional, non-presidential elections

Roughly 60% of all adults who are eligible will vote in any presidential-year election.

Close to 28% of the legal American citizen population are not even registered to vote. 

If a person doesn’t want to vote, no one can, or should, force them to do so. They have the constitutional right to not vote as much as everyone has the right to vote.

Not all of the unregistered voters are black, Hispanic, poor or uneducated as the media tries to portray. Close to 500,000 white adults who attend an evangelical church regularly in every state in the South over the age of 18 are not registered to vote, many of them highly educated and successful people.

The truth of the matter is that it is plain hard to get people to vote in any election outside of intense presidential elections such as 2020. It is a waste of time and money to try to suppress the other side’s vote when that money and energy could be far better spent on getting your side’s voters out to the polls.

The new voting laws in Georgia and Texas are trying to restore confidence in the electoral system. The vast majority of Americans want two things: verification of identity of the voter and transparency of the vote-counting process. 

No one should have any doubt that any person who votes in any election is a legal citizen who can prove their identity. No one should have any doubt that ballots are counted in a fair, unbiased manner by completely non-partisan election officials. No one should have any doubt that results are bona fide and verifiable very shortly after polling sites close on Election Day.

State legislative attempts around the country are efforts to save democracy, not destroy it, as Southern Democrats did for over a century in North Carolina. Democrats waving the bloody shirt has a hollow feel to it.