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Monday, 18 November 2013 10:21

The Accumulation of Property Should Not Determine Who Should Vote

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privatepropBuzzFlash at Truthout has, for years, discussed the last great stand of white Americans -- who feel entitled to power -- and the racist origins of the anger that have been building up at the diminishment of white privilege.  This, of course, accounts for the vigorous effort by Republicans to reduce the vote of nonwhites and the poor, because demographically -- as we and others have repeated  -- whites are headed toward minority status in America.

And knowing the history of what whites have done to minorities (including black slaves, Native Americans, Mexicans and Chinese imported to build the railroads just to name a few), the fear of payback has to be included in their bitter hate for "the other."

But, it is also important to remember that one of the key political conflicts playing itself out here also concerns property rights versus citizenship rights when it comes to voting. 

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Let's take a trip down America's regrettable heritage of slavery.  Although blacks abducted and sold into servitude and babaric cruelty were needless to say denied the right of citizenship, they were considered property -- and the accumulation of a lot of slaves exemplified a large and powerful property owner (including George Washington). 

According to the site Exploring Constitutional Conflicts,

[Constitutional] provisions allowed southern states to count slaves as 3/5 persons for purposes of apportionment in Congress (even though the slaves could not, of course, vote)....

The Supreme Court, in its infamous decision in Dred Scott v Sandford (1857), ruled that Congress lacked the power to prohibit slavery in its territories.  In so doing, Scott v Sandford invited slave owners to pour into the territories and pass pro-slavery constitutions.  The decision made the Civil War inevitable.  Chief Justice Roger Taney, writing for the majority in Scott, also concluded that people of African ancestry (whether free or a slave, including Scott) could never become "citizens" within the meaning of the Constitution, and hence lacked the ability to bring suit in federal court.  (Italics added by BuzzFlash at Truthout.)

In short, the original US Constitution made slaves 3/5's a person, based on the stinging irony that they were considered property, not people entitled to any rights.

From the beginning, the US Constitution promised individual rights, but only to white men -- and given such institutional mandates such as electing senators by state legislators (eliminated  under the 17th Amendment) tilting a "democratic" government toward rule by the propertied class.

Even though the 15th Amendment granted the rights, in theory for blacks to become full citizens and vote, to this day (in places as far flung as Detroit, rural Mississippi, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Texas) legislative and economic trends promoted in Congress and many state legislatures result in blacks and other minorities being dispossessed of property -- and, therefore, power.

It would take a lengthy essay to correlate racism with property ownership in detail, but as far as a broad stroke, it is a prima facie reality as a general rule. 

Yes, we agree that the broad demographic conflict that has developed into a pitched political battle over the past couple of decades is largely based on the fears of a shrinking white -- and particularly male -- voting base.  But the sharing and loss of property -- and particularly the fear of such -- is a key element in this historical crossroads.

The insidious efforts to dampen down non-white, non-propertied voting is in large part a heated skirmish over who will own the US economy.  In this case, property rights are trumping human rights and the fulfillment of a resilient democracy.

Who gets to vote is increasingly determined by the divide between owners of property and the owned.

That's not democracy; that's rule by the measure of monetary attainment and ownership of property that has historically been limited to white males.

That has changed somewhat in recent decades -- and the backlash has arrive in full tsunami force.

(Photo: sillygwailo)