Sunday, June 24, 2012
How Cynical Can You Get
As most of us will probably recall, only two years ago there was an election. In North Carolina, the Republican party gain a majority in the Legislature for the first time in a long time (perhaps forever?). These legislators were all voted in. They were part of an elective process. Without the process they would be sitting at home or doing whatever they were doing before the election. The current legislature of North Carolina, just like previous legislatures before it, depends on an election process. The process happens in the real world, and although we don't really think about it much, the process is not free. Yes, there are volunteers engaged in it here and there--but there's also a real expense to it. This is actually true of many things we don't usually think about, including the unremarkable drive to the store for some groceries, or even the simple act of turning on the lights, or pouring a glass of water. Somewhere, there's a cost.
Very near where I work is a railroad track. Now and then a coal train goes past. I counted the boxcars of coal one day. In that particular train on that particular day there were 89 hopper cars full of coal. Every bit of that coal has gone, I would expect, towards keeping the lights on and the power flowing to all the households in North Carolina which are connected to that particular part of the electric grid where that particular coal-fired electric generating plant is located. Just sayin'.
I have a post-card from the 1930s which shows a guy in over-alls holding a sign saying that the air is free. Used to be you could get you some free air if your tire was low at any gas station. Have you noticed--ain't that-a-ways no mo. Now it costs about a dollar to check your tire pressure and add air. And are the stations being money-grubbing to charge this fee? Well no, not really. They have to run generators to provide that air to you, and generators cost money in electricity.
So, anyways, our NC Legislature is going home for a while, having passed a final budget. And, how bout that! They've omitted to put some $600 K into the budget to release some $4 M in matching federal monies (already being held in an NC banking account by the way) to facilitate our coming election process in NC. Here's the story:
It barely made the news, by the way. Here's a detail from the story I've linked to:
The $4 million from the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) is already in a North Carolina bank account, frozen until matching State money is appropriated. The federal funds could be used to pay for voting machine maintenance, software and upgrades, poll workers training, and Early Voting locations. But apparently the legislative leaders decided they would rather starve local election boards than free up money that could open more Early Voting sites for the 2012 election!
The cynicism of the NC Legislature isn't entirely new of course. Back when I was but a lad we had here in NC something called the Piersall Plan. It was a nasty, crafty piece of lawyerly work aimed at making school integration take some 20 years to be accomplished. It more or less worked too. This meant that generations more of black children who should have received a better education as a matter of constitutional right were nontheless denied that education, at the instigation of some slick legislative lawyers. And let it be said, most of them Democrats, who back in the '50s entirely ruled the roost around here, and who maintained and supported the "institution" of segregation as fiercely as our Republican legislators today defend the so-called "institution" of marriage.
Still, the cynicism and moral corruptness of this year's batch of legislators is pretty grand, ain't it now. Because what they're doing is consciously damaging the very process that got them into the Legislature. And they're doing this (though of course they'd never say so except in very closed rooms, amongst only their supporters), because they believe that damaging the process will cause likely Democratic voters to be less likely to vote in greater numbers than likely Republican voters.
It's all pretty sickening. My whole life I keep opening the paper to see the same stupid stuff I thought might have been done with, and long ago. But here it comes again. And again. This same Legislature has decreed that no legal authority may use long term data concerning sea level rise (e.g., relating to global warming) to make any rules concerning coastal development in North Carolina. This same Legislature has refused to appropriate any monies to compensate actual victims of a North Carolina "medical" program which actually sterilized actual people who were teens in the 1960s, and are still living. This same Legislature of course supported and managed to aid in the passage of a draconian "Defense of Marriage" constitutional amendment which not only stops gay folks from marrying each other in NC, but actually damages already existing families to a degree that has already caused suits to be undertaken by the victims. The list, here in NC, goes on.
But it seems special, in a logical sense, for these small-minded, bigoted, craven, power-mad liars to go here--to actually consciously damage the process itself. Yet here they've gone.
Sad, sad, sad. I feel like it won't be long till they put the signs back up in Raleigh, over the water fountains. That's exactly what they want.
Note: the sign in the photo comes from Alabama. I remember exactly the same such signs at the North Carolina Court House building in Raleigh in the '50s, as well as at train and bus stations in Raleigh. This is how it was. It is what--apparently--the Republican Party dreams of restoring. It is what they mean by "taking our country back." It is the consequence of Mr. Nixon's "Southern Strategy," which embraced all the bigots and haters the Democratic Party had rid itself of when it passed the land-mark Civil Rights laws of the mid-'60s. This is where we are headed, and we're in 5th gear with the pedal to the metal.