For too many years, American politics has been divided between two types of people: those who want more people to vote, and those who want fewer people to vote. Just last week, the Bush-packed Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the kind of law we’ve become all too familiar with these last years: an Indiana law putting more roadblocks in the way of people who simply want to vote. (Talk about a not so subtle reminder of why some of us filibustered Sam Alito’s nomination two years ago this month.)
Well, it’s troubling to me that now we see another kind of effort to keep people from voting in Nevada. But this time, it’s not the Republicans trying to limit the vote, it’s a fight within our own Party.
Every Democratic Presidential campaign should condemn this effort in a heartbeat. This is just plain and simple a matter of principle not politics; the Party that marched alongside Dr. King and stood up with President Kennedy to open the schoolhouse doors in Alabama needs to be the Party of enfranchisement not disenfranchisement in Nevada this Saturday. Some convictions are just too important to be bent and broken to try and tip a few votes this way or that.
Here are the details. Last March, the Nevada Democratic Party came together and put together the rules of the caucus. Because of the high number of casino workers in Las Vegas, and because those workers have to work on weekends, the Democrats of Nevada decided to have special, at-large caucus sites in certain select areas (like right on the Vegas Strip) to give those working people a chance to make their voices heard. The Culinary Workers Union, who represents the workers, celebrated the move.
Suddenly, a mere days before the caucus, we now see a lawsuit to shut down those at-large sites and deny the casino workers their right to vote. Three of the plaintiffs voted for the very plan they’re now trying to block – reasonable people have guessed they’re changing their minds presumably because just a few days ago the Culinary Workers Union endorsed Barack Obama.
Here’s the bottom line. I understand people gut it out to win on Election Day. But certain tactics make victory pyrrhic – empty – hollow – and it’s not worth winning if you lose what really counts in the process. And you know what, if the Culinary Workers had backed someone besides my choice in this race - Barack Obama - I’d still say it’s right for every candidate to make sure these workers get to vote.
Whether it’s scrubbing African-Americans from the voting rolls, challenging the registrations of people with Hispanic surnames, or not providing enough voting machines in the neighborhoods of working families, the right-wing has spent years denying people the right to vote in the pursuit of raw political gain. All this time, Democrats have stood up for the rights of all people to cast their votes. We need to remain that kind of Party -- voter suppression is wrong, all the time, anywhere.
Open the caucus sites, and let people vote.