Over the weekend, I finally made time to watch the new HBO film, “All the Way,” in which Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lyndon B. Johnson are depicted fighting the Dixiecrats to push through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, King on the streets in the South and Johnson in the halls of power in Washington.
The film, based on the award-winning play of the same name, at one point shows how the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act had to be severed for the political purposes of that election year, with Johnson promising King to bring the voting component forth in 1965, which he did.
For the time being, Johnson argued, they would have to tackle the issues of school segregation, public bathroom segregation and public accommodation discrimination.
Oh, Ohio, how I wish our Attorney General Mike DeWine would watch this film and perhaps hear the echo his own arguments are of those put forth by Dick Russell and Strom Thurmond as they fought Civil Rights, clawing with nail and biting with bared tooth.
Mike DeWine, who regurgitated every hackneyed old fallacy about states rights and local control imaginable before getting his ass handed to him on equal rights in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case has apparently learned a lesson not.
He has sent a letter in fiery opposition to President Obama’s directive on transgender bathrooms in our school systems.
“There are many questions that, consistent with constitutional guarantees, are best left to the fair-minded, sensible determinations of our local communities,” Dewine said in the statement. “Under our system of government, how schools work to handle locker room questions involving students’ gender identity is one such issue.”
That’s quite an argument of convenience, Mike, considering your total obstruction of local control on issues that impact commerce at the expense of public health, such as fracking, or on issues of crime, such as Toledo’s marijuana ordinance. In fact, it’s called the Toledo Sensible Marihuana Ordinance but DeWine sued them anyway, giving no indication of his dedication to the “sensible determinations of our local communities.”
At one point in, “All the Way,” Sen. Dick Russell is sitting around with Strom et. al, with the later and others deploring the “n***** activists” in the South. Russell, always politically savvy if a white supremacist, warns the others that the issue isn’t about “n*****s,” it’s about states’ rights. Huh. Imagine that.
And for DeWine, we’re sure he’d argue that it’s not about discrimination against the LGBT community, because Obergefell certainly wasn’t about that either. It’s about the “sensible determinations of our local communities,” at least when it’s convenient.
That’s the public restroom portion of our program. That’s 1964’s battle. DeWine was so kind on Tuesday to give us 1965 as well, filing a motion to stay in the U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio, Eastern Division, asking the court to put on hold the judgment restoring Ohio’s Golden Week where voters can register and vote at the same time.
He was joined in this noxious little act by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. These two peaches both intend to be our next governor. It’s nice to see them tied at the hip in their awfulness on this issue.
Here’s Husted’s statement, in part:
“Golden Week had become both an administrative problem and a voter integrity issue… Eliminating Golden Week reduced the growing potential for voter fraud.”
Notice how, because there is scant evidence of actual in-person voter fraud, Husted must manifest a boogeyman from his own imagination by turning it into “the growing potential for voter fraud.”
Everybody vaguely familiar with the purpose of voter suppression efforts knows that they target the black community disproportionately and on so flimsy a basis that the chief elections officer of Ohio himself must use middling language such as “the growing potential for,” knowing damned well he has no evidence of actual voter fraud during Golden Week to back him up.
Frankly, in my estimation, DeWine and Husted’s position is no more advanced in their hearts than the view of the Dixiecrats during the march in Selma, Alabama. They might well like to ask voters to precisely guess the number of jelly beans in the jar before allowing them the vote.
And you know what? I’m going to let Lyndon Baines Johnson circa March 1965 handle the rest of this one.
“I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of Democracy… Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument: every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to insure that right…
Every device of which human ingenuity is capable, has been used to deny this right. (A) citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent. And if he persists and, if he manages to present himself to the registrar, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name, or because he abbreviated a word on the application. And if he manages to fill out an application, he is given a test. The registrar is the sole judge of whether he passes this test. He may be asked to recite the entire Constitution, or explain the most complex provisions of state law.
And even a college degree cannot be used to prove that he can read and write. For the fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin. Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination. No law that we now have on the books, and I have helped to put three of them there, can insure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it. In such a case, our duty must be clear to all of us…
We shall overcome.”
David DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure based out of Athens, Ohio. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. DeWitt is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS. He can be found on Twitter @DC_DeWitt and on Facebook here.
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