Saturday, September 22, 2012

Putting Corruption in Historical Perspective

Voting Wrongs,” Elizabeth Drew’s latest post to NYRBlog, offers a valuably objective account to substantiate its wallop of an opening sentence:
The Republicans’ plan is that if they can’t buy the 2012 election they will steal it.
There may be nothing new in how she unfolds her logic, but her systematic approach makes for a useful read. It is important to bring full clarity to the corruption that is underlying that electoral process in which we used to take pride, at least until 2000.

However, from my point of view, her final sentence is even more important:
This is the worst thing that has happened to our democratic election system since the late nineteenth century, when legislatures in southern states systematically negated the voting rights blacks had won in the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
First of all it is a reminder that things are worse than the “nightmare” (to borrow the noun from Gerald Ford) of Watergate. It is also a reminder of why a Voting Rights Act had to be passed under the administration of Lyndon Johnson to undo that systematic negation. In that respect it is important to remember that the late nineteenth century was The Gilded Age, when wealth exercised tyrannical control over just about every aspect of American life and the poor were expected to “know their place” and stay out of the way.

Abraham Lincoln had to struggle with the question of whether or not a nation founded on the ideals of its Declaration of Independence could endure. We now live in a world dominated by the rich and mighty more interested in the corrupt indulgences of The Gilded Age than those ideals on which our country was founded. Unfortunately, The Gilded Age was not undone by a resurgence of democratic principles. Ultimately, it consumed itself; and any remaining table scraps fed the dogs of the First World War. When one considers the raw hatred that is now driving aggression is so many parts of the word, one has to wonder whether or not a Third World War has begun, let alone whether or not any historian will survive to assign that nomenclature.

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