Yesterday, the Republican Party in Georgia, with the full support of the national Republican Party, struck a mortal blow for racism and against democracy. This catastrophe resulted from the passage of what the nationally renowned former Georgia General Assembly Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams has most appropriately named the “Jim Crow in a Suit and Tie Act.”
One of the most egregious features of this utterly fascistic and racist legislation is that it prohibits a third party providing food or drink to somebody waiting in line to vote! Yet I am sure that Georgia and national Republicans will interpret the act to permit selling an AR -15 to somebody waiting in line!
This is the most blatant example of legislation designed to suppress the African – American vote since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It is motivated by the dire fears of the incumbent Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp that he will lose next year’s gubernatorial election to Stacey Abrams. He is well aware of how the increase in the African-American vote resulted in the victory of Joe Biden in Georgia in 2020, and he is frightened that this is an augury of his defeat.
So in accordance with the true beliefs in White Supremacy still existing among a sizable portion of the Georgia electorate since the days of Gone with the Wind, Kemp has gleefully signed a piece of legislation that would make the Ku Klux Klan rejoice. This new law is intended to impose new severe burdens on African-American voters by the imposition of unwarranted voter ID requirements and new obstacles to voting by mail. And if you are a senior African-American citizen waiting in line to vote on a hot day, Governor Kemp and the Republicans in the Georgia legislature have a simple message to you: Drop dead.
This legislation mandates new identification requirements for those casting ballots by mail; curtails the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allows electors to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters and requires counties to hold hearings on such challenges within 10 days; makes it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line; blocks the use of mobile voting vans, as Fulton County did last year after purchasing two vehicles at a cost of more than $700,000; and prevents local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector.
And that’s not all! This obscene new law also strips authority from the secretary of state, making him a nonvoting member of the State Election Board, and allows the Republican legislators to initiate takeovers of local election boards — measures that will allow Republican appointees to slow down or block election certification or target heavily Democratic jurisdictions, many of which are in the Atlanta area and are home to the state’s highest concentrations of Black and Brown voters.
This new law may well be in New Jersey’s future if the Republicans capture the New Jersey governorship and both houses of the legislature in the 2021 election, a most unlikely election result to be sure, but never to be disregarded if one is concerned about the future of voting rights. I say that, given the recent revelations that nationally, all the various Republican state anti-African-American voter suppression legislative proposals, including Georgia’s Jim Crow in a Suit and Tie Act, are being assisted and coordinated by the Republican National Committee and their various adjunct organizations. The most significant story in this regard was the New York Times story of this past week, “GOP and Allies Draft ‘Best Practices’ for Restricting Voting.”
I highly suspect that the dubiously named “New Jersey Republican Party Election Improvement Committee”, which I described in my most recent column, spearheaded by New Jersey Republican State Chair Mike Lavery and endorsed by New Jersey Republican National Committeeman Bill Palatucci, is one of those measures being blessed, endorsed, and assisted by the Republican National Committee and its leading adjunct, Heritage Action for America.
So it is only fair that the following question be posed this fall to Republican Putative Gubernatorial Candidate Jack Ciattarelli, Mike Lavery, Bill Palatucci, and all NJGOP Legislative Candidates: Do You Support the New Georgia ‘Jim Crow with a Suit and Tie Act?
It does not give me any great joy to be so critical of today’s Republican Party. The Republican Party that I joined in the early 1970s, however, was a much different party, the party of the most inspirational American political figure of my adult life, the late Jack Kemp.
There was no other white athlete of the 1960s who played a more supportive role in the struggle for African-American civil rights than Jack Kemp. His role in this regard began when as a Buffalo Bills quarterback, scheduled to play in the 1964 American Football League All-Star game in the then segregated New Orleans, he supported the walkout of African-American players, though it meant risking his starring role as quarterback and team captain.
Later, in his political life, as a Republican congressman from the Buffalo, New York area, Kemp defied party conservatives by pushing sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa. As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George H.W. Bush, Kemp put the interests of poor African-American tenants over housing developers.
Today’s Republican Party, however, is no longer the party of Jack Kemp, of whom Jackie Roosevelt Robinson would have been proud. It is now the party of an unrelated Kemp, Brian Kemp, whom the racist Gerald L.K. Smith would have regarded as a valued ally. Case closed.
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.