ELECTORAL COLLEGE FOUNDED ON RACISM

The Editors

 

Although we believe that both candidates for President endorse racism, exploitation and war, we don’t deny that they represent different wings of American capitalism and divergent tactics. It is also true that for the second time in the 21st century, 2000 and 2016, the candidate with the largest popular vote lost. (Of course, the real winner was the none of the above vote, made by nearly half of the potential electorate.) The irony is that the long-dominant arm of finance capital, represented by the centrist Democrats like the Clintons and Obama, has twice been a victim to this rigged system. Donald Trump’s overt racism and sexism is not the language they prefer to use, even as they continue mass incarceration, police violence, deportations and resource wars. Better to speak nicely and try to hide the reality from white workers. However, downtrodden unemployed and dispossessed white industrial and agricultural workers could take it no more, and so they either welcomed or were willing to tolerate overt racism in a (futile) search for economic revenge. And the Electoral College, which was invented to guarantee the dominance of the white elite, helped them along. By giving weighted votes to each state on a winner-takes-all basis, this Electoral College system decreases the value of votes in states with a large majority voting one way, ie currently states like New York and California with lots of minority, immigrant and liberal voters.

 

As pointed out by historian Christopher Petrella (http://www.aaihs.org/author/cpetrella/)

“…[T]he Electoral College is responsible for the fact that four of the first five U.S. presidents were white, slave-holding men from Virginia. The “Virginia” variable is key here, as Virginia held the largest population of enslaved black men, women, and children from the inception of the “peculiar institution” until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.

In 1787, white men of status met in Philadelphia to draft the Constitution. Questions of elections, taxation, and governance, among others, were debated vigorously. One of the most contentious themes considered over the course of the four-month convention was by what process to elect a president.

Two months into the meeting, Pennsylvania lawyer James Wilson proposed direct election of the president. Some delegates lamented that an “uneducated” populace would be incapable of the sort of self-governance required to ensure a salutary direct democracy. Such an elitist concern, however, was not what occupied the minds of most delegates, and especially those from the South. James Madison—a slaveholder from Virginia—worried that such a system would compromise the political influence of the slaveholding South, a region of the country that on a eligible voter population-basis would nearly always lose to the North in a direct election system. Madison opined: “There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes. The substitution of electors [through the Electoral College] obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to fewest objections.”

In a direct election system, the North would have outnumbered the South (which had a large population but far fewer eligible voters), whose roughly 550,000 enslaved black people were disenfranchised. Delegates from the South generally supported Madison’s idea of the Electoral College over a direct election system because it was based solely on population volume, not citizenship status or enfranchisement. In conjunction, and at Madison’s urging, the convention agreed to count each enslaved black person as three-fifths of a citizen for the purpose of calculating each state’s representation in the Electoral College and in the allotment of congressional seats.

Colonial Virginia won big under the Electoral College system: the state occupied 12 of the 46 electoral votes (26 percent) needed to win an election in the first round. (As a reference point, such disproportionate overrepresentation would be tantamount to present-day California enjoying 70 electoral votes.) Whereas the Electoral College artificially enhanced the political influence of the South, it deflated the political influence of the North. After the 1800 census, for instance, Pennsylvania had 10 percent more free persons than Virginia, but had 20 percent fewer electoral votes. According to legal historian Akhil Reed Amar, “Perversely, the more slaves Virginia (or any other slave state) bought or bred, the more electoral votes it would receive. Were a slave state to free any blacks who then moved North, the state could actually lose electoral votes.” Simply stated, the Electoral College incentivized the institution of slavery; it was created to protect and propagate the enslavement of black people. The Electoral College operationalized the 3/5ths compromise and helped to secure, extend, and enhance the political power of the white slaveholding class whose epicenter at the end of the eighteenth century was Virginia.…”

 

Of course, the editors of this blog would question whether any solution is to be found in choosing between two representatives of the capitalist class. No poor or working person who believes that profit-making should not be the engine of society would ever be able to obtain significant electoral office. When even mild reformers like Sanders gain headway, they are quickly manipulated off the stage. When critics of American capitalism gain power in countries the US wishes to control, they are disposed of, directly as in Chile, or indirectly, as currently in Brazil. Our job is to build grassroots movements uniting women and men of all races and nationalities in a movement for egalitarianism, relying on ourselves and not politicians.

It’s Capitalism: Racism and Sexism Win With Any President

 

Trump’s election signaled a victory for racism and sexism that is not reserved just for Republicans and open fascists.   These ideas and practices also flourish under liberals like the Clintons and Obama, who supported wars against people in Iraq and Syria, gutted welfare programs devastating women and children, and deported millions.

It doesn’t matter who is president — racism would have won no matter who was elected.  Capitalism requires racism to earn huge profits.  It generates this profit by paying workers less than the value of what they produce.  To make super-profits, it creates huge wage differentials between white men and non-white workers and women.   Women earn about 79 cents per dollar white men make, but Latinas make around 35 cents.  This adds up to trillions of dollars a year.

American capitalism also saves untold dollars by providing inferior education, housing, health care and all other services to communities of color.  The lack of unity among workers of different ethnicities and nationalities markedly affects our ability to resist as a class. 

Under our black President, 2.5 million immigrants were deported, thousands were sickened by polluted water in Detroit, East Chicago and elsewhere, vast rivers were threatened by pipelines, millions remained without health insurance and millions more were pressured to buy nearly useless, overpriced policies.  Several unarmed people of color are murdered daily by the police, who suffer no retribution.

Around the world, drones rained death down on poor civilians, and economic policies brought poverty, disease and starvation.  The Clintons forced trade deals and maquiladora-like factories on Haitians to derive profit for US agribusiness and garment manufacturers.

What will be different now?  There will be less pretense that American power is moral, democratic or colorblind.  There may actually be less chance of imminent expanded military conflict or world war, although ultimately any American leader will fight to maintain US hegemony.  But in the end, the wealthy still rule and maintaining their profit margins is their number one priority.  They cannot do this without relying on racism, sexism, and nationalism.

What can we do?  No matter who is in office, it is our job to unite all workers and students to fight for a decent life for all. As always, we must rely on ourselves, not politicians.  How can we do this?  Continue protesting police violence, support Standing Rock, organize forums on racism and other forms of inequalities, campaign for living wages, sick leave, afanti-trump-rallies-nov-9-2016fordable housing, environmental justice.  Invite people of different backgrounds to share their experiences and conditions as members of oppressed groups, but AVOID identity politics that supports politicians based on their gender or other characteristic.  BUILD class consciousness, the realization that we are part of the working class no matter our nationality or any other characteristics.  It will make it harder for the rulers to divide us.   Workers of the world unite!!

Post your ideas!

APHA: Police Violence IS a Public Health Issue

Police Violence IS  a Public Health Issue at APHA

An exciting victory in the fight against racist police violence was won at the American Public Health Association convention on November 1, 2016.  Over 10,000 largely progressive health workers meet annually to present public health data and program outcomes.  Members may also propose policy resolutions to represent the organization’s agenda. The cautious and conservative leadership review them and recommend approval or rejection, although a representative membership body votes to accept or reject them.

This year a group of young public health students put forward a resolution stating that police violence is a public health issue that requires action, such as decriminalization, robust police accountability measures, increased investment in policies promoting racial and economic equity, and community-based alternatives for addressing harms and preventing violence and crime, such as jobs, community-run restorative justice and violence intervention programs.

The powers that be recommended its rejection – they didn’t want the APHA to appear to be unfriendly to the police. At the public hearing, people gave eloquent arguments to support it while some wanted to take another year to add references (there were already 82)!  When one person complained that the action steps were unfeasible, the presenter responded: “This is a vision for what public health should fight for.”

When members heard that such a resolution might be rejected, many were angry.apha-rally-nov-1-2016-jpg A leaflet was written and widely disseminated calling for a rally. Over 50 attendees skipped professional sessions to march in front of the convention center chanting “APHA,
practice what you preach today,” “No public health silence in the face of police violence,” and “Stop the killing, Stop the lies, Eric Garner didn’t have to die.”

Many then went inside to where the vote was pending. When the leadership learned that a fierce floor fight over racism was about to occur, they were terrified. Right off the bat they proposed to suspend the rules to allow the resolution stand for one year, and then modified and discussed again in October, 2017.  The vote was overwhelmingly positive, and now there is a chance to continue the struggle next year too.

Attendees also discuss many other issues at the intersection of health and politics at these meetings: conditions in Haiti and Palestine, the influence of war and conflict on health, the huge economic and racial disparities in health and health care within the US, the need for a single payer health insurance system and trade policies.

The embracing of police violence as a health problem is inspired by the mass
movements against racist police violence in Ferguson, New York and Baltimore. When we have a mass movement of united workers and students, we can change the conversations and policies.  Working in large organizations like the APHA gives us the opportunity to reach thousands of people. It is a great place to make new friends and push forward the struggle against war and racism.