Some are so disappointed and angry about politics today that they confuse the media images of poltics with what politics is really about: it is about power, and about finding ways to make alliances so that your goals and interests are accomplished by those in power. If we set aside the use of force as a way to gain political power in the U.S. today (that is a discussion for another day), we need to focus on making our political institutions work the way they are supposed to, and making them work for all of us. The fact that the mainstream press is not talking about this struggle does not mean that it does not exist, but it creates the impression that "nobody cares/nobody is doing anything."
History is important. Today the Spanish newspaper EL PAIS has a report on the 75th anniversary of women's suffrage (el sufragio femenino) in Spain, which is being celebrated this weekend with a huge "macrofestival" at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.. In 1931, under the laws of the new Republic,women could be elected, but not vote. In the debate on women's suffrage, Victoria Kent argues that women's voting rights should be delayed until women came out from under the influence of the Catholic Church. Men argued that women were too emotional, irrational, etc. Clara Campoamor's speech is reprinted by EL PAIS, and it is worth reading. "la única manera de madurarse para el ejercicio de la libertad y de hacerla accesible a todos es caminar dentro de ella." She pointed out how active women had always been in social struggles in Spain, how much effort they had put into achieving literacy, how strong their hopes were for change--and how, if the Republic failed them--they might place their hopes in either conservative forces or the communist party (note the strategy). These kinds of legal and social changes were met with the use of force to usurp state power in Spain in the Civil War, and while women in Spain did obtain the right to vote, Clara Campoamor died in exile, and it was not until after Franco's death that laws were changed granting women adult status with regards to travel, money, and family. Women's suffrage is one part of a larger struggle for women's rights.
"Equal suffrage" " This article led me to look for information on the history of suffrage in the U.S. to share with my friends from Spain. I found this excellent site, a collaboration between the New York Times and The City University of New York. It details in English and in Spanish the history of citizenship and voting rights in the United States. It puts the struggle for women's suffrage in the larger context of how true universal suffrage--equal rights in voting not just under the Constitution, but through the elimination of Jim Crow laws and obstacles to voting for all U.S citizens regardless of race or national origien, did not become a legal reality in this country with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Some would like to believe that the story stops there, but we know that there still exist efforts to prevent everyone from voting and that electoral fraud (real and perceived) played a role in the 200o and 2004 presidential elections.
One element of struggle around voting rights has to do with the disenfranchisement of those convicted of felonies. Sociologist Christopher Uggen is one of many who writes about the impact on elections that is a consequence of laws disenfranchising those with felony convictions. He and his collaborators marshall empirical evidence to illuminate the issues of racism and struggles over voting rights, nationally and here in Minnesota.
Local election update:
Here are MarkRitchie's detailed statements on what he believes needs to be done to protect fair elections and to increase voter participation in Minnesota. Here is the web page of Keith Ellison, a candidate for Congress who won the DFL primary because he has been able to motivate voters that the national Democratic strategists have written off. Amy Klobuchar may be the first woman elected Senator from MN. ever.