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Jim Crow, Yankee Republican Style

Berry Craig: With Wisconsin Governor Walker's blessing, Republican lawmakers are ramming home a bill that requires voters to show photo ID at the polls. Of course, the idea is to decrease the Democratic vote.
Mississippi Senator James "Big Jim" Eastland

Mississippi Senator James "Big Jim" Eastland

A Bill Requiring Voters to Show Photo I.D. at the Polls

The late Sen. Jim Eastland was a segregationist Mississippi Democrat none too fond of the Yankee Republican Party of “ Lincoln and Liberty .”

But if "Big Jim" were around, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’d be a Scott Walker fan, and not just because Wisconsin’s Republican governor hates unions as much as “the Voice of the White South” did.

Eastland was into voter suppression. So are Walker and the Republican lawmakers in the Dairy State Assembly and Senate.

With the governor’s blessing, Republican lawmakers are ramming home a bill that requires voters to show photo ID at the polls. Of course, the idea is to decrease the Democratic vote.

Eastland would have loved it.

Big Jim battled tooth and nail against landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960s, notably the Voting Rights Act.

His aim was to keep the ballot away from black folks. They were none too likely to vote for white folks like Big Jim, who kept them separate and unequal in Southern society. His ancestors enslaved their ancestors.

Eastland and the other white supremacist Dixie Democrats insisted racism had nothing to do with their opposition to federal civil rights bills. They said they were standing up for “states’ rights.”

Wisconsin Republicans claim they want to prevent voter fraud.

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Anyway, the Wisconsin Republicans' bill amounts to de facto disfranchisement. Says the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO: "...This legislation is being promoted by Republicans because there are groups of voters that tend to vote Democratic who are not as likely to have the required official photo ID and will face major obstacles to secure one from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). These voters are likely to be lower income workers, the elderly, those with disabilities, transit riders, university students and people of color."

Walker and the Republicans evidently think the “clean elections” cry is enough to cover their tracks. But everybody knows election funny-business is as rare in Wisconsin as Chicago Bears fans are in Green Bay .

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO is blowing a big hole in another Republican argument for photo IDs – that it’s no different from when consumers have to show picture IDs to buy booze or smokes or to rent videos.

The union group says any such comparison is bogus:

“The right to vote is guaranteed to citizens of Wisconsin in our state constitution. The right to rent a movie is not. The right to vote is essential to our democratic process. Erecting barriers to voting that discriminate against certain individuals and groups will undermine the legitimacy of Wisconsin elections.”

Election legitimacy wasn’t a big deal to Big Jim. He just wanted to make sure segregationist Democrats like him always won and African Americans always lost.

It looks like all Walker and his pals care about is keeping themselves in office.

Berry Craig

“Welcome to Wisconsin , Jim Crow!” a protestor reportedly shouted from the gallery after the Republican-majority Assembly passed the photo ID bill. (The GOP-majority Senate is expected to approve the measure in a few days.)

Had Big Jim had been in the cheap seats, he might have cut loose with a dome-rattling Rebel Yell – right in the capitol building of the Yankee state where the party of “ Lincoln and Liberty ” was founded.

Berry Craig
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