In the early part of the last century the activists behind progressive causes like alcohol prohibition and women’s suffrage had an unlikely ally. Namely, the Ku Klux Klan.
“The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) shared a common interest in promoting and defending alcohol prohibition, women’s suffrage, Protestantism, and the protection of domesticity,” Dr. David J. Hanson, Professor Emeritus of Sociology of the State University of New York at Potsdam,” has written. “The Klan made large financial donations to the WCTU in many communities. Similarly, the WCTU often lent its support to the Klan’s anti-alcohol activities,” he continued.
The Klan was also an early proponent of gun control, another issue central to progressive thinking.
Modern progressives aggressively assert a woman’s right to an abortion, and the progressives of another age did too, but were motivated by a ghoulish philosophy called eugenics. The left was so enamored with the idea of promoting a better society by killing off those perceived as racially, physically, or intellectually inferior that no less a progressive icon than Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. upheld mandatory sterilization laws in Buck v. Bell. “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives,” Holmes wrote in an opinion. “It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, to prevent our being swamped with incompetence.”
Why do I bring these things up?
Because in a truly unfortunate editorial today the Grand Forks Herald cites some anecdotes which illustrate that some supporters of voter ID laws are motivated by base racial or political notions, and from that concludes that all supporters of voter ID laws are motivated by the same.
The Herald writes that “deliberately using the law to suppress votes” is “every bit as true in North Dakota” as it is in the examples cited by the paper.
That shallow analysis is more worthy of the sort of panting, red-in-the-face, political pie throwing contests we see on the cable news channels than the normally even-handed and thoughtful editorial of one of our state’s largest publications.
If we apply the same logic to the examples I cite above, I suppose can conclude that all supporters of prohibition and women’s suffrage and gun control are racists because the Klan, once upon a time, made common cause with supporters of those issues.
And perhaps we can also conclude that all those who support legal, on-demand abortion are also eugenicists bent on cleansing society by eradicating those perceived as being inferior.
Or maybe we can reject the logic as flawed and deeply unfair.
We have an on-going debate over voter ID policy. Proponents of these laws argue that the ballot box needs to be protected from fraud in an era where computer hackers and internet organizing make the potential for electoral hijinks a real threat. Opponents say the laws are too burdensome on poorer citizens, of whom racial minorities like Native Americans make up a disproportionate faction.
A federal judge, responding to a lawsuit filed by a group of Native Americans from the Turtle Mountain reservation, has required a change to North Dakota’s current voter ID laws to allow those without ID’s to vote by filing an affidavit attesting to their qualifications to vote. That will do for now, but hopefully state lawmakers will go back to the drawing board to find a way to be rid of the affidavits again, because they allow votes to be counted and influence our elections with no verification that those filling out the affidavits are telling the truth.
There is common ground to be found in this debate. We can have in place strong ID requirements while simultaneously doing outreach to poor and minority communities to ensure that those who want ID’s can get them.
North Dakota should have an iron-clad requirement for ID’s to vote. North Dakota should also spend the money to bring ID’s to those who say they can’t get them. That’s the sort of compromise which should satisfy all but the most myopic participants of this debate.
Unfortunately that sort of common ground is hard to reach with the sort of irresponsible bomb throwing the Herald is guilty of today clouding the path.