reverse revolution

From The Nation:
New Orleans has long been pivotal in the struggle for black voting rights. During the Civil War, free blacks there demanded suffrage; their efforts resulted in Lincoln's first public call for voting rights for some blacks in the final speech of his life. Once these rights were won, New Orleans blacks took an active part in politics, leading to the establishment of the South's only integrated public school system. But rights once gained aren't necessarily secure; after Reconstruction, blacks in New Orleans lost the right to vote. As Thomas Wentworth Higginson wrote at the time of the Civil War, "revolutions may go backwards."

This is what we are seeing now, as New Orleans prepares for municipal elections on April 22. These elections are set to take place even though fewer than half the city's 460,000 residents have returned and the vast majority of those displaced outside Louisiana are African-Americans--the result of what Representative Barney Frank calls the Bush Administration's policy of "ethnic cleansing by inaction."

How did this happen? How did New Orleans become the most obvious symbol of the "backwards revolution" in voting rights that's been going on for at least twenty-five years? The answer is a states' rights mentality that pervades not just the Louisiana legislature but also the Bush Administration. As the Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote recently, the Administration "seems intent on suppressing the African-American vote in New Orleans and in Louisiana."

. . .

Despite such overtly discriminatory actions, Democratic Party leaders have offered only listless support of voting rights efforts--Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean called the Justice Department decision "a disappointing development." There have even been rumors that some Democrats in Washington welcome the dispersal of the African-American voters of New Orleans as a way of building up party strength elsewhere.
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