In the 48 hours since the Supreme Court gutted Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, six of the nine states that had been subject to the law’s “preclearance” formula have already taken steps to restrict voting.
In Texas, just two hours after Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision came down, that state’s attorney general issued a statement saying that Texas’ voter ID law and gerrymandering plan could go into effect immediately.
And, similar actions are being taken in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina and Virginia.
But this war against voters didn’t begin on Tuesday, or last week, or last month, or even last year.
The war against voters started in 1980, when Ronald Reagan took over the presidency.
In fact, it started before he even stepped foot inside of the White House.
Reagan’s first speech during his campaign for the presidency took place at the Neshoba County Fair in Neshoba County, Mississippi, that at the time was a white-supremacist stronghold.
Reagan’s campaign chose the event, and the area, for his first campaign speech because it was a way to gather votes from racists.
Neshoba County was the same county where several activists and civil rights advocates had been murdered in 1964. They were shot to death by racists who were enraged by the idea of African Americans having not only equal rights, but the right to vote.
During his presidency, Reagan opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and said that the Voting Rights Act was “humiliating to the South.”
In the years since Reagan took office and the Reagan Revolution swept across America, Americans have lost their faith in the notion that everyone has a voice in the American democracy.
But besides losing faith in the very foundations on which our nation was built, what else has America lost since the not-so-good-old-days of Reagan?
To start, we’ve lost our ability to keep corporations in check, and to prevent them from stealing millions from the working class.
Thanks to Reagan, corporate theft and illegal behaviors have skyrocketed, because he did away with government oversight and regulation of corporate America. As a result, since the Reagan Revolution, corporations have run roughshod over the America economy and our democracy.
Reagan’s policies led to one of the greatest financial scandal in American history: the Savings & Loan debacle which cost taxpayers billions of dollars and set the stage for the weak banking regulations of today.
And, if people like Senator Phil Graham, following Reagan’s philosophies hadn’t done away with regulation and oversight of America’s big banks, the financial scandals that have taken place over the last decade could have been largely prevented.
Meanwhile, as Reagan was helping out corporate America, he was waging an all-out war on labor in America.
His attacks on organized labor in America and the NLRB drove down employee wages. His all-out assault on labor, and his staunch opposition towards the minimum wage helped contribute to three decades of flat wages, while CEO and executive pay went through the roof.
Between 1983 and 1988, Reagan’s policies led to 10 million Americans losing their jobs through an epidemic of plant closings and layoffs. And of those 10 million who lost their jobs, many were forced to take lower paying jobs.
Under Reagan, the number of families living below the poverty line exploded by one-third, and these same families were then hit by Reagan’s cuts to social-welfare programs like Medicaid and food stamps.
And, since Reagan took office, the share of total before-tax income flowing to top 1 percent of Americans has doubled.
The destruction of our economy since Reagan took office is largely thanks to his failed theory of trickle-down economics, that has been debunked over and over and over again. And, since Reagan was so obsessed with this notion, he did nothing to reduce the levels of poverty, and the growing income gap in America.
But a strong economy and government oversight of corporate America aren’t the only things America has lost since Reagan stepped foot inside of the White House.
America has lost its trust in government, and continues to struggle to get it back.
After all, The Reagan administration was one of the most corrupt in American history, including by one estimate 31 Reagan-era convictions, including 14 convictions in the Iran-Contra affair and 16 in the Department of Housing & Urban Development scandal.
As David R. Simon and D. Stanley Eitzen write in Elite Deviance, 138 appointees of the Reagan administration either resigned under an ethical cloud or were indicted criminally.
Reagan’s “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem” mantra continues to cause record levels of distrust and dislike in the American government. As a result, civic participation has fallen, and Americans are skeptical at best about participating in public service.
Meanwhile, how can Americans trust a government that threw hundreds of thousands of citizens onto the streets?
In the early 1980’s, in an attempt to cut costs, the Reagan administration directed the Social Security Administration to pare the SSI and SSDI rolls.
Social Security administrators responded by conjuring up definitions of mental illness that were different from those used in the past and from those used by mental health professionals in America.
And, in 1981, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act repealed the provisions of the National Mental Health Systems Act, cut federal mental health and substance abuse funding by twenty-five percent, and converted them to block grants disbursed with few strings attached, and fewer dollars going to the states.
As a result, states had to cut a number of mental health programs since they couldn’t afford them, and thousands of mentally ill Americans were forced onto the streets, causing the homeless population in America to soar.
Make no mistake about it.
From devastating the economy, to gutting social welfare programs, and helping to send thousands of Americans to the streets, the Reagan Revolution was a complete disaster for this nation, no matter what Conservatives will try to tell you.
It’s time to move away from the days of the Reagan Revolution once and for all, because those days represent a giant failure, and some of the darkest days in this nation’s history.