CAROL ANDERSON: I'm going for the latter. And I'm going for the latter because, when you look at it, I'm intrigued by the narrative of "Hillary Clinton was just a bad candidate who got almost three million more votes than the person who's sitting in the White House." When we're having that discussion, we continue to forget that, and we also forget that this was the first election in 50 years — the first presidential election in 50 years — without the protection of the Voting Rights Act.
And without the protection of the Voting Rights Act — which was gutted in the 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder — it allowed states to erect these barriers (particularly states that had been under the pre-clearance proviso of the Voting Rights Act, where any changes that they made to their voting laws had to be okayed by the Department of Justice or the federal court in D.C.).
When we don't take that into account — and I've got to say, that was a war on the 15th Amendment — we're still in that war.That was a war on the citizenship rights not only of African Americans, but they went after Latinos too, as well as Asian Americans. They went after the youth. They went after students — that coalition that put Obama in the White House. Because of the loss of the Voting Rights Act, a whole series of mechanisms were put in place, and that had an effect, and if we don't pay attention to that, then we miss the kind of corrosive effect that it has on our democracy.
CHRIS HAYES: You know, you mention the 15th Amendment, and I think one of the reasons that I am personally obsessed with Reconstruction and it comes up on this podcast a lot is just because we really like to tell a story of forward progress in the United States in which things get better, and don't like to tell about the most iconic moment, where things got a lot better very quickly and then went in absolute reverse order for a very long time. I mean, the 15th Amendment is supposed to do what you have to pass the Voting Rights Act to do 100 years later.
CAROL ANDERSON: Right, right.
CHRIS HAYES: Like the point was we're now... We fought the Civil War. There's no slaves; there's no slaves, and there's no free men. We're all free men — men — and everyone will vote. And people did, right? There was massive voting of African Americans in the Reconstruction South. There were black elected representatives. There was a majority-black South Carolina lower house legislature.
CAROL ANDERSON: And we had black U.S. senators.
So, we had, with the 15th Amendment — which provided the right to vote without discrimination on account of race — black men (because we didn't have the 19th Amendment yet, black men) were voting. And the reason that the 15th Amendment came into being was that the radical Republicans —and I know that just sounds like an odd term today, we had radical Republicans. And these radical Republicans, they couldn't get through Congress the kind of economic foundation that the formerly-enslaved needed, which was the 40 acres — the land that had been seized from the plantation owners who had backed the Confederacy.
And because they couldn't get that through (because that was too radical for many of their colleagues in Congress,) what they did manage to get through was not only the 14th Amendment, which dealt with citizenship, birthright citizenship, then the 15th Amendment, which dealt with this right to vote, because they believed that if they could — because we had talked about all of that violence — if they could have African Americans have their rights established in a constitutional amendment, which would make it almost impervious to the whims of the political changes that were happening, politicians would then have to be responsive to the needs of that constituency.
CHRIS HAYES: Which was true. But, to me, one of the big lessons — I think this is one of the points of "One Person, No Vote" — is that the law, in some ways, means nothing because we had the law. We went through, literally, the fight about suffrage, and the good guys won, and the bad guys lost, and we got the 15th amendment. And then, what happened was it was destroyed and subverted through both a campaign of massive violence and terrorism, but also aggressive disingenuousness.
CAROL ANDERSON: By a very aggressive Supreme Court that systematically dismantled the 15th amendment by saying, This really wasn't about the right to vote.
CHRIS HAYES: They take the thing, the plain text of the thing, and the historical context, and they rip it to shreds in front of the country's eyes, to preserve white supremacy.
CAROL ANDERSON: Right. And that is what we have to really pay attention to. One of the sub-themes, in both "White Rage" and in "One Person, No Vote," is how toxic white supremacy is to democracy, how destructive it is, and how it actually feeds in on itself, and destroys the very thing that it says it wants to preserve. It is dangerous. We see this with the 15th amendment, where the courts are saying, No, that is not what that 15th Amendment was about. And then, the courts okay the poll tax and the literacy test, although those are clearly designed to disenfranchise the black population.
But the genius — I think I called it "legislative evil genius" — behind it was they knew that they couldn't quite say, We don't want black people to vote, because that was just a little too stark and too clear even for that Supreme Court.
CHRIS HAYES: Okay. But this is what I find so fascinating, and this is what people really need to zoom in on. Even back then, even back then, right? They recognized. I think we have this sense sometimes that, Oh, back in the day, people were racist, and they said racist stuff, and now... " But people recognized it back then. I mean, you read the writing of Union soldiers, and Grant, and Frederick Douglass. People were pretty aware of what was up.
CAROL ANDERSON: Oh my gosh, yes.
CHRIS HAYES: They knew what the score was.
It's so funny because I think we have this idea that, Oh, well, those were old times, and just old-timey racist times. But it's like, No! People understood what was up, and they understood what was up when the radical Republicans fought for the 15th Amendment. And the white supremacists of the day recognized, more or less, they had to come up with ruses that would pass Supreme Court muster because they understood what had just happened, and why the amendment was passed, and how terrible it would look unless they basically clouded it in subterfuge.
CAROL ANDERSON: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, what they did then was they took the societally-imposed characteristics of African Americans, and then made those the litmus test in order to gain access to the ballot box. So, literacy: They had systematically underfunded black schools systematically and systemically. So, the Mississippi Plan creates all of the these disfranchising tools, by the time we get into 1940, three percent of age-eligible African Americans were registered to vote in the South, only three percent, between the literacy test and the poll tax.
And that is because the literacy test. The differential in funding was 252 percent. NAACP reports showed in the 1940s a 252 percent differential in funding for black schools to white schools, so that white schools were basically getting 252 percent more on average. In Mississippi, the average was 751 percent.
Then, you take that kind of differential (and also that there weren't a lot of high schools built for black children) and, in the deep South — Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina — over 50 percent of black adults had fewer than five years of formal Jim Crow education. And then, you put in front of them large sections of the constitution, and tell them to read it and interpret it. Literacy test.
CHRIS HAYES: But the point there, too, is just, again: The whole thing is reverse engineered to stop black people from voting. It doesn't work in the opposite direction. They don't sit around and be like, What do we want? How do we want to screen our voters? Let's do literacy. Let's make sure they can afford to pay a poll tax. That's all just reverse engineered to come up with facially non-racist reasons to use white supremacy to stop black people from voting.
CAROL ANDERSON: Okay. So, this is where we are right now in the 21st century. It's apocryphal, but it's a Mark Twain quote that may not be a quote, but it's like "History may not repeat itself, but it sho' do rhyme." Because we are seeing the rhymes with what has emerged after the election of Barack Obama. It's not like they're saying, We don't want black people to vote, because they know that that's really hard to kind of get through the courts, even these courts.
And so, they're like, Ooh, our democracy is in peril. We have all of this fraudulent voting. Oh my God! Voter fraud! They're stealing elections! So, all we're asking for is an ID to prove you are who you say you are. Or that, We've got to be fiscally responsible, so we have to close down some of these polls where people used to vote. And it's just one doggone thing after the next that never says, We don't want black people to vote.
CHRIS HAYES: So, here's my question to you. To me it comes down to this question of good faith. Is there anyone motivated by good faith when they make arguments about voter fraud, voter ID?
CAROL ANDERSON: I have yet to find that person.
CHRIS HAYES: So, you think it's all pretextual?
CAROL ANDERSON: Yes. And so, let me explain why I say that. In the 2000 election, we focus in on the incredible mess that happened down in Florida, but there was an equally incredible mess happening in St. Louis, Missouri, where the St. Louis Board of Election had purged nearly 50,000 voters off of the rolls shortly before the election and didn't notify them. And so, people come to vote, their names aren't on the rolls. The people at the polling stations can't get through to downtown to verify, so they just send the people downtown.
They are there for hours. Time is just ticking away. And so, the Democrats, by this time — because the polls are getting ready to close, and people are still downtown at the Board of Elections, trying to get their voting rights understood, to get them back on the rolls because they shouldn't have been purged in the first place.
The Democrats get a judge to say, Yes. This was a hot mess. She used much more judicial legal language than "hot mess," but it was a hot mess, and said, Okay, the polls can stay open for three hours longer, so they'll close at 10:00.
And the Republicans came in right after that with a higher judge, and had the polls closed by 7:45. And the language the Republicans used was not that we had voters who were illegally purged, and, We had citizens who were illegally purged. The language that the Republicans used — like Senator Kit Bond out of Missouri — was, This was an attempt by the Democrats to perpetrate the largest voter fraud scandal in America! This is scandalous! This is brazen! This is shocking! And kept pounding on that language of massive voter fraud.
And one of the ways that America works, as you know, is that we have criminalized blackness, particularly coming out of the Civil War. We have criminalized blackness so that, when you start talking about stealing, and you identify it with cities, and you identify cities with African Americans. Boom! You've got the trifecta. And that is what happened. And Kit Bond took that language into Congress as they were crafting the Help America Vote act, and then [they] took that language. There was a whole array of folks who use that language, pounding on Voter fraud! Voter fraud!"
Justin Leavitt, a law professor out of California, from 2000 to 2014, [found] out of 1 billion votes —and that's kind of Carl Sagan-ish, a billion votes — he found 31 cases where people [committed fraud]. Yeah. 31 out of 1 billion votes. It's like, Wow. This is the rampant voter fraud?
CHRIS HAYES: Well, here's the thing. This is a pet peeve of mine, and I'm just going to go off on it for a second, if you don't mind.
CAROL ANDERSON: Go. Go.
CHRIS HAYES: Which is that, if you've ever been a field organizer and trying to get people to vote, or try to get people to volunteer, any economist will tell you that voting's irrational, that your determinative impact on an outcome does not justify the time it takes.
When you commit a crime, people that commit crimes and take on legal risks, do it for a thing. Even if it's stealing a candy bar, you get the candy bar. Explain to me what the hell you get if you vote illegally. What do you get? It's 16,000 votes in a congressional primary, let's say. You don't get a candy bar; you get one little freaking drop of sand in a freaking vase of votes. That's why people don't commit voter fraud.
It's the reason it's so hard to get people to vote legitimately, because one vote has a tiny, tiny imperceptible impact on the outcome. So, the notion that you could even, if you wanted to... If you woke up one day, and you said, " am going to pull off the greatest voter fraud conspiracy the world has ever seen, you would be absolutely sunk. You'd be toast. You could not pull it off.
CAROL ANDERSON: And the other thing, too, is that the devices — the laws — are already in place to catch that.
CHRIS HAYES: Exactly. Because it would have to be at scale. That's the point.
CAROL ANDERSON: Right. Right. Right. So, that's why when people are talking about, We must protect the integrity of the ballot box. So, we must have these voter IDs, and they're basing it on this lie of voter fraud, the whole thing falls apart.
But what has happened is that, It's like when you say a lie so many times that it becomes the truth. Too many Americans believe that, at least occasionally, this kind of deep voter fraud is happening, so, therefore, requiring something that is deemed as reasonable as an ID becomes, Well, what's the problem?
CHRIS HAYES: Right. And there's even a connection to the literacy test, right? Because, in an abstract, history-contextless sense, to be like, Well, you have to be able to read at a certain level to vote doesn't sound insane. On its face, it doesn't sound insane, right?
CAROL ANDERSON: Exactly.
CHRIS HAYES: There's a certain "reasonableness" there. Particularly in the era before television, the only way that you could really find out about matters of public import would be reading. It doesn't seem totally nuts.
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