By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
As the supporters of the former president continue their assault on American democracy, we hear them decrying the “radical left” for its belief in “big government,” as reported by The Washington Post. During the pandemic, thanks to how the former president politicized the raging virus, hundreds of thousands of people died, but hundreds of thousands more put themselves and others at risk because they refused to wear a mask.
Being told by the government to wear masks, they said, represented the “worst” of big government and infringed upon their rights as American citizens. Some of the GOP lawmakers have clearly said that being “forced” to wear masks is identical to the oppression wielded by Hitler when he made Jewish people wear the Star of David. During the Holocaust, according to CNN, completely ignoring the fact that while masks are meant to keep people alive and uninfected, the Stars of David marked Jewish people for certain death.
And so the GOP has riled itself up in its fervor to get rid of President Joe Biden because they believe he stole the election, and has resorted to opposing his proposed major pieces of legislation, including the infrastructure bill and the voting rights bill, saying, among other things, that these laws are antithetical to the principles of Democracy – which they do not like or respect.
Laws for voting rights, they say, are to be implemented by the states; the federal government has no role, but they ignore the part of the United States Constitution which says that in certain cases, the federal government has the right and the obligation to step in to protect the voting rights of American citizens. Article 1, Section 4 of the First Amendment says:
“The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.”
In other words, the federal government is granted the right and the duty to prescribe conditions for the right to vote when it is necessary, which has always been the case in this country as concerns the right of Black people to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was supposed to be the end of the struggle of Black people to vote, but white supremacists have never stopped their quest to keep the number of Black voters under their thumb. The GOP has known for literally years that when Black people turn out to vote, White candidates stand a greater chance of losing elections.
Paul Weyrich, the so-called “father of the right-wing movement and the co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority and other right-wing groups,” spoke for the GOP when he said, “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” The speech can be found in an archived Peoplefor video.
But the outcry of the GOP is not only centering on voting rights. They are also criticizing and putting into place laws that will prevent schools, colleges and universities from teaching what they are calling “critical race theory.” They are terrified, it seems, of something which they clearly do not understand, making their terror all the worse, but what is at the heart of their fear is a desire that their children not be made to feel guilty about what White people have done in this country.
Tim Snyder, a scholar who studies authoritarianism and author of books including On Tyranny, wrote that what the GOP is doing in criticizing the teaching of Black history is an attack on history – which is, in the end, an attack on democracy. What, he says, authoritarian governments seek to do in controlling what people can read or be taught is designed to protect their positions; what White people in America are doing, he said, in working to prevent anything about racism being taught to their children, is protecting their feelings, The New York Times reported.
Opponents say that teaching about race is divisive and hateful, and that they don’t want their children to feel guilty or ashamed, the Hartford Courant noted in article about the critical race theory. To that end, state lawmakers in several states have issued or are issuing laws that prevent teachers from teaching about race. In some states, refusal to adhere to the law will result in termination and has already in one case reported over the weekend, WJHL reported.
This intrusion into what people can and cannot teach, even though, and the work to suppress the right to vote, is nothing less than big government – wielded by states with silence from the federal government. In both the areas of teaching on race and voter rights, people are being told by the government what they are allowed to do, but the reality of what they are doing is not being verbalized or expressed.
The federal government is supposed to step in, if I understand the Constitution correctly, when there is an overarching need, such as in requiring masks to help save the lives of people. State governments are “big” in that they have millions of people under their control; these state-sponsored laws represent “big government” on the state level and needs to be checked.
This used to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” At this point, it seems like it is neither, as the lawmakers in so many states strong-arm the rights of all people by seeking to protect the interests of the few. “Big government” on the state level or federal level is bad when it suppresses the rights and liberty of the people. At this point, “big government” on the federal level is trying to save the economy and the lives of all Americans, but “big government” on the state level is working hard to take this country back to where it was following the Civil War, and toward a totalitarian state where the rights of all of us are or will be controlled by a very few.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. And she is an award-winning author for her latest book, “With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America,” available through all booksellers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.