The state of Alabama made headlines around the nation when they enacted one of the most outrageous voter suppression schemes ever seen in our democracy. First, they passed a law requiring stringent photo identification at the polls; more recently, Republicans voted to close license-issuing DMVs in thirty-one counties, which just happen to all be overwhelmingly populated by African-Americans. 500,000 Alabamans, 20% of their registered voters, did not have a photo idea in 2014. Want to guess where they lived?
It is one of the most transparently partisan attempts to make it more difficult for thousands to exercise their voting rights and participate in our political system. That much was made very clear when Republican Rep. Mike Bell took to the radio waves to discuss the problems that his fellow citizens were experiencing – in particular, the case of an ex-marine, Corporal Kimberly Spruell from Wilcox County. , the poorest in Alabama.
AL.com detailed how years of neglect by Republican administrators resulted in Cpl. Spruell having to travel 42 miles to a hospital with more than four doctors, and now has to drive 45 miles to reach the nearest DMV, because the funding cuts took away the one in her town- which was only open one day a week anyway. It also closed Roland Cooper State Park, one of the county’s only sources of revenue.
When Mike Bell was questioned on these difficulties, he had only derision to offer: “The purpose of these articles is to complain, blame somebody else for all their problems. It’s almost as if some people enjoy being a victim. They want someone else to do everything for them. That’s a miserable way to live. You’re going to be miserable and you’re going to bring misery to everyone around you…Government can’t solve all your problems.”
His appalling statement is breathtaking in its cruelty. What more convoluted logic can there be than to require a government service in order to fulfill their rights as a citizen, take away that service over partisan efforts to disenfranchise the citizen, and then blame them for their inability to fulfill that right?
Fewer statements encapsulate the modern Republican attitude towards the American people. Create problems and then blame the victims for their inability to resolve them. The fact that Spruell is a veteran is even more insult to injury. This is what Republicans really think about our veterans, about their minority citizens, about the integrity of the American democracy.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.