Sunday, November 04, 2012

Reading Assignment: Kousser

Win or lose tomorrow, I suspect that one issue not headed for the exit is the matter of voter suppression.  Those of you suiting up for the long game here might want to see if you can scare up a copy of J. Morgan Kousser, The Shaping of Southern Politics  Suffrage Restriction and the Establishment of the One-Party South, 1880-1910 (1974).  Seems to be out of print, but I suspect it would be possible to scare up a few copies in the second-hand market.

The book doesn't lend itself to quick summary, but allow me a few takeaways.  One,  this voter suppression thing wasn't just about blacks: the trick was to pare down the white voting rolls as well.  Two, perhaps more  surprising, it wasn't always self-evident which strategies were actually hostile to voting. Was the secret ballot a protection, or an attempt to disenfranchise?  Was the poll tax really a big deal, or not?  Was the statewide primary a tool of progressive reform, or a device for disenfranchisement?

And three, note the dates in the title.  Jim Crow didn't just fall out of the sky in 1865, nor even at the time of the "grand bargain" in 1877.   Campaigns of repression, like anything else in politics, can take energy and stamina and resilience.  Remember the first law of political thermodynamics: rust never sleeps.  So, win or lose on Tuesday, get up Wednesday morning, have a good breakfast, and get to work.

1 comment:

Ken Houghton said...

Kousser did a sequel, per the NYPL: Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction.