In the wake of the Feb. 5 "Super Tuesday" primaries, it is important to remember that there are millions of people denied the most basic right to vote.
At least 10 percent of the country's population—nearly 35 million people—have no legal say in the elections.
The electoral system in the United States is inherently undemocratic. A
More than five million ex-felons cannot vote in the United States.
political monopoly is held by the Democrats and Republicans and the hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign donations that ensure a favorable outcome for the rich.
Still, the civil right of enfranchisement—the right to vote—is out of reach for millions of oppressed people. When a politician from the capitalist parties is aware that you are not a voter, you are invisible. You and your concerns don't count.
Non-citizen immigrants and many ex-prisoners constitute the two main sectors of U.S. society who have no right to vote.
In seven U.S. states, ex-prisoners are permanently barred from voting, including Mississippi and Florida. In six other states, an ex-prisoner has to be pardoned to regain the right to vote, a highly unlikely prospect. With racist prosecution and sentencing policies in the United States, a much higher percentage of African American and Latino people suffer greater rates of incarceration and disenfranchisement.
For example, in Florida, 38 percent of ex-felons are African American, even though Black people are only about 13 percent of the state’s population.
In Kentucky, almost one of every four African Americans is ineligible to vote because of a previous prison sentence. States with permanent voting bans, concentrated in the South, are often the ones with a legacy of mass incarceration of African Americans following the end of slavery. Prisons have replaced plantations. Black people are still singled out for persecution and imprisonment.
More than five million people in the United States are classified ineligible because of ex-felon status.
It is neither an accident nor an oversight that the poorest, most vulnerable and exploited would be deliberately denied. Working-class people tend to favor more progressive political and economic policies.
Despite laboring in the most difficult and low-paying jobs in the United States, over 12 million undocumented workers, and more than 17 million permanent legal residents are barred from registering to vote. Despite their enormous and disproportionate contribution to the economy, undocumented workers are increasingly subject to vicious political attacks by the capitalist candidates. The year 2008 will be remembered by the undocumented as one of immigrant-bashing, terrifying workplace raids and deportations.
Every Republican candidate has tried to outdo the others by spewing hate speeches against the undocumented.
Mike Huckabee, Arkansas ex-governor, shamelessly declares that if he were elected president, he would deport all 12 million estimated undocumented workers within 120 days of assuming office. Former candidate Mitt Romney has mouthed the same racist threats on workers without papers. And even though John McCain last year was supportive of a nominal legalization process for undocumented workers, he has turned 180 degrees from that position to prove himself as the "conservative" candidate.
First, Huckabee and Romney know that it would be impossible to deport all the undocumented, as they have pledged to do. Second, they also know that the economy would collapse without the farmworkers' labor on which agribusiness depends completely.
The Democrats hardly do better. In the second-to-last television debate, Obama, Clinton and Edwards stated without reservation that each of their "universal health care" plans would not include health care for the undocumented. That doesn't sound "universal" to me. You can bet that if they have that much disregard for hardworking immigrants, they don't think much better of the working class either.
Their biggest concern is ensuring the profits of the health care, insurance and pharmaceutical industries.
What hypocrites they all are. The minute they open a bottle of wine from California, New York or any other state’s vintners, they are consuming grapes picked by the undocumented. Their vegetables are planted, cultivated and picked by undocumented labor; their prime steaks prepared in packinghouses.
Hotel room maids, restaurant cooks, sweatshop seamstresses, gardeners—you get the picture.
The for-profit system
There is one basic, inescapable fact that neither Democrats nor the Republicans will admit or mention:
It is capitalism that has created the "global" economy, exporting tens of millions of jobs abroad to every continent; eliminating higher-paying jobs in the United States. It is U.S. capitalism that has broken down the trade barriers and tariffs of lesser-developed countries like Mexico, turning that country into a huge market for U.S.-produced goods and driving Mexican farmers from their fields and livelihoods.
It is U.S. capitalism that has pauperized the Mexican farmer and factory worker, forcing them to come to the United States against their will and against their wishes.
Almost 500 Mexican and other Latinos lose their lives in the desert every year to seek work. A worker trying to earn a living to help their family is not a criminal. It is not a crime to want to work.
The real criminal is the politician who blames the undocumented for the economic problems of the country, and then says not a word about the $40 billion in profits that Exxon made in the last three months of 2007—this is the highest amount of profits of any corporation in the history of the world!
None of the candidates dares to complain about the sky-high profits of Exxon and the oil companies. They don't dare because then they would be eliminated from the electoral race in the blink of an eye by the corporate media.
The same holds true with the imperialist Iraq war. They can raise minor complaints about the war, but each one of them continues to vote "yes" for every multi-billion-dollar war appropriation sought by Bush.
It is so important for all working people to understand and point to the real cause of economic problems. They are not the fault of any workers—either here or abroad, citizen, resident or undocumented. They are the fault of a system. And the sooner workers and oppressed people of all nationalities organize together to fight that system, the more successful we will be in securing our common rights and needs.
Let’s not fall for the divide-and-conquer tactics of the rich. Let's demand equal rights—full rights—for all workers, regardless of citizenship, including the right to vote. Let's demand an end to the disenfranchisement of ex-prisoners and immigrants.
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