Point of View Columns

Devil in The White Dress

Trump’s State of the Union speech received mixed reviews, to be kind. They ranged from “psychotically incoherent” (Van Jones) to “his worst speech ever” (Rick Santorum) to “the most inspiring State of the Union speech in history” (guess……………you are correct, Sean Hannity). The fact that for many the most memorable moment was Speaker Nancy Pelosi clap-shaming Trump kind of says it all. But there was more going on that night, and there are some women in Congress, all dressed in white, who have some explaining to do.

It was certainly noteworthy and historic and far too long in coming for the largest number of women in Congress were seated in attendance. Many of these women dressed in white to commemorate the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919. This amendment, which was ratified and became a part of the Constitution in 1920. The 19th Amendment was seen as the signal and most important victory of the almost 100 year old women’s suffrage movement.

One has to wonder if all of those women dressed in white knew what they were celebrating. The history of the (white) women’s suffrage movement existed hand in hand with domestic terrorists like the Knights of the White Magnolia and the Ku Klux Klan and the rhetoric of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton rang with words like “sambo”, “baboons” and “black rapists” as they advocated for (only) white women to have the right to vote.

But even in the age of Trump facts matter. The 19th Amendment did not give women the right to vote – it prohibited states from preventing women from voting. The 19th Amendment did absolutely nothing to protect or assert the rights of black women when it came to voting. And the almost 100 year old women’s suffrage movement was a virtually whites-only organization that grudgingly permitted black women a seat on the back of the suffragette bus, alternatively ignoring and insulting them.

And it is because of this skewed whitewashing of women’s history that little white girls and boys and little black girls and boys do not know the names of Mary Church Terrell, Ida Wells, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Coralie Franklin Cook, but they do know the names of unreconstructed racists and bigots like Anthony and Stanton.

While there was a linkage between the abolitionist and suffrage movements prior to the Civil War, ironically due in no small part to the advocacy of the African American hero Frederick Douglass. After the Civil War the cause of the rights of black people diverged from the advocates for women’s suffrage.

That is because the female leadership of the women’s suffrage movement were as racist as their American male counterparts. Leaders like Anthony and Stanton opposed the 15th Amendment because they felt that white women should have the right to vote before black men. The leaders of this movement barred black women from their marches and many of their public events and the historic Women’s March on Washington 1913, black women were forced to march – you guessed it – at the rear of the parade.

And when the 19th Amendment was ratified, the leaders of these (white) women’s movement did nothing to support their black sisters in their effort to vote. Black women were arrested, beaten, sexually assaulted and killed in their efforts to claim the benefits that the Women in White celebrated at the State of the Union.

Of course there should be no surprise that white women in the North and South stood by while their white brothers, sons, fathers and husbands rained all kinds of holy hell on black people in America.

Without Sanctuary is a photographic history of lynching in America. In almost everyone of these horrific pictures there are crowds of white people in attendance, looking on with undisguised pleasure and even glee. And at least half of those in attendance were — you guessed it – white women.

The facts are that the 19th Amendment did little or nothing for black women, and the rights asserted by white women as a result of this amendment meant nothing for black women until the passage of the Voting Rights Act — 45 years later. One wonders why these female members of Congress, black, white, Latina and Asian would think it important to celebrate this historic moment of white female supremacy – and not even the notice the irony of wearing white for such a celebration.

The fact is that there are many times in this country’s history and in the present when women of all colors and backgrounds have come together to advocate justice for all. The fact is that the 19th Amendment is not one of them, and just like Robert E. Lee’s birthday and the Confederate flag, does not deserve celebration or observation.

For more information and more facts please see Brent Staples NY Times article on this subject

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/02/opinion/sunday/women-voting-19th-amendment-white-supremacy.html

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Point of View Columns

November 8, 2016 – The Second Battle of Gettysburg

The noted journalist and historian Carl Bernstein has observed that the 2016 presidential election is “the Gettysburg of the culture war” and he is absolutely right. And with Election Day just a few days away, some historical perspective will be helpful in truly understanding how important November 8, 2016 will be in American history

In July of 1863 the Union army had yet to win a major, much less decisive battle against the armed forces of the Confederate States of America. Led by the flawed but charismatic General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate Army had actually invaded Pennsylvania with the plan of encircling Washington, DC and forcing President Abraham Lincoln to agree to a negotiated settlement that would recognize the independence of the CSA.

The three day battle was epic in its loss of life, demonstrations of bravery and insane bravado as well as the gut-wrenching shifting of fortunes that ultimately left Lee and his Army a shadow of itself as it limped out of Pennsylvania, never to win another major battle as the CSA simply bled to death, the funeral ceremonies being held in Appomattox in 1865.

But it didn’t have to be that way – with a few twist and turns of fate and luck Lee could have won. And if Lee had won the CSA would almost certainly have become an independent country, immediately recognized by Great Britain which hungered for southern cotton. Racial slavery would have been institutionalized for at least another half century and literal complexion of the North and South would in no way resemble the America we know today.

The Gettysburg analogy is appropriate for the next week’s election because for the past half century there has been a cultural civil war being waged in this country. Issues ranging from racial civil rights to gender equality to the right of women to control their bodies to environmental sanity to marriage equality have resulted in battles that have raged in cities, states and in Washington, D.C.

There might actually be common ground on issues such as taxation policies and the limits of social service support by government. But there are entrenched forces on both sides of basic issues such as racial and gender equality or the right of women to decide how they will live their lives and control their bodies. On these and other issues there really is no middle ground.

And what we now see with not only the candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is not only incredible divergence of temperament, qualifications and personalities, but also a yawning gap between the policies of the platforms of the parties that they represent. And while there might be some value in parsing Clinton’s e-mails or coming to grips with Trump’s incredible obscenity, the fact is that the platform of the Republican Party calls for the repeal of Roe v. Wade as well as the mindless denial of climate change.

The fact is that the Republican Party is the home of men and women who have spent a half century of their lives seeking to roll back the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and who literally celebrated when the Supreme Court gutted that historic and foundational pillar of the civil rights movement in the Shelby v. Holder decision of 2013.

And the fact is that a President Hillary Clinton will appoint Supreme Court justices who will defend Roe v. Wade and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a President Donald Trump has promised to do just the opposite.

In 1863 the literal character of the nation was at stake and that battle of Gettysburg, which could have gone either way, determined that the United States of America, flawed and faulty as it has been, had the potential and the possibility of aspiring to and achieving the greatness articulated in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

In 2016, the literal character of the nation is again at stake. A victory by Donald Trump will guarantee the degradation of the rights, hopes and aspirations of millions of Americans in order to keep the promise to the shrinking majority of non-college educated and angry and disaffected white Americans to “Make America Great Again” –an America when blacks and women and gay Americans knew their place in the shadow….an America where the myth of liberty and justice for all satisfied the then white male American majority.

It is not possible to exaggerate the apocalyptic results of a Trump presidency. Hillary Clinton will not be a perfect president, but there has never been a perfect president.

The Gettysburg of the culture wars will be fought on November 8, 2016 – each and every one of us has the power to make a choice.

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Point of View Columns

A Message to Millennials

As the first presidential debate of 2016 approaches it is now a considered fact that the millennial of America are going to be a key determinant of who is the next President of the United States. To put it another way, millennials have a major say as to whether the previously incomprehensible thought that Donald J. Trump could be president could, in fact, become a reality.

What was previously thought to be a no-brainer is now a toss-up. That a serial foe of racial equality, gender respect and basic decency is the nominee of a national political party is a commentary on the Republican Party, the tone and content of socio-political discourse in this country as well as a damning commentary on each and every one of us.

Somehow, in the give and take of what passes for politics, too many of us have failed to teach the relevance of the past to the present and the future. As a result, too many of our millennial brothers and sisters have grown up insulated from the history of the struggle for civil rights, human rights and gender equity. And so, it is time for a Message to Millennials:

Dear Millennials:

For those of you who were born since 1985, I offer you a sincere apology on behalf of those of us who, in a sincere desire for you to embrace an unfettered future, neglected to provide you with the historical details that have brought you to the threshold of that future. By sanitizing and condensing that history, we have unintentionally diminished the true nature and viciousness and ferocity of the forces that have always opposed civil rights and human rights and gender rights that you have rightfully taken for granted.

So, as the 2016 presidential election approaches you should know some very real facts that have nothing to do with the grossness, obscenity and classless nature of Donald Trump. That you might consider it acceptable under any circumstances that such a man could be the successor to President Barack Obama tells me that you have little faith and respect in the governmental process that has brought you to the threshold of that unlimited future that you should rightfully take for granted, but cannot and should not.

So please think about this:

• The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is not a constitutional amendment, it is a law. Laws can be repealed and redefined. The right wing of the right wing of the Republican Party, including the Teapublican wing that has been led by Mike Pence, is committed to diminishing the scope and impact of that historic legislation in the name of states’ rights and private property rights.

• The next President of the United States will appoint at least two Supreme Court justices over the next four years. If Donald Trump is president, those two justices will join the Roberts – Alito – Thomas cabal to establish a right wing majority for at least the next decade and you can kiss the rights afforded by the Civil Rights Act goodbye. – That would include the right to go to any restaurant or hotel regardless of race or sexual orientation…..and, there goes marriage equality.

• Donald Trump chose Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate and he is on the record as looking forward to “the day that Roe v. Wade is on the trash heap of history”. So all millennials, especially female millennials, should speak with your mothers and grandmothers and learn what life was like was like in this country when a woman’s right to choose was the subject of criminal prosecution.

• Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, there have been conservative activists who have dedicated their lives to eviscerating this law which simply protects the rights of black Americans to vote. These banal bigots achieved a huge victory in 2013 when the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision gutted that Voting Rights Act. A Trump presidency will guarantee the end of voting rights equality as a unquestioned goal and we will literally see the slithering serpents of Jim Crow (I hope that you have heard of Jim Crow) come slithering out of their previously sealed tombs.

I am not trying to scare you, but if the truth is fearsome to you, so be it. Please understand that the franchise
that you own was won with the blood and lives of people who you will never know, people of whom you have never heard. Please understand that your vote is worth something more than making a statement.

Please know that the difference between Clinton and Trump is not like the difference between McCain and Obama or even Romney and Obama. This is more like Humphrey and Nixon in 1968.

And I can tell you that, as an 18 year old who thought that there was little difference between Nixon and Humphrey, I was terribly and horribly wrong. Nixon begat Ford who begat Reagan who begat Bush and Bush again.

It is now 2016 and I am asking you to please not make the mistake that was made in 1968. You can’t afford it. This nation cannot afford it.

With much love and respect.

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Point of View Columns

A History Lesson for Supporters of Bernie Sanders

As the Democratic presidential campaign moves from a New York State of Mind towards the inevitable Finale in Philly, it is quite possible that Hillary Clinton might be experiencing a sense of déjà vu – every time she runs for President a little known but charismatic senator comes out of nowhere to challenge her for the nomination. Except this time it looks like she is going to come out as the winner and supporters of Bernie Sanders are not happy – and that is why it is time for a history lesson.

Many supporters of the Vermont senator are passionate in their belief that he is a leader who will bring about “real change” in “the system”. Indeed, Bernie Sanders himself is calling for a “revolution”. And it is pretty clear that if revolution is the goal a moderate progressive like Hillary Clinton is going to seem like weak tea after swigging Red Bull Bernie ideology.

The dismay in supporting a losing candidate is understandable and commendable in a very real sense. It is good when people believe in positive change in this country. What is not commendable, what is both pernicious and dangerous, is when some Sanders followers say that the differences between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders are so profound that they would rather vote for Donald Trump so that the revolution that they seek will occur sooner- out of the rubble that a Trump presidency would create.

Susan Sarandon, a prominent Sandersphile, has actually articulated the Trump alternative to Sanders supporters and Susan Sarandon should know better. As a millionaire many times over, she will not suffer one bit if Trump or Rafael Cruz or John Kasich become President and follow the Teapublican playbook and begin to dismantle the governmental apparatus and infrastructure. Additionally, since she was 22 years old in 1968, Susan Sarandon is old enough to know better.

In 1968 there was a tremendous amount of passion flowing through the Democratic Party. The Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection in large part because of the raging opposition to the war, much of that opposition led by Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy. Senator Robert F. Kennedy also entered the fray and brought with him the passion of a Restoration, in this case restoring the Kennedy Camelot that had been blasted in Dallas just five years earlier.

Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President was also a Democratic candidate and he was viewed by the raging McCarthy supporters and the passionate Kennedy supporters as a status quo agent of the “establishment” and absolutely unacceptable. And then this boiling political cauldron became superheated.

First, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in April of 1968. The national black community, a major cohort in the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was outraged and tried to burn many of America’s cities to the ground. Then Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in June of 1968. And with his death dreams of the Restoration of Camelot evanesced and the Kennedy’s followers were despondent.

Then came the Democratic Convention in Chicago with the police sanctioned violence and storms of political protest generated by supporters of Kennedy and McCarthy clashed. The ensuing catastrophe of carnage was broadcast worldwide and “Chicago” became the synonym for Democratic disaster.
And out of the ashes of that convention Humphrey emerged as the party’s wounded nominee. And many supporters of McCarthy and Kennedy saw him as representing the “establishment” and either opposed his candidacy outright or were lukewarm in their allegiance. The prevailing thought that there was very little difference between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey and that election of the outright conservative Nixon might hasten the revolution that was sorely needed in this country.

The outcome was that Richard Nixon was elected president. The outcome was that Richard Nixon turned out to be far worse than the most wretched predictions of the McCarthy/Kennedy followers. The outcome was that Richard Nixon brought about the wave of conservative ideology which continues to sweep across this country.

Because the supporters of Kennedy and McCarthy stayed on the sidelines Richard Nixon begat Ronald Reagan who begat George H.W. Bush who begat (literally) George W. Bush. In the process we have seen the mass incarceration of the national black community, the onset of massive income inequality, the engagement of this country in regime change misadventures at the cost of trillions of dollars and incalculable loss of life. In the process we have seen Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and William Rehnquist sit on the Supreme Court and roll back the reproductive rights of women along the with the marginalization of affirmative action and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.

So before the Sanders Supporters decide to opt out if/when they lose in Philadelphia, let’s hope they learn from history and that they remember that as bad as Richard Nixon was – Donald Trump, Rafael Cruz and John Kasich – embedded with the most conservative Congress in history – will be so much worse.

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Point of View Columns

The Birth of Trumpageddon

Historians will undoubtedly look at the 2016 presidential campaign as being unique. The looming and tantalizing presence of Trumpageddon will virtually overshadow everything, much the same way as Donald Trump himself sucks up the media oxygen every day of this very bizarre year. But the most astute historians will go back a half century earlier to discover the roots of Trumpageddon, roots that have nothing to do with Donald J. Trump and have everything to do with the intentional reinvention of the Republican Party in 1964.

Prior to 1964 the national Republican party was indisputably more progressive when it came to civil rights for black Americans. After all, the Democratic Party was deeply rooted in the South, roots that went back as far as the end of Reconstruction and the federal occupation of the formerly treasonous Confederacy in 1876.

After all, the Republican Party came into being with the abolition of slavery being a principal plank in its national political platform in 1860. Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation was a Republican. And when the seething South was liberated from federal occupation in 1876, due in large part to the tricknology of Rutherford B. Hayes who swapped the freedom, civil rights and physical safety of Southern black people in exchange for the presidency, southerners embraced the Democratic Party as their own.

The Democratic Party in the South was the party of Jim Crow and lynching. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president, invited the first black American to dine at the White House. Woodrow Wilson, a Democratic president, hosted the premier of “Birth of a Nation” in the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democratic president, never supported anti-lynching legislation for fear of alienating his Southern party members. And it was Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican president, who sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

Prior to his untimely death, Democratic President John F. Kennedy was nowhere near a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Act that was passed posthumously. And in 1960, Richard Nixon, his Republican opponent in that presidential election, had virtually the same amount of support in the national black community as he did.

As late as 1964, the Democratic Party was the home of  blood-soaked and hate drenched racist villains such as Thurmond and Stennis and Faubus and Wallace and Bilbo. And in 1964 every state that had been a part of the Confederate States of America was firmly on the Democratic side of the national political register.

And then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed with the urging of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And as if by magic, during the following decade, the Republican Party was ascendant in the South, vacuuming up all the disenchanted white Southerners, supposedly in the name of conservatism and state’s rights, but in reality the transition was fueled by the deep and abiding resentment that black Americans were afforded some measure of citizenship by the Damned Democrats.

Should there any be any doubt regarding the linkage of race and the Republican ascendancy, it should be remembered that Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of Republican conservatism, launched his national presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, less than twenty years after three civil rights workers were lynched within miles of the podium on which he stood. And when Reagan proclaimed that “government was the enemy”, he was referring to that same federal government that was often the only source of protection for black Americans seeking asylum and vindication in their own country. That dog whistle blew loud enough for white ears in the South and throughout the nation.

It should, therefore, be no surprise that the modern Republican Party, reborn in radical response to the advancement of racial civil rights would be the home of the impending Trumpageddon. It certainly should be no surprise that the political party that turned a blind eye to the clear racist and racial efforts to delegitimize the first African American presidency would serve as the incubator for those would seek to delegitimize the entire apparatus of the federal government.

Republican leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell who refused to extinguish the dark magical thinking that claimed that Barack Obama is a Muslim, or “hates America” or is not even a citizen, cannot be surprised that a master manipulator like Donald Trump could harness this malevolent harvest and turn it into a movement. And now, for good historical reason, Trumpageddon is upon us.

The Republicans are reaping what they have sown.

Wallace Ford is the Chairman of the Department of Public Administration at Medgar Evers College in the City University of New York. He is the host of The Inclusion Show and the author of two novels, “The Pride” and “What You Sow”

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Point of View Columns

The Turtle on the Fence Post

Country sayings are interesting and, in many instances, can be true. For example, if you see a turtle on a fence post, you can be pretty sure that it did not get there on its own. Similarly, when we see voting restrictions being imposed all over the country, we can be sure that it is neither a matter of coincidence or serendipity.

Almost immediately upon the election of President Obama in 2009, Teapublicans began a monomaniacal jihad with the sole goal of preventing him from being reelected. This group of supposed patriots hit upon the idea of restricting voting rights and the ethnic cleansing of voter rolls as a way of diminishing the support for Barack Obama in the 2012 election. Historians will view this as strategy that is soaked in brutal irony – the patriotic right wing that claims to revere the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence has sought to deny the right to vote to certain Americans.

It took some time for the Teapublicans to get their act together, but after the Roberts-Alito-Thomas-Scalia Supreme Court cabal eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013, the path to constitutional villainy became an open highway. Indeed over fifteen states and numerous towns, counties and municipalities have instituted laws, rules and regulations which have as their goal the restriction of voting rights.

Claims that these laws, rules and regulations are intended to prevent voter fraud are simply lies. There are no statistical reports which indicate anything but a miniscule number of voter fraud cases over the past two decades. The fact that the voting rights restrictions have nothing to do with concerns about voter fraud brings us back to the story of the turtle on the fence post.

The effect of the voting rights restrictions has been to reduce the opportunity of blacks, Latinos, the elderly, the very young and the very poor from exercising their franchise as citizens of this country. The individuals in these demographic sectors are not known to be traditional supporters of Teapublican candidates or the Teapublican agenda.

Is this result simply a coincidence? Are voting limitations on the constituencies that elected and reelected Barack Obama just an unintended consequence of the Teapublican initiatives, however fortunate it might be for the right wing of the right wing? Just think about that turtle on the fence post.

The reality is that many of the current riders in the Teapublican Presidential Clown Bus have supported these voter suppression strategies – Chris Christie in New Jersey, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in Florida, Rick Perry and Ted Cruz in Texas are up to their eyeballs in denying constitutional rights to American citizens who don’t figure to support them. They will deny this, of course, but remember that turtle on the fence post.

The Teapublican voter suppression strategy began after Barack Obama was elected. This strategy has never had anything to do with voter fraud. This strategy has always been about reducing the turnout of voters likely to support Barack Obama and Democrats in general. And any Teapublican who is thinking about running for President of the United States will want to stack the deck in their favor by diminishing the turnout of the Obama/Democratic base.

So, as the denials will spew from the likes of Christie/Walker/Bush/Rubio/Perry/Cruz………….just remember that turtle on the fence post.

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The United States of Gun

Given the proximity of the Washington Naval Yard gun massacre, as well as its incremental horror, one could have hoped that Congress would have taken time out from cutting food stamps and trying to eliminate Obamacare to pay attention. One would have hoped in vain. To the collective shame of this country, the Washington Naval Yard joins Aurora and Tucson and Sandy Hook and Fort Hood as another synonym for atrocity while the Congress does absolutely nothing.

The Teapublicans and the right wing of the right wing are adamant in their defense of what they contend is their constitutional right to own an unlimited number of guns. And even those that serve as hand held weapons of mass destruction. And on the Planet Teapublican, that right even extends to what are in essence hand held weapons of mass destruction.

Even the most common sense proposed limitations, such as background checks for mental illness and criminal records are met with outrage and implacable opposition. The fact that gun massacres with multiple deaths upon multiple casualties have become a part of the American way of life is met with a call for more guns in the hands of more Americans.

What is peculiar about this adamant and absolute Teapublican defense of the right to bear arms is that it does not extend to the right to vote. The same right wing avatars that are incapable in compromising on any limits, controls or oversight regarding the right to possess firearms have no problem with the multiple barriers to voting that are being erected across this country. In fact, the same Teapublican legislatures that trample even modest gun control proposals into dusty fragments are the same legislatures that are passing voter suppression laws the likes of which have not been seen since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In North Carolina, for example, new voter suppression laws have been passed with the express purpose of making it more difficult for minorities, the elderly and the young to vote. The fact that representatives of these demographics are not part of the Teapublican base of support is not coincidental.

And so, we are now witness to the irony that it is easier for a black man in North Carolina to own a gun that it is for him to vote. Somehow the predominantly white Teapublicans in North Carolina and elsewhere fear black people who vote more than they fear black people who own guns.

The naked illogic of this situation should be obvious as the exercise of the right to vote is far more important to the preservation of democracy and democratic institutions than individual gun ownership. Unless you believe that there are federal black helicopters about to lift off and come and take you away, voting presents a far more effective and rational way to establish and promote policies.

Say what you will about the Teapublicans, but they have managed to turn selective hypocrisy into an art form. Somehow the right to bear arms is an absolute right that should not be subject to any limitation whatsoever.

However, even though the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to choose an abortion, the Teapublicans in many states have taken so many steps to limit that right to choose that the right is virtually meaningless.

While the right to own guns, rifles, shotguns and assault weapons is inviolate on the Planet Teapublican – the right to vote of minorities, the elderly and anyone who is not a reliable supporter of the Teapublican Commandments can be modified and limited to make their right to vote virtually meaningless.

Indeed, to an observer from another country, it would seem that the only right that is absolute in the Teapublican Constitution is the right to own a gun. And it may be only a matter of time before this country is properly renamed “The United States of Gun”.

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