Being 44 years old I’ve been privy to 10 Presidential Elections. I’ve been witness to the elections of six of the our last seven presidents. ( Gerald Ford served out the final two years of Nixon’s term following his resignation. ) The earliest one I recollect is Richard Nixon when I was around five years old. All ten elections were about something, The Vietnam War, The Watergate scandal, the Iranian Hostage crisis, the end of the Cold War, etc. This time around its about ” making history “. It started in the primary phase of the process. Hilary Clinton was running to become the first woman elected to the Presidency of the United States. Barack Obama was running to become the first African American elected President. Now, We have a woman, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin running for Vice President.
But what should this election really be about? Should it be about making history, honoring history or writing history?
For me, the following was women making history:
Women were guaranteed the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920. Prior to the passage of this amendment women’s suffrage was only guaranteed in some of the states. During the early part of the 19th century, agitation for equal suffrage was carried on by only a few individuals. The first of these was Frances Wright, a Scottish woman who came to the country in 1826 and advocated women’s suffrage in an extensive series of lectures. In 1836 Ernestine Rose, a Polish woman, came to the country and carried on a similar campaign, so effectively that she obtained a personal hearing before the New York Legislature, though her petition bore only five signatures. At about the same time, in 1840, Lucretia Mott and Margaret Fuller became active in Boston, the latter being the author of the book The Great Lawsuit; Man vs. Woman. Efforts to gain various women’s rights were subsequently led by women such as Susan B. Anthony, Virginia Minor, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis and Sojourner Truth.
Lets not overlook the 15th amendment:
The Fifteenth Amendment (Amendment XV) of the United States Constitution prohibits each government in the United States to prevent a citizen from voting based on that citizen’s race, color, or previous condition of servitude (i.e., slavery). It was ratified on February 3, 1870.
|“||Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.||”|
The Fifteenth Amendment is one of the Reconstruction Amendments. This amendment prohibits the states and the federal government from using a citizen’s race, color, or previous status as a slave as a voting qualification. Its basic purpose was to enfranchise former slaves. While some states had permitted the vote to former slaves even before the ratification of the Constitution, this right was rare, not always enforced, and often under attack. The North Carolina Supreme Court upheld this right of free men of color to vote; in response, amendments to the North Carolina Constitution removed the right in 1835. The right to vote for free men of color could be seen as granting them the rights of citizens, an argument made explicitly by Justice Curtis’s dissent in Dred Scott v. Sandford:
Of this there can be no doubt. At the time of the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, all free native-born inhabitants of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, though descended from African slaves, were not only citizens of those States, but such of them as had the other necessary qualifications possessed the franchise of electors, on equal terms with other citizens.
The first person to vote under the provisions of the amendment was Thomas Mundy Peterson who cast his ballot in a Perth Amboy school board election being held on March 31, 1870. It was not until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, almost a century later, that the full promise of the Fifteenth Amendment was actually achieved in all states. After the passage on a per capita and absolute basis, more blacks were elected to political office during the period from 1865 to 1880 than at any other time in American history. Although no state elected a black governor during Reconstruction, a number of state legislatures were effectively under the control of a substantial African American caucus. These legislatures brought in programs that are considered part of government’s duty now, but at the time were radical, such as universal public education. They also set aside all racially biased laws, including anti-miscegenation laws (laws prohibiting interracial marriage).
Despite the efforts of groups like the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate black voters and white Republicans, assurance of federal support for democratically elected southern governments meant that most Republican voters could both vote and rule in confidence. For example, when an all-white mob attempted to take over the interracial government of New Orleans, President Ulysses S. Grant sent in federal troops to restore the elected mayor.
However, after the close election of Rutherford B. Hayes, Hayes, in order to mollify the South, agreed to withdraw federal troops. He also overlooked poll violence in the deep south, despite several attempts by the Republicans to pass laws assuring the rights of black voters and to punish intimidation. To show the unwillingness of Congress to take any action at this time, even a bill that would have required incidents of violence only at polling places to be publicized failed to be passed. Without the restrictions, voting place violence against blacks and Republicans increased, including instances of murder. Most of this was done without any interference by law enforcement, and often even with their co-operation.
The original House and Senate draft of the Amendment stated that the right to vote and to be a candidate would not be denied or abridged by the States based on race, color or creed. This was eventually omitted due to the desire among many Northern Republicans to leave their own laws limiting black participation in government intact. The amendment did not establish true universal male suffrage partly because Southern Republicans were afraid to undermine loyalty tests, which the Reconstruction state governments used to limit the influence of ex-Confederates.
Now, lets look at Presidents who have made history BEFORE getting elected.
Thomas Jefferson, our third President, wrote the Declaration of Independence.
Other than Jefferson, only a handful of past Presidents made history before being elected. They are limited to the ones that helped write and ratify the constitution, and who helped win our independence.
Our nation has seen history be made by many, many people. Rosa Parks, who in 1955, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. Her subsequent arrest and fine led to a boycott led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. ( ya all remember him right? ). This boycott led to desegregaion in Montgomery, Alabama. Lets not forget Rev. King. We all know who he is and what he accomplished. He led the fight so Barack Obama and Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American women elected to congress would have that opportunity. Folks, there is a list a thousand miles long of Americans who have made history. Barack Obama and Sarah Palin may achieve something no one else has done, but that is not what this election should be about. It should be about restoring the greatness of America. Fixing our economy, regaining world respect, taking care of our own, thats what this election should be about. Don’t let it be about race or gender, make it about America.