Published in the St. Louis American, April 11, 2019
Daily we see how Trump plows through our fragile American democracy – unaware or uncaring of the laws, principles, structures and protocols he tramples. While his destruction happens on a national and international stage for all to see, similar actions are also happening on the local and state levels by his Republican buddies. Under the Jeff City dome, lawmakers are doing their best to strip down the mandate of nearly 1.5 million Missouri voters.
To refresh your memories, Amendment 1 is a state constitution package that deals with lobbying limits, provides transparency in campaign finance and stops gerrymandering. Prop B raises the minimum wage to $12 by 2023.
Last November, voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 1 and Proposition B. In St. Louis, Amendment 1 passed by 80 percent, in St. Louis County by 62 percent. St. Louis said hell yes to raising the minimum wage by over 85 percent. Our county neighbors chimed in with 70 percent. The voters spoke loud and clear.
I’m trying not to take the attack on these two ballot initiatives personal just because I worked on them. But what is offensive to the broad coalition which conceptualized and implemented the campaigns and voters who went to the polls is when lawmakers act like we were duped or didn’t do our homework.
Opponents of Clean Missouri and Prop B have used lies and deception to confuse fellow lawmakers and voters. Things like presenting a map that draws black districts well into mid-state white districts. White voters were told they could get a black rep in this deal; black voters were told they would be represented by a white farmer.
This big, white lie really pisses me off because at the heart of the redistricting part of the bill is adherence to another law: the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Plus, I don’t hear any of these new champions of black political power standing up against the Better Together plan that will obliterate black elected positions in the City of St. Louis and diminish the impact and participation of black folks.
The language under Section 3 of the Amendment is unmistakably clear: “Districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or diminishing their ability to elect representatives of their choice.”
As a legislator, reading and research should be fundamental. Sometimes self-interest prevails over voter interests.
Out-state Republican lawmakers like state Rep. Jeff Pogue (R-Salem) and state Rep. Curtis Trent (R-Springfield) have introduced legislation that totally disregards the results of the November election. The goal of the GOP is to chip away or completely repeal these two powerful laws.
These acts of aggression have sparked the Defend the Win counter-offensive campaign. The bi-partisan campaign includes groups across the state from the AARP to the Organization for Black Struggle. They, along with hundreds of thousands of voters, are not passively standing by to watch their hard-fought work go down in a Republican coup.
This will be a fight to the finish. Our side will fight a clean fight. In the name of democracy.