“I hate sounding like an alarmist,” Chris Getz wrote one week after American voters overwhelmingly selected Joe Biden to be the next president. But nearly two months later his post seems, if anything, insufficiently alarmed. We are seeing an increasing number of Republican officials stating publicly and explicitly that they are willing to go to any length to subvert and overturn the will of the voters.
And Gertz is correct to note that what these Republicans are arguing is the same thing that Charles Lindbergh argued in 1940 — that the votes of Black Americans should not be counted as legitimate:
In a portion of his November 5, 1940 diary that he excised thirty years later from his published Wartime Journals, Lindbergh recorded a dinner conversation with his wife Anne and friends like the French surgeon Alexis Carrel. Here’s how Lindbergh reported the start of their conversation: “I said that I did not believe a political system based on universal franchise would work in the United States, and that we would eventually have to restrict our franchise. Everyone there agreed, and we spent some time discussing the principles upon which a restriction could be based.”
Which Americans should lose their voting rights? The conversation soon turned to “the Jewish problem and how it could be handled in this country with intelligence and moderation.” The eugenicist Carrel added that only those with a “mental age of 12 or 14 years” should get to vote. For his part, Lindbergh made a suggestion that shows up at least once more in his (unpublished) journals: “I said that I felt one of the first steps must be to disenfranchise the Negro. Everyone agreed to this.”
As Gertz notes, Lindbergh could only have been referring to Black citizens in some northern parts of the country, since at the time of that 1940 dinner party, Jim Crow laws and white terrorist violence already meant that only about 3% of Black citizens were able to have their votes counted in the South.
Lindbergh was calling for a second “Redemption” — a repeat and expansion of the disenfranchisement of Black Americans just like what happened after the Corrupt Bargain gave Rutherfraud Hayes the presidency in 1876 in exchange for his Republican Party abandoning the cause of Reconstruction. But he and his white-supremacist dinner companions didn’t discuss the specifics of how this anti-constitutional mass-disenfranchisement would work. We don’t know if Lindbergh gave it enough thought to imagine a decades-long campaign to flood the federal judiciary with judges who agreed to ignore the Reconstruction Amendments, mass-incarceration, and organized voter suppression, but he lived long enough to see all of those efforts begun in earnest in the form of Nixon’s Southern Strategy.
My invocation of Hayes and the violent backlash undoing Reconstruction might also seem “alarmist.” But I’m not the only one making this comparison. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz went on Fox News yesterday and explicitly called for a replay of the Corrupt Bargain of 1876. They’re saying the quiet part loud now. The Second Redemption has become the official agenda of the Republican Party. Republicans seeking to lead that party and to position themselves as future presidential nominees are now jostling to see who can be most outspoken and enthusiastic about the disenfranchisement of Black voters. Their priority, now as in 1940, is to “disenfranchise the Negro.” And in Trump’s GOP, “everyone agrees to this.”