Paul Nevins

Paul Nevins
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
October 29
Paul Nevins is the author of "The Politics of Selfishness: How John Locke’s Legacy Is Paralyzing America "(Greenwood /Praeger/ABC-CLIO). The central thesis of this important and unconventional work is that the United States has begun to experience a number of profound, interrelated problems that are caused, both directly and indirectly, by the country's dogmatic and often unconscious adherence, collectively as a political culture and individually as Americans, to the political philosophy of John Locke. That ideology, which is the bedrock upon which the American liberal democracy has been founded, asserts that human beings are by nature solitary, aggrandizing individuals. Hence, preoccupation with the self in all of its manifestations and attributes - as opposed to the whole, the public interest - has become the primary focus by which political, economic and societal decisions are made. Consequently, the preferred form of social and political relationships with others, including the state as the organized expression of political society, is solely contractual and is designed primarily to protect private property in all of its forms. "The Politics of Selfishness" provides compelling historic and contemporary evidence that U.S. institutions, at all levels, are failing because of the country's uncritical embrace of the anti-social individualism which is John Locke’s legacy. Paul Nevins has been a trial attorney in private practice since 1982. He concentrates in public and private sector employment law and litigation, related civil rights and constitutional law claims, and contract claims. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Paul Nevins taught in the Boston Public Schools. While teaching, Mr. Nevins served as a member of the Executive Board of the Boston Teachers Union, Local 66, AFT/AFL-CIO. Paul Nevins served as a conscript in the United States Army from 1968 to 1970. In 1969, he was a founder and the first chairman of GIs for Peace at Fort Bliss, Texas.This was the first organization of active duty soldiers who publicly opposed the Vietnam War. Mr. Nevins received an A.B. Degree from Suffolk University, a Master of Arts Degree from New York University, and a Juris Doctor Degree from Suffolk University Law School. He lives and works in Boston.


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NOVEMBER 14, 2011 4:55PM

Is Voter Suppression Illegal? Un-American?

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        When the U.S. Constitution was adopted, only property-owning white males were given the right to vote in the original thirteen states. The Constitution, prior ot the adoption of the post Civil War amendments, barely referenced the issue of voting. Article 1, § 2 provides that members of the House of Representatives shall be chosen by the People; Article 1,  § 3 requires  that the members of the apportionment of the House of Representatives shall be based upon a decennial census; Article I, § 4 delegates the responsibility for the election of Congress to the states: "The Times, Places And Manners of holding Elections for Senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the legislature thereof."   


     Notwithstanding these scant provisions, in cryptic language,  Article IV,  § 2, states that  that  "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled  to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several states; Article IV,  § 4, in similarly laconic language, provides that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government..." In addition, the so- called elastic clause, Article1, § 8 [18] specifically enables the Congress "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Office thereof."

      After the Civil War, the XV amendment extended the franchise to newly emancipated slaves. Some sixty years later, the XIX Amendment granted the franchise to women, and, fifty-one years after that amendment, the XXVI Amendment granted citizens over eighteen years of age the right to vote. Each of these amendments gave Congress was the right to enforce those provisions by appropriate legislation. Despite these specific grants of legislative authority and the language of § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment that guarantees each citizen in the states the "equal protection of the laws" the Congress of the United States has refused to establish uniform rules for voting, to address the problem of gerrymandering or to enact legislation that makes voter suppression a federal crime.     
          Inexcusably, for more than one hundred years after the Civil War, the Congress of the United States refused to outlaw the poll tax, literacy tests and a variety of other measures that were specifically designed by state legislatures to disenfranchise millions of potential African American voters and other minorities. Finally, in Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 117, (1964), the Supreme Court opined that "No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a choice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, they must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined."

         Since the end of the Warren Court era, an increasingly reactionary Supreme Court has consistently backpedaled on the issue of voting rights. Most egregiously, in the case of Bush v. Gore, 532 U.S. 98 (2000), a five member majority of the Rehnquist Court was permitted to stage of a judicial coup d'etat in which they overturned the results of a presidential election and awarded the election to the loser, despite overwhelming evidence of voter suppression and illegal vote rigging by Florida GOP officials. The Court's decision in that case did not elicit even a whimper of protest from the organized bar. Subsequently, the evidence of voter suppression and vote rigging that were brought to the attention of the federal courts and the Justice Department concerning  2004 election results in Ohio was met with silence.

        To the present, the United States is the only putative democracy in the world that refuses to enact and enforce measures to ensure the rights of all citizens to vote and require that their votes count equally. Rather, New York Times' correspondent Michael Cooper reported ("New State Rules Raising Hurdles at Voting Booth, October 2, 2011) that, after Republicans won control of many of the state legislatures and  governorships in the election of 2010, more than a dozen states controlled by the GOP have passed new laws to make voting more onerous. The new rules included requirements for photo identification cards in Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin; requirements to present proof of citizenship in Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee; restrictions on  voter registration drives in Florida and Texas; repeal of voter registration in on Election ay Maine; and an end to early voting in Florida, Georgia and Ohio.

         A study released by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law n October of this year attempted to determine how many voters could be disenfranchised. The center reviewed 19 laws that passed and 2 executive orders that were issued in 14 states this year, and concluded that they "could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012." The report estimated that more than 5 million people could be affected by the new rules which is a number greater than the margin of victory in the popular vote in 6 of the last 13 presidential elections from 1960 to 2008.

        These recently enacted legislative statutes and executive orders violate a fundamental premise of democratic government: the equal rights of all citizens to participate in the election of those who profess to govern them. As such, these measures to restrict voting rights should be an affront to every sentient person. Why has the party of Abraham Lincoln turned its back on democracy? Why have the Congress, President Obama, the Justice Department, the federal and state courts, elected officials in every state, county, and citizens, lawyers and every bar organization, and the millions upon millions of American who claim to be patriots remained silent and indifferent while the machinery of our political institutions is subverted from within? 

      Have we become so timid, so disillusioned, so jaded , so morally corrupted that we have lost our capacity for outrage? 


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america can not turn its back on democracy, a type of polity james madison despised, and argued at length against in 'the federalist papers' and his private correspondence.

it was the intent of the founding fathers that men of property should rule. america is an oligarchy, and nearly a plutocracy. little wonder that the inheritors of the founding men of property are equally inclined to limit the vote to 'people like us.'

if you want real democracy, start with a new constitution. if you despise rule by the people, how can you hope to rule for the people?
Al, I sadly agree that this country has lost its way and that we no longer can consider ourselves to be a member of the community of democratic countries. We need to start over with a new constitution that does away with divided government, checks and balances, and horizontal diffusion of power and replaces it with a responsive, transparent, accountable parliamentary democracy in which issue-oriented political parties, and not personality politics and money, dominates.

Unfortunately, the greatest obstacles to such a new political system are "Founding Fathers" worship and the mythology of the American Creed which has distracted citizens from comprehending how unresponsive and unconcerned about their welfare the present system is.
Have we lost our capacity for outrage? No; there is much outrage spewing. The outrage is there. The Occupy movement is channeling a huge amount of outrage. But you called it in your post - the populace must depend on the government to take action against wrong doing and that is not happening. In better times the members of the middle class tend to go about their business and do not get riled up by these abuses. Now that it is endangering their way of life, and their family welfare action will be taken. I hope it is not too little too late...
Excellent article, Paul. I read the two comments and find I have nothing to add. I am in total agreement. We are lost.
Perhaps the capacity for “outrage” was always subject to the realization that, no matter the pretty words that were spoken about “democracy” and “of the people, by the people, for the people”, no such thing really ever existed in reality.

As anyone can plainly see, all the outrage shown by “occupiers” all across the nation plus $1.25 will get you a cup of coffee at a cheap restaurant.

There are a few pre-conditions that MUST be met in order for a democracy to exist.....

1- Those chosen to represent the citizens must do that, only that, and nothing but that, every moment while carrying that responsibility. They cannot be members of political parties whose agenda is different from that of the citizens - and the agenda of EVERY political party is to do what is best for the party - not for the citizens.

2- Political parties must, because of their susceptibility to bribery and corruption, be outlawed. Every one of them claims to “represent the interests of the citizens.” Every one of them lies. They represent the interests of the party first and foremost. Then they represent the interests of the members of that party. Then they represent the interests of those who fund the party’s expenses. Then....... but you get the idea. The interests of the citizens? Well, maybe 10th? Maybe 2oth? Maybe 50th? Ah, why bother about “the citizens”, let’s just fill our pockets as long as those fools will keep putting us in office.

3- No person should ever serve more than one term in office. No career politicians who will be susceptible to bribery while in need of campaign contributions. Citizen involvement in the running of the nation, the states, and the municipal managing bodies. Citizens - not politicians. This should be a "required duty” of all adult citizens. Just as some nations have “required military duty” of their citizens, a democracy must have a requirement of duty to the nation and its citizens. One term of office. Not a great deal to ask. Citizens representing citizens. Career politicians not needed, wanted, or tolerated.

Without these basic conditions, a “democracy” cannot exist. Any attempt at it, without those conditions, will fail just as has happened in all of the present “democracies-that-aren’t”. We must take note of the fact that EVERY so-called democracy that now exists and is failing (all of them) there is one thing in common. Political parties who control who may run for election (largely, if not totally) and whose interests are not those of the citizens.
In EVERY nation - EVERY nation - EVERY NATION!!!

Doesn’t that strike you as important?