John Lewis gave a speech on Thursday night, in the first hour of the convention, that almost nobody saw, which is too bad, because it summed up the great unmentioned subtext of this year's election — namely, that, between the new torrents of money that are overwhelming the system, and the rise again of voter-suppression legalisms in the various states, which are in many cases products of those same new torrents of money, the election is coming perilously close to becoming a puppet show. The Republicans didn't mention that, because they have taken in so much of the new money, and because Republican governors and legislators in the various states are behind the new voter-suppression laws, and everybody knows that. The Democrats are caught in a bind, because they have to play in the new universe of campaign finance, too, and because they're trying to keep up with a symphony of well-financed propaganda that seeks to make voter-suppression into a good-government initiative. John Lewis is not fooled. John Lewis has seen this before. And John Lewis told the convention what he's seeing rising in the country out of his own past.
Black, white, brown...the new color of privilege is green, certainly. When a man who has paid his dues in blood and sweat and pain like he has, when he tells you he sees the nightmares of his past in the plastic smiles and saccharine logic of the Republican party, when tell you he sees the old, bloody ghosts leading the carnival of horrors, summoned by the pious mewling of "voter integrity"...yeah, you sit next to the man and learn.
Brothers and sisters, do you want to go back? Or do you want to keep America moving forward? My dear friends, your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful, nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union. Not too long ago, people stood in unmovable lines. They had to pass a so-called literacy test, pay a poll tax. On one occasion, a man was asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap. On another occasion, one was asked to count the jelly beans in a jar-all to keep them from casting their ballots. Today it is unbelievable that there are Republican officials still trying to stop some people from voting. They are changing the rules, cutting polling hours and imposing requirements intended to suppress the vote. The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House even bragged that his state's new voter ID law is "gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state." That's not right. That's not fair. That's not just. And similar efforts have been made in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina. I've seen this before. I've lived this before. Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote.
You want to know why I voted for Obama and plan to vote for him again in a state like Kentucky where he'll most likely lose by 20 points? Because. I can vote. Because it is sacred, and people have died and bled and were driven to their knees by the grief and sorrow of witnessing the struggle, and you do it anyway. Because those who came before me paid my way to be able to vote and in some cases paid a terrible, brutal price, and I will not dishonor them by throwing that sacred right away. You want to know why I vote?
Because I can.
And I will do whatever it takes to maintain that. It is a gift secured for you by men and women like John Lewis and all the people who came before, and when I see people say "I don't know if I should vote" and take that privilege for granted and whinge about how it doesn't matter because there's no difference between the parties, you look at the issue of voter suppression and tell me there's no difference. One party believes voting is a right for all Americans and they have put their lives on the line in some cases to secure that right. The other side believes it's a perk for only those who are found worthy because they are right-thinking, a party that wants to go back to the Good Ol' Days for them, when they still controlled the country uncontested. That is changing precisely because of the changing vote and the power it represents, and it terrifies them to their rotten, diseased hearts. If voting is so utterly useless and pointless, why do they fear it so much?
That alone should determine not only which party you should vote for, but that you should be gorram proud and honored to vote so that you too can pay that right forward to your children and nephews and nieces and grandkids. I don't come at you guys with the grim visage all that much, but this is one of those times. I implore you to vote. That is the cost, one much lighter than John Lewis has paid and has seen paid. You owe it to the past, you owe it to the future, and you owe it to yourself.
Because you can. Because you fight like unrelenting hell for those who still cannot. And yes, that should be a good enough reason. End of line. The tag is dead serious.
Vote like your country depends on it.