A tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsberg

By Valli Geiger | Oct 01, 2020

We lost a 5’1” giant. She said “the Constitution was written for a few white men of property, but the story over time was of ever expanding circles of inclusion — as history, amendments, and jurisprudence expanded American equality to black people, women, gays and lesbians.”

She did what she could as a lawyer and then as a justice make America fairer, create a justice system that served everyone equally. She never tired of the fight to make America live up to its ideals and she understood that it was fight.

Her dying wish? That President Trump not choose her successor.

We hear phrases like "ever expanding circles of inclusion" or the "Arc of History bends toward justice." But that makes it seem like these things happen on their own naturally, but they do not. History also shows every advance is followed by vigorous, sometimes violent resistance to change. Nothing can be taken for granted.

The 15th Amendment gave black men the right to vote in 1870.

The southern states were not re-admitted to the union until they ratified it. The voting rights of black men were actively protected by the federal government.

From 1863 to 1877 more than 1500 African American men were elected to office. 60% were registered to vote, until Reconstruction was ended by one vote.

Within a decade, it had fallen to 2% as the Jim Crow south rose with a vengeance in the southern states. Despite the 15th amendment, poll taxes, lynchings, literacy challenges, voter ID, closing polling places and violence destroyed the actual right of black men to vote. This lasted until 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Women hoped to be included in the 15th amendment, but they were not. It would be another 50 years before we were granted that right. Again, granted is such a benign term, but the reality is that women worked for 50 years by organizing, lecturing, marching, petitioning the courts, passing it in individual states, leading hunger strikes, and beaten, arrested and ostracized by their community.

The 19th amendment passed in 1920. The first woman legislator in Maine was elected in 1922, and it wasn't until 2018 that Maine elected the first female governor. We have not yet elected a female president, but we have elected a black man to be president.

Rights are worked for, but even when gained, must be defended. All over the country, the right to vote is under attack creating barriers to register to vote, removing polling stations so people must wait hours to vote, taking away the right to vote by mail, purging voters from voter rolls and taking away the right to vote for life, if you have been convicted of a crime and sent to prison.

The focus is on suppressing the votes of the young, people of color, and people of low income. They threaten the power of the powerful. If you care about income inequality, LGBTQ+ rights, if you believe systematic racism is hurting people of color, if you believe in the rule of law, vote.

In 2010, Eaton River Strategies, a Republican consulting company, now working for my opponent Mike Mullins, is credited with flipping the Maine Senate in 2010 from Democrat to Republican. What did they do with their new found power? They immediately passed voter suppression bills, took away same-day registration, made voter IDs a requirement, and placed restrictions on absentee voting.

Mainers immediately organized and passed by referendum the return of our voting rights. Maine allows same day voter registration, does not require voter ID on Election Day, allows college students to vote, and anyone can vote using Vote by Mail.

Maine is one of two states, where even when in prison, you still have the right to vote.

So, what must we do?

First, we vote, then make sure friends and family vote. Next, prepare to defend your right to vote, our ancestors marched, organized, starved, were arrested, were beaten and some died for the right to vote. We can do nothing less.

Never doubt that your vote matters, that small steps lead to larger ones, that a vote caste for inclusion can ripple out.

In Rockland, as a member of Council, we passed a Diversity Resolution, stating that one of our values was to welcome all people to Rockland, We passed a food sovereignty ordinance, the first city to do so, now it is state law. We passed a Sustainability Ordinance to make our city energy independent, a year before the state of Maine did.

Dreams start small and grow, who you elect matters, starting with the most local positions to the greatest in the nation.

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Comments (3)
Posted by: Valli Genevieve Geiger | Oct 04, 2020 16:02

Needless to say, I am not the rep, I am the candidate. Requesting the Village Soup be kind enough to fix their byline error quickly!



Posted by: George Terrien | Oct 04, 2020 11:19

As in "...who won," of course.

Posted by: George Terrien | Oct 04, 2020 11:17

Well put, Valli!  Thank you.

And I must have slept through election day, if the byline is correct.  Would someone please tell me who one the elections for president and senate?

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