Governor Ron Desantis Can Have His Lincoln Moment With Amendment 4

Michael Dobson newspaper

Michael Dobson, Columnist

"The Florida House has passed a bill to implement Amendment 4 which will require citizens to pay money in order to gain the right to vote, after they have paid their debts to society, which ended with their finishing their sentences and the government releasing them to society demonstrating their debt is paid"

Desantis gov

Governor Ron Desantis

It was April 15, 1865 when an assassin’s bullet killed Abraham Lincoln. On that day of each year, we file our taxes… a day we can never forget.  We will also never forget that it was Lincoln, largely considered a father of the Republican Party, who shrewdly ended slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 and later codified it in the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865. Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis now face his own Lincoln moment. Will he flinch? Will he allow power to not only supersede politics, but also the will of the voters? Make no mistake, determining the makeup of the electorate is more about power than it is politics.

This issue of race, equality, and who gets the voting franchise is indeed something thousands of Americans of all races have fought and died for. It has a long storyline in the annuals of American history.  If we consider it in the context of history, one can’t help but accept the rightness of Florida’s Amendment 4 and the voter’s intent for automatic restoration of rights. That history makes us confront the  brutality of slavery, the carnage of the civil war, the fact that in American… our jails and prisons are disproportionality populated by descendants  of former slaves, the historical genesis of state laws denying the franchise to convicted felons;  and what has been a long fight, that at times, have been a bloody one that was all a part of the  civil rights movement, which continues today.  Lincoln had a Thaddeus Stephens and other men of principles in the Republican Party who saw the rightness of freedom for all. The ideals of these men are what spurred the  Emancipation Proclamation and the  13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, however  (oddly) the 13th amendment  allows for a narrow form of slavery to persist,  when it says” neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”.lincoln

We are left  with a  tension  in the American psyche,  which is enshrined in what the 13th amendment does… what it allows and what President Lincoln could not politically go far enough to do. Surely we would be in a different place had Lincolns assassination not  occurred at the Ford Theater.   I believe Lincoln thought he would live to fight another day to address those things he compromised on.  The issue of voting and who got the franchise (in a permanent scheme) vexed Lincoln even while winning on the emancipation.

Who gets to vote in America seems to be the last and most difficult vestige of slavery. Eliminating that last vestige has been like trying to clean an old blood stain. Lincolns Republican Party believed in the republic, in a democratic government and most importantly,  in freedom for all. He believed in the  theory (  Euclid’s mathematical rule) that if two things are the same and or made of the same thing, then they are also equal; therefore intellectually he couldn’t bring himself to accept the idea that we are not  all equal. But still, it seems that very question and its tension has been our nations Achilles heel way before i was born, and sadly,  a place we can’t seem to move away from in my 60 years on this great earth. The Republican Party of 1865 is not the same one it is today.

This writer has always believed that government should not interfere with freedom, that it should create an environment that we can all succeed and that we should have competitive markets and industries that are open to competition with level playing fields. I believe that men are equal and that the right to vote is the greatest evidence of that equality. Lincoln believed that. This idea of equality is what we have tried to deny as a human race in a variety of ways, as strong men have seen the benefit of sowing division.. to make one man suspicious, envious or even afraid of the other. Denying the automatic restoration of voting rights as amendment  4 does in plain language is just a continuation of this age old human sin… the sin of denying equal rights to equal men and women, who have an equal stake in our democracy.  The ability to vote is supposed to be that thing that for one day, election day, that our equality is laid bare…. that no matter education or station in life, each man or women has only one. It is on that day all have equal weight, each only just one vote.. to make a statement  and have a stake in America.

I am not sure when the Republican Party moved so far away from its founding principles. Was it when the largess of political power went out of the stratosphere… making good men corruptible?  Is it a truth that says it’s unnatural for anyone to give up power or even risk it? Even our philosophers such as Descartes, Plato and Aristotle have told us of man’s primal motivation of self-interest .  Governor DeSantis has an opportunity that rivals Lincoln, to be on the right side of history. He has an opportunity to askew impulses or suggestions from those who see this as only an issue of power and politics rather than the promise of America as a free a place where all men are equal. What say you to this moment Governor Desantis?

Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist, President/CEO of the Dream Foundation,Inc. and founder of Dobson, Craig and Associates. Reach him at Michael@dobsonandcraig.com

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