The Texas Observer *R”” 1965 A Journal of Free Voices A Window to The South 25c Fools 12, Folks 8 Larry L,. King Washington, D.C. “Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?” To answer the question Mark Twain put in the mouth of Huck Finn: No, we hain’t got all the fools in town on our side. But we got a heap of ’em in our midst. Mostly they go around posturing as Texas congressmen, and if you’ve got the stomach to stand it these pages shall soon reveal the latest perfidy performed by exactly one dozen thereof. Once I fed my family reasonably often, if not well, through the sports-writing dodge. And so when I heard how Texas congressmen got recorded in the House on the voting rights bill, I naturally thought of the results in sports jargon. Reported in the line scores, the mournful numbers would have read: Fools 12, Folks 8. Let me call time out in this dirty game to answer the shocked comments of everybodybeginning with my sweet wife, extending through Editor Ronnie Dugger and reaching on out to you, Dear Reader who will draw a big breath and declaim, “Mercy! You can’t go ’round callin’ a dozen Texas congressmen fools!” The hell I can’t. Don’t stop me until you’ve heard the evidence. What exactly one dozen of our native heroes in Congress did was to come out flat-footed against folks having the right to vote. Oh, for the most part they perfumed it up and powdered it some, employing sweet words like States Rights and The Constitution and Local Responsibility in trying to get the stench out of the thing. But there is no honey in the rotten carcass of the lion, and the thing still reeks. Plainly and simply stated so that even your average neolithic Texas legislator might understand it, the voting rights bill removed the dodges, tricks, skullduggeries, jokes, and hitches through which many citizens have long been disenfranchised. The bill zeroed in on six Southern states containing counties in which less than 50% of the eligibles were registered or voted in the last election, and from which enough complaints were received to show that the something rotten wasn’t necessarily in Denmark. In short the bill was drawn to scratch where the itchin’ was. FEW SURPRISES are found among the dozen Texas congressmen who declared against the voting rights bill. They were, not exactly in the order of their respective brain wattages, Reps. Beckworth, Burleson, Casey, Dowdy, Fisher, Mahon, Patman, Poage, Pool, Roberts, Rogers, and Teague. Before their names disappear in a puff of public indifference, let us consider together what they voted against: 1.Suspension of so-called literacy tests, some of which require applicants upon demand of voter registrars to recite whole pages of the State Constitution, or to name every public official from the President of the United States down to the County Tick Inspector. 2.Requiring local or state governments accused of having disenfranchised citizens to show evidencein duly constituted federal courtsof having complied -with existing laws safe-guarding voter rights. 3.Authorizing appointment of federal examiners in areas with histories of chronic complaints of irregularities, to register persons who would be qualified to vote were it not for discriminatory literacy tests. 4.Empowering the Attorney General to institute suits to enforce the 15th Amendment in the federal courts, with federal examiners being assigned to monitor such cases pending a final judgement. 5.Providing criminal penalties for intimidating, threatening, or coercing any person for voting or trying to vote. 6.Providing criminal penalties against fraudulent voting practices. Those six provisions in the voting rights bill aren’t exactly to be confused with the Communist Manifesto, though from some of the hooting and dancing on the House floor against them one might have thought them conceived by Karl Marx at his most diabolical. I can’t see how any grown man who stayed in school long enough to qualify for mid-morning recess can offer one common-sense reason why those six basic points should not be employed to protect the citizen’s right to ballotpresuming, of course, you think we are serious about holding free elections in this Republic. THIS APPARENTLY is a presumption one cannot make of certain of our mudbog Mikados. There they were out there on the House floor in front of God, Lyndon and everybody, bawling the type of low comedy I sometimes do at parties when the night is full of drink. Somehow, they managed to keep straight faces while doing it. Congressman 0. Clark Fisher, who for reasons vastly incomprehensible has been chosen for twenty-odd years to represent an arid section of West Texas full of plain folks and goat herds, railed at one point of “when Martin Luther King invaded Selma, Alabama, with his blood-splattered demonstrations.” I should not have been surprised had the learned Dr. Fisher next proclaimed that water flows up hill, the Alamo is in San Angelo, or that canaries chirp bass. For unless I have been seriously mis-led by the Left-Wing Press, the “lawmen” fell on peaceful marchers with from behind and killed a minister who had affronted them by walking down a public Klansmen fatally shot from ambush a lady whose crime was visiting from Detroit. Dr. Fisher struck similar sparks of unintentional wit before asking of demonstrators, “What more do they want?” Well, Clark, they might have the gall to want to vote even as you and I do without having their lives endangered. They might want to use the public facilities for which their taxes help pay. They might want to enter courthouse doors now open only to those persons of lighter hues. And they might even want certain damn fools to remember recent facts of history as they really happened strange as the notion may appear to all true-blue patriots such as we. Came next a verbal juggling act offered by Congressman John Dowdy, who cried that mob rule prevails in the streets. Democrat Dowdy squawled his message in the same connotation Republican Goldwater applied in the campaign just past, and if that confuses any of you civics students please see me after class. The Dowdy one mentioned certain comedy he sees in “the hallelujah chorus of We Shall Overcome,” Luther King. He tried hard, but I could not see where it was funny except when the piney-woods windbag wound up his oration by bellowing how, should the voting rights bill pass, we would become “the land of the slave and the home of the knave.” That ain’t even good as poetry. It was hard to discern whether Congressman Walter Rbgers meant to be funny or not, so grim-visaged was his presentation of an amendment demanding that -all “new voters” swear a special oath to support the
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