Pass the Pepper, Please

When A. Lincoln made that statement about how long the public could be fooled, he was assuming that the politicians depended on the democratic vote to put them in office. But in Alabama, Arkansas, Geargia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, the politicians only have to fool five to ten per cent of people every election year. It's not a matter of fooling at all. It's strictly a matter of playing along with the political machine: because ninety per cent of the electorates in these eight southern states not only will not, but cannot vote. They cannot vote because it costs them one to thirty-six dollars in poll tax money to do so.

This American version of the "rotten borough" is not entirely a racial issue. When Dies of Texas slinks into Congress on 12,000 votes, and Rankin of Mississippi warms his seat at the pleasure of a meagre 4,000 citizens, the problem is no longer confined to the Negro's position in the social structure of the country. When thirteen of the twenty-four chairmen and ranking members of the most important committees in the House of Representatives come from poll tax states the question has gone far beyond mere protection of the Black minority. When ten per cent of eight states can exercise power larger than that of the other forty states combined, you have more than a racial issue: you have a democratic problem in practical politics.

In spite of our democratic structure, this paradoxical poll-tax situation exists today. In spite of American democracy, a bill to abolish that tax was buried in a reactionary Judiciary Committee for three years. But precisely because of those same democratic methods, the anti-poll tax bill was petitioned out of committee and passed by the House of Representatives on October 12 by an overwhelming majority. It now rests, with Senator Pepper's similar measure, in the hands of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Unless the poll tax is abolished by the Senate by the end of this year, it will die until a new Congress bothers to revive it. It will die, and with it will die the hopes of extending democracy to 10,000,000 voteless Southern citizens. But it can, and it will be passed, if public pressure sees to it that the bill is brought to a vote before this session of Congress ends. Here is a chance for the American people to bring democracy to the South, at a time when their country is fighting a war to bring democracy to the rest of the world.