LARRY LAMAR YATES
There are two main theories about 2020 election fraud.
One describes a vast conspiracy to steal the election. Shady figures behind the scenes guided millions of people to cast illegal ballots.
How could such a criminal conspiracy of millions, supposedly mostly Black and Latino people in major cities, have been invisible? The evidence for it does not exist. A bunch of judges agree with me. There was no such vast conspiracy.
So why do so many people believe there was? My bewildered Democrat friends have their own theory. It’s that Republicans are stupid or insane.
Of course, that theory is also false. Millions of people in this country, some degreed medical professionals and attorneys, others with more respectable jobs like truck-driving and waiting tables, are not all, or even mostly, stupid or insane.
So why are so many of them buying this fake story?
Because this is no new overseas Internet myth people just fell for. It’s old and familiar native fake news. Regardless of evidence, it rings true to millions of U.S. citizens, especially white people raised in the South.
The story of millions of dark-skinned people voting illegally, aided and guided by evil white power-seekers, has been told to white Southerners for 150 years. It’s as familiar as the paper clip and the wide-brimmed cowboy hat, which were devised around the same time.
The story was first told in the ashes of war. The Fifteenth Amendment had just guaranteed all U.S. citizens the right to vote. Most white people in enslaver states had become convinced over a couple of centuries that, in the words of the Vice President of the just defeated Rebels, “slavery subordination to the superior race” was the “natural and normal condition” of people of African descent. They also knew that Black men who did vote would vote otherwise — to stay free. They had to suppress those Black votes. But they needed a story to justify their action. They used the same one we hear today.
For the next thirty years, the same story was told over and over. Around 1900, it really came into its own. Virginia, like all the former enslaver states, rewrote its constitution to block voting by Black men. The main argument used for a constitutional convention was that it would end this supposed voter fraud. John Mitchell, the Black “fighting editor” of the Richmond Planer newspaper, knew better. He said the “moneyed classes” were using the “scarecrow of Negro domination” for their own ends. The 1902 constitution all but ended Black voting in Virginia for more than sixty years, but also deprived many less wealthy whites of their votes.
However, the conspiracy story became part of the official Lost Cause mythology, reinforced by monuments, public ceremonies and schoolbooks. Though weakened by the Freedom Movement, those old stories are still there, like a raggedy old flag, to be brought out once more.
To my liberal friends’ surprise, the Freedom fight didn’t end with civil rights laws and integrated Coke commercials.
Larry Lamar Yates is a resident of Winchester.