Much hoopla and political punditry has been given over to the recent passage of “Proposition C” in Missouri. Proposition C, in effect, says Missouri law will not permit any tax to be levied by the federal government upon its citizens for failure to purchase health insurance. The issue was framed as a direct challenge to the health insurance mandate of the recently passed healthcare reforms.
Many Republicans and their leadership laud the passage of Proposition C as a death knell for healthcare reform in America.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Proposition C received 71.1 % of the votes cast statewide but, reports show that little opposition was mounted to oppose the ballot measure and that only 16.27% of eligible voters turned out and supported Proposition C (667,780 of the state’s 4,104,834 million registered voters).
Voter turnout in normally large vote areas of Kansas City and St. Louis City were 12.78% and 13.56%, respectively. Clay County had 18.27%. Jackson County had 22.34 %. St. Louis County had 20.93%. These counties have 1,605,083 voters and make up 39.1% of Missouri’s eligible voters. Historically, the above counties have supported Democratic candidates and issues. The voter turnout in these counties has frequently provided the differences between victory and defeat in hotly contested state wide elections such as are expected in November 2010. It is simply not the case that the Proposition C vote indicates anything other than a well organized effort to get out the vote by its supporters in traditionally conservative areas of Missouri.
An analysis of the vote county by county in Missouri shows where the major areas of support were in Missouri for Proposition C as a percentage of votes cast.
If you look at the counties from the perspective of the percentages of votes cast for Proposition C, a trend might be noticed when such vote is compared to another statewide election involving an issue as hotly debated and contested as President Obama’s healthcare reforms.
Despite an outstanding scholastic record, the University of Missouri School of Law denied Lloyd L. Gaines admittance in 1936 solely on the grounds that Missouri’s Constitution called for separate education of the races. Mr. Gaines was determined to fight for the right to attend law school in his own state university and sought legal assistance from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which had been working systematically to overturn the ignominious precedent of “separate but equal” established in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. Together, Gaines and the NAACP challenged the University of Missouri’s admissions policies. In 1938, Gaines won his case before the United States Supreme Court in State of Missouri ex rel Gaines v. Canada, paving the way for a series of cases that would lead to Brown v. Board of Education’s outlawing segregation in public education. In March 1939, only three months after his Supreme Court victory, Lloyd Gaines was last seen in Chicago; he disappeared at age 28 with his promise of attending law school in Missouri unfulfilled. Lloyd Gaines was never to be seen or heard from again.
Missouri’s Constitution contained a provision providing for the separate education of the races. Missouri’s 1945 Constitution, Article IX, Section 3 provided: “Colored children, separate schools for-Separate free public schools shall be established for the education of children of African descent.”
The Missouri Constitution kept this provision until it was repealed by a popular vote on August 3, 1976. The 1976 ballot issue to repeal the Missouri Constitutional provision which mandated the separate education of the races passed in Missouri but, only received 57.53% of the statewide vote.
Referendum: Amendment 5 (Repealing School Segregation) Popular Vote
Yes 598,897 57.53%
No 442,103 42.47%
The situation today with the conflict between Missouri law under Proposition C and the federal healthcare reform law is very analogous to the 1976 vote to repeal segregation in Missouri’s Constitution as required by federal law or keep segregation in defiance of federal law.
The Brown v Bd. Of Education decision was made in 1955, mandating desegregation “with all deliberate speed!” In 1976 Missouri still had 42.47% of its voters, 442,103 statewide, who voted to defy federal laws and to repeal Brown, which decision was the law of the land and had been for some 20 plus years. Just where did the highest percentages of these Missouri voters in favor of not repealing school desegregation come from? You guessed it: the same Missouri counties which voted some of the highest percentages in favor of Proposition C!
If you match the historical data of the vote against the repeal of segregation on a county-by-county gross vote basis as demonstrated by the 1976 election results map to the Missouri Secretary of State actual county by county 2010 election results in favor of Proposition C, comparisons may be made between those counties with greater than 50% “NO” to desegregation in 1976 with the highest percentage of “YES” to Proposition C. The areas of the map are nearly directly correlative between those vote percentages highest in both elections and include a swath across the top of the state, the areas most south central and south east in the state, and the areas most southwest in the state. These areas are the traditional Republican strongholds in Missouri and can be counted on to deliver Republicans enough votes to win close statewide elections.
So what are we to take from the August 3, 2010 election in Missouri? The more things change, the more they stay the same. Missouri Republicans and their supporters don’t like federal mandates and will defy them in their attitudes and their votes, whether the mandate is to eliminate structural racism in Missouri’s schools or to provide affordable healthcare for all Americans, not just those which can afford it. But, as for the rest of the country, this Proposition C vote was meaningless.