We all know, primarily because of Kay’s excellent work, about the recent acts by the Republican-controlled legislature to end early voting for everyone in Ohio who is not a uniformed servicemember three days prior to the election, and the Obama campaign’s lawsuit to overturn the law and return the same rights to all Ohioans, whether they be Veterans, Drilling Reservists, non-vets, or any other type of person. You may also know about how the Romney campaign is suing to prevent the law from being changed and how several military organizations, from the Association of the US Army, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and various other groups have joined the Romney suit.
On the face of it, Romney’s actions seem like they are nothing more than cold political calculus to paint President Obama as anti-military and that the Veterans Service Organizations just got sucked in. But some things you should know is that a lot of these groups have in their recent past pretty much been taken over by some of the worst of the worst of the teabagger political element. The Veterans of Foreign Wars supporting non-vet Peter Roskam over actual Veteran of a foreign war (and VFW member) Tammy Duckworth comes immediately to mind. Read the crazy winger shit that is all through the American Legion Magazine, and you’ll see very quickly that the Legion not only never really got over it’s fascist roots, but has taken up the cause of winger historical revisionism as its primary raisson d’etre. Some of the other groups that are involved in this lawsuit have become nothing more than front groups for defense manufacturers, while others have never been anything but that.
What I’d like to direct your attention to is my concern about the fact that while the Romney campaign is doing this bullshit lawsuit and the attendant PR push for solely election-year political reasons, the VSOs seem to have something much more (I believe) sinister in mind. These organizations are not stupid. They have lawyers. They collectively spend tens of millions of dollars a year lobbying Congress, the White House, and the state governments for various things. They have lawyers to deal with VA on behalf of Veterans who’ve engaged their services in relation to benefit claims and appeals. They write model legislation. In short, I think that they know exactly what they are doing, which is to create a special privilege for active duty mmilitary personnel. They will be able to vote in person where others will not. They are supporting a the creation of a special class within American society to have special rights that others will not. The idea that military personnel should be able to vote in special ways that others, such as non-active Veterans (oh, the irony), police officers, firefighters, plumbers, retired persons, and all the other members of society for whom a right is supposed to be a right, not a privilege. As Jason Fritz, writing at the Ink Spots blog points out, this is not the first time that a special privilege was created for the military recently. He refers, of course, to the recent “Stolen Valor” act that criminalized lying about military awards. If you get a chance, read his post which per usual is so much more articulate than my ramblings. I agree with him whole-heartedly that the last thing we as a society should be doing is turning collective guilt or feelings of responsibility to those who fight in our name (such feelings being generally laudatory in a society) into a license to create a special Warrior Caste. Such urges must be continually fought in a free society. And it’s not just the right wing of Veterans groups that seek such status for military and veteran personnel. It’s the bomb-makers who need a lilly-white front. It’s the proto-fascists who need an unassailable image of patriotism from behind which to push their schemes to shred the Constitution. Other societies have been down this road before, and unless its stomped out, it doesn’t lead anywhere I want to go.