What would Martin Luther King do? “About Native voting? He sure as hell wouldn’t dither about technicalities,” says Four Directions consultant Healy, a former head of the South Dakota Democratic Party. “Read Dr. King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ on the subject of waiting for rights.” In the 1963 letter, King decries the man “who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom.”
But hey, Democrats! How about winning elections? Controlling the Senate? Doesn’t the party want all those Native Democrats at the polls? Wiley says the DNC doesn’t see it that way. “We don’t look at [expanding the vote] as making sure that more Democratic voters vote. We don’t look at it as a program to make sure more African-American or Latino or Native voters can vote. It’s [about] making sure everyone can vote.”
Perhaps the DNC believes it can count on Native voters without taking sides in Wandering Medicine. This may be hubris, warns former Montana Democratic state legislator Margarett Campbell. Originally from Fort Peck Indian Reservation and now a Fort Belknap school superintendent, Campbell has fought for Indian rights for decades. She suspects that confidence in the Democratic Party may wane among tribal members, who may then stay home in 2014. “You can’t take a huge segment of your voting population and treat them like that without them feeling disenfranchised,” she says.
–In These Times‘ Stephanie Woodard, on the voting rights discrimination that Native Americans still face.
Photo: solarnu, Flickr