Thursday, January 06, 2005

Elections in Iraq and Palestine and Bleeding Kansas

I was going to take my "Bleeding Kansas" -- Part 1 post, and send it to the New York Times. I did. I am now posting what I sent to the Times, which will give you a flavor of what I am put into the "Bleeding Kansas" post. For those of you who want a longer version, you can read the Bleeding Kansas -- Part 1 post below, and the other upcoming posts.

This is what I put on the Times's post site:

Thomas Friedman's article on the "Iraq We've Got" reminds me that there is some American parallel to what is going on in Iraq, and in Palestine and Ukraine, for that matter.

Historically, elections often lead to violence, as new election systems are fraught with fraud. People who feel the elections are illegitimate first refuse to vote and then attempt to validate their refusal to vote by reasons both legal and extra-legal.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 called for an election of people "residing" in Kansas to decide on a pro-slavery or anti-slavery legislature.

In order to preserve their way of life, people from the neighboring state, Missouri, who happened to be “residing” in Kansas on March 30, 1855 (i.e. they were visiting for the afternoon) voted along with everyone else. Despite a pre-election census showing that 2,905 eligible voters lived in Kansas, 6,307 total votes were cast. A pro-slavery legislature was elected, despite ample evidence that the 2,805 eligible voters were anti-slavery.

Had the popular sovereignty thus exercised by 6,307 voters, wherever they came from, and however long they had stayed, been enough popular sovereignty to decide the issue of slavery in Kansas once and for all until the end of time?

It was to the benefit of a great many people, including the newly-elected Kansas legislature and the Southern politicians in Washington, to answer that question yes.

Some might even say that it was important for the rule of law to answer the question "yes".

To most people at the time, however, notions of what was fair and right argued that the results of the election should be disregarded.

The stage was thus set for "Bleeding Kansas." There is a long rest of the story, of course, including the role of John Brown, but the elections in Kansas in 1855-1857 are a major part of the story that lead to the American Civil War.