“Race, the Ballot, and Hegemony: What the Struggle over Immigrant Voting Teaches Us About Rightwing Mobilization in the U.S.”

In New Political Science from Ron Hayduk and Anthony Pahnke. Abstract:

While there has been an increase in rhetoric and efforts to block expanding voting rights to noncitizens around the United States, there is a relative lack of academic research examining the ideology, political actors, and strategy behind such efforts. In addressing this gap, we explore anti-immigrant voting rights campaigns as they relate to broader rightwing mobilization and voter suppression efforts. We draw upon the literature on Gramsci’s conception of hegemony to document and analyze efforts to use state power to change constitutions and election laws in ways that politically disenfranchise working class people of color in order to institutionalize white minority rule. We explore the nature of this political project and how more conventional rightwing actors dovetail with grassroots extremism by examining both historical and contemporary cases. We show how these networks have employed a mix of legal, administrative, and violent tactics during the turn of the twentieth century as well as in the contemporary period to politically realize a common, exclusionary ideology to shape the electorate and polity. We argue struggles over noncitizen voting rights reflect debate about distinct visions of who properly constitutes “the people,” and what is and should be the nature of the American polity: are we a white Anglo Christian republic or a multiracial egalitarian democracy? In so doing, we argue the rise and fall – and reemergence – of noncitizen immigrant voting rights in the U.S. represents a microcosm of the broader “voting wars” embroiling the nation.

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