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The Way It Wasn't

August 16, 1992

Though Nicholas von Hoffman is on target condemning our political apathy ("The Thrill Is Gone," July 12), his yearning for the past is based on a view of the 19th Century that's more fantasy than fact.

Throughout the 1800s, most Americans were denied the right to vote. In the South, Jim Crow laws excluded not only African-Americans but also a significant number of whites who could not meet wealth or property requirements. Similar restrictions kept most Asians from voting. Even in the East, immigrants were discouraged from voting, albeit in more subtle ways than elsewhere in the country. Women, regardless of race, were not given the right to vote until after World War I.

If Von Hoffman yearns for a society where the majority of the population is involved in its government, he should find little comfort in a past often racist and uniformly undemocratic.

STEPHEN LUBBEN

Los Angeles

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