Posted by David A. Lehrer
We are nearly a year out from the next presidential election and there have been about a dozen Republican debates——more than enough time for the 24/7 news cycle and voracious cable news channels to inspect, examine and scour each candidate for every present and former wart. The fascination with the sensational and the media’s compulsion to “inform” the public seems endless.
Four years ago, Tom Brokaw, one of the elder statesmen of the news business, in a post New Hampshire moment of insight admonished his colleagues that “we have too many hours to fill and too little imagination to fill them creatively.” One might have hoped, after the Brokaw quip, for a little introspection this time around and, perhaps, an interest by the cable mavens to probe beyond the sensational and actually offer insight as to what the candidates are all about. No chance.
The news channels and others in the media have demonstrated a continued interest in the trivial and the sensational, while ignoring the vital. Recent discussions of Gingrich’s marriages, Romney’s stiffness, or Gov. Perry’s gaffes—- might make for great TV and amusing YouTube clips, but they aren’t all that media should be focusing their attention on.
There is no better example of the media’s glossing over the fundamentals to focus on the superficial than the candidacy of Congressman Ron Paul.
Less sensational, and probably videotape-less, is the troubling evidence of racism and insensitivity by Ron Paul that has gone virtually unremarked on and, until this week, largely ignored. When Paul was just a cranky figure decorating the debate stages, one might excuse the lapse. When he appears to be the leader in the Iowa caucuses, the oversight has been inexcusable.
Congressman Ron Paul, the Republican/libertarian candidate, is treated in the press, and in the countless debates of the Republican candidates, as if he were simply an eccentric uncle. His musings about returning to the gold standard and the evils of the IRS are interludes where the other candidates seem to catch their collective breath and figure out a witty riposte to the questions that he doesn’t respond to. The moderators don’t accord him much attention, though he fully exploits the platform he is onto reach millions of viewers with his bizarre views.
In fact, his quirkiness is seen as endearing by young voters on the right and the left who seem to have bought the media’s portrayal of him as a sage truth teller who doesn’t bend to the vagaries of what’s “in” or “out”.
He is neither a harmless eccentric nor just a bit offbeat; Cong. Paul has a long, well documented track record of racial and religious insensitivity and bigotry that has gone largely unexamined.
As The New Republic observed in 2008, Paul’s newsletters reveal,
“decades’ worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing—-but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.”
The instances of outrageous comments in his newsletters over thirty years are virtually endless. For example, the Ron Paul Political Report opined that the 1992 Los Angeles riots, “ended when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began;” the media was denounced for believing that “America’s number one need is an unlimited white checking account for underclass blacks;” an article about a racial disturbance in Washington, D.C. was titled “Animals Take Over the D.C. Zoo”; Martin Luther King is accused of having “seduced underage girls and boys”; regarding gays, the newsletter suggested, “homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities;” and vis a vis Israel, “it is an aggressive, national socialist state;” a newsletter questioned (whether) the 1993 World Trade Center bombing may have been “a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, (it) matters little.”
The quotes from Paul’s newsletters are truly incendiary—-not manufactured slights that one needs to “decode”. The libertarian magazine Reason, in its on-line website, concluded that through his newsletters, Ron Paul, “became complicit in a strategy of pandering to racists.” With limited exceptions most noteworthy The New Republic,—- and this week, The Weekly Standard, The Atlantic and The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times—-the media have simply not adequately scrutinized Paul and his sordid record.
Paul has excused the newsletter outrages as having been done “under my name that I did not edit.” However, The Weekly Standard revealed that the company that published the newsletters, Ron Paul & Associates, had millions of dollars in income—-and Paul and his wife were officers of the company. If the newsletters’ comments troubled him, he could have, and should have, objected to what was going out over his name. Failure to do so indicates, at a minimum, terrible judgment, if not acquiescence.
That the media has failed to scrutinize Paul can’t be rationalized away simply because Paul won’t be the next president of the United States. He is a serious player—-he has raised millions of dollars, he is a potential winner in the Iowa caucuses, and young voters seem to be attracted to his avuncular quirkiness. Paul’s seeming “frankness” ought not allow him to be cleansed of the taint of having tolerated and promoted bigotry.
Whatever his views on the gold standard, the Fed or the deficit are irrelevant to his incendiary musings on race, religion, sexual orientation and related topics. Congressman Paul is an extremist who is legitimized every time he shares a stage with national leaders.
His very presence seems to model for young people that intolerant views on race, religion and sexual orientation can be parsed from economic and other positions. America’s message for decades has been that bigotry taints a political figure and ought to lead to ignominy and ostracism.
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October 21, 2011 | 12:46 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Earlier this week Community Advocates, in conjunction with the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, the Greater Los Angeles Press Club, KPCC 89.3 FM and KCRW, honored LA’s three finest broadcast journalists: Warren Olney, Patt Morrison and Larry Mantle. The three pillars of Los Angeles news had never before appeared on a program together.
They received the inaugural Bill Stout Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism named in memory of the groundbreaking television journalist who graced the Los Angeles airwaves for decades. The awards were presented by distinguished Angelenos: former Mayor Richard J. Riordan, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and former Times’ editor Bill Boyarsky.
Following the presentations, Morrison, Mantle and Olney participated in a panel discussion on the future of broadcast journalism moderated by USC Annenberg School of Journalism professor, Marc Cooper.
The entire proceedings will be on-line shortly.
October 20, 2011 | 3:54 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Pander — to indulge somebody’s weaknesses or questionable wishes and tastes.
When Webster comes out with its next edition, it might have as an exemplar of the phenomenon the resolution recently introduced and co-authored by seven members of the Los Angeles City Council on the Occupy Los Angeles demonstration.
City Council members Alarcon, Rosendahl, Huizar, Koretz, Zine, Reyes and Garcetti introduced the resolution that offers the “SUPPORT (sic) [of the city of Los Angeles] for the continuation of the peaceful and vibrant exercise in First Amendment rights carried out by ‘Occupy Los Angeles’ on the City Hall lawn.” Last week the Council unanimously (with three absences) adopted the statement of support.
This official endorsement of an amorphous cause whose purpose has yet to be defined might be ascribed to the electeds’ eagerness to identify with the underdog and those battered by economic hard times. A few demonstrators camp on the grounds of City Hall, rail against Wall Street and big banks, attract a few movie stars, and Messrs. Alarcon et al. figure they have nothing to lose — after all, who loves big banks?
But the three-page council resolution goes beyond just expressing sympathy for demonstrators at First and Main streets; it lauds Occupy Los Angeles as “fueled by Angelenos from all walks of life who have come together in a demonstration of solidarity with and support for the national movement started by the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests.” The resolution proceeds to cite the Web site of the Occupy Wall Street movement as an “overview of the goals and unifying principles of the ‘Occupy’ movement.”
Elected leaders who write our laws and hope to command our respect can’t facilely pander to the sentiment du jour and hope to retain their credibility. “Indulging” (Webster’s word) the demands of constituents without discriminating between what is legitimate and what is extreme or media hype betrays a troubling lack of principles.
The Council resolution, by citing the Occupy Wall Street resolution with approval, mindlessly invokes a manifesto that is, to be generous, bizarre; akin to junior high school level Marxism. An observer of the Wall Street demonstrators noted a striking resemblance to Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s 2004 “Team America” movie, “in which a disgruntled and effusive Tim Robbins puppet complains that ‘the corporations sit there in their … in their corporation buildings, and … and, and see, they’re all corporation-y … and they make money.’ ”
It is a collection of angry accusations against corporations — who are uniformly accused of “place[ing] profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, [and who] run our governments.” “They” are accused of virtually every crime (from murder to poisoning) plaguing the world but for droughts in the Sahara. A sampling:
“They” have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
“They” have poisoned the food supply through negligence and undermining the farming system through monopolization.
“They” have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
“They” purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
“They” have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
“They” have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
That is not even to mention the troubling connection of the Occupy Wall Street folks to Adbusters magazine and its noisome history (see David Brooks’ Oct. 10 New York Times piece).
That our local political leaders might imply support for such conspiratorial and incendiary charges by endorsing broadly the Occupy movement is troubling —their specific citation of the Wall Street document’s paranoia is mind-boggling. Either they have staffs that don’t bother to fact check data included in documents that they sign, or even more disturbing, they actually believe this errant nonsense.
The latter may be the case, since even a cursory review of the Occupy Los Angeles Web site ought to give a politician pause about embracing this inchoate collection of paranoia. The Web site includes a section titled “Rothschild’s Illuminati Will Fail! Jesus for President” — which refers to a long-standing loony conspiracy theory with anti-Semitism at its heart — as well as a call to ban military recruiters from high school campuses, among other provocative themes. Certainly enough to give a mainstream politician pause about identifying with a view of the world that ultimately will view them as the enemy of the victimized “99%” too.
Occupy Los Angeles and its analogues are a collection of grievances with no particular political or rational coherence; they seem to have attracted both genuinely hurting folks, and political extremists and conspiracy-mongers. They have an undisputed right to express their concerns and their anger; that is beyond question.
But, the demonstrators must be parsed from the 10 members of the City Council who have cast their lot, and the reputation of this city, with this teeming bundle of populist anger that is simply a balm for feeling superior and pure. Leadership means more than pandering to the base from which one hopes future votes might come — it means separating moderates from extremists, rational advocates from screaming conspiracy theorists and serious critics from perpetual complainers. We desperately need leadership on L.A.’s City Council who can tell the difference. Its absence in this case is telling.
September 28, 2011 | 5:07 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
The following op/ed appears on the Jewish Journal‘s opinion page today:
That Zev Yaroslavsky is the most important local elected Jewish official is beyond dispute. For over three decades he has been a voice of reason and courage for, to and in the Jewish community.
That three significant Jewish agencies would lend support to an effort to undermine Supervisor Yaroslavsky and his constituents is beyond comprehension.
Yet last week, in the middle of the fight over redrawing the county’s supervisorial districts for the next decade, three major Jewish organizations (American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, and Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles) unquestioningly bought the MALDEF/Gloria Molina/ACLU line of argument that the Latino community was insufficiently represented in electoral politics, business and media. The three organizations and their Latino colleagues issued a joint statement that they had came to a “consensus” that the logic of ethnic representation should prevail and trump all other concerns that normally effect the decisions on where to draw district lines (e.g. population balance, contiguity of cities, varying communities of interest, etc.).
Yesterday’s vote of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors fortunately rejected the push by Supervisor Molina and her allies to create a second majority Latino district ostensibly to comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act. The rationale for the Molina plan was that the failure to endorse it would “limit the rights of Latino voters.” The days’ long debate was held with the threat of a lawsuit hanging over the Board if it didn’t acquiesce to the proposed gerrymander and with occasional assertions of racism hurled at those who dissented from the Molina position.
It has been a contentious debate with the contiguity and strength of the Third Supervisorial district (presently represented by Zev Yaroslavsky) in some jeopardy. The Molina plan would have stretched the new Third from Sylmar to Huntington Park (presently the Third is most of north central LA) with much of the Jewish community divided between three districts. Additionally, it would have added to the isolation of the Asian-Pacific Islander community (a seldom discussed side effect).
An often ignored fact is that the Latino percentage of the county’s population has only increased by 3.2% over the past decade and the plan that was adopted on Tuesday was essentially what MALDEF had requested and the court had ordered in 1990.
Apparently, at the conclusion of a day-long retreat last week, Latino and Jewish “leaders” issued a five point statement—-four of the statements are the kind of milquetoast that is the usual fare at gatherings of this type (oppose anti-Semitism and anti-Latino sentiment, stand together to face and prevent vitriolic rhetoric, etc.)—-only the one on “fair representation” of Latinos has ramifications in the real world.
It is a measure of the paucity of Jewish institutional leadership in LA that these three major organizations would, either unwittingly or purposefully, sign on to a statement that undercuts the single most prominent local political leader in the Jewish community at a time when he was in a nasty confrontation to preserve the demographic and geographic integrity of the district in which a plurality, if not the vast majority, of LA’s Jewish population resides. Their sin is compounded by their endorsing a worldview that is anathema to the Jewish community’s interests—-that proportional ethnic and racial representation is the measure of fairness.
The political ineptitude is mind boggling. The three leading Jewish organizations became a tool to be used against the community itself.
To buy into the Molina/MALDEF/ACLU assertions one would have to believe that population numbers alone constitute the measure of what a group’s presence “ought to be” in politics, business and the media——a worldview that has been rejected by thinking Jewish leaders for decades. We don’t believe in quotas—-not in politics, not in business not in the media!
In fact, Jewish leaders have not been alone in finding the Molina argument specious. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in the case of Cano v Davis, having to do with Congressional redistricting in Southern California in 2002 rejected nearly identical claims of Latino under-representation. The court denied the offensive view of the world that assumes the non-Latinos won’t vote for Latinos and therefore need special “majority minority” districts to succeed:
There are challenging questions regarding the applicability of voting rights doctrines developed in a fundamentally different context than the rapidly changing multi-racial and multi-ethnic community that is present day Southern California.
Latinos are, as a practical matter, a far more formidable political force than they were in the 1980’s.
The court rejected MALDEF’s assertions.
The three agencies seem to have been overly eager to find “consensus” in their day long retreat last week. They forgot whom they represent and the principles that have undergirded Jewish community relations efforts for decades—be honest, forthright and forthcoming but don’t forget who your constituents are.
Common ground is nice, but not if it undermines the very foundation on which your community stands. They managed to cut the ground out from under the very community and a leader they purport to represent at a time when they were most needed. They have done serious harm and owe the community an apology.
September 23, 2011 | 6:58 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
The following appears in today’s OC Register:
Today, the jury returned its verdict in the case of the “Irvine 11.” The case involved students who disrupted the speech of former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren at UC Irvine in February 2010. The jury properly found the students guilty of the disruption and of conspiracy to commit the disruption and issued an appropriate penalty.
Not surprisingly, leaders of the Muslim community and voices on the left are upset, claiming that a grave injustice has been done to the community and that the First Amendment rights of the 10 defendants have been abrogated
If one views the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7w96UR79TBw ) of the speech, it is transparently clear that the university sponsors of the event committed to a dialogue with the large and hostile Muslim Student Union contingent that was in the room. The organizers repeatedly said there would be a question-and-answer session after the presentation and literally pleaded with the students to allow the ambassador’s speech to proceed.
As the court record and numerous documents make clear, the Muslim Student Union membership wanted to disrupt, not engage with, the ambassador. Prior to the lecture, the Muslim Student Union members signaled both their intention to disrupt and their contempt for the notion of civil dialogue and the exchange of ideas.
They asserted that, “Oren and his partners should only be granted a speakers platform in the International Criminal Court and should not be honored on our campus.” At a meeting of the MSU’s general assembly the goal of the protest was unambiguously declared to be “disrupt the whole event” with the aim to “shut [it] down with individual disruption.”
In the words of UCI Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, “They shouted him (Ambassador Oren) down.”
In the year and a half since the event, much silliness has been written about what the First Amendment means. Salam al Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee has argued that the tactics employed by the students, the “heckler’s veto,” is really just an “exercise in free speech ... these students had the courage and conscience to stand up against aggression, using peaceful means ... we cannot allow our educational institutions to be used as a platform to threaten and discourage students who choose to practice their First Amendment right.”
This week, the local office of the Council on American Islamic Relations claimed that the students were the victims of an “abuse of prosecutorial discretion” having been singled out because they were Muslim “in a growing anti-Muslim environment.” The CAIR spokesperson intimated that the suffering of Muslims is so grievous that normal, civil dialogue and discourse is out of the question: “the mode of expression these young men chose is essential to their freedom to express themselves,” – participating in a civil Q&A session is, apparently, out of the question; the only way they can appropriately express themselves is by shutting down their opponents.
As Prof. Chemerinsky, with his constitutional law scholar hat on, has rightly asserted, “There is no right to a heckler’s veto.”
UCI is an educational institution and these students (and many of their supporters) clearly need an education in free speech and the compromises it entails. Listening to and allowing the expression of ideas that one can’t abide is part of the bargain; silencing opponents – no matter how aggrieved one may feel – isn’t. To make our system works, it must be crystal clear that those who don’t play by the rules have to bear the consequences; if there are no consequences to squelching the rights of others, society becomes a cacophonous free-for-all and the loudest, most raucous, voices would be the only ones heard.
The conscious decision to disrupt and harass a guest speaker on a university campus, after repeated warnings, demanded a response from the university and the community that such conduct was simply not acceptable.
UC Irvine and the Orange County District Attorney deserve credit for the extra tutorial on the Constitution and the law that they gave to the Irvine 11.
September 8, 2011 | 4:08 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
The Huffington Post carries a piece by Thomas Saenz, the president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund). Saenz’s article is a response to the op/ed we published in the Daily News two weeks ago which questioned the appropriateness of invoking the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the present debate about redrawing the supervisorial lines for Los Angeles County.
Our argument was, in a nutshell, that the law—-originally written nearly a half century ago to deal with discrimination directed at Southern Blacks—-had questionable applicability to the present day situation in the multi-racial and diverse setting of Southern California. It is a law, we said, that in its success “had [resulted in] diminished need.”
The facts of the current political scene in California reveal that Latinos are hardly a disenfranchised minority that needs the federal courts to redeem and protect their rights. We offered data—-collected by the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (e.g. Latino electeds in California increasing by 89.2% from 1996 to 2010)—-as evidence of what is transparently clear to any observer of the present political scene; most voters transcend race and ethnicity to vote for whoever they view as the best candidate. From Mayor Villaraigosa to Sheriff Baca to Assessor Noguez, Latinos can and do get elected from broad non-Latino majority districts.
Now comes Saenz to make three points in rebuttal, only one of which is on target.
In answer to our argument that the VRA has questionable applicability in present day Los Angeles County Saenz points out that the law has been amended on several occasions over the past nearly five decades and now specifically includes protections for Latino Americans. Facts we never argued against and which are, frankly, irrelevant. It has been amended and updated but Southern California is sui generis and, as courts have held, is unlike most other parts of the country.
We are the most diverse community in the country, with officials of every stripe being elected from every corner of the county—-as it should be. As we noted in our piece, it was a federal appellate court with three judges appointed by Democratic presidents who opined that there are “challenging questions regarding the applicability of voting rights doctrines developed in a fundamentally different context than the rapidly changing multi-racial and multi-ethnic community that is present day Southern California,” (Cano v Davis). A point that seems self-evident and, in fact, controlling. This is neither the LA of 1975 nor the Alabama of 1965 and failing to acknowledge that reality reflects a view of the world filtered through a prism of frozen and ossified victimization that allows no progress to be acknowledged.
Saenz’s second major point is that the Cano decision we cited is “a ten-year-old decision written for a different era and for vastly different circumstances.” That argument implies that times have gotten worse for Latino elected officials over the past near decade since it was decided, that the Ninth Circuit’s assessment of discernable progress of Latinos from 1980’s to 2002 was a chimera. If that’s so, someone ought to tell the 1,311 elected Latino officials in California (as of 2010). Saenz’s assertion is patent nonsense to anyone without a stake in impending litigation.
The only valid point that Saenz makes is his correction of our attribution of a thoughtful op/ed against ethnic redistricting to the wrong Gloria. We incorrectly cited Supervisor Gloria Molina as the author when, in fact, it was Senator Gloria Romero. Correction duly noted and accepted—-all Glorias are not the same.
Nevertheless, Gloria “R” was right in her LA Times op/ed speaking about the MALDEF lawsuit which then sought to impose an ethnic redistricting plan,
But ultimately we trust the voters. Most citizens cast their votes the American way—-they vote for the most qualified candidate, regardless of race or gender. All we have to do is compete for votes the old fashioned way: by earning them.
Finally, Saenz’s imputation of “unconscious bias” to our mistaken attribution of the Romero op/ed is both insulting and pernicious (especially when directed at two individuals with over sixty years of experience in the civil rights field). It reflects the all-too-useful tool of accusing others of bigotry so as to claim the moral high ground. As the brilliant observer of the race and ethnic scene, John McWhorter, has observed, such promiscuous use of a serious charge has become “a recreational crutch, assuaging the insecurity at the heart of the human soul. A sad keystone of human nature is the balm of feeling superior. Gossip is a relatively innocuous manifestation;
fashioning one’s self as eternally battling a white America mired in ‘racism’ is a more noisome one.
Saenz’s assertions are both wrong and offensive, both to us and to the voters of Los Angeles County.
August 22, 2011 | 12:47 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
The following op/ed appeared in yesterday’s Los Angeles
A drama is unfolding in Los Angeles that may well play itself out in other large California communities and across the country.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors recently held a contentious four-hour meeting to decide how to draw the electoral lines for supervisors to last through this decade. The session considered two plans derived from the 2010 census: one drawn to minimize population shifts, the other to maximize the political strength of the Latino community.
Drawing electoral boundaries is, by its very nature, the embodiment of the rough and tumble of politics—deal making and negotiations rolled into one tough, nasty business. Issues from population balance to preserving contiguous cities and communities of interest to ethnic balance get put on the scales.
Into this morass the Voting Rights Act was inserted in 1965 to ensure the votes of, and rectify the decades of discrimination directed at, Southern Blacks. Lyndon Johnson wanted the “goddamndest and toughest” voting rights bill that could be written—and he got it.
In the nearly half century since the law’s passage it has been amended and interpreted in a variety of ways that have been expansive and broad. There is no denying the law’s success and, correspondingly, its diminished need.
As a federal court opinion noted, there are “challenging questions regarding the applicability of voting rights doctrines developed in a fundamentally different context than the rapidly changing multi-racial and multi-ethnic community that is present day Southern California.”
The vision of battered minority groups needing the help of the judiciary as their only recourse doesn’t quite match present-day realities. The National Association of Latino Elected Officials recently reported that California Latino electeds have increased by 89.2 percent from 693 in 1996 to 1,311 in 2010.
Despite that manifest progress, the Voting Rights Act and its potential use are being held as a Sword of Damocles over the discussions of how to draw L.A.‘s supervisorial districts. The ACLU “warned” the supervisors that they may be “violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund issued a Redistricting Action Alert urging its supporters to let the supervisors know that they are on the “verge of VIOLATING the Voting Rights Act, by failing to create a new Latino district.” (Sic).
There is nothing wrong with mobilizing constituents to argue vociferously for or against one plan or another—that’s how the process works. But it does an injustice to the process when a 46-year-old statute that was written for a different era and for vastly different circumstances is invoked as a threat.
The statute’s inapplicability to today’s realities was highlighted nearly a decade ago in
Cano v. Davis
, the case brought in federal court after the last congressional redistricting plan for California (when similar allegations of Latino under-representation were made).
The three-judge panel (all appointed by Democratic presidents) unanimously dismissed the charges. The court concluded that “Latinos are, as a practical matter, a far more formidable political force than they were in the 1980’s.” The Latino community is an even more potent and “formidable political force” today than it was when
was decided in 2002.
Interestingly, a decade ago, county Supervisor Gloria Molina, who recently suggested that the county may be inviting a Voting Rights Act lawsuit if it didn’t adopt the Latino-centric plan she favors, wrote in a
Los Angeles Times
’ op-ed about the Cano litigation:
“But ultimately, we trust the voters. Most citizens cast their votes the American way—they vote for the most qualified candidate, regardless of race or gender. All we have to do is compete for votes the old fashioned way: by earning them.”
Let the “old fashioned” political process—unimpeded by divisive lawsuits that seek to impose the constraints and policies of a different era—work its way through this complex morass. We, our politics and inter-group relations will be better for it.
August 19, 2011 | 4:45 pm
Posted by Joe R. Hicks
This article appeared in the OC Register this week:
The NAACP recently brought its 102nd annual convention to Los Angeles. The gathering touched on a variety of topics, but clearly one issue dominated the three-day affair: voter identification laws.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters gave a speech telling the delegates that voter ID laws are “21st century poll taxes and literacy tests.” Apparently unafraid of the race card charge, Waters unapologetically defended race-conscious policies and told the audience, “We cannot be worried that some people will say, ‘Oh, they’re playing the race card’ ...”
Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP’s president, opened the convention by saying, “Our voting rights are under attack ...” and that voter ID laws are “the last existing legal pillars of Jim Crow.”
This must have some folks wondering, “So, when did showing identification, something just about every American does several times in the course of a day, become bigoted and controversial?”
Even a respected former president, Bill Clinton, has echoed Maxine Waters’ claims. Speaking to a group of liberal youth activists recently, Clinton called voter ID laws a determined effort by Republicans to keep blacks from voting.
As might be predicted, the Reverend Jesse Jackson has also made voter ID laws a priority. At the 40th annual Rainbow Push Coalition conference, he argued that black people and “other (unnamed) minorities” who tend to vote Democratic are less likely to carry ID with them.
If that’s true, instead of conjuring-up “new Jim Crow laws,” wouldn’t it be more helpful if Jackson was leading a positive campaign to educate poor black people about the benefits of acquiring and carrying ID – like casting a vote?
However, the claims of racist voter ID laws stand on legal sands that have already eroded. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can require voters to produce photo ID, or in some cases other official forms of ID, and that this does not violate their constitutional rights. Currently, 29 states require all voters to show some form of ID before voting.
Further, lawsuits challenging voter ID laws in Indiana and Georgia were tossed from court because plaintiffs couldn’t produce a single individual who was prevented from voting by these laws.
The protests that these laws disenfranchise black voters does give rise to the question, “Why is producing ID such an undue burden for black voters – but isn’t presumably a burden on other races?” Certainly the NAACP, and Jackson, must be aware that state and local governments make identification cards available for free to anyone who requests one. Are liberals and civil rights figures really prepared to argue that carrying ID is somehow a “white thing?”
It would be easy to toss this off as another example of the NAACP’s usual descent into race-mongering, Reverend Jackson’s expected plunge into rhetorical excess, or an ex-president condescendingly patting a racial grievance industry on their heads. But officials of the Democratic Party also appear to endorse this view.
The current head of the Democratic National Committee, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, recently argued that, “... now we have the Republicans, who want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws and literally – very transparently – block access to the polls to voters who are more likely to vote for Democrat than Republican candidates.”
It is disheartening to hear a liberal Democratic political figure casually toss around images from some of this nation’s darkest years. Evoking the term “Jim Crow” just to get the media’s or the public’s attention is political opportunism of the worst kind.
Jim Crow laws were not just about voting. In the main they were about apartheid – keeping Americans of different skin colors separate. They were also about segregating public transportation, education, housing and accommodations.
This was real racism, actual discrimination that was taking place against black citizens – not the crass manipulation of historic imagery as some are now doing.
Frankly, if voter ID laws are the equivalent of modern-day Jim Crow, why doesn’t the NAACP challenge other areas of every-day life where ID is also required – checking into a hotel anywhere in America, cashing a check, making a major purchase with a credit card, buying alcohol if you appear to be under-age, or getting on an airplane?
Couldn’t the NAACP also argue that ID requirements have a disparate impact on poor, ID-less black travelers, preventing them from getting a hotel room – and are thus racist?
Outside the ranks of the race-baiters, most Americans get the point – these are silly and divisive arguments. The question begging for an answer is why only 29 states have voter ID requirements? Shouldn’t all states require you to produce evidence that you are who you say you are before you cast a vote?
The real problem aren’t dysfunctional black people who are too stupid to acquire and use ID, as Reverend Jackson, the NAACP, and some Democrats imply; it’s really activists and political figures who can’t resist the paternalistic impulse to involve themselves in the manipulation of black people’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.