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“Dear Bernie Sanders; Black Votes Matter”: In The South, Black Votes Matter — A Lot

African Americans in the South can’t get a break when it comes to voting, as history can’t deny.

After all they’ve endured through slavery, Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, their voices are still treated dismissively by tone-deaf politicians who would ask for their votes.

If you’re thinking Bernie Sanders, you’re partly right.

This month, having lost massively to Hillary Clinton across the Southeast, Sanders commented that the bevy of early Southern primaries “distorts reality.” In other comments soon thereafter, perhaps covering for what was obviously a lapse in political acumen, he clarified that those early states are the most conservative in the country.

Not really. And not really.

While some segments of the South are undeniably conservative, Dixie is also home to a large and reliably Democratic cohort — African Americans. Many of the most liberal people serving in today’s Congress were elected by Southerners, and especially black Southerners. The reality is that Sanders failed to earn their votes in part by treating the South as a lost cause.

Many took Sanders’s remarks as insinuating that the black vote isn’t all that important. Adding to the insult, actor Tim Robbins, a Sanders surrogate, said that Clinton’s win in South Carolina, where more than half of Democratic voters are African American, was “about as significant” as winning Guam.

Not cool, Mr. Robbins, but you were great in “The Shawshank Redemption.”

The gentleman from Vermont (black population: 1 percent) and the gentleman from Hollywood failed to charm Southern Democratic leaders, who recently responded with a letter condemning Sanders’s remarks. The signatories, including the Democratic Party chairs of South Carolina (an African American), Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, expressed concern that Sanders’s characterization of the South minimized “the importance of the voices of a core constituency for our party.”

The letter writers also pointed out that some of Sanders’s victories have been in states that are more conservative than Southern ones, such as Oklahoma, Utah and Idaho.

That black voters would prefer a familiar candidate such as Clinton over someone whose personal experience among African Americans seems to have been relatively limited, notwithstanding his participation in civil rights demonstrations, is hardly surprising. For decades, the Clintons have worked for issues and protections important to the African American community.

But the Clintons, too, have been dismissive toward black voters when things didn’t go their way. During the 2008 primaries when it was clear that Barack Obama would trounce Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, Bill Clinton remarked that Jesse Jackson also had won the state in 1984 and 1988.

No one needs a translator to get Clinton’s meaning. His next hastily drawn sentence — “Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here” — did little to distract from the implication that Obama would win because he was black.

Not cool, Mr. President.

Hillary Clinton got herself into a hot mess when she asserted that President Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the Civil Rights Act, which many saw as dismissive of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. She scrambled to explain herself and mitigate the damage, but feelings once hurt are hard to mend.

Then again, time is a miracle worker, and all is apparently forgiven. Clinton is the new black and has been duly rewarded for her loyalty, patience and sportsmanship. She played nice with Obama, crushing her resentment beneath the heel of her sensible shoes and erasing from memory Obama’s condescending “You’re likable enough, Hillary” during a debate.

On the campaign trail, Clinton now tosses rose petals at Obama’s feats, promising to carry on his policies not because she necessarily agrees with them but because it’s politically savvy. For his part, the president has all but endorsed Clinton, returning the favor of her indulgence and her husband’s vigorous support.

The truth is, only Obama could have defeated Clinton for the 2008 nomination, and he probably did win at least partly because he was African American. The country felt it was time for a black president and Obama’s message of hope against a purple-colored backdrop of streamlined unity, baby, was intoxicating. He was a dazzling diamond in the rough world of partisan politics.

Clinton shares none of Obama’s sparkle, but she has more than paid her dues, and African American voters have rewarded her loyalty. For his part, Sanders not only confirmed African Americans’ concerns about his disconnect from their daily lives but also was badly mistaken about the South’s distance from reality.

In the South, black votes matter — a lot — and no one has understood this better than the Clintons.

 

By: Kathleen Parker, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 222, 2016

April 25, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, The South | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“First, Know How Power Works”: Revolutionaries Have To Be Smart And Ruthless

Truer words were never spoken:

A top Republican National Committee staffer fired back Tuesday at presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, saying it’s not the committee’s fault that Trump’s campaign staffers and his children don’t understand the rules.

Sean Spicer, an RNC spokesman, said on CNN the delegate allocation rules in Colorado and every other state were filed with the national committee back in October and made available to every GOP campaign.

“If you’re a campaign and you don’t understand the process that’s going on, then that’s bad on the staff. That’s bad on the campaign,” he said. “Running for office entails putting together a campaign that understands the process. There’s nothing rigged.”

Spicer continued: “I understand that people sometimes don’t like the process or may not understand it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fair and open and transparent.”

Apparently, a couple of Trump’s children couldn’t even understand how to register themselves to vote in the New York primary.

Look, I understand the sentiment that the system is rotten and the game is rigged. I do. But I don’t take people seriously who seek power but have no real idea how power works. If you want to be the nominee of the Republican or the Democratic Party, you need to figure out how that can be done. And, if you’re an outsider who is running with a message that the gatekeepers are all a bunch of losers and morons, or that they’re all corrupted by money, then you’ll need a plan for winning the people you’ve insulted over to your side.

Let me remind you to take a look at the list of Republicans that Donald Trump has insulted just on Twitter. I won’t deny that Trump’s insult-dog comedy routine contributed to his electoral successes, but it’s biting him in the ass now that he’s losing delegates who should rightfully be in his corner.

Bernie Sanders ought to have understood that he needed to work very hard on introducing himself to southern black voters, but that’s only half of his problem. The other half is that the superdelegates are overwhelmingly opposed to his candidacy. He needed a plan to prevent that from happening.

We can argue about how possible it ever was for either of these candidates to win over more establishment support, but they both thought they could overcome the lack of it by going straight to the people. Trump may still pull this out, maybe, but he’s acting awfully surprised to discover that his delegates can be stolen from him for the simple reason that delegates don’t like him. A savvy adviser would have told him about this likelihood last summer, and maybe he could have been a little more selective in his insults and a little more solicitous of establishment support.

Obviously, Sanders is running an outsider campaign built on criticizing those who are flourishing in our current political system, but he’s also running to be the leader of a party (and all that party’s infrastructure and organizations), and there has to be a better middle ground that allows you to challenge entrenched power without totally alienating it. Even if there wasn’t a way to be successful in gathering more institutional support, I would have liked to see him make the effort.

So far, I’ve been focusing on a straightforward strategy for winning a major party nomination as an outsider and challenger of the status quo, which is difficult enough. But imagine if one of these two outsiders actually won the presidency. They’d both have a lot of repair work to do with an establishment that they’d have to govern.

I really do understand the appeal of declaring the whole system rotten and just going after it in a populist appeal for root-and-branch change. But I think it’s a bit of a sucker’s game to hitch yourself to that kind of wagon if you don’t get the sense that the challengers really understand how power works, how to seize it, and what to do with it if you get it.

I want a progressive challenger who is pragmatic and ruthless enough to navigate our rotten system and then have the leadership abilities to lead it once they’ve taken control of it.

I never got the sense that Sanders was that guy, or even close to that guy.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 13, 2016

April 15, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Campaign Consultants, Donald Trump, Governing | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Racism By Region”: Donald Trump And The Rise Of The New Dixiecrats

There is one man who might be able to beat Donald Trump. But it would involve amending the Constitution, exhuming former Alabama governor George Wallace and re-constituting his ashes.

The current Republican frontrunner has been able to accomplish something that Wallace, in his living days, could not. In the months since Trump announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination, he has singlehandedly built a bipartisan, largely white coalition of conservatives who are attracted to his nativist brand of economic populism. For them, the fine details of actual policy proposals appear to be less important than the notion that Trump is the one who can take their country back.

Much like Wallace—who was a Democrat—and despite his inconsistencies on the issues, Trump has tapped into a reservoir of resentment. He gives voice to the grievances of his supporters in a way that no other viable candidate for national office arguably has or can. As Trump continues to intensify his rhetoric, he has revealed deep fissures between the Republican establishment and the party’s grassroots. But his support does not stop at the water’s edge.

Those measuring Trump’s electoral “ceiling” should look again. There was certainly a ceiling on how much support Wallace received nationally. And, without a doubt, there is a cap on how high Trump’s stock will rise. But Trump is getting some unanticipated help—from Democrats.

Feasting on a public mood that is strikingly similar to what fueled Wallace, backing for the billionaire businessman has crossed the partisan aisle. The Trump voter is buoyed by his proclamations that he can “make America great again.” One constant refrain is that he “tells it like it is,” a thinly veiled reference to the way Trump eschews politically correct speech and frequently deploys bigoted, divisive language.

Among his electoral strongholds are so-called “blue dogs.” According to The New York Times, Trump carries a full 43 percent of voters who are registered Democrats, but who lean to the right.  In the mold of Wallace, Trump has given rise to a modern-day Dixiecrat—only this one is not contained to the American South.

Up North, he is drawing support from “Reagan Democrats”—those who are disaffected by the broadening diversity of the Democratic Party. Reminiscent of Reagan, at least one poll shows that 20 percent of Democrats would defect and pull the lever for Trump this November.

His promises to rebuild the nation’s manufacturing base, hunt down Muslim terrorists and stop “illegal aliens” at the border have earned him deep support across the South, in rural areas in the country’s mid-section and in rusting smoke-stack cities in the North and upper Midwest. Never mind the fact that many of his proposals are unworkable and others would bust the national bank or qualify as war crimes. Trump’s “us versus them” mentality has attracted substantial support from white evangelicals and catapulted him into what is likely an insurmountable lead.

Without question, Trump has shocked the chattering class, energized his base and driven up turnout numbers in Republican primaries and caucuses. As the real estate denizen steamrolls through states like Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee on Super Tuesday, it is worth noting that he polls strongest among working class-whites who are less educated and who were the least likely to vote. His reach also extends to north to Massachusettes and his home state of New York.

Nate Cohn says it is a “familiar pattern.”

“It is similar to a map of the tendency toward racism by region, according to measures like the prevalence of Google searches for racial slurs and racist jokes, or scores on implicit association tests,” Cohn writes for The New York Times.

Trump may also be benefitting from the election of the country’s first African-American president. Once thought to be an augur of a post-racial America, the 2008 election instead gave rise to tensions thought by some to be already resolved. For some people, that clear demonstration of black voting power within the highly diverse Obama Coalition was something to be feared rather than embraced.

Wallace, a segregationist who is perhaps most famous for the assertion, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” would later come to rebuke that ugly ideology, but he never let go of economic populism.

However, what some political prognosticators miss about Wallace is the way in which he and his contemporaries used racial animus and economic fears to destabilize the Democratic base after the passage of the Civil Rights Acts. While Wallace never actually became a Republican himself, he helped to inspire the party re-alignment that would last for generations. That schism would become the precursor to the “Southern Strategy” adopted by Republicans to maintain national political power.

Trump appears to have taken up the mantle in a way that separates him from Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who continue to trail him in the polls.  But even as he benefits from the old Southern Strategy built by Republicans, Trump is remaking the tactical approach in his own image. He has rejected critical elements of the modern-day conservative doctrine.

“Trump has called for abolishing the carried-interest tax loophole for hedge-fund and private-equity managers,” writes James Surowiecki for The New Yorker. “He’s vowed to protect Social Security. He’s called for restrictions on highly skilled immigrants. Most important, he’s rejected free-trade ideology, suggesting that the U.S. may need to slap tariffs on Chinese goods to protect American jobs.”

Trump’s impact on party alignment is unknowable today. But Democrats and Republicans are right to fear the result. Like Wallace, Trump is shaking the table and there is no telling where the pieces might fall.

 

By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, March 2, 2016

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Dixicrats, Donald Trump, George Wallace, Regional Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“There Is No Post Racial America”: Can Bernie Sanders Win The African-American Vote?

Bill Clinton, so the saying goes, was America’s first black president.

Novelist Toni Morrison dubbed him so, noting that he displayed “almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.”

The analogy stuck because people saw Clinton’s rapport of kinship and familiarity that crossed racial lines.

His wife is not blessed with the same attributes. This became starkly apparent in 2008 when she faced a formable political challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination and lost as African-American voters flocked to him.

This go-around, it’s not an upstart biracial senator from Illinois who is challenging Hillary Clinton for the coveted prize in this election cycle. It’s a 74-year-old white guy with a Mister Rogers appeal.

Bernie Sanders is the exclamation point on bad news for Clinton. In the Iowa caucuses, Sanders’ virtual tie in votes showed that Clinton can’t rest on her substantial resume.

Clinton cannot take black voters for granted. Sanders may not win enough African-American support to snag the Democratic nomination away, but he’ll give her a considerable run for it, even in Southern states like South Carolina, whose Democratic primary will take place at the end of the month.

Sanders’ appeal is that he acknowledges something that African-Americans know viscerally: There is no post-racial America. He has also offered a forthright critique of wealth and income equality in America, along with measures to rectify it. All he has to do is package his message right.

The election of Barack Obama did not substantially alter the lives of most black Americans. True, it was a collective emotional achievement for much of America, and especially for black America. Yet it’s ludicrous to believe that one man in the highest office of the land, even serving two terms, was going to undo the entrenched realities of race in America.

African-Americans, segregated and humiliated first by slavery and then by segregation, and further still by subtler forms of bias and discrimination that are still with us, are lagging behind other people of other races and ethnicities in employment and economic and educational attainment.

By the time the recovery began from the most recent recession, African-Americans had lost the most ground and now have to make harder strides to catch up.

Those without wealth invested in stocks and those whose work skills are less in demand — especially people whose families are less firmly entrenched in middle class — are struggling. And Sanders speaks well to these voters, especially to a new generation that is worried that they won’t be able to achieve, not due to personal failings but because systems of government such as taxation and justice are rigged against them.

In Iowa, Sanders swept Clinton with voters under 30, winning by a 70-point margin. He also won resoundingly with voters aged 30 to 44.

Iowa, some shrug, is overwhelmingly white. True.

But what if younger African-American voters aren’t as beholden to the idea that they must stick with the Clinton team, even if Hillary is a surrogate of Obama? Some evidence of this is appearing.

In recent weeks former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner has become a vocal advocate, along with the attorney who represented the Walter Scott family. Some rappers have begun advocating for him, plying their networks on social media. And the revered scholar Cornel West has been actively campaigning and took to Facebook with a post that begins, “Why I endorse Brother Bernie….”

It reads, in part: “I do so because he is a long-distance runner with integrity in the struggle for justice for over 50 years. Now is the time for his prophetic voice to be heard across our crisis-ridden country, even as we push him with integrity toward a more comprehensive vision of freedom for all.”

All Sanders has to do is speak ferociously for the underdogs of society, for the masses of people who have been left behind. And he is very adept at connecting these dots.

A good example is Sanders’ platform on racial justice. It seeks to address what he defines as “the five central types of violence waged against black, brown and indigenous Americans: physical, political, legal, economic and environmental.”

And he fully defines each, with grim examples of the harm they have caused. Then he offers his solutions.

Black Americans know these realities in ways that are starkly personal.

The question is: What must Sanders do to convince black voters that he can and will address them?

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, February 4, 2016

February 7, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans’ Coup de Grace On Voting Rights?”: Putting The Interests Of The Republican Party Over The Interests Of Voters

Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case called Evenwel v. Abbott. The case involves an issue of increasing importance to American politics: congressional districting. It got to the Supreme Court because conservative litigators with a successful track record of fighting against the right to vote are trying to turn the logic of pro-voter rights decisions on their head. And it’s very possible that they may succeed again.

This most recent battle in the voting rights war involves two of the Warren Court’s most important decisions. One of the tactics that state legislatures used to disenfranchise African-Americans was to draw district lines (or refuse to revise them) in ways that left minority voters massively underrepresented. In Alabama in 1964, for example, some counties included 40 times more people than others. In Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, the Supreme Court held that such schemes were illegal. States were required to adhere to a “one person, one vote” standard when apportioning their legislatures. Combined with robust enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, these landmark cases helped to end Jim Crow disenfranchisement schemes.

Perversely, this lawsuit hopes to use these decisions to turn back the clock and dilute the representation of minority voters. The theory of the lawsuit is that Texas violated the Equal Protection Clause when it drew its district lines based on total population rather than on the population of voters. The state, according to the theory, should only be able to conduct apportionment according to the number of eligible voters.

If adopted, the theory presents an obvious practical problem. Total population is measured with reasonable reliability by the Census. Eligible voters are much harder to measure, not least because the numbers change every election. (What should be counted — presidential election years? Off years? State elections? Some combination?) The discretion the measure would leave to legislators leaves the process open to more of the kind of manipulation that Reynolds v. Sims tried to minimize. Plus, it just seems illogical for a state’s representation in Congress to be based on total population, but its districts drawn by eligible voters.

Which brings us to the even bigger problem with the theory: In most cases, the effect of the rule change would be to overrepresent white voters and underrepresent minority voters. As Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick puts it, “if the plaintiffs win this appeal, power will shift markedly from urban voters to rural voters and to white and Republican districts over minority and Democratic ones.” To read the Equal Protection Clause to not merely permit but require the under representation of minority voters is, to say the least, perverse.

That the argument should be indefensible doesn’t mean that it can’t win. The group bringing this lawsuit scored a major anti-voting rights victory with the 2013 case Shelby County v. Holder. In that case, a bare majority of the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Even worse, it did so by arguing that the explicit powers given to Congress to enforce the 15th Amendment were trumped by an alleged “equal state sovereignty” principle, an idea without support in the text of the Constitution or Supreme Court precedents not written by John Roberts, save for the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford. If the Roberts Court is willing to cut the heart out of the most important civil rights statute since Reconstruction based on arguments that feeble, it’s hard to imagine why they wouldn’t put the interests of the Republican Party over the interests of voters in Evenwel v. Abbott.

That said, oral argument did not clearly indicate how the case will come out. The Court’s Democratic nominees were predictably hostile. Anthony Kennedy, the likely swing vote, appeared curious but non-committal to the plaintiff’s novel theory. Even if the Court doesn’t buy the argument that the Constitution requires the states to use voters rather than total population, if it signals that this kind of districting is permitted the consequences could be dire.

This case has to be seen as part of a larger political struggle. The Republican Party faces a problem: Demographic changes are making its overwhelmingly white voter base a smaller part of the population. This year, their presidential primary, in which the major candidates try to out-xenophobe one another, will make this problem worse rather than better. To combat this, Republican states have adopted various measures to suppress minority voters — if you can’t attract their votes, keep ‘em from the ballot box or try to make their votes count less through gerrymandering. Their allies in the Supreme Court might well use this case to assist in this vote-suppression effort once again.

 

By: Scott Lemieux, The Week, December 15, 2015

 

 

December 16, 2015 Posted by | Gerrymandering, Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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