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“In Many Ways, Our Policy Legs Are Like Toothpicks”: Protests Are Fine, But Policy Is Where Change Needs To Happen

On the Thursday before Baltimore burned, Mr. Lee went to Washington.

He didn’t have far to go. Rev. Tony Lee is the 46-year-old pastor of Community of Hope, an AME church housed in a shopping mall in Hillcrest Heights, Maryland, just minutes from the D.C. line. Under the auspices of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, a Washington-based advocacy group, he led a delegation of 200 African-American men to Capitol Hill. They went to their capital to talk to their legislators about issues that impact their lives: racially stratified policing, education reform, voting rights and more.

It was not about protest. It was about policy.

“Protests,” Lee told me in a telephone interview, “are one way that pushes people’s feet to the fire. Whatever the issue is, it’s brought to the forefront. But … there’s still a need for people to do legislative advocacy, dealing with policy, whether it’s from the national to the local, showing people how to be engaged and (affecting) the policies that have such direct impact.”

Too often, said Lee, African-Americans have focused solely on protest — an important element of social change, but not the only one. He used the analogy of weightlifters that focus solely on building upper-body mass while “their legs are toothpicks. … In many ways, our policy legs are like toothpicks. Most people don’t know how to engage that. What you find in the policy area is more the politicos, more the people who have been doing this stuff a while. But we want just everyday brothers — and sisters — to see how they can get engaged in policy and to make sure that their legislators, whether it’s federal, or … local, city, state, know who they are, hear their voices…”

Full disclosure: I’ve known Rev. Tony Lee for about eight years. He christened my granddaughter. And I couldn’t think of a better person to respond to Tracy. As I said in my last column, she is a reader from Austin, Texas, a 55-year-old white woman, who wrote me that she is heartsick about police violence against unarmed African-American men. I decided to focus a series of columns — open-ended and running irregularly — on finding answers to the question she asked me:

What can I do?

“I have a framework for people like her and for others,” said Lee. “It’s educate, advocate, and participate. Educate means to get educated on the issue. A lot of times, what will happen is … you can end up having a lot of blind spots because you haven’t educated yourself on the issues. … Some of those local and national organizations have a great wealth of information that you can be able to educate yourself on what’s happening around some of the issues.”

Nor, he said, should she keep what she learns to herself. “As she’s becoming more informed, start talking to the people in her life. She should never minimize what it means to talk to people who are around her, people that she daily deals with. It sounds like that would be white people. She can talk to her friends and her neighbors and … educate them on what she’s learning.”

Having educated herself, he said, she should advocate, i.e., start “to deal with and talk about these issues and how she feels about them to people who are in decision-making authority in her region, whether it’s her local lawmakers or even her national representatives.”

Tracy, said Lee, should understand the advantage her skin color affords her. “It’s one thing for some of her lawmakers to hear from some of the usual suspects. It’s another thing for them to hear from constituents that aren’t black, but are white … to hear from some of their constituents who say, ‘Hey, this is wrong.’” Even the civil rights movement, he points out, included white Americans of conscience, who realized it was not just a struggle for “black” rights, but for human rights.

Which brings us to the third leg of Lee’s model for civic engagement: participate.

“Just get connected,” he said. “All organizations can use volunteers, (even if) it’s just to come in and say, ‘I’d love to work the phones for you all for a couple of hours a week.’ But find a space to participate. The other piece of participation is to be able to give. Many of the organizations in her region and nationally, need resources to be able to do the work. … Never think that any gift is too small.”

Nor, he said, does giving stop there. “You may be in a position of fund-raising. It may be that you are able, not just to give, but to shape sessions among personal networks to be able to raise funds for some of these organizations.

Educate, advocate, participate. It is, admittedly, not an agenda as immediately and viscerally gratifying as street protest, but it highlights a salient truth about American social transformation.

On the street is where the change is demanded. At the table is where it is made.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 4, 2015

May 5, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore, Policy, Protests | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Republican Party Is Becoming Goofy”: Judge Richard Posner Bashes Supreme Court’s Citizens United Ruling

The American political system is marked by legal corruption in which “wealthy people essential bribe legislators” with campaign contributions, according to one of the nation’s most influential federal judges.

Speaking to foreign educators, Judge Richard Posner told the assembled that the wealthy give lots of money to legislators and that an individual legislator “knows that if he doesn’t promote the interests of the donor,” he won’t get any more money.

Posner is a renowned member of the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He is not only the nation’s most prolific jurist-academic, he is seen by some as the most influential judge outside of the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Posner is intellectually fearless and, increasingly, far from the reflexively conservative thinker that he’s been long seen to be. In a recent National Public Radio interview, he spoke of the “real deterioration in conservative thinking” in recent years. “I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy.”

Posner has taken a poke at the high court’s controversial ruling before. But he’s taking his disdain for the decision to a broader audience. His latest comments came at a post-luncheon appearance Thursday before visiting Asian legal academics at the University of Chicago Law School, where he remains a faculty member.

Posner left no doubt about his criticism of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United campaign-finance decision. He said, “Our political system is pervasively corrupt due to our Supreme Court taking away campaign-contribution restrictions on the basis of the First Amendment.”

He also didn’t mind naming some names, in particular that of Justice Antonin Scalia, a onetime member of the law school faculty who lectured and taught at the school in February. Posner brought up the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, affirming the right of individuals to have handguns at home for self-defense.

Posner doesn’t think the Second Amendment has anything to do with an individual’s right to bear arms, a basis of the decision for which Scalia wrote the majority opinion.

“That didn’t slow down Scalia,” Posner told his Asian listeners. “He loves guns. He’s a hunter.”

 

By: James Warren, The Daily Beast, July 14, 2012

July 15, 2012 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Defcon 1 Alert: Debt Ceiling Crisis Reveals GOP’s Suicide Bomber Wing

In  retrospect, the emergence of a suicide-bomber wing of the Republican Party  should’ve seemed obvious.

Why  use such an inflammatory term? What I mean by it is this: They would blow up  the economy to fulfill a mission of otherworldly righteousness.

Their  first attempt to blow up the economy arrived with the defeat  TARP. It was a  reckless subversion of the leadership of both parties  and, at least for a day,  brought equity markets to their knees.

With  ideological bravado to match their breathtaking economic  illiteracy, they  positively relished the impact they could have on our  national life.

Since  then, they’ve become still more emboldened, knocking off an  incumbent  senator in Utah and propping up a  bad joke of a senate  candidate in Delaware.

Last  year’s wave election infested the party with additional scores of suicide  bombers.

In  a repeat of the TARP fiasco, the bomber boys and (and, lest we  forget  bomber-in-chief Michele Bachmann, girls) have, once again, made  it impossible  for congressional leaders to do the right thing. A grand  bargain was in sight—but the itch for destruction overmatched the  desire for reasonable compromise.

We  may yet stumble toward some cobbled-together agreement that staves off a  catastrophe. But  the bombers will be emboldened again.

And  why wouldn’t they be? They’ve got a cheering section among Washington pundits.

The  normally thoughtful Yuval  Levin calls this suboptimal state of affairs, in which Republicans will secure  far less  in deficit reduction than they could have, a “stunning victory.” New  York Post columnist  Michael  Walsh compares the debt ceiling showdown to the Union’s victory at Gettysburg. Most  depressing of all is my former hero George  Will, who calls the Tea Party “the most welcome political development since the  Goldwater insurgency.”

Will  is dead wrong: Ronald Reagan’s election—or rather his  administration—did not  simply bring the “Goldwater impulse” to  “fruition.” It signaled that the  Goldwater impulse had matured into a  governing philosophy—a governing  philosophy that could accept  compromise, could acknowledge reality.

The  Tea Party’s triumph has reversed that process of maturation; a governing  philosophy has degraded back into mere impulse.

Enjoy  your ascendancy while it lasts, Tea Partyers.

But  know this: You are not legislators. You are vandals.

By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, July 26, 2011

July 27, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Disasters, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Lawmakers, Politics, Press, Public, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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