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“His Hands Are As Dirty As Anyone’s”: If Jeb Bush Wants To Be A Different Kind Of Republican, He Should End GOP War On Voting

Jeb Bush appears before the Urban League today — the only other Republican candidate who accepted their invitation was Ben Carson — where he will tell them that antipoverty programs have failed, and the path to greater success for African-Americans is the one the GOP wants to pave. Politically, Bush surely wants credit for showing up in front of an audience not exactly guaranteed to be friendly. As Eli Stokols noted, “Just about everywhere Jeb Bush goes, he talks about his willingness to go everywhere.”

But at a moment when his party is fighting with all its might to limit the number of African-Americans who make it to the polls, it’s going to be awfully hard to make a case that the GOP has their interests at heart.

That issue is on display in a trial now going on in North Carolina. But before we get to that, here’s part of what Bush had to say:

“I know that there are unjust barriers to opportunity and upward mobility in this country. Some we can see, others are unseen but just as real. So many lives can come to nothing, or come to grief, when we ignore problems, or fail to meet our own responsibilities. And so many people could do so much better in life if we could come together and get even a few big things right in government.”

That’s about as close as he came to acknowledging that racism exists, and about as much on the topic as you’ll hear from any Republican. And while Jeb will happily tout his record on things like charter schools as helping African-Americans, one topic he didn’t raise was voting rights. That may be because on that subject, his hands are as dirty as anyone’s.

When he was governor of Florida, Bush’s administration ordered a purge of the voter rolls that disenfranchised thousands of African-Americans, in a happy coincidence that made it possible for his brother to become president. The private corporation they hired to eliminate felons from the rolls did so by chucking off people who had a name similar to those of felons; people who had voted all their lives showed up on election day to be told that they couldn’t vote.

The remarkable outcome taught Republicans an important lesson. Here you had an election in which their candidate got fewer votes than his opponent, and the whole thing was decided in a state where his brother was the governor and the co-chair of his state campaign was the state’s chief election official. He won by an official margin of 537 votes, and the purge was just one of the things that made it possible. The lesson was this: when it comes to voting, we can get away with almost anything. What came out of that election, as Ari Berman documents, was a wave of Republican efforts to win elections by keeping people less likely to vote Republican from being able to cast a ballot. African-Americans aren’t the only people on that list, but they’re at the top.

So we see cases like North Carolina, where once the conservatives on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act — a landmark law for which some African-Americans literally gave their lives — the state rushed to pass a menu of voting restrictions, all of which are designed to reduce the number of non-Republicans who make it to the polls. Young people are more likely to vote for Democrats? The North Carolina law eliminated pre-registering, where teenagers can register before they turn 18 if they’ll be of age on election day. African-Americans are disproportionately more likely to lack a photo ID? The law requires it. African-American churches mount “souls to the polls” efforts, bringing people to vote early on the Sunday before election day? The law ends early voting on that Sunday.

This law is on trial in a federal courtroom in Winston-Salem; closing arguments are happening today. To be honest, whatever happens in that trial, the five conservatives on the Supreme Court have made it clear that they are quite open to all kinds of restrictions on voting rights. So from a practical standpoint, Republicans may continue to enjoy success in their efforts to make voting as inconvenient and difficult as possible, at least for the wrong people.

But if Jeb Bush is wondering whether he can get African-Americans to vote for him, the answer is almost certainly no, and the continuing struggle over voting rights is one big reason. It’s awfully hard to convince African-Americans you love them when you’re still on the wrong side of a conflict that was at the center of the civil rights struggle. African-Americans look at places like Florida, North Carolina, Texas, or Wisconsin — or almost every state where Republicans are in charge — and say, “They’re still trying to keep us from voting, half a century after the Voting Rights Act!”

If Bush really wants to be a different kind of Republican, he could try to end the Republican war on voting rights. He could say, “We can have a secure voting system, and still make it easy and convenient for every American citizen to vote.” Because it really wouldn’t be that hard. He could advocate extended early voting (including Sundays), and looser identification measures that are geared toward allowing every legitimate voter to cast their ballot, not shutting out as many people as possible. He could acknowledge that in-person voter impersonation, the only kind of fraud that ID requirements can stop, is so incredibly rare (one investigation found only 31 cases in over a billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014), that it’s wrong to disenfranchise thousands of people on the off-chance you might stop it. He could acknowledge that members of his party have used voting restrictions as a way to give themselves partisan advantage.

Or he could hope that showing up to the Urban League and shaking black people’s hands will be enough to wipe out decades of history, his own and his party’s. I’m pretty sure that won’t do the trick.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 31

August 1, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Jeb Bush, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations”: The Right’s Pathetically Low Curve; How It Got A Pass On Race And Poverty

Rep. Paul Ryan, budget-slasher, releases a paternalistic poverty plan that has one good idea. Sen. Rand Paul, Civil Rights Act skeptic, speaks to the African-American National Urban League. The Koch brothers, backers of voter suppression efforts and union busting, give $25 million to the United Negro College Fund.

And each winds up hailed, even by some liberals, as taking a big step for the Republican Party when it comes to questions of race and poverty. Why do people settle for so little when it comes to the right trying to signal a change in its damaging approach to both?

Ryan’s one good idea is expanding the earned income tax credit, originally a Republican policy that Republicans turned against because Democrats embraced it too. The EITC is one big reason for the “47 percent” of people who pay no taxes that Ryan’s running mate railed against. Now Ryan says he wants to expand it, and some other programs – which doesn’t square with his infamous budget proposals of recent years.

So MSNBC’s Chuck Todd politely asked Ryan to reconcile his poverty plan with his budget plan – which cuts $5 trillion over 10 years, and takes 69 percent of the cuts from low- and moderate-income families – and he couldn’t do it.

“Does this mean you would change your budget proposal to reflect your new poverty plan?” Todd asked.

“No,” Ryan answered. “I didn’t want to get into a debate over the funding levels of the status quo. I want to talk about how to reform the status quo.”

Todd tried again. “So we should ignore your budget proposal for these programs?”

“No, Chuck, what I’m trying to tell you is, let’s not focus on dollars and cents for these programs,” Ryan replied, a little peevishly. “Let’s focus on reforming these programs so they work more effectively.”

Paul Ryan: a profile in equivocation.

Then there’s Rand Paul, continuing his “outreach” to African-Americans with his visit to the Urban League annual convention. Paul actually deserves credit for trying to tackle issues of criminal justice reform with Sen. Cory Booker. But in his Friday speech he also seemed to decry voter suppression laws, insisting his goal is to “help more people vote,” in the words of the Louisville Courier-Journal.

“We have to be together to defend the rights of all minorities,” Paul said.

But Paul flip-flops on this issue every chance he gets. “I don’t think there is objective evidence that we’re precluding African-Americans from voting any longer,” he said last year, after the Supreme Court curtailed the Voting Rights Act. But a few months later, he seemed to have second thoughts.

“Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter-ID thing,” Paul the New York Times. “I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.”

That was big news. But then, confronted by his friends at Fox, he lurched into reverse. Paul assured Sean Hannity he was fully on board with the Republican voter ID strategy. “No, I agree there’s nothing wrong with it. To see Eric Holder you’ve got to show your driver’s license to get in the building. So I don’t really object to having some rules for how we vote. I show my driver’s license every time I vote in Kentucky … and I don’t feel like it is a great burden. So it’s funny that it got reported that way.”

“It’s funny it got reported that way,” when that’s what Paul said. Maybe that’s where Paul Ryan learned how to equivocate.

Then there are the Koch brothers. I said everything I needed to in this story. I’m sympathetic to the UNCF wanting more scholarship funding. But “Koch scholars”? A no-strings gift would be one thing, but scholarships Koch foundation appointees help award, based on a student’s affinity for “entrepreneurship” and the free market is something else entirely.

Liberals who applaud UNCF taking the money, and decry AFSCME’s parting ways with the group, insist it’s possible to separate the principle of education for black children from the Kochs’ funding of efforts to break unions in the public sector – which disproportionately employ their parents – and suppress their voting rights.

But it’s true that all of these moves are preferable to outright race baiting and demonizing black people and the poor, so liberals give them extra credit. Applauding minimal GOP gestures toward decency reflects the soft bigotry of low expectations once again.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, July 25, 2014

July 26, 2014 Posted by | Koch Brothers, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Cleaving Unto Rand Paul”: Did Mitch McConnell Call For African-American Outreach To Republicans?

Last night Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner published a report on Mitch McConnell’s obsessive efforts to head off (or undermine) a right-wing primary challenge in 2014 (perhaps, other observers suggest, from Louisville business figure Matthew Bevin, who is being courted by Kentucky Tea Party activists, or perhaps from some other heavily funded direction.

That’s all interesting to be sure, but here’s what caught my attention in Shiner’s story, as part of a general theme of McConnell cleaving unto Rand Paul for protection:

McConnell has shown a special deference to his freshman partner. He has held multiple votes on Paul’s amendments, even though many of them barely attract supporters in the double digits, sometimes at the expense of veteran lawmakers’ proposals. He has repeatedly been among only a handful of Republicans to vote for Paul’s budget alternative. He hired Paul’s 2010 campaign manager. And aides take frequent opportunities to link the two men.

McConnell’s address to the National Urban League, for example, sounded a lot like Paul’s at Howard. According to a source familiar with McConnell’s speech, the leader told the room of black business leaders: “I want to see a day when more African-Americans look at the issues and realize that they identify with the Republican Party.” That message echoed Paul’s at the historically black university.

Yes, McConnell did his own “African-American outreach” speech the same week as Paul’s, though it attracted about one-tenth of one percent of Paul’s media attention. But check out the direct quote above. Sounds like Mitch is standing pat on the GOP’s merits and asking African-Americans to figure it out.

There are a lot of different ways for a guy like McConnell to send valentines to disgruntled wingnuts. But calling for African-Americans to conduct “outreach” to an unmoving GOP is a new one.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington MOnthly Political Animal, April 15, 2013

April 16, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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