Iron-fisted enforcement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act transformed American politics, especially in the South, by making sure minorities had a clear path to the ballot box and an equal shot at public service.
Forty-eight years later, after the re-election of an African-American president, the heart of that law is on trial.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Feb. 27 in a case that is sure to ignite a national debate over how far the country has progressed on racial issues and whether minority voters still need extra protection.
Shelby County, Ala., opposed by the Justice Department and civil rights groups, wants two key sections of the Voting Rights Act declared unconstitutional.
This puts the best possible face on the problem while still describing it well.
President Obama’s top pollster said the Republican Party has a ‘tolerance problem’ and predicted it will continue to struggle at the ballot box if its members don’t have a major tonal change.
“If Republicans approach this as if they have a Latino problem, I think that they are missing a larger dynamic that’s in place right now. I believe that the Republican Party has a tolerance problem,” Obama pollster Joel Benenson said at event hosted by the center-left group Third Way Wednesday morning. “When you define people who look differently than you as illegal aliens and use that term over and over again and talk about self-deporting them, that’s a tolerance issue.”
Benenson said other examples of the GOP’s “tolerance problem” included their calling those who believe in global warming “job killers,” and its stances on gay marriage, Planned Parenthood and contraception. He said voters who don’t agree with the GOP were hearing a “very strident, intolerant point of view on specific issues” and called them a “party of orthodoxy.”
“They should rethink how their positions with these groups are implicitly defining them,” he said. “If they think they can solve their problems by picking off any one of those groups and saying ‘we’ll fix our problem here or there,’ this goes to whether you have core beliefs that are in line and in touch with the vast majority of Americans.”
The Past, Present, and Future of the Women’s Vote: Democrats Will Do Better With Women; Republicans Will Do Better With Men
The Past, Present, and Future of the Women’s Vote: Democrats Will Do Better With Women; Republicans Will Do Better With Men. but Women Will Not Be a Monolithic Voting Bloc in 2012 or Beyond. « Sigmund, Carl and Alfred
In 1938, when the Gallup Organization asked people whether they would vote for a woman for president “if she were qualified in every other respect,” only a third said they would. In 1943, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) asked people whether they would want their son to choose politics as a career. It didn’t ask about daughters. As late as 1974, NORC asked whether women should take care of running their homes and leave running the country to men.
Today, when Gallup asks people whether they would vote for a qualified woman for the nation’s highest office, a nearly unanimous 96 percent say they would. Survey firms now ask about careers for sons and daughters. And as for leaving running the country to men, pollsters haven’t asked that question in years. Clearly, we’ve come a long way.
Poll findings such as these confirm dramatic changes in our attitudes toward women, but what has happened in practice? Are more women choosing politics as a career, and if not, why? How much clout do women have at the ballot box? Are they voting differently from men in presidential elections? And, finally, what are we likely to see in November?
Why Aren’t More Women in Office?
In 1994, Jody Newman compiled a massive database that enabled her to look at the win rate for women running in governor, state legislature, House, and Senate contests. In a monograph for the National Women’s Political Caucus, she demonstrated conclusively that women win just as often as men at every level of politics. This pattern has continued. The problem, Newman said, was getting more women to run.
If women perform as well as men, why aren’t more women giving politics a shot? (Women are 16.8 percent of House members, 17 percent of senators, 12 percent of governors, and 23.7 percent of state legislators.) Jeane Kirkpatrick was one of the first to look at what she called the “ridiculously small” number of women who played a serious part in political leadership. At a time when women’s roles were changing dramatically, Kirkpatrick wrote the first major study of women in American political life, conducting extensive interviews with 50 successful political women, representing 26 states and convened by the newly formed Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics. Political Woman was published in 1974. Kirkpatrick argued that her gender was being held back by the traditional, male-dominated political system and cultural norms about women’s roles. She concluded that while the obstacles to achieving de facto political equality were “enormous,” the gradual inclusion of women would continue. On the cover jacket, the left-wing New York congresswoman Bella Abzug called the book “invaluable.” Kirkpatrick’s deep commitment to advancing women in politics didn’t matter when the sisterhood turned against her after she joined Ronald Reagan’s administration.
Two days ahead of Egypt’s landmark presidential vote, the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court and military government dissolved the one major accomplishment of more than a year of political struggle and turmoil: the first truly democratically elected legislature in the country’s history. The reason, the court said, was that the election—which the judiciary had supervised—was unconstitutional. Few of the newly disenfranchised politicians and activists deemed the decision legitimate. Rather it revealed a clear manipulation by the junta, they said—a final nail in the coffin of Egypt’s nascent and short-lived democracy. But on Friday, a day that has become synonymous with protest in the Middle East since the start of last year’s hopeful Arab Spring, few were protesting.
“People understand that the ballot box will be the real judgment,” said Walid Mohamed, a T-shirt vendor on the edge of Cairo’s Tahrir Square. On Saturday and Sunday, Egyptians will cast their votes in the final round of the first presidential election since last year’s popular uprising ended the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak. And indeed, even if many view their options as grim—a choice between an Islamist from the Muslim Brotherhood and a former Prime Minister of the old regime—what else can they do, many argue, but see how the real test of Egypt’s political evolution turns out? Small crowds gathered outside of parliament, and a few groups of Islamists marched through Tahrir Square protesting the military’s preferred candidate, Ahmed Shafik. But, says Mohamed, “those people are the minority.” Mohamed says he will vote Shafik—not because he likes the former Air Force commander but because the military is the only viable choice and it always has been. “I knew back then, during the revolution, that the military would never let the country go,” he says. So the easiest option is to vote for the candidate they want, he reasons: a win for the Brotherhood would only bring a military coup anyway.
But for Shafik’s opponents, the reaction is muted for other reasons too; the main one being that the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which dominated parliament and whose candidate, Mohamed Morsy stands to compete in tomorrow’s race, has chosen not to pick a fight—not now, and not yet.
Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board voted unanimously to allow “fake Democrats” to be placed on primary ballots for the state’s May 8 recall elections.
Republicans said there was nothing to prevent them from running phony Democrats in the recall primaries, which resulted from Gov. Scott Walker’s so-called Budget Repair Bill, which drastically curtailed the rights of public workers’ unions.
Republicans call the ringers “protest candidates,” and the Government Accountability Board, which oversees Wisconsin elections, said there is nothing wrong with it.
The Government Accountability Board used both terms - fake Democrats and protest candidates - in its statement announcing its unanimous vote.
“We are being asked … to determine whether candidates are lying,” Board Member Timothy Vocke said in the statement issued on the board’s letterhead. “That is an impossible task for this board or anybody else to solve. It is something strictly for the voters to do.” (Ellipsis in statement.)
Gov. Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three incumbent Republican face recall elections, slated for June 5. A fourth Senate seat is open.
Ideologues still hanker after the revival of a pan-Islamic empire. “We’ll have to get our respective houses in order first,” admits Jamal Hourani, a leading member of Jordan’s Islamic Action Front.
To judge from a recent scene in Cairo, that may take some time. The Ikhwan is far from smugly comfortable following their sweep of Egypt’s elections, even after decades of sporadic but often vicious persecution. During a huge demonstration in Tahrir Square commemorating the revolution’s first anniversary last month, hecklers continually surrounded a marquee featuring Brotherhood speakers. “Beea beea ya Badeea,” they chanted, taunting Mr Badeea to “sell, sell out,” the revolution.
Despite the legitimacy conferred by success at the ballot box, Egypt’s Brothers are on the defensive. Secular critics suspect them of cutting a deal with the army generals who emerged from the shadows following the fall of the old regime. In exchange for a free hand in the legislature, it is rumoured, the Brothers have quietly agreed to extend the long lease of Egypt’s military-backed “deep state”. Perhaps so, but the generals also seem to distrust the Ikhwan, and show it by trying to blunt their influence wherever possible. To date, the army has coldly ignored suggestions that, as the largest block in parliament, the Brotherhood should have the right to form a coalition government.
It’s hard to rule
Liberal Islamists in Egypt, meanwhile, decry the group’s ideological sterility, rigid command structure and penchant for back-room politicking. More puritanical Islamists, such as the Salafists whose Nour Party came a surprisingly close second to the Ikhwan in Egypt’s elections, accuse the Brothers of diluting the Islamist agenda so as to soothe Western fears. Salafists also complain of being shunned by their ostensible Islamist cousins in favour of secular potential coalition partners.
In other words, the Egyptian Brotherhood is finding that proximity to power carries a heavy tax. They are not alone. Nearly everywhere that Ikhwan-related parties have left opposition politics and entered government they have faced similar headwinds. Within a few years of Sudan’s 1989 coup, General Omar Bashir, the strongman who remains in power to this day, had shunted aside his Brotherhood partners and jailed their leader. Palestinian pundits sniff that just when the Brotherhood is gaining power elsewhere, Hamas’s exiled leader, Khaled Meshal, signed a deal replacing Gaza’s government with one led by Fatah’s leader, Mahmoud Abbas. In Kuwait and Bahrain, the sole Gulf monarchies with active, albeit highly circumscribed parliaments, the Brothers have failed to corral fellow Islamists into a united front, and have lost out to rivals with either tribal or more strongly religious appeal. For similar reasons Ikhwan-style parties have made few new converts and little electoral progress in the messy politics of Algeria, Iraq and Yemen.
Anxiety over a Brotherhood-run Arab empire should be tempered too by a better understanding of how the organisation works. The Ikhwan have a tanzim alami, or global organisation, comprised of at least two representatives from each of many Muslim communities across the world. Its nominal leader is Egypt’s Supreme Guide; by tradition lesser representatives kiss his right hand. Some wishfully liken the tanzim to America’s Congress, hoping that it could yet provide an institutional umbrella for a closer confederation of Arab states.
Abortion foes to try to pass ‘personhood’ bill through Mississippi Legislature after failure in ballot box
Though voters soundly rejected a state “fetal personhood” measure that appeared on Mississippi’s November 2011 ballot, reps for Personhood USA say they still have hope — in the state’s legislature.
The group’s Amendment 26, which would have defined life as beginning at the moment of conception, was harshly criticized for being broad and vague. Though Personhood leaders claim they only intend to ban abortion, critics have argued that personhood measures could have negative effects on the use of birth control, in vitro fertilization and disease research.
Because the measure is so controversial (even in Mississippi, a state with only one abortion clinic), lawmakers have said that it might stand a better chance in the Legislature. Nearly 60 percent of Mississippi voters voted against the amendment, despite support from Gov. Haley Barbour and Governor-elect Phil Bryant.
In November, Barbour said that the state Legislature would have been a better place for the bill, as lawmakers could have corrected some of the ambiguities “If somebody had offered legislation in the Mississippi Legislature that says life begins at conception, that would pass,” said Barbour. “However, what has been put on the ballot is a little ambiguous.”
I’m going to offer a small quibble to Dara: it’s not just African Americans who need to be politically concerned about these creeps trying to mainstream white supremacism; rather it is all americans.
If African Americans ever needed another reason to be politically engaged, here’s one: The Ku Klux Klan says it’s giving up cross burnings in favor of the ballot box.
Pastor Travis Pierce, national membership director for the Ku Klux Klan, LLC, told the Huffington Post’s Lucas Kavner that protests and violence are a thing of the past. While the KKK remains committed to defending the rights of white people and preaching against gays, its agenda is better served by lobbying elected officials, Pierce said.
“Even with the best speeches we can come up with, all we get are protesters and thugs who try to drown out our message,” Pierce said. “So we want to take our agenda directly to those who can make something happen. We’ve hired attorneys, and we can take it directly to the government.”