pageok
pageok
pageok
[Abigail Thernstrom, guest-blogging, August 20, 2009 at 3:15am] Trackbacks
A Period Piece

[Note to my lively, thoughtful readers: Your remarks deserve longer responses than I have room for. Very briefly, I agree with the comment: "Since the political makeup tends to correlate at least somewhat with the racial makeup, it is frequently difficult to distinguish these two things," and I do talk about the issue in my book.

[And I also believe that Obama probably performed worse than John Kerry in the South for reasons other than race. To the more conservative southern white ear, Obama must have sounded weak on national defense, and far to the left on domestic policies such as health care. He was not a decorated war veteran. Etc. (More on this point in the book.)]

[And to clear up a confusion: Yes, I do say in Tuesday's post that the preclearance requirements are exceedingly vague, and then asserted yesterday that Georgia's original plan had met the demands of the law. It is the DoJ regs that provide no guidance to the states, but the Supreme Court's standard in Beer v. U.S. (1976) was clear, and it remains the controlling decision. DoJ has created detours around that decision.]

In 2006 the "Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act" (VRARA) was passed with almost no dissent. It amended and renewed section 5 for another quarter century. By the new expiration date, electoral arrangements in the South, the Southwest, Alaska, and a collection of arbitrarily selected counties elsewhere will have been under federal receivership, in effect, for a total of sixty-six years.

Congress had been persuaded that at least until 2031 minority voters in the covered jurisdictions (covered by a formula last updated in 1975) would remain unable to participate in American political life without the benefit of electoral set-asides. Such pessimism is not benign; it distorts public discussions and the formulation of policies involving race.

A serious disconnection from reality surrounds the Voting Rights Act today. By every measure, American politics has been transformed since the 1960s. Blacks hold office at all levels of government, and have reached the pinnacles of virtually every field of private endeavor. Racial prejudice has fallen to historic lows. Yet the passage of the 2006 VRARA was preceded by a sustained, meticulously organized campaign by civil rights groups to persuade Congress that race relations remain frozen in the past, and that America is still plagued by persistent disfranchisement.

Activists were determined to garner such overwhelming support for the act's renewal that no one would dare stop to consider whether these provisions were still appropriate in the twenty-first century.

In passing the VRARA, Congress signed on to a picture that reflected conventional wisdom in the civil rights community and the media. "Discrimination [in voting] today is more subtle than the visible methods used in 1965. However, the effects and results are the same," the House Judiciary Committee reported. "Vestiges of discrimination continue to exist . . . [preventing] minority voters from fully participating in the electoral process," the statute itself read.

Surely, rarely in the rich annals of congressional deceit and self-deception have more false and foolish words been uttered. No meaningful evidence supported such an extraordinary claim.

It cannot be said too strongly or too often: The skepticism of those, like Georgia representative John Lewis, who cannot forget the brutality of those years is understandable. But the South they remember is gone. Today, most southern states have higher black registration rates than those outside the region, and over 900 blacks hold public office in Mississippi alone.

Massive disfranchisement is ancient history—as unlikely to return as segregated water fountains. America is no longer a land in which whites hold the levers of power and black and Hispanic political representation depends on the exercise of extraordinary federal intervention, constitutionally sanctioned only as an emergency measure.

In the presidential election of 2004, a stunning 68.2 percent of the black population in original section 5 states was registered to vote, a rate a few points higher than that in the rest of the country. Black turnout rates, as well, have been impressive.

Whether candidates preferred by the group are able to win elections is another test of electoral progress. By 2008, there were forty-one members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Almost 600 African Americans held seats in state legislatures, and another 8,800 were mayors, sheriffs, sheriffs, school board members, and the like. Forty-seven percent of these black public officials lived in the seven covered states, though those states contained only 30 percent of the nation's black population. The rate of black progress in winning election to state legislatures is also striking.

My book contains much more data -- not all of which paint quite the same rosy picture. But the bottom line is indisputable: black officeholders today have political power. In fact, black voters are the Democratic Party's most reliable constituency. Their unwavering loyalty makes them indispensable to the party's fortunes.

Voting rights advocates argue that elections are still racially polarized. But the highly questionable definition of white bloc voting most commonly used -- whites and blacks generally preferring different candidates -- means it can be found wherever black candidates run campaigns unlikely to attract a majority of whites. By definition, then, all districts in which whites tend to be more politically conservative than blacks are racially polarized.

Without the threat of federal interference, would southern state legislatures feel free to engage in all sorts of disfranchising mischief? It seems wildly improbable. Not even Mississippi -- the state that Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963 described as "sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression" -- can peddle backward. Blacks are today embedded in its political culture.

As a Clarksdale, Mississippi, newspaper editorial noted in June 2008, "There's probably less chance today of election discrimination against minorities occurring in Mississippi—given the high number of African-Americans in elected office, including as county election commissioners—than in many parts of the country not covered by the Voting Rights Act." Yet, section 5 "presumes that minorities are powerless to protect their own election interests in places where they actually have the most clout."

Racial progress rapidly outpaced the law, and the voting rights problems that are now of greatest concern—hanging chads, provisional ballots, glitches in electronic voting, registration hassles, voter identification, and fraud prevention measures -- bear no relationship to those that plagued the South in 1965. Nevertheless, the most radical provisions of the statute live on, addressing yesterday's problems.

Fifteen years ago, one of the most liberal members of the Court came close to describing blacks and Hispanics as members of normal political interest groups. "Minority voters," Justice David Souter said, "are not immune from the obligation to pull, haul, and trade to find common political ground, the virtue of which is not to be slighted in applying a statute meant to hasten the waning of racism in American politics."

America has changed; the South has changed, and it's time to revise the Voting Rights Act as well.

Borris (mail):

And I also believe that Obama probably performed worse than John Kerry in the South for reasons other than race.


Heresy!!!
Stone the apostate!!!!

It has been well established by “everyone” on TV, newspapers, radio and local everyday Democrats in my town and yours that the ONLY reason someone didn’t vote for Obama was because of racism.
And not just racism, but Janeane Garofalo assures us “straight up” racism.
There can be no other explanation.

That is also why anyone would oppose Obama’s health care policies.
8.20.2009 3:50am
TomH (mail):
Speaking from a political viewpoint, there may never be a day when the "Voting Rights Act" will be repealed. Can you imagine, the newspaper stories and imflammatory drivel from the pundits when a congressman or senator proposes that we "take away the voting rights (undoubtedly to be morphed into the 'right to vote') of millions of Americans?"

The sad reality is that failing to renew the act in perpetuity, regardless of its becoming outdated, is a political impossibility.
8.20.2009 6:05am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Yet it also appears that Section 5 is going to have a difficult time surviving intact until its next renewal date.
8.20.2009 7:03am
vn (mail):
Ms. Thernstrom--I'm a white Southerner. There are no doubt many white Southerners who voted against Obama because they would have voted against any Democratic nominee. There may even be a few who would have voted for Kerry but disdained Obama because of his lack of military service. But your comments suggest that you don't think there were voters who opposed Obama simply because of his race. You can't mean that, can you?
8.20.2009 7:32am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I didn't get that suggestion from his post at all.
8.20.2009 7:56am
Steve:
Well of course the post doesn't suggest that, it flat-out says it. The post says "Obama probably performed worse than John Kerry in the South for reasons other than race," not "for reasons in addition to race."

Setting that aside, I think this post, which admirably tries to grapple with reality in several respects, really doesn't touch upon the political context in which Bush and the Republicans chose to renew the Voting Rights Act just before the 2006 election. I actually think that would only serve to buttress the point.
8.20.2009 8:08am
11-B/2O.B4:
Ms Thernstrom's comments suggest that there is no systematic or official framework that denies anyone voting rights, even in the south. One of the many voting rights people enjoy in this country is the right to vote for or against people based on race. No one can tell you who to vote for or why you have to vote. I presume your assumption of racism in voting extends to the other side of the spectrum? I mean, I know black voters are pretty safely Democratic, but 98% (in some southern states)? Or does racism only work one way, the way that disagrees with the President?
8.20.2009 8:19am
corneille1640 (mail) (www):

In passing the VRARA, Congress signed on to a picture that reflected conventional wisdom in the civil rights community and the media. “Discrimination [in voting] today is more subtle than the visible methods used in 1965. However, the effects and results are the same,” the House Judiciary Committee reported. “Vestiges of discrimination continue to exist . . . [preventing] minority voters from fully participating in the electoral process,” the statute itself read.

Surely, rarely in the rich annals of congressional deceit and self-deception have more false and foolish words been uttered. No meaningful evidence supported such an extraordinary claim.

Maybe the House Judiciary committee was thinking of the allegations that, for example, the state of Florida in 2000 supposedly disfranchised black voters (who would likely vote for Gore) by falsely putting many of them on a list of state felons. If those allegations are true--that is, if there was some "understanding" to explicitly disfranchise those voters instead of it all being just a mistake--it's at least plausible that voting rights violations are, now, "more subtle."

As for the statement "the effects and results are the same" as those in the pre-1965 days, yes, that sounds like a lot of hyperbole, and Professor Thernstrom is right to point that out. But the judiciary committee's statement is not, by itself, so "false and foolish" as to be rarely equaled in "the rich annals of congressional deceit."
8.20.2009 8:22am
corneille1640 (mail) (www):

In fact, black voters are the Democratic Party’s most reliable constituency. Their unwavering loyalty makes them indispensable to the party’s fortunes.

Assuming the first sentence is true, the second sentence is only partially true. Yes, the "unswerving loyalty" is indispensable when it comes to a close election in which the Democratic party needs to energize its base. But it also means the Democratic party can take the loyalty of black voters for granted.

Still, this does not challenge Prof. Thernstrom's point about the Voting Rights Act. This seems more to me like the problems inherent in an electoral system in which parties need to build coalitions of constituency, not a "voting rights" problem.
8.20.2009 8:26am
Floridan:
"And I also believe that Obama probably performed worse than John Kerry in the South for reasons other than race."

As a Southerner who lives and works in a fairly conservative community, I think you are wrong. One cannot attribute 100 percent of the opposition to Obama to racism, but it certainly is much higher than you imply, especially among those over 50.
8.20.2009 8:28am
Virginia:
Obama probably performed worse than John Kerry in the South for reasons other than race.

Kerry didn't win any Southern states. Obama won three. How is that performing worse?
8.20.2009 8:32am
Hannibal Lector:
Both parties collude to ensure that as many congressional districts as possible are "safe" for their party. Congress provides them almost unanimous support in these endeavors because a seat that is "safe" for a party is usually a seat that is "safe" for an incumbent. Any tool that can be used for this purpose, e.g., the Voting Rights Act, will be. And it is disingenuous of Ms. Thernstrom to suggest that it is the Republicans more than the Democrats who have played this game.

Even in the instances she cites the Democrats have not really opposed the Republicans' gerrymandering. After all, the Democrats are also obtaining "safe", Democrat, minority Congressional districts to balance "safe" Republican Congressional districts. This is not an insignificant consideration in a region that's been tending to drift further and further away from the Democrats' grasp.
8.20.2009 8:35am
devil's advocate (mail):
This may seem slightly off topic, but I couldn't help but relate the anachronistic and misplaced applications of the Voting Rights Act and its progeny to a recent opinion from the Board of Regents for Higher Education in RI that enuciated the initial basis of a policy against any supplemental or contributory public school fees for parents as lying in a 1917 decision that disallowed fees for night schools run for the children who were working in mills.

If, nonethless, resigning ourselves to a kind of Groundhogs Day version of electoral law, as TomH reasonably proposes we are likely to continue to live, one could examine the extant proportional theories and propose that the justice department start rearranged electoral votes for president as there should never be a black president, statistically speaking.


VN


But your comments suggest that you don't think there were voters who opposed Obama simply because of his race. You can't mean that, can you?


Daniel Chapman:


I didn't get that suggestion from his post at all.



I believe you are referring to Abagail and mean "her" post. While I think the overall tone of her posts here makes it clear she probably doesn't mean that. Presumably you refer to this parenthetical response to previous comments at the top of the post:


I also believe that Obama probably performed worse than John Kerry in the South for reasons other than race.


I read this sentence as meaning that "other factors significantly outweighed race" rather than "race was not a factor".

Brian
8.20.2009 8:50am
Steve:
Yes, the "unswerving loyalty" is indispensable when it comes to a close election in which the Democratic party needs to energize its base. But it also means the Democratic party can take the loyalty of black voters for granted.

They can only take the voters for granted if the voters are permitted to vote. The argument, I think, was that since black voters are such an important part of the modern Democratic coalition, we can expect the Democratic Party to fight aggressively against any efforts to disenfranchise black voters. In other words, in the spirit of Carolene Products, the natural functioning of the political process will protect their rights.
8.20.2009 9:27am
Angus:
I also believe that Obama probably performed worse than John Kerry in the South for reasons other than race.
I read this as saying "race played no role at all." As for Virginia's comments about why Obama is considered to have run worse than Kerry despite winning 3 "southern" states. Obama focused a lot of effort on VA, NC, and FL, all of which have seen massive influxes of northerners or immigrants over the last 20 years. In southern states which have not, Obama did much, much, much worse than Kerry.

Stenstrom and her husband have long been declaring that there is no more racism towards blacks. It wasn't true 20 years ago, and it's still not true today. Progress made? Yes. Racism gone? Hell no.
8.20.2009 9:28am
Fedya (www):
In 2006 the "Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act" (VRARA) was passed with almost no dissent.

Can we stop adding people's names to the front of bills like this? One person's name in front of the bill would be bad enough, but three?

It's almost as obnoxious as "[insert child's name here] Law", where legislators find a poster child who suffered some calamity, and use that to try to push their bill through.
8.20.2009 9:45am
Steve:
Can we stop adding people's names to the front of bills like this? One person's name in front of the bill would be bad enough, but three?

Hey, it was a Republican bill. If you're going to suck up by proposing the bill in the first place, you might as well keep sucking up!
8.20.2009 9:55am
corneille1640 (mail) (www):

Without the threat of federal interference, would southern state legislatures feel free to engage in all sorts of disfranchising mischief? It seems wildly improbable. Not even Mississippi -- the state that Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963 described as “sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression” -- can peddle backward. Blacks are today embedded in its political culture.

Maybe some states would if there were no threat of federal intervention. Perhaps not those states with a majority black electorate, but who knows about others? Such disfranchisement would not come without a struggle, but strange things happen all the time. Sometimes history is such that the unthinkable becomes very plausible in a surprisingly short period of time.

I'm not suggesting the Voting Rights Act, as it has evolved, does not have the problems Professor Thernstrom attributes to it. But I'm not convinced that the federal government should assume a passive role in ensuring voting rights. To be fair, I haven't seen Professor Thernstrom advocate a "passive role," but such a role seems at least one possible outcome in ending the more aggressive provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

I'm not saying that there's necessarily a slippery slope here. I just think that if we change the Voting Rights Act, we should do so with caution and with respect for the possible consequences of doing so.
8.20.2009 9:58am
davod (mail):
"Maybe the House Judiciary committee was thinking of the allegations that, for example, the state of Florida in 2000 supposedly disfranchised black voters (who would likely vote for Gore) by falsely putting many of them on a list of state felons. If those allegations are true--that is, if there was some "understanding" to explicitly disfranchise those voters instead of it all being just a mistake--it's at least plausible that voting rights violations are, now, "more subtle."

The US Civil Rights Commission did issue a report Executive Summry. A report based more on innuendo than fact as you will see as you read the dissentreleased by four commissioners:

""The Commission’s report has little basis in fact. Its conclusions are based on a deeply flawed statistical analysis coupled with anecdotal evidence of limited value, unverified by a proper factual nvestigation.

This shaky foundation is used to justify charges of the most serious nature—questioning the legitimacy of the American electoral process and the validity of the most recent presidential election. The report’s central finding—that there was “widespread disenfranchisement and denial of voting rights” in Florida’s 2000 presidential election—does not withstand even a cursory legal or scholarly scrutiny.

Leveling such a serious charge without clear justification is an unwarranted assault upon the public’s confidence in American democracy.”
8.20.2009 10:00am
subpatre (mail):
There seems to be an extension of "racism is bad" into the realm of "racism must be eradicated ... if necessary by government". So who believes that the government can force people to be colorblind; to change people's thoughts and inner beliefs? Anybody believing that needs to admit they also advocate 're-education camps' with a gulag to back it.

We know the phrase "all men are created equal" isn't literally (physically) true; all are to be equal under the law. The government's role is to guarantee equal access, equal rights, and equal legal treatment of all citizens. It is NOT the government's role to guarantee or artificially force equal outcomes.

There should be no legal limit on racist thoughts, racist beliefs, or even on racist votes. Racism is ugly, but unless it deprives someone of their rights, is not the government's business. Misogyny is ugly, but until it infringes on someone's rights, is not the government's business. Same with dislike of beards, baldness, or a dozen other genetic factors that trigger innate, irrational prejudices.

In the meantime, commenters should distinguish between racist beliefs and thoughts —including votes— and racist acts causing diminished rights.
8.20.2009 10:29am
JSinAZ:
"colorblind" - talk about a passe' turn of phrase... No one that speaks on a public platform (at least that I can recall) even mentions "colorblindness" as a quality of society to promote.

No, we are deep in racialism land, where every hue of skin is a political statement and all are part of racialist identity groups, whether aware of it or not.

I think it was the explicit abandonment of "colorblindness" as a civic virtue by the supposed liberal left that made me stop self-identifying as a liberal. I do not have a desire to be part of a racialist identity movement - and of course since I'm caucasian, belonging to a racialist group would make me a bad person, but not someone of a different epidermal albedo. Such are the times we live in that the "liberal left" gives the Aryan Nation racialist groups a reason-to-be, yet is so intellectually dishonest as to not support the ultimate weapon against such groups - true social colorblindness.
8.20.2009 10:56am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I read this as saying "race played no role at all." As for Virginia's comments about why Obama is considered to have run worse than Kerry despite winning 3 "southern" states. Obama focused a lot of effort on VA, NC, and FL, all of which have seen massive influxes of northerners or immigrants over the last 20 years. In southern states which have not, Obama did much, much, much worse than Kerry.
There are no states where Obama did "much much much worse" than Kerry. There are only a handful of states where Obama did a little worse than Kerry.
8.20.2009 11:04am
Sam Thernstrom (mail):
Angus writes:

"Stenstrom and her husband have long been declaring that there is no more racism towards blacks. It wasn't true 20 years ago, and it's still not true today. Progress made? Yes. Racism gone? Hell no."

Aside from the fact that Angus can't even come close to spelling "Thernstrom" correctly (really, how hard is that?): This is a malicious, ugly, completely false accusation. It should embarrass Angus to tell such absurd lies; obviously he has no serious critique of the actual arguments being presented here. The question is not whether racism is gone, the question is whether racism today persists at a level that still justifies the constitutionally unique intrusion of the Voting Rights Act upon rights of states.
8.20.2009 11:11am
Floridan:
subpatre: "So who believes that the government can force people to be colorblind; to change people's thoughts and inner beliefs? Anybody believing that needs to admit they also advocate 're-education camps' with a gulag to back it."

This sounds almost exactly like what I heard from my grandfather (born in southern Georgia in the 1890s) back in the 1960s. His argument was that if the government could make feed blacks (not the word he used) in your restaurant, or accept them as guests in your motel, it was only a matter of time before the government would force blacks and whites to marry.

He died pretty much unreconstructed, but he came to accept dining in the same restaurant with blacks and the breakdown of other Old South social mores.
8.20.2009 11:24am
Steve:
A report based more on innuendo than fact as you will see as you read the dissent released by four commissioners...

Thanks for linking that, it really helps me understand better where this particular blogger is coming from. Although I only count two names on that dissent rather than four.

I don't necessarily agree that the Commission's report was evidence-free just because John Lott performed a "more sophisticated" statistical analysis that just happened to reach a different result than the expert relied upon by the Commission, but it's a valid point of view.
8.20.2009 11:36am
Jeremiah J. (mail):
"To the more conservative southern white ear, Obama must have sounded weak on national defense, and far to the left on domestic policies such as health care."

Obama didn't underperform in "the South". He underperformed in Appalachia and the deep South, among whites. We're talking about 50-80 point blowouts among whites in these areas. That's pretty striking, and completely different than other very conservative parts of the country (and a lot of Appalachia isn't that conservative). Why did he do better among conservative rural, white parts of the upper South and Midwest? Why did Obama do much better in Utah than Kerry did? I guess Utahns were really eating up that far left health care message and peacenik foreign policy. Hearing Janeane Garofalo give interpretations of Southern voting patterns must be pretty annoying to conservatives, but this stuff about ideological voting is really bizarre when we're talking about the South. Voting is more cultural here even when a black guy named Hussein isn't on the ballot.
8.20.2009 11:38am
Virginia:
Obama focused a lot of effort on VA, NC, and FL, all of which have seen massive influxes of northerners or immigrants over the last 20 years. In southern states which have not, Obama did much, much, much worse than Kerry.

No, he didn't. Obama outperformed Kerry in eight of the eleven states of the former Confederacy. Only in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas did Obama underperform Kerry, and of those three, the difference was significant only in Arkansas.
8.20.2009 12:10pm
Federal Dog:
"Stenstrom and her husband have long been declaring that there is no more racism towards blacks."


If Dr. Thernstrom and her husband have, indeed, long declared that, it shouldn't be hard for you to furnish examples of those declarations.
8.20.2009 12:11pm
Floridan:
Virginia: "No, he didn't. Obama outperformed Kerry in eight of the eleven states of the former Confederacy."

Perhaps Dr. Thernstrom was referring to the Southern white vote when she said Obama underperformed Kerry. It is, after all, a tendency of those on the right to treat the white vote as the gold standard of electoral politics.

Of course, as Jeremiah J. noted above, this makes her argument that racism was not a significant factor even more implausible.
8.20.2009 12:25pm
MAM:
Once the older generation leaves this earth, many of the ills of the past will also leave us. The old warriors like John Lewis and Jesse Jackson have a far more rigid view of black/white relationships...one in which black power is isolated and undervalued and the majority is hyper-focused on racial oppression. On the other side you have the unrepentent supremacists like Pat Buchannan who is perfectly fine with the subjugation of black people and a social order where blacks are 2nd class citizens.

A new generation will push forward the tremendous transformation caused by the Civil Rights Movement.
8.20.2009 1:03pm
MarkField (mail):

There are no states where Obama did "much much much worse" than Kerry. There are only a handful of states where Obama did a little worse than Kerry.


This is correct, but as Jeremiah J. pointed out, the key fact is that Obama did much worse among white voters. And it's that fact which needs an explanation, one which hasn't been provided in these posts.
8.20.2009 1:03pm
MarkField (mail):

If Dr. Thernstrom and her husband have, indeed, long declared that, it shouldn't be hard for you to furnish examples of those declarations.


According to my quick search, she wrote an article in 1978 for Public Interest magazine in which she denounced Section 5 of the VRA. That does tend to suggest her views expressed here are not the result of recent developments -- which I had assumed from her posts -- but of long-standing ideology.

I should emphasize that this is NOT what Angus originally said, but it is, I think, worthy of note.
8.20.2009 1:18pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
People in the deep South tend to be quite patriotic, and Jeremiah Wright bothered a lot of people very much. If Kerry with his background, political history, and baggage (or lack thereof) had been black, it's hard to say how the vote would have gone. Regardless, there are no doubt white folks who would not have voted for him due to race, as there are black folks who would have voted for him, for the same reason.

I'd like to have seen a matchup between Hillary and Condoleezza Rice. I think some heads would have exploded.
8.20.2009 1:31pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Mark, the American Prospect's description of the article you refer to:
The following spring, she published her findings in an article called "The Odd Evolution of the Voting Rights Act." The evolution was "odd" because the act was no longer being applied to eliminate obstacles that disenfranchised black voters--its original and sole purpose, in her view. The Voting Rights Act was being used instead to ensure that blacks and "language minorities," such as Mexicans, were elected to office according to their numerical strength.
8.20.2009 1:39pm
DerHahn (mail):
That's pretty striking, and completely different than other very conservative parts of the country (and a lot of Appalachia isn't that conservative). Why did he do better among conservative rural, white parts of the upper South and Midwest?

This article is from the primaries but I think it does a good job explaining the difference in results. In a nutshell, the less likely a white voter is to have daily contact with blacks the more likely they were to vote for Obama.

And note that this article is talking about votes in Democratic primaries, so racist Republicans are a minor factor, if any at all.
8.20.2009 1:56pm
Le Mur (mail):
"By definition, then, all districts in which whites tend to be more politically conservative than blacks are racially polarized."

That'd be just about the entire U.S. of A.
8.20.2009 2:18pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
I'm intrigued by the fact that some folks think Kerry vastly overperformed Obama among whites in southern Appalachia because of Kerry's military / patriotism credentials. Because, of course, Republicans and Bush supporters graciously acknowledged Kerry's heroism in Vietnam, and didn't make questioning Kerry's service, purple hearts, experience on Swift Boats, etc. a big part of their campaign at all. And as to patriotism, of course the Republicans never suggested that Kerry's role in criticizing the war after he came home was in any way unpatrotic or contrary to the values of the military.

Said another way, Laura, I think that the "Swift Boat" attacks, like them or not, were a bigger part of the Republican's campaign in 2004 than mentions of Wright were in 2008, and that fairly or not, those attacks undermined Kerry's "military cred" more than Wright undermined Obama's "patriotism cred."

Lots of folks did not vote for Obama for lots of reasons that were not racism. But some folks did not vote for Obama because of racism.
8.20.2009 2:19pm
David Drake:
MarkField said:



[A]s Jeremiah J. pointed out, the key fact is that Obama did much worse among white voters. And it's that fact which needs an explanation, one which hasn't been provided in these posts.


quoting Jermamiah J:


Obama didn't underperform in "the South". He underperformed in Appalachia and the deep South, among whites. We're talking about 50-80 point blowouts among whites in these areas.


I'm sorry, I've looked at the deep south and I looked at Appalachia.
but I'm not seeing many huge swings of votes from 2004 to 2008 in most southern counties that are overwhelmingly white, nor any 80 point McCain blowouts in most of the majority white southern counties where Bush did not also carry 80% or so.

USA Today county by county results

Please show me where you are getting your numbers.
8.20.2009 2:30pm
Kara:

The question is not whether racism is gone, the question is whether racism today persists at a level that still justifies the constitutionally unique intrusion of the Voting Rights Act upon rights of states.


Stephen Thernstrom, your wife has been making that argument for, at least, 17 years. Abroad at Home; Racism Lives
8.20.2009 2:31pm
Angus:
Aside from the fact that Angus can't even come close to spelling "Thernstrom" correctly (really, how hard is that?)
Mea Culpa. I had orginally typed Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom, then deleted it but still had it in my mind and so ran it together into "Stenstrom." Indeed, I'm more familiar with his solo work than with her solo work.

I stand by my statement. The whole point of their book America in Black and White a decade ago was to contrast racism pre-1970ish (the account of which is very well done) with the 1990s to imply that racism just isn't a major issue anymore. I'm not saying that the Thernstroms oppose racial equality (in fact, I believe they are strongly in favor of it), but I am saying that their view of the racial present is unrealistic.

Unlike them, I do believe that some Southern states would walk back on things like school integration, and would permit subtle and not-so-subtle challenges to black voting rights absent a threat from the federal government. And I say that as someone who has lived in 3 different southern states over the last three decades.
8.20.2009 2:45pm
Kelvin:
David, look here


There wasn’t any specific Appalachian swing toward McCain. Instead, there was a swing toward McCain among whites of the South and border states (with the striking exception of the mid-Atlantic states). It just mainly showed up on the map in Appalachia and a state like Oklahoma because the “whiter” demographic balance there allowed it to appear.
8.20.2009 2:50pm
David Drake:
DerHahn--

The claims in the article you link to are directly contrary to my experience. I grew up in a county in Michigan in which there were very few black families. My wife grew up in northern Massachusetts where there were few black families. We both went to college near Detroit, Michigan (Ann Arbor). We now live in metro Atlanta which is majority black.

My wife and I were struck when we first moved to Georgia by how much and how well blacks and whites interacted here as compared with in the north. In Michigan--even in Ann Arbor--there was very little black/white interaction, and many, many racial epithets used by whites while in the company of other whites--even among college students at the very liberal University of Michigan. In contrast, in Georgia, while I sometimes hear derogatory racial characterizations, I rarely hear the kind of racial epithets I heard in Michigan, or, unfortunately, that I atill hear from my friends in Michigan and my wife's relatives in New England.
8.20.2009 2:52pm
Putting Two and Two...:

Hey, it was a Republican bill. If you're going to suck up by proposing the bill in the first place, you might as well keep sucking up!


And don't discount the benefit of stacking three names on one bill, thus relieving the pander-pressure to submit three separate civil-rights bills...
8.20.2009 2:55pm
David Drake:



. . . I do believe that some Southern states would walk back on things like school integration, and would permit subtle and not-so-subtle challenges to black voting rights absent a threat from the federal government. And I say that as someone who has lived in 3 different southern states over the last three decades.


Angus--

I agree with that--especially school integration where I have seen it generally increasing rather than decreasing where I live (under the cover of Christian schools). I would be loathe to repeal the VRA entirely. And I think that Ms. Thernstrom would as well, after reading her series of posts.

But it is one thing to "keep up the pressure" and another use that pressure to force the sort of racial gerrymandering that Ms. Thernstrom has been talking about.

As I said, I would like to see the VRA applied to the entire country, perhaps under the Constitutional power of Congress to "guaranty a republican form of government" to the states under Article IV Section 4 of the Constitution.
8.20.2009 3:19pm
RPT (mail):
"Laura:

People in the deep South tend to be quite patriotic, and Jeremiah Wright bothered a lot of people very much."

I don't believe that southerners are more patriotic than anyone else. It is only that their expressions are deemed authentic while other expressions are not. Are the "teabaggers" patriotic to depict Obama as Hilter? Toby Keith? This is a cultural stereotype.

Furthermore, Rev. Wright is standard Pentecostal; little different in apocalyptic theology or tone than John Hagee, Pat Robertson and many others: God punishes the U.S. for its municipal (New Orleans) or collective (racism) sins. It common to hear while ministers in this realm (as well as the charismatics like Lou Engle) speak of God's punishment for gays or abortion, et al.
8.20.2009 4:06pm
MarkField (mail):

Mark, the American Prospect's description of the article you refer to:


Thanks. I was working quickly and didn't find that.


Please show me where you are getting your numbers.


Again a quick search because I don't have time for more, but see here. The figures in the link show that the problem was limited to 4 states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
8.20.2009 4:09pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

I don't believe that southerners are more patriotic than anyone else. It is only that their expressions are deemed authentic while other expressions are not. Are the "teabaggers" patriotic to depict Obama as Hilter? Toby Keith? This is a cultural stereotype.


I don't know who you're quoting when you say "teabaggers". The people who attend the tea parties don't call themselves that. Perhaps you noticed that the tea parties weren't confined to the South, so I'm not sure what point you are making here.


Furthermore, Rev. Wright is standard Pentecostal; little different in apocalyptic theology or tone than John Hagee, Pat Robertson and many others: God punishes the U.S. for its municipal (New Orleans) or collective (racism) sins.


Hagee, Robertson, etc. never said "God damn America". It's one thing to say that God has or will punish America, it's quite another to call upon God to damn America. That is not standard Pentecostal.
8.20.2009 7:46pm
Asher Steinberg (mail):
[And I also believe that Obama probably performed worse than John Kerry in the South for reasons other than race. To the more conservative southern white ear, Obama must have sounded weak on national defense, and far to the left on domestic policies such as health care. He was not a decorated war veteran. Etc. (More on this point in the book.)]

This seems willfully self-deluded. Post Swift-Boat, I'm not sure that Kerry wouldn't have done just as well if he had never been a veteran at all. I'm not sure that Obama ever sounded far to the left of Kerry, even if he is. And obviously, Kerry was in a much tougher spot politically than Obama, who benefited enormously from the tanking economy, massive unpopularity of the GOP, etc. So I do think that race was a major reason, if not the overriding reason, for Obama's performance in the South.
8.20.2009 8:26pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
The VRA /does/ apply to the entire country. The minority-majority mandate stems from section 2, not 5. Section 5 places an additional burden of preclearance on top of that, allowing DoJ as well as interest groups to force gerrymandering.
8.20.2009 11:57pm
subpatre (mail):
So where does it end? Asher Steinberg blathers on about Obama and southern racism, when the facts say the exact opposite. Obama took Florida, N Carolina and Virginia; southern states lost to Kerry.

In the former confederacy, Obama overtook Kerry in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, S Carolina, and Texas. Former border state West Virginia stayed the same as 2004; but Obama got more in Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas. Obama only lost percentages in Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee.

Where does it end? Overlayed electoral maps shows the changing votes in which there is no 'southern', no 'Appalachian', and no 'scots-irish settler' patterns. Sharp differences at state boundaries tell the story of targeted campaign efforts and motivating state races —standard campaign fare— not racism. Movement away from Democrats in 2008 are also found in Oklahoma, New York, and Massachusetts; not 'southern' by any measure.

There is no widespread disenfranchisement, no denial or obstruction of the right to vote. Theories of racial discrimination in voting fail —consistently— when applied to the reality of elections in southern states. [Making up new stuff after each election seems to be standard fare though.] There is no more discrimination in southern states than in northern or western states.
8.21.2009 1:45am
davod (mail):
"Furthermore, Rev. Wright is standard Pentecostal; little different in apocalyptic theology or tone than John Hagee, Pat Robertson and many others:"


Wright is a radical leftist priest who preaches Black liberation theology.
8.21.2009 7:46am
Dmitriuse (mail) (www):
Кому интересно пишите
8.22.2009 3:11pm

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Account:
Password:
Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.