JUNE 4, 2012
Just the other day, someone wrote this:
The United States of America has a black President whose chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Eric Holder, is also black. They have a lot of political power. So how are they using it? Well, one way is to assert to black audiences that voter ID laws are really attempts to disenfranchise black Americans. And liberals think Donald Trump's birther fantasies are offensive?
The two most powerful men in America are black, two of the last three Secretaries of State were black, numerous corporate CEOs and other executives are black, and minorities of many races now win state-wide elections in states that belonged to the Confederacy, but the AG implies that Jim Crow is on the cusp of a comeback.
Mr. Holder's Council of Black Churches address is merely the latest of his election-year moves that charge racial discrimination of one kind or another. These include voting-rights lawsuits to block voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina, intervention in immigration cases in Arizona, and various housing and lending discrimination suits. Whatever the legal merits of these cases, their sudden proliferation in an election year suggests a political motivation.
The courts will eventually expose much of this as meritless, but it's a shame the media won't call Mr. Holder on this strategy before the election. Imagine the uproar if a Republican AG pursued a similar strategy. It's worse than a shame that America's first black Attorney General is using his considerable power to inflame racial antagonism.
So, you ask, what author is this, charging the (excessively?) mild-mannered Eric Holder with deliberate "racial antagonism?" A contributor to some holdover John Birch Society newsletter? An organizer of the official Jefferson Davis holiday that Florida celebrated yesterday? Some Andrew Breitbart acolyte striving for a Drudge link?
No. It was published Friday as the lead editorial in the country's largest newspaper, under the headline "Holder's Racial Incitement." And I find it astonishing that more people haven't been talking about it, because even for the Wall Street Journal editorial page, this was beyond the pale. Consider: in recent years, a number of states, most led by Republican legislatures and governors, have in the past few years been passing laws greatly limiting access to the polls, whether by requiring photo identification, limiting registration efforts, and cutting back early-voting days. They have done so in the name of preventing rampant voter fraud, despite zero evidence that this actually exists. It has not gone unnoticed that most of these new restrictions have been in the South, where, not so long ago at all, there was a wee bit of disagreement over who should be able to vote and who shouldn't. In light of this history -- and federal laws that grew out of that history -- the United States Department of Justice has decided to take a closer look at some of these new laws to make sure that they are not limiting the right to vote. This has not made some folks down South happy. I was at a Mitt Romney rally in Greenville, S.C. where Republican Governor Nikki Haley trumpeted the fact that if Romney is elected, "President Romney [will say] that’s our right," to limit voter access. (The son of George Romney, an ardent civil rights advocate who once said, "As far as I'm concerned, states have no rights. Only people have rights," grinned beside her as she said this.) More recently, Florida, under Republican Gov. Rick Scott, announced that it will proceed with its purge of "non-citizens" from the voter rolls, despite warnings from the Department of Justice, ample evidence that the purge of tens of thousands of names leading up to the 2000 election barred many rightful voters from casting votes (thus helping decide that state's fairly consequential 500-odd vote margin that year) and reports that this more recent purge is also targeting rightful voters and has been slanted toward Democratic and minority voters. (Meanwhile, Florida lost on another front late last week when a judge knocked down some of the state's draconian new limits on voter registration, thus allowing groups like the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote to get back to work, after months of ceasing their operations in the state.)
We've unfortunately come to expect some of this behavior from Southerner politicians bent on keeping a certain order in place. But it's genuinely startling to see an editorial board that purports to offer a business-minded, just-the-numbers brand of conservatism taking up this baton (water cannon?). A president and his attorney general seek to uphold basic of civil rights, the same goal that Dwight Eisenhower took upon himself, however gingerly, more than a half century ago. But this president and attorney are "black," in case you forgot, and thus their dedication to protecting the franchise is "racial incitement." Really, Mr. Gigot?
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