Jim Crow

The thousands of reporters who departed the nation’s capital to cover the Republican National Convention in Florida have done an admirable job covering an important political event. But a big story taking place in the national media’s own backyard, one arguably even more important than the convention, slipped by almost entirely unnoticed: the federal court case pitting South Carolina against the Department of Justice over the state’s controversial Voter ID law.

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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.

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If X, Then Why?

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention By Manning Marable (Viking Press, 594 pp., $30) I. When Malcolm X died in a hail of assassin’s gunfire at the Audubon Ballroom in February 1965, the mainstream media in the United States was quick to suggest that he reaped the harvest of bloodshed he had brazenly sown.

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Yes, we know we’re tempting fate. But we figure there’s a 50 percent chance Obama will get reelected, and in any case he needs an agenda to campaign on. So we’ve asked a number of TNR writers to explain what they think Obama should focus on for the next four years if he wins in November. Click here to read the collected contributions. If he were to earn a second term, Barack Obama should at least initiate the process of ending the War on Drugs. One reason is that the War on Drugs has been a massive failure by any serious estimation.

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The Manhattan Institute just released a new study by economists Ed Glaeser and Jacob Vigdor called “The End of the Segregated Century.” It cheerfully notes that segregation is at its lowest level since 1910 and that all-white neighborhoods “are virtually extinct.” Their report seems accurate enough in describing the changes and is consistent, in many respects, with other research. Yet, in focusing exclusively on change, the report fails to convey that segregation is still quite high throughout much of America.

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I. On a hot Saturday in September 1962, I crowded with my brothers and cousins into my aunt and uncle’s station wagon and drove off to war. Passing through our county in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, we headed toward Charles Town, West Virginia, then crossed over the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers at Harpers Ferry into Maryland. We had traveled through the familiar historic landscape of Stonewall Jackson’s skirmishes, Mosby’s raids, Sheridan’s ride, and John Brown’s capture and hanging to witness the centennial re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam.

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God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right By Daniel K. Williams (Oxford University Press, 372 pp., $29.95) From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism By Darren Dochuk (W.W. Norton, 520 pp., $35)  In the presidential election of 1976, the Democrat Jimmy Carter split the votes of American white evangelical Protestants almost evenly with the Republican Gerald Ford. With a clear plurality of at least ten percentage points, Carter did even better among the nation’s white Baptists.

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You are familiar with the hypothesis that Barack Obama genetically inherited a disposition toward radical Kenyan anti-colonial thinking through his absent father. Now comes Cornel West, inevitably expressing his bitter disappointment with Obama's corporate sellout ways, explicating the opposite hypothesis: “I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white.

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WikiLeaks recently released a trove of secret risk assessments regarding nearly every prisoner who has ever been held at Guantánamo Bay. I have been continually involved in Guantánamo litigation longer than any lawyer in the world, having been counsel of record in Rasul v. Bush, the first case that went to the Supreme Court from Guantánamo. Over the years, I have defended a number of prisoners at the base. Yet, in the Kafkaesque way that these things work, I cannot comment on the WikiLeaks material because they remain classified.

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(Join John B. Judis and Richard Just at 1 p.m. on January 20 for a livestream discussion about the Republicans' return.) In 1960, the political scientist Clinton Rossiter began his classic text, Parties and Politics in America, with the following memorable words: “No America without democracy, no democracy without politics, no parties without compromise and moderation.” Rossiter saw U.S.

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