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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Why the GOP is not for me

(C)Jackson Thoreau

I'm a blond-haired, blue-eyed, middle-class, middle-aged white guy who has lived most of my life in Dallas, Tx., probably the country's bastion of old-school racism.

I haven't been the victim of racism myself – I don't subscribe to the reverse racism theory leveled by many closet Republican racists like William Bennett, who recently in the National Review equated universities with affirmative action policies that attempt to level the playing field with the same type of racism exhibited by the Ku Klux Klan, which has engaged in terrorism and murder for decades. Because of my whitebread appearance, many white Republicans have felt comfortable enough around me during various times in my adult life to let their guard down and express their true feelings on matters of race.

Big mistake. This column is part of my payback for having to endure all those sickening comments. It's part of my payback for Republicans refusing to heed my responses that I don't appreciate their racist comments and them acting like there's something wrong with me because I don't play along.

I know from experience that Trent Lott is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to racism in the Republican Party.

I can't count the number of times some Anglo conservative has used the N-word in reference to African-Americans in front of me, even towards those they root for, such as Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith. I can't count the number of racial "jokes" or references some white City Council member, police officer, businessman, or other establishment figure - whom I know is a Republican - has told to my face. A popular "joke" during this time of year by such racist Republicans is, "What are you doing for Martin Luther ‘Coon' Day?" Or they will snicker, "Have you learned anything during ‘Black Ass' History Month?"

I've sat at high school football games in Republican-dominated towns as Anglo adults in the stands taunted the lone black player on the opposing team using that N-word. I've attended all-white meetings – as a reporter, not participant - in which elitist Republicans have discussed getting around the Voting Rights Act by lobbying for requirements that voters have to own property. I didn't need someone to spell out what they were talking about – they wanted some way to keep blacks from voting.

In the 1920s, Dallas had more Ku Klux Klan members per capita than any other large U.S. city. The city had an actual "segregation of the races" clause written in to its charter as late as 1968. Peter Gent, a former Cowboy player and author of classics like North Dallas Forty, says he was shocked to arrive from the Midwest in the mid-1960s to witness such blatant Jim Crow segregation. For example, the team's black players had to drive an extra hour from their segregated South Dallas neighborhoods to reach practice in North Dallas. Through lawsuits, protests, and other measures, the blatant racist policies are gone, but they have been replaced with subtle, back-door racism executed from still all-white country clubs and subdivisions in the suburbs.

Sure, the white racists around here used to be mostly Democrats, who hated Lincoln-style Republicans who forced Reconstruction on them after the Civil War. But most of those have left the Democratic Party for the friendlier-for-them confines of the Republican Party, where they don't have to rub elbows with African-Americans at the multi-cultural Democratic functions that contrast with Republican events like black and white keys on a piano.

Many of the high-profile African-American Republicans are of mixed race, anyways – Colin Powell, for example, is part black, white, and Indian. In fact, Powell could be more white than black, with English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry mixed in with African and Indian. There's nothing wrong with that, of course – many Americans have some mixed blood. But let's be honest – the average white Republican would rather have a light-skinned mulatto move in next door than a dark-skinned African-American.

Name a white public figure who espouses racist views, and the vast majority of the time he or she is affiliated with the Republican Party [yes, there is racism exhibited by some African-American public figures, but that's the subject for another column]. David Duke, the former Klansman and Louisiana state representative, chaired the Republican Parish Executive Committee of the largest Republican parish in Louisiana as late as 2000, when he skipped the country and eventually was convicted of fraud and tax evasion. Many Republicans are associated with the openly-racist Council for Conservative Citizens, including outgoing Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, who has spoken before the segregationist group, and Republican National Committee leader Buddy Witherspoon, who has resisted calls that he resign his CCC membership.

As the Internet site, evilGOPbastards.com, points out, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Republican, launched his career as a GOP operative in 1964 by harassing black voters. Republican Attorney General John Ashcroft opposed racial integration and the appointment of African Americans to offices as Missouri governor and attorney general and has uttered pro-Confederate views.

The Republican Party in general launched a strategy during the late 1960s to capture the southern racist vote by opposing affirmative action, supporting the rights of states like South Carolina to fly the Confederate flag in front of public buildings, and similar positions. Dubya Bush himself spoke before the segregationist Bob Jones University in South Carolina, genuflected before the Confederate flag, and helped implement the racist Willie Horton ad during the 1988 presidential campaign of Bush Sr., who approved the racist ad after lobbying by his son. Both Bush's have appointed many racists - both subtle and overt - to high offices, who now work to further erode civil rights.

White House strategist Karl Rove also aided with the racist Horton ad and oversaw the racist 2000 South Carolina smear campaign against Sen. John McCain, which alluded to McCain's "black child," who actually is an adopted daughter from Bangladesh. While in Congress from 1979 until 1989, Dick Cheney opposed measures strengthening laws against housing discrimination and collecting hate-crime data. Cheney supported apartheid in the racist South African regime, even as it crumbled. Republican politicians in Georgia and South Carolina, such as Sonny Perdue, the new Republican governor of Georgia, were elected in 2002 on platforms that included "restoring pride" in the Confederate flag.

Who can forget the Florida 2000 recount battle, when white supremacists rallied for Republicans who embraced their support? What about Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush's and former Bush-state-campaign-co-chair-Secretary-of-State-turned-Congresswoman Katherine Harris' openly racist system of purges before the 2000 election that took the names of mostly African-American voters off the rolls? What about the police roadblocks near black precincts on election days? And how about the Republican warnings in communities across the country about impending black voter fraud that usually occur a few days before an election, not to mention misleading fliers circulated by Republican operatives in African-American neighborhoods telling them of different days to vote or wrongly warning that their criminal backgrounds and parking tickets will be checked to try to intimidate them against voting?

Getting to Lott, Republicans still think highly enough of him to make Lott chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, despite his public banishment as Senate Majority Leader and a racist record that includes far more than a few errant comments. As our last elected president, Bill Clinton, recently said, "[Lott] just embarrassed [Republican leaders] by saying in Washington what they do on the back roads every day." And as Jack Hughes of evilGOPbastards.com writes, the majority of Republican senators who elected Lott as their leader "must either share his views [which were so often repeated that nobody could plead ignorance of Lott's sympathies], or were at the very least ‘comfortable' with a leader that held those beliefs."

Indeed, many senators, such as new Majority Leader Bill Frist and Don Nickles, the first Senate Republican to call for Lott's resignation as majority leader – not because he's a racist but because it was giving Republicans bad publicity - have a civil rights voting record nearly identical to Lott, according to the NAACP. One of the worst – perhaps even worse than Lott – is Jefferson Sessions of Alabama. Sessions has called a black assistant U.S. attorney "boy" and a white civil rights attorney a "disgrace to his race." As a prosecutor, Sessions pursued civil rights workers on phony voter fraud charges. As Alabama attorney general, he again pursued allegations of voter fraud in African-American communities, looked the other way in Anglo communities, and refused to aggressively investigate burnings and bombings of black churches. He also said he thought KKK members were "OK" until he heard some might have smoked marijuana and charged the NAACP with being "un-American" and "Communist-inspired." Despite such a past, Bush and other Republicans have campaigned for Sessions.

The other Republican senator from Alabama, Richard Shelby, callously equated Lott's verbal criticism in the media with an atrocious physical act of violence against African-Americans and others. "I think we should not lynch him," Shelby told CNN.

Frist, himself, has his own racial skeletons. He was a member of the all-white Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville, Tenn., before running for the Senate in 1994. Some believe the National Republican Senatorial Committee headed by Frist was behind the intimidation of minority voters in recent years.

Then there is Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who as governor of that state, issued a proclamation recognizing "Confederate History and Heritage Month." Allen, the new National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, also displays a Confederate flag in his living room, according to a recent New York Times column.

Moving over to the U.S. House, there is Cass Ballenger. The white Republican from North Carolina recently told the Charlotte Observer that he had "segregationist" feelings and called former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, an African-American Democrat from Georgia, a "bitch." In an ensuring radio interview, Ballenger, the Deputy Majority Whip and a member of the House Republican Steering Committee who has a black lawn jockey in his yard that an aide recently painted white, refused to apologize to McKinney, calling her divisive, pushy, and "less than patriotic."

"One must wonder whether [Ballenger] would have made the same statement about a white congressman he considered to be pushy or divisive," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization of Women. "I think not. His statements demonstrated beliefs about race and gender that do not belong in the U.S. Congress."

While some like Democrats.com and Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, called for Ballenger to resign, most ignored his racist comments, as they have other Republicans' racism. You can email Ballenger at http://ballenger.house.gov/contact.asp, if you don't think his views are right.

There are many other examples. In Texas, an aide to new Republican Sen. John Cornyn derisively dismissed the Democrats fielding a Hispanic, African-American, and Anglo in the top three state races in 2002 as a "racial quota." Meanwhile, the top three Republican candidates were – you guessed it – white. So were the Republicans fielding the usual white-only quota?

Rep. Tom Craddick, the new Texas House Republican leader, was one of a small group to vote against establishing a Martin Luther King Jr. state holiday in 1987. He repeated his opposition to the holiday in a 1991 vote that clarified the day. Unlike Lott, Craddick has yet to publicly apologize for those votes.

In Rochester, N.Y., Monroe County Executive Jack Doyle, a white Republican, recently derided Mayor William Johnson Jr., a black Democrat. "If there was a mayor that looked like me, it would be a whole different landscape," Doyle told a local reporter.

A recent article by USA Today cited several other examples of recent insensitive remarks made by Republican public officials and none by Democratic officials because reporters could not find any – believe me, they would have included some by Democrats if they found them. Democratic Sens. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Fritz Hollings of South Carolina have made some racist remarks in the past, but not recently enough to run in that article.

Racism, especially subtle racism, does exist in many people across the board. It especially comes out during times of crisis. In the week following September 11, 2001, Arab-Americans – a group that includes my wife and two children - reported a significant upswing in hate crimes, including murders, against them. A Gallup poll conducted September 14-15 found respondents evenly divided over whether Arab-Americans should be required to carry special identity cards. Two late September polls found that most respondents favored police profiling of Arab-Americans. A December 2001 poll by the Institute for Public Affairs at the University of Illinois found that more than 25 percent of respondents said Arab-Americans should surrender more rights than others.

Profiling someone simply due to his or her race is racism, period. You can always justify your racism by saying you are concerned about your security. But who's to say the next terrorist won't be white like Timothy McVeigh who bombed the Oklahoma building in 1995? Who's to say the next terrorist won't be white like the Irish Republican Army? Who's to say the next terrorist won't be white like the KKK? Who's to say the next terrorist won't be white like most mass murderers are?

Should we implement special profiling against white people like me because of the McVeigh's and Duke's of the world? I don't recall similar polls favoring racial profiling of white Americans after the 1995 Oklahoma bombing. I don't recall polls favoring profiling of white Americans after white Texan George Hennard drove his truck into a Luby's Cafeteria and killed 23 people in a terrorism act.

Another 2001 Gallup Poll found that 60 percent of white respondents believed that black Americans were not treated the same as whites in this country. That rocketed to 91 percent among African-American respondents. Some 47 percent of black respondents said they experienced discrimination in stores, by the police, and in other situations in the previous month.

I've long wondered how many people there are who secretly harbor racist views they would denounce in public. I recently contacted the authors of 20 postings to white supremacist Web sites, asking if I could quote them using their real names. Only three replied back granting permission to use their names.

Jessica Coleman of Texas claimed her grandfather was "a powerful knight [of the KKK] in South Carolina," and she thought all blacks should be shipped "back to Africa and all of the wetbacks back to Mexico." Tom of New Jersey, who would not give his last name, wrote about a high school field trip to Philadelphia, which sickened him so much to see blacks that he "wanted to take out a machine gun and shoot everyone of them." Are these people really just aberrations to be ignored again until the next major race-related blow-up in our country? Or do they represent the suppressed voices inside the average white Republican – and, yes, some Democrats - who doesn't dare let such thoughts reach the surface?

That's why I call Republicans like Bush and Cheney and Bennett, who publicly embrace Martin Luther King Jr. as they call for a colorblind society, yet live in their mostly-white neighborhoods and practice racism when it suits their political agenda, closet racists. They like to point out that lynching black people is wrong as they oppose proposals that would do more to bring about real equality and execute racist campaigns – as Bush did against McCain in South Carolina in 2000 – to gain political victory.

Would such closet racists live next to African-American families? I have for more than six years, and the only problems we have had were with some white neighbors. Living in a multi-cultural neighborhood is part of my contribution to carry out what a lot of Republicans only give lip service to, and go beyond words to live out our desire for a truly colorblind society.

I respect my Republican parents and what they did for me, but I don't like their racist comments, such as they hope black people don't buy the homes up for sale on their blocks. I don't know what has made me so different from my parents on this matter. I've been this way since as a young child I was one of the few to befriend the only African-American student in our elementary school. A psychic once told me I was black in a past life. Maybe that's it. Maybe in a past life, I actually walked in the shoes of a slave and experienced the discrimination that I can't stand today. Maybe that's the only way a white American can really understand what a black American experiences – to walk in his or her shoes. Maybe that's the only way we can make some real progress on race relations.

Anyways, I can't recall such comments about hoping African-Americans don't move on the block coming from Democrats I know in recent years. In the aftermath of the Lott debacle, Republicans, as usual, tried to turn the tables on Democrats and highlight the latter party's racist past, as seen in members like Sen. Byrd.

But that's like Bush and other Republicans saying Democrats took money from Enron when Republicans took three or four times as much. The sins are not of the same magnitude. When more than, say, 50 percent of current Republicans exhibit racist tendencies and less than, say, 20 percent of Democrats do, you can't paint a broad stroke and say both parties exhibit racism and just leave it at that. For every Sen. Byrd Republicans bring up, I can counter with five Sen. Lotts and Sen. Sessions and Sen. Frists and Rep. Ballengers and Dubya Bush's.

The subtle and overt racism of the Republican Party is a stench they have to live with, and no amount of history rewriting by Republican apologists can eradicate that smell. To eradicate it, they must admit that racism in their party goes far beyond Lott and make at least as much progress on advancing race relations as the Democratic Party has. Republicans have not done that, and I doubt they will while I'm still alive here.

As the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday approaches, these subtle racist Republicans will talk like they have supported King's vision of a colorblind society and African-American rights all along, when their records and actions speak otherwise. That's just more of the Republican con job. Don't buy that crap.

link | posted by Jae at 9:02 AM |


Blogger CB commented at 12:50 AM~  

I've had to feed the family, doing some heavy lifting with the business, but this is a good one to reemerge with. This column is comical!

Point by point is not my style, but I have to take issue with a couple of things this guy wrote. The Solid South refers to the political domination of racist, white Democrats in the Southern States. The Ku Klux Klan WAS FOUNDED BY THE DEMOCRAT PARTY IN TENNESSEE. The purpose of its founding was to keep blacks from participating in the political process. THERE IS NO DISPUTE ON THIS HISTORICAL FACT!

Another fact conveniently overlooked or forgotten by the Trent Lott haters, are the remarks made by Senator Christopher Dodd on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding the career of Senator Robert Byrd - D WV. The author pointed out David Duke, but must have forgotten about the former Grand Klegal of the Klu Klux Klan and senior senator from the state of West Virginia. Dodd praised Byrd, as Lott praised Thurmond (except Lott wasn't on the Senate floor), including the time of Byrd's service to that august body of hooded gentlemen.

Mixed race? I don't think I'll even go there.

There are certainly Republicans who have racist motivation. I am distressed by party operatives working against Keith Butler in Michigan, Michael Steele in Maryland and Ken Blackwell in Ohio. Some of this is even coming from Eliabeth Dole, chair of the Republican Senate Election committee.

I can see the lingering remnants of those attracted to the GOP's southern strategy, but they are far less than the racists among white Democrats who condescend and never consider blacks for positions of leadership. How many blacks did Howard Dean have on his staff in 2005, for example? Until late 2005, several months after he was called on it, he had none.

John McCain - he supports the war in Iraq! How much do you still like him? Democrat's favorite Republican is despised (more accurately, not trusted) by the Republican base.

My support of conservative principles is not dependent on the benevolence or good will of fellow conservatives, it is based on what's best for me and what's proven to be best for most people over time.

Blogger Olive commented at 9:00 PM~  

Republicans work in mysterious ways. Why GOP operatives would work against a man so perfectly aligned with the party objective of retaining absolute power no matter which laws need to be broken, is beyond me.

From Daily Kos, January 5, 2005:

"Blackwell not only serves as the Secretary of State in Ohio, but also served as the Campaign Chair for Bush/Cheney '04. His state was identified as a likely battleground state many months before the election. Many thought Ohio would be the "new Florida" and go a long way toward determining the outcome of the presidential race. Unfortunately, Ohio was the "Florida" of 2004 in more ways than one. Blackwell has been strongly criticized for a number of policies he implemented for the 2004 election, as well as his coordination of the vote count and recount. Here are some key things raised by his critics, but they're by no means exhaustive:

--Blackwell issued an order that county boards were required to strictly enforce the provision that all registrations must be on eighty pound stock paper or should be ruled invalid. This order came within just four weeks of the deadline for registration. Problem is, this paperweight rule was not widely known or distributed, and for several months, Board of Elections' web sites encouraged voters to print out an online registration form and mail it in, with no mention of paperweights. Under heavy pressure, Blackwell finally retracted this order shortly before the registration deadline. However, the order likely discouraged registration during a critical registration period. It's also not clear how many registrations were invalidated during the time the ruling was in effect or after it was rescinded, especially given that the paperweight directive continued to be posted on official Secretary of State and BOE web sites through election day.

--Blackwell also issued an order (described in this motion) that those who had requested but not received an absentee ballot could not vote by provisional ballot on election day, contrary to the Help American Vote Act (HAVA). Since thousands of voters reportedly did not receive their absentee ballots prior to election day, this order would've deprived them of their right to vote. Blackwell was sued in Federal court, and a judge granted a temporary restraining order, but not until 2 p.m. on Election Day. Prior to that, anyone who was on the absentee ballot list was not allowed to vote.

--Blackwell also issued an order (described here, p. 31-36) that provisional ballots would only be counted if cast at the correct precinct. This, too, is contrary to the intent of HAVA, and the order came down despite well-known reports of a misinformation campaign in which voters were told that their polling location had changed when it had not. It's especially troubling that the "wrong precinct" was, in some cases, just the wrong table in the right room of the right building. In many urban areas, the same location was used for multiple precincts, with one table for one precinct, another table for a second precinct, etc. So if a voter went to the wrong table--easy to do give the poor signage, massive crowding, etc.--then they wouldn't be on the registration list, would therefore be instructed to cast a provisional ballot, but then that ballot was disqualified as being cast in the wrong precinct (i.e., at the wrong table). Thousands of provisional ballots were rejected on the basis of this wrong-precinct rule (400 in one polling location alone). This undoubtedly had a differential impact on democratic voters since the multiple-table scenario was specific to urban polling places.

--BOE documents from Franklin County (including Columbus) show that at least 81 voting machines were not deployed on election day despite frantic calls from precincts (with other reports suggesting as many as 125 undeployed machines). One election official stated under oath on election day that there were no additional machines available, and has since backtracked. The failure to deploy the machines still has not been explained and there is no indication that it's being investigated.

--Ohio election laws require full access to all voting records. Failure to give access is defined by Ohio code as a prima facie case of election fraud. Nonetheless, Blackwell ordered a lockdown of the polling books, absentee ballots, and provisional ballots in the weeks that followed the election, and the lockdown continued even after the official count and recount. In at least one county, those who asked to see these materials were told that they will not be available until mid-January, which is of course after the January 6 casting of the electoral votes.

--Blackwell took six weeks to certify the election. States with similar or larger populations took two weeks. This precluded an examination of many of the election records (since Blackwell could claim it was still the "canvassing period"), and effectively ran out the clock on potential investigations into irregularities before the casting and counting of the states electoral votes.

--Blackwell also failed to enforce his own office's rules for conducting a recount. The recount rules on the Secretary of State web site specifically requires that precincts be selected randomly for the 3% handcount. Yet Blackwell directed BOEs to select precincts however they wanted to, and it turns out that many counties did not use random selection. Recount rules also require a full hand count if there is a mismatch between the 3% handcount and machine count. There are at least six cases in which there were mismatches but a full hand count was not conducted, yet Blackwell has not stepped in.

--Blackwell also failed to enforce Ohio law that says all members of the board and entitled observers must be present during all interaction with ballots during the canvassing period. There are reports from the Cobb/Badnarik observers that spoiled ballots had been removed, other ballots had been altered, and/or ballots had been sorted prior to the recount without witnesses present.

--Blackwell also failed to enforce Ohio law that prohibits election machinery from being serviced, modified, or altered in any way subsequent to an election, unless it is done so in the presence of the full board of elections and other observers. Blackwell allowed Triad and other company officials to access to voting machinary prior to the recount (without observers present) to test the machines and suppress all counts other than the presidential race. In some cases, technicians were given remote access to the tabulators via modem. This was allowed despite the fact that one reason the recount was requested was due to concerns about the security and accuracy of vote tabulating computers.

--There are some very clear cases of miscounts, such as in Cuyahoga County, where third-party candidates received nearly as many votes as Kerry in some precincts. This likely resulted from ballots from one precinct being counted on tabulators programmed for another precinct housed in the same room (but which used a different ordering of candidates). In other precincts there were more votes counted than there were voters. Yet Blackwell certified even these clearly anomalous results without any inquiries.

--The primary duty of the Secretary of State as defined in the Ohio Constitution is to protect the right to vote for all citizens and investigate all problems and irregularities they may have affected that right. Yet there are no indications that Blackwell has investigated the problems and miscounts cited above. There's no indication that he's investigated the unauthorized access of an ES&S technician to a vote tabulator shortly before the election, even though this was reported to him. There's no indication that he's investigated the election-night lockdown in Ohio. Yet this is precisely the job he swore to do when he took his oath of office.

--Finally, Blackwell used his post as supervisor of elections to actively lead a campaign to pass the Marriage Amendment initiative...another clear conflict of interest to go along with his position as the Bush/Cheney '04 Campaign Chair.

Letter from the House Judiciary Dems

The democrats on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Blackwell in early December to ask about some of the problems in Ohio. The letter included 34 specific questions on the Warren County lockdown, discrepencies and peculiarties in Perry County, unusual results in Butler and Cuyahoga Counties, spoiled ballets, overvotes in Franklin County, discrepencies in Miami County, machine problems in Mahoning County, machine shortages, invalidated provision ballots, and the directive to reject voter registration forms. A follow-up asked two additional questions about unauthorized access to a voting tabulator prior to the election.

Among the questions asked were the following:

--Why did Warren County officials exclude members of the press from observing vote counting on election night, claiming an FBI agent had warned of a terrorist threat that was a "10" on a scale of one to ten, but the FBI has no knowledge of such a warning?

--Why did precincts in Perry County apparently record more votes than voters?

--Why did historically Democratic precincts in Cleveland record up to twenty-two times more votes for the Constitution Party Presidential candidate than all third-party candidates combined received in the 2000 election?

--Why did voters in Mahong County report that when they attempted to record a vote for John Kerry their vote was displayed as being cast for George W. Bush?

--Why did there appear to be a shortage of voting machines in traditionally Democratic precincts on election day, causing up to ten hour delays for voters, while there was an apparent surplus of voting machines in traditionally Republican precincts?

Blackwell gave a terse response to that letter and did not address any of the specific questions that were asked. He's repeately brushed off all legitimate questions about the election, has characterized the election as having gone very smoothly, and has recently referred to inquiries about the election as amounting to "harassment."

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