Category: Prime Politics Written by George Curry
The new NAACP Report Card for the first session of the 112th Congress is out and it shows that every graded Republican member of the House and Senate received an F on issues considered important to the nation’s oldest civil rights group.
In the Senate, all 46 GOP senators received Fs from NAACP. Of those, 34 voted against the NAACP’s position every time, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former presidential candidate John McCain. In the House, all 238 Republicans graded also received Fs. Although GOP House members have a reputation but being more conservative than their Senate colleagues, only 10 House Republicans voted against the NAACP every time.
In stark contrast to Republicans, 47 Democrats in the Senate earned As, three received B’s, one got a D and none received an F. The two independents in the Senate, Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, received a B and an A, respectively.
In the House, all 238 Republicans graded earned an F. House Democrats voted like their counterparts in the Senate: 159 earned As, 22 got Bs, four earned Cs, one got a D and four received Fs.
I have been studying NAACP legislative report cards for a couple of decades and I can’t remember a time when Republicans in Congress have been this solidified in their hostility towards civil rights. About eight years ago, Republican Congresswoman Mary S. Leach of Iowa earned a C. More recently a couple of Republicans have earned Ds as the rest flunked.
In the session of Congress that lasted from Jan. 5, 2011 to Dec. 23, 2011, only one Republican, Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.), voted with the NAACP 40 percent of the time. The GOP’s so-called moderate senators, Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, supported the NAACP 33 percent of the time.
The NAACP graded members of Congress on votes taken on such issues as repealing funding for health care reform, judicial nominations, deep budget cuts, job creation and criminal justice reform.
This NAACP Report Card should put to rest the lie that there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans. There is difference – a huge difference at that.
Even the Black Republican alternatives are not viable alternatives.
In the bygone years, the Republican Party had such moderates as New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Mayor John Lindsey of New York City and Connecticut Sen. Lowell Weicker. It even had Black Republicans who fought for civil rights. But the GOP began the political equivalent of ethnic cleansing in 1964 with the nomination of Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who made an open appeal to segregationists.
Over the last half century, GOP moderates, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell have either been pushed out of the party or marginalized. Moderates have been replaced by rabid Tea Party activists.
The voting records of Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress illustrate the gap in support of African-Americans in the two parties.
All Democratic leaders in the House earned A’s: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (100 percent), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (100 percent), Assistant Democratic Whip James Clyburn (100 percent) and Democratic Caucus Chair John Lucas (95 percent).
Each Republican leader in the House, on the other hand, got F’s: Majority Leader Eric Cantor (5 percent), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (10 percent), Republican Conference Chair Jeb Hensarling (5 percent) and Republican Policy Committee Chair Tom Price (5 percent).
The Republican Party’s hostility to civil rights reminds me of a comment made by the father of former GOP Congressman J.C. Watts, an African-American from Oklahoma. His father said a Black voting Republican is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 May 2012 13:06
Category: Prime Politics Written by Michael Cottman
With millions of African-Americans at risk of being ineligible to vote in this year’s presidential election because of strict voter identification laws, a new report released recently explains how civic organizations can help citizens of color obtain the required ID and vote in November.
Thirty-two states have pending laws that call for voters to present government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot. Conservatives insist that the new rules will prevent voter impersonation fraud, but civil rights activists maintain the laws are specifically designed to keep minorities from voting.
The new report, entitled “Got ID? Helping Americans Get Voter Identification,” details the best strategies that community groups are using to help voters adhere to the legal guidelines so they can vote.
“It is vitally important that community leaders, particularly those who work with communities of color, young people, seniors and people with disabilities, take an active role in helping voters acquire the requisite photo ID.” Chris Melody Fields, Election Protection coordinator at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement.
“We hope that this report will be a helpful tool to ensure voters have the documents they need to fully participate in our democracy this November,” Fields said.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to provide legal services to address racial discrimination.
Co-authored by Demos, Common Cause, the Fair Elections Legal Network and the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, the report offers the following guidelines:
Creating a diverse, engaged coalition of local organizations to support a voter outreach program;
Identifying and reaching eligible voters who do not have the necessary ID;
Addressing voters’ hurdles to obtaining required ID, such as transportation to DMV offices or the costs of obtaining the necessary underlying documentation like a birth certificate;
Advocating for legislation to make obtaining the required IDs simpler and easier, including no-cost birth certificates and extended DMV hours.
“As we deal with the reality that there will be vote suppression in the 2012 elections, groups must work together to fight back by helping at-risk voters overcome these barriers to the ballot,” Tova Andrea Wang, senior democracy fellow at Demos, said in a statement. “By helping citizens secure an ID, voting rights groups are stepping up and sending the message to state legislatures and to Washington that these voices deserve to be heard on Election Day.”
The debate over voter ID laws has become a flashpoint racial issue America leading up to the presidential election in November. Since 2011, several states have enacted voter photo ID laws, including Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas and Pennsylvania.
The Congressional Black Caucus maintains that voter ID laws are designed to discourage minority voters from voting, which would also make it more difficult for President Barack Obama to win re-election.
“It is clear to me that whether racially based or not, this is a direct attempt, not only to undermine the election process, but a specific attempt to derail what surely would be and ought to be the re-election of Barack Obama,” Rep. Donna Christensen (D-VI) said on the House floor in January.
In the 2008 presidential election, according to the Washington Post, about 12,000 residents in Virginia did not have IDs when they cast their ballots. More than three million Virginians voted in November, and in a close election, the newspaper said, those voters could decide the outcome of a race.
Today, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Obama’s GOP opponent, are deadlocked. According to a CBS News/New York Times poll released Wednesday, Obama and Romney are tied with 46 percent.
Meanwhile, with the Obama campaign predicting a very close race, authors of the new voter ID report say they hope their information gets to the citizens who need it most.
“Some of our nation’s governors and state legislators are engaged in a disgraceful effort to keep millions of student, elderly, disabled and minority voters from exercising their rights this November,” said Jenny Rose, activist.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 12:58
Category: Prime Politics Written by Christian Weller, Julie Ajinkya and Jane Farrell
We are currently in the third year of economic recovery following the Great Recession and the financial crisis that upended domestic and world markets and decimated the global economy from December 2007 to June 2009. Three years into the recovery, the economic outlook is improving as economic growth is stabilizing and job creation gradually accelerating. That said, America’s families, which have suffered for years from high and long-term unemployment, remain in desperate need of stronger economic growth for a prolonged period in the foreseeable future.
Stable economic growth in the future, however, will depend on having a strong, broad-based middle class. While economic growth in the United States is on the mend, the data show that the benefits of this growth have not been equitably shared. Many middle-class families, regardless of race or ethnicity, do not enjoy the opportunities needed for them and their children to get ahead.
More disturbingly, the data we summarize in this report shows that communities of color are substantially less likely than their White fellow citizens to enjoy the opportunities that come from having a good job, owning a home, and having a financial safety cushion in the form of health insurance, retirement benefits, and private savings. This difference exists because economic opportunities eroded faster for communities of color than for Whites during the Great Recession — and those opportunities have been coming back much more slowly for communities of color than for Whites during the economic recovery.
Our report specifically shows, among other things:
• African Americans and Latinos persistently suffer from high unemployment rates. The unemployment rate of African Americans is typically twice as high as that of White Americans, while the Latino unemployment rate is about 50 percent greater than the rate for whites.
• Slower job growth during the recovery leaves communities of color in a deep economic hole. Employment in the fourth quarter of 2011 was 88.9 percent of African American employment in December 2007 and 91.4 percent of Latino employment, compared to 93.6 percent for Whites and 92.9 percent for Asian Americans.
• African Americans enjoy fewer job opportunities than other groups. The employed share of the population was 52.1 percent for African Americans and 59.3 percent for Latinos, compared to 59.4 percent for whites and 59.9 percent for Asian Americans in the fourth quarter of 2011.
• African Americans and Latinos earn less than others. African Americans’ median weekly earnings were $674 (in constant 2011 dollars), and Latinos’ earnings were $549. In comparison, whites earned $744 each week, and Asian Americans earned $866 in the fourth quarter of 2011.
• African Americans and Latinos swell the ranks of minimum wage earners. From 2009 to 2011 — two years into the recovery — the number of African American minimum wage workers increased by 16.6 percent, and that of Latino minimum wage workers increased by 15.8 percent, while Asian Americans in minimum wage positions decreased by 15.4 percent, and Whites only increased by 5.2 percent.
• Household incomes have fallen drastically for African Americans since the recession. Inflation-adjusted median incomes for African Americans fell by 7.1 percent from 2007 to 2009, faster than for any other population group. Further, inflation-adjusted median household incomes dropped another 3.2 percent from 2009 to 2010, which was as fast or faster than comparable income drops for any other population group.
• Communities of color have substantially less health insurance coverage than whites. The share of African Americans without health insurance in 2010 was 20.8 percent, and the respective share of Latinos without insurance coverage was 30.7 percent. This compares to 18.1 percent of Asian Americans without health insurance and 11.7 percent of Whites without health insurance at the same time.
• Homeownership disappears fastest for African Americans during the recession and recovery. At the beginning of the recession in 2007, the African American homeownership rate was 47.7 percent, Latino homeownership was 48.5 percent, and the homeownership rate for other races was 58.6 percent, compared to the White homeownership rate of 74.9 percent. By the end of 2011, 45.1 percent of African Americans owned their homes, 46.6 percent of Latinos owned their homes, and 56.5 percent of all other races owned homes, compared to a home-ownership rate of 73.7 percent for Whites.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 12:02
Category: Prime Politics Written by Tom Watkins
The right of choice runs deep in America. And that includes women’s right to choose.
No, I am not weighing in on the age old debate over “right to life” vs. “choice.” I am adding my 2 cents worth on the ill-publicized comments from Democratic National strategist Hilary Rosen about Mitt Romney’s wife.
As heard on CNN, Rosen told the world that Ann Romney, wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, “has never worked a day in her life.”
Since when is raising five boys not work? Sure, it is easier when you are a millionaire, but raising a family is still work.
I’ll bet Ms. Rosen has a lot of bruises on her body after being touched with a 10-foot pole by Democrats after this foot-in-the-mouth comment.
David Axelrod, one of President Obama’s top political advisors, called her comments “inappropriate and offensive.”
Not soon afterwards, Rosen was doing the Michael Jackson moonwalk — politically backpeddling and shuffling saying, “I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended.”
Like, anyone with a mom?
I learned the value of a stay-at-home mom from an early age.
As a young newlywed, I made a similar dumb gaffe (although in the 1980s, it was not a 24-7 news cycle/national audience) to my then mother in-law.
A stay-at-home mom, I was sitting in her home, enjoying one of her delectable three square meals a day, when this seemingly innocent conversation began with this proud, Polish mom of nine.
My mom, you see, raised seven kids. She also worked outside of the home for a paycheck.
I don’t recall how the conversation started, but sitting at her dinner table, enjoying another free delicious meal, I responded to something she said: “The difference is my mom works.” The implication being that my mother-in-law did not.
The silence was painful and only more piercing when she responded, “No, the difference is your mother gets a paycheck for the work she does.” Ouch!
It did not take much reflection to see how right she was. At that moment my respect for her and all moms shot up 1000%. I had sat at her table benefiting from her work for years.
Running a household of 11, putting all the kids through Catholic school, feeding, clothing, managing a budget in a caring and nurturing environment, was indeed work of love that paid high emotional, not financial dividends.
Years later having had partial responsibility for child rearing, my respect has only been magnified.
Democrat Hilary Rosen provided a gift to team Romney. Polls show Obama with a 20-point advantage among women voters. The focus prior to this ill-considered comment by Ms. Rosen was on the Republican “war” on women.
There is an old adage that in politics, “when your opponent is beating himself, let him.” Republicans in general, and Romney in specifically, had been doing a good job of alienating women voters with their rhetoric.
My former mother-in-law is far from a flame-throwing liberal women’s rights advocate. She worked very hard raising her family to become successful tax paying citizens with a bevy of grandkids. She contributed mightily to her kids and society — and was never given a paycheck for it.
She did earn love and respect.
Ms. Rosen helped change the conversation. While not politically helpful to team Obama, she has helped spark a national conversation.
Women’s rights, gender equity, equal pay, health care and an anemic economy impact women. These issues deserve our leaders’ attention and action.
Now, with this particular sideshow behind us, let’s hope Obama and Romney can raise the debate to one that elevates the role of women in our society, and develop sensible policies recognizing their unique needs and contributions. We need to get the focus back to where it belongs — getting the country working again.
First Lady Michelle Obama had the last word on this topic when she tweeted, “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.”
Don’t mess with Mama!
Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 12:36
Category: Prime Politics Written by Stephanie Robinson
I’m teaching a class this semester called Democracy, the Incomplete Experiment. It’s a course that explores American democracy as an active, ongoing process being shaped by its participants.
Now don’t worry. I’m not going to spend the next few minutes lecturing on forms of political systems, but I do want to drive home a basic point about how this incomplete experiment affects us on a very real and daily basis.
Just take a look at the political headlines these days. Be it the smack-talk going back and forth between President Obama and the Supreme Court, or the latest threats to our constitutional rights posed by increasing barriers to voting in states across this nation.
You see, talking about these issues in an academic setting is one thing, but living with the real world impact of these issues is totally different.
For example, the Supreme Court deciding to declare the president’s 2010 health care law unconstitutional would have a real impact on real people, especially those in our community and the chipping away at the right to vote of many people in our community through increased voter ID requirements and additional restrictions is a direct attack on our citizenship and our ability to effect change.
And just imagine where Black folks would be right now if we had not, throughout our history in this country, constantly effected change.
Because democracy is not a spectator sport and when we, as citizens, go to sleep on democracy, guess what happens? That’s right. Democracy goes to sleep on us.
And I’m talking about more than just voting, especially in this day and age where people are raising their voices, engaging in collective action, and devoting their time, money and knowledge to a variety of causes, because democratic change can occur both inside and outside the voting booth.
Now, the upcoming elections are, of course, essential. Some folk so dislike the fact that a Black man is president that they’ll do any and everything to discredit him.
But, let’s not get lulled into the belief that voting is the only thing we can do to transform the world around us. No matter who wins in November, we have the power to transform ourselves and the world around us — or as they say, we have to “Be the change we seek…”
So the next time you find yourself talking passionately about an issue in the news or something on your mind, let’s do more than just talk about it. Let’s be about it. Organize around it; study it; start an online petition or support group around it; reach out to a legislator on it; create a platform around it; promote it; change it.
It’s all within your power — and our power — to do so, as the current headlines show us, when it comes to issues of American democracy — especially for Black folks, sleeping is just not an option.
As I said, democracy is an incomplete experiment that affects us on a daily basis. We just have to recognize the fact that it’s a two-way street and that we too must affect democracy on a daily basis.
I’ll leave you with this thought from anthropologist Margaret Mead:
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 11:57
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