Friday, December 16, 2011

Obama may be beneficiary of Turner-Fudge Contest

I seldom agree with commentator John McWhorter, a conservative commentator who often seems insulated from an understanding of how race actually works in this country.  But his piece in the current issue of The New Republic, “Why Eric Holder’s Effort to Help Minority Voters Could Backfire”, raises some solid questions that relate both to the ugly compromise* reached by Ohio state legislators this week [* if it weren’t the holiday season, I would substitute "Democratic Party capitulation”] and to the distressed arguments raised by those who condemn out-of-hand the challenge to Congresswoman Marcia Fudge D-11 in the Democratic primary, now certain to occur March 6.

McWhorter denounces the concerted national drive by Republicans to suppress black and brown votes in the name of reducing voter fraud for exactly what it is: a “brutally cynical effort … to instinctively seize political advantage by … trying to suppress [black and brown] Americans’ right to vote in a fashion that is not only utterly disgusting but revoltingly reminiscent of ” Jim Crow days.

McWhorter finds pernicious the way that the Voting Rights Act has been used to encourage the development of majority-minority districts. Such districts, he argues, “discourage young black politicians from learning how to build cross-racial or cross-class coalitions.” He goes on to note how most of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus owe their success to the sort of black districts that the Act has been used to support, and that such districts, in which mostly black people are led decade after decade by the same black person are ripe for voter apathy.

As noted, we are often troubled by McWhorter’s alternate-world analysis but he has put his finger on a couple of significant issues here.

Regardless of the outcome of state senator Nina Turner’s challenge to the Hon. Marcia Fudge, if it results in energizing the dormant electorate of the 11th District, Turner will have enhanced President Obama’s reelection chances by increasing the likelihood that he carries Ohio.

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We have been asked to encourage our readers to attend today’s Young Professional Town Hall with County Executive FitzGerald at Cleveland State University's Student Center Ballroom.  

The event starts at 6:00 p.m. and will feature remarks to the young professional community in Cuyahoga County, as well as the opportunity for young professionals to answer questions directly to County Executive FitzGerald at the event, or prior to the event on Twitter via the hashtag #AskFitz.
There is more info available here.


Dick Peery said...

I read McWhorter's article, but missed the "solid questions." He certainly doesn't explain how young black politicians are discouraged by the law from building cross-racial coalitions. All are free to seek leadership roles in whatever adjacent communities they choose. Certainly the Voting Rights act does not prevent such attempts.
Even stranger is his decrying the re-election of Congressional Black Caucus members. Duh! That's the way Congress works. The most effective members are those who have built seniority over many elections, whether they are black, white or whatever. Why should black members be asked to emasculate themselves by following an abnormal set of rules? If they are trying to legislate the way their constituents want, what's the problem? Newcomers in Congress may make noise, but they seldom have clout (The new Tea Party crowd is having an impact because their numbers are so large, but that's an historic anomaly. ). The alternative might be term limits that strip legislative bodies of institutional memory and encourage extremist positions fueled by ideology untempered through experience.
But, you are right. McWhorter does seem "insulated from an understanding of how race actually works in this country."

Richard said...

McWhorter didn't lay it out in detail but my takeaway was that corraling huge numbers of black voters into a majority-minority district leaves little incentive for politicians w/in that district to appeal to non-minorities, and simultaneously offers them very little in terms of a base to appeal to a broader and more diverse constituency.

The same holds true from the other side. If all voters of color are pushed into one district, legislators in other districts feel no pressure to be accountable to them.

Each side becomes locked into rote positions. Up-and-coming black politicans find little incentive, encouragement or support in trying to build coalitions in that sort of political environment.

John Ettorre said...

I found a lot of food for thought in this discussion. Thanks.