Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why Do Republicans Think They'll Ever Get Black Votes

It seems like for the past two election cycles, Republicans have been talking about how they need to expand their party to include more minorities. It's as if they think that by simply saying that they want black people to be Republicans, we'll suddenly become Republicans, never mind the issues. I find it hard to believe that the reason many blacks never or almost never vote Republican is not obvious to the GOP, and every now and then they do something to make it so much more obvious.

Take a look at this clip from the Rachel Maddow show last night:

Please allow me to go into teacher mode as I do some explaining on the nature of the United States Senate.

The Senate is not just a group of people who come together to do a yes-or-no vote on potential laws. The Senate is divided up into committees (like the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, etc.) and each committee has a specific content area. So, when there is a bill that comes before the Senate, it first gets assigned to a committee in that content area. The people in the committee are supposed to be experts in that area, and they debate the bill, call on other experts or people impacted to testify on it, and then vote to either kill the bill or to let the entire Senate vote on it (I know, this is a very basic explanation).

In addition to legislative duties, committees handle the other responsibilities of the Senate. They may do investigations into things like torture, or the legitimacy of college football's BCS system, or things of that nature. The Judiciary Committee plays a key role in confirming court nominees.

The number of Democrats or Republicans on each committee is determined by their representation in the Senate as a whole. So, for example, if there are 60 total Democrats and 40 total Republicans, and there is a committee with 10 members, 6 will be Democrats, 4 Republicans. The highest ranking Democrat will chair the committee. Even though the Republicans in this scenario (and in real-life 2009) would be in the minority, the role of highest ranking Republican is still important. It's a real leadership position and, as mentioned in the video above, the face of the party on the committee.

This is where Senator Sessions comes in. If you watched even just the opening to the video, you'll see why there is little doubt in my mind that Senator Sessions is a racist. At the very least he was back in 1986, and I have no reason to believe that his views have changed over what amounts to little more than my brief lifetime. And let me be clear, by racist I mean a willful participant in maintaining and advancing systemic white dominance. I can't think of a more polite way of describing Sessions's actions as a U.S. Attorney.

Now, thanks to the actions of my new Democratic Senator Arlen Specter, Sessions is set to become the highest ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. This is the same Judiciary Committee that is handles the nomination of federal judges who will decided contentious civil rights cases. This is the same Judiciary Committee that will debate laws defending the rights of minorities.

This all reflects poorly on Republicans for obvious reasons: it's a potential PR mess for a party looking to appear as more that a regional movement with racist undertones. However, a closer look reveals more. In the Maddow video, Steve Benen notes that many on the right WANTED Sessions to assume this leadership position. This came as no surprise to me, because I have long believed that Republicans actually agree with the views Sessions espoused while a U.S. Attorney. To see this, we don't have to go farther than their resistance to extending the Voting Rights Act of 1965, or the 2000 election.

We have to stop looking at people like Jeff Sessions or Trent Lott as anomalies in the Republican party. They're really reflections of the dark underbelly of the party's powerful right wing. People like Gayle Quinnell ("Obama's an Arab"), or the Obama Monkey Guy, or the Obama Waffles People, or all the other crazies at McCain-Palin rallies or teabagging marches (here or here or here, for example) are not isolated incidents. They are the Republican party. It's not a coincidence when Sarah Palin quotes a white supremacist in one of her speeches. It's not surprising when the RNC comes within a hair's breath of electing a party chairman who had to quit his whites-only country club to run for the position. This is the true Republican party.

Is it any wonder, then, that most black people tend to stay as far away from the GOP as possible.

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