The New South and the Voting Rights Act, Post-NAMUDNO

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4 Responses

  1. A.W. says:

    > Gladwell criticizes Atticus Finch

    When I listened to that one as a book on CD not too long ago, what struck me was that the way he defended his client against rape was despicable. It was only justifiable on the theory that his client was probably falsely accused. But while doing the right thing is the most important thing, doing it the right way is a close second.

    > As Akhil Amar put it, “Obama’s very candidacy is a powerful embodiment of a Reconstruction vision in which blacks, under the Fifteenth Amendment, would be full political equals with a right to vote and to be voted for on the same terms as white.”

    While Amar’s commitment to actual equality of opportunity is questionable, what he has said here is true mostly. But I should point out that while the framers hoped for everyone to be judged by their merit, they never mandated that. So if a person voted for or against obama because he is black, the framers never intended the law to do a thing about it.

    > The available data, summarized in an amicus brief written by Nate Persily, Charles Stewart, and Steve Ansolabehere for NAMUDNO, confirms that Obama actually received a lower percentage of the white vote in a number of southern states than John Kerry, who was clearly a weaker candidate in a much more difficult election year for Democrats in 2004.

    Really, clearly weaker how?

    Certainly Obama was better spoken, but let’s break this down.

    Kerry: war hero, experienced senator, has administrative experience in the military

    Obama: former cocaine user, no war record, little experience in even the senate, no administrative experience, has the middle name “Hussien” and a last name that sounds like the first name of america’s greatest terrorist enemy, much more liberal than kerry, associated with terrorists and a racist preacher…

    Indeed, just talking about resumes obama is the least qualified president since… well, Lincoln. Now given that Lincoln was even less qualified on paper to be president than obama, one might take comfort. I don’t. I think we weren’t smart to elect Lincoln: we were lucky. We made the best choice, obviously, but only by accident, not by design. And to be fair, none of the other candidates had the right policies. But it was luck that Lincoln turned out to be our greatest president; we had no evidence of it in 1859.

    Lightning stuck with Lincoln. But it is foolish to vote hoping for it to strike twice.

    I think it is less than clear that Kerry was the weaker candidate.

    > but it is difficult not to draw race-based conclusions from Obama’s lack of success among white voters in these areas

    Or could it be that race explains his success among voters? I mean, my God, Colin Powell, a republican, endorsed him. You want to tell me it never occurred to you that Powell might have done so due to pigmentation? Certainly the fact that powell has backed off and said he was displeased with the president’s performance suggested that powell was blinded by something.

    And I might add that more than a few people didn’t like how often people equated criticism of obama with racism. And what do you know, we have this post here that equates refusing to vote for obama with racism, and another post suggesting the joker posters are racist, too, for some reason. Maybe a few of us saw this coming and didn’t like the prospect.

    As for the voting rights act, it was written at a time when people were scheming to find ways to keep black people from voting. It has outlived its usefulness. If there is a danger of that, it is not out of racial animus but the recognition that a full 90% of black people vote democrat all the time. But where isn’t that a problem? The day where the south is singled out as a uniquely bad actor should end.

  2. JR says:

    Pretty weak. Among many other things you don’t mention is that the Democrats didn’t have a southerner on their ticker for the first time almost forever.

    • Michael Kang says:

      Thanks for the comments. I agree that the 2008 presidential election by itself doesn’t establish a continuing pattern of racially polarized voting. But that’s not why I refer to the Persily brief from NAMUDNO. Instead, I don’t agree with those who think that Obama’s election (while historic in its own right) establishes that there is not a continuing pattern of racially polarized voting in the South, which is a very different point backed up by the brief. Of course, there are lots of reasons that voters choose one candidate over another besides race, but there’s also a substantial literature that finds racially polarized voting still to be robust in parts of the country based on far more evidence than this single election. I don’t discuss it in the post, but it’s there for you to check out if you’d like.

  3. Terrific post, Michael. Policies are often framed as either/or choices and you have helped illuminate why here such an overly simplistic notion is false. Thanks. Danielle