Why bother to have an election at all?

October 20, 2009

This news stopped me in my tracks. The Justice Department voided a change to local election laws in Kinston, North Carolina, that changed elections there from partisan to non-partisan races. The reason? Black voters will be able to elect candidates of their choice only if they know which ones are Democrats:

Justice concludes black voters need Democratic Party

KINSTON, N.C. | Voters in this small city decided overwhelmingly last year to do away with the party affiliation of candidates in local elections, but the Obama administration recently overruled the electorate and decided that equal rights for black voters cannot be achieved without the Democratic Party.

The Justice Department’s ruling, which affects races for City Council and mayor, went so far as to say partisan elections are needed so that black voters can elect their “candidates of choice” – identified by the department as those who are Democrats and almost exclusively black.

The department ruled that white voters in Kinston will vote for blacks only if they are Democrats and that therefore the city cannot get rid of party affiliations for local elections because that would violate black voters’ right to elect the candidates they want.

Several federal and local politicians would like the city to challenge the decision in court. They say voter apathy is the largest barrier to black voters’ election of candidates they prefer and that the Justice Department has gone too far in trying to influence election results here.

You’re darned right they have. I can’t count all the layers of “wrong” in this diktat. Here are a few, as pointed out in the article:

  • The town is majority Black. The problem isn’t African-Americans being denied their franchise, but low Black turnout for local elections. The reporter even interviewed Black town officials who opposed this decision.
  • The town is already solidly Democratic. People interviewed for the article couldn’t recall the last time anyone aligned with Republicans had won an election.
  • The decision insults Black voters in the town, by assuming that only Black candidates could authentically represent Black townsfolk and that those candidates could only be Democratic, and that the voters can’t decide their own interests for themselves.
  • The decision insults the White minority in the town by assuming they’re a) racists who wouldn’t vote for a Black candidate (just how did those Black officials get elected then, when African-American voter turnout is usually low?) and b) so partisan that they’d overlook their racism because the Black candidate is a Democrat.
  • The decision shoots dead the principle of local control over local politics, denying the people their sovereign right to decide their affairs for themselves. Remember, the law the DoJ invalidated was passed by the voters overwhelmingly last November, when Kinston Blacks turned out in large numbers to vote for Obama.  In fact, it was a rare moment when more Blacks than Whites voted there. Is Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder saying Kinston Blacks are so stupid that they would disenfranchise themselves?

When the Voting Rights Act became law in 1965, there was a good reason for it. The old Confederacy (and many parts of the rest of the nation) was dismantling the Jim Crow system of apartheid laws, and Whites in the state and local power structure were trying to rig things to keep themselves on top, often by preventing Blacks from voting at all by hook or crook. Federal intervention was necessary to assure African-American citizens their rights under the Constitution.

But, 54 years later, more than two generations have passed and Blacks are well integrated into the political system; while there may be a need for an occasional intervention, that surely isn’t the case here where, again, the town’s Black majority approved the new law. In fact, I can’t see any reason for it whatsoever, and the decision makes no sense. Given the solid Democratic lock on town offices, it isn’t as if Democrats needed to rig an election to win. There’s no benefit for them in it.

Unlike, say, in Chicago….

Whatever the reason, this is another moment in the Holder Justice Department’s troubling history regarding voting rights. Coincidentally, the Obama appointee who made this ruling also ordered the dropping of voter intimidation charges against New Black Panther Party members in Philadelphia, in a case arising from the 2008 election.

So, question: Is the Justice Department under Barack Obama and Eric Holder just inept, arrogant, and clueless about local realities, or are these parts of an effort to assure there’s a D after the name of every winner?

(via Big Government)

TRIVIA: Speaking of North Carolina, did you know the city of Wilmington is the only place in the United States to experience a coup d’etat? The legally elected government, comprising Black and White Republicans, was overthrown by armed White Democrats.

LINKS: Ed Morrissey writes about the further politicization of the Justice Department. Former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy calls the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division “cowardice central.” Background on the politicization of the division from Hans von Spakovsky.

Quote of the day

October 20, 2009

The White House trying to dictate who’s a news organization. Democrats out to gut a business group. Obama media allies damning Americans as racist, unpatriotic and treasonous. Is this the America Obama promised when he campaigned to end the cynical and divisive politics of the past?

–Steve Huntley, Chicago Sun-Times