Today's must-read is Bob Herbert's piece blasting the Republican Party for consistently acting against black Americans' interests -- the latest example being the move by Senate Republicans to stop the passage of legislation giving the overwhelmingly black residents of Washington, D.C., a seat in Congress:
The G.O.P. has spent the last 40 years insulting, disenfranchising and otherwise stomping on the interests of black Americans. Last week, the residents of Washington, D.C., with its majority black population, came remarkably close to realizing a goal they have sought for decades — a voting member of Congress to represent them.
A majority in Congress favored the move, and the House had already approved it. But the Republican minority in the Senate — with the enthusiastic support of President Bush — rose up on Tuesday and said: “No way, baby.”
At least 57 senators favored the bill, a solid majority. But the Republicans prevented a key motion on the measure from receiving the 60 votes necessary to move it forward in the Senate. The bill died.
The bill's Republican opponents, as always, say a voting House member for D.C. is unconstitutional, because the Constitution says that representatives will be apportioned among the "several states," and D.C. is not a state. This argument might be more convincing if it did not come from the same Republicans who have repeatedly supported clearly unconstitutional laws, policies, and practices when the issue was national security, rather than black voting rights.
Then there is the "Give 'em a branch, they'll take the whole tree" objection. Steven White makes short work of this one [ital in original]:
Senator Robert Bennett of Utah fears giving D.C. one vote in Congress could "become a covert way to give D.C. two senators." I understand that's not a particularly popular proposal (at least, outside the District), but really, why shouldn't D.C have two senators? Wyoming has two senators and there are more people living in D.C. than there are in Wyoming. Whether or not D.C. is officially a state, it practically operates as one and its residents are basically being treated as sub-citizens. It's remarkable this is still tolerated.
Back to Herbert, and the "Southern strategy":
This is the party of the Southern strategy — the party that ran, like panting dogs, after the votes of segregationist whites who were repelled by the very idea of giving equal treatment to blacks. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. (Willie Horton) Bush, George W. (Compassionate Conservative) Bush — they all ran with that lousy pack.
Dr. Carolyn Goodman, a woman I was privileged to call a friend, died last month at the age of 91. She was the mother of Andrew Goodman, one of the three young civil rights activists shot to death by rabid racists near Philadelphia, Miss., in 1964.
Dr. Goodman, one of the most decent people I have ever known, carried the ache of that loss with her every day of her life.
In one of the vilest moves in modern presidential politics, Ronald Reagan, the ultimate hero of this latter-day Republican Party, went out of his way to kick off his general election campaign in 1980 in that very same Philadelphia, Miss. He was not there to send the message that he stood solidly for the values of Andrew Goodman. He was there to assure the bigots that he was with them.
“I believe in states’ rights,” said Mr. Reagan. The crowd roared.
In 1981, during the first year of Mr. Reagan’s presidency, the late Lee Atwater gave an interview to a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, explaining the evolution of the Southern strategy:
“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ ” said Atwater. “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”
This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of another "states' rights moment":
Fifty years ago this week, President Dwight Eisenhower risked igniting the second U.S. civil war by sending 1,000 American soldiers into a Southern city. The troops, with bayonets at the end of their rifles, provided protection for nine black students trying to get into Little Rock's Central High School. Until the soldiers arrived, the black teenagers had been kept out by mobs and the Arkansas National Guard, in defiance of the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling ending school segregation.
Barbara O'Brien has more on the history behind all of this.