HRC and the KKK: Seriously?

Plus the lack of voter fraud, Malcolm Graham on Charleston, and victory for school vouchers
N.C. Republican Party

Just going to whip through a few things here …

Hasan Harnett is the first African-American chairman of the N.C. Republican Party, elected last month. A big part of his job is to recruit more of the state’s minorities, who usually vote Democratic, to the GOP.

One of the ways he’s trying to do this: linking Hillary Clinton to the Ku Klux Klan.

The “logic” here is that white Southerners in post-Civil War days were almost all Democrats—”the solid South”—and black officials during Reconstruction were Party of Lincoln Republicans. That much is true. That was also nearly 150 years ago. Then a whole lot of things changed—the Civil Rights era, the Republican “Southern strategy.” Starting about 50 years ago, the parties flipped.

Nonetheless, we’ve seen this argument crop up recently, in the hubbub over the Confederate battle flag: that “knock-kneed Republicans should steel themselves for once and demand that Democrats concede that they invented this intimidating standard and deployed it for more than a century to keep blacks down,” and therefore are the “real racists.” (And black people are in chains on “the Democrat plantation.”)

The people making this argument know better. Hasan Harnett knows better. You and I know better. Harnett is counting on the people he’s recruiting to not know better, and in the process is insulting the hell out of them, which would not seem to be a viable long-term recruitment strategy for the N.C. Republican Party.

One of the reasons why minorities continue to hang at “the Democrat plantation” is that the plantation doesn’t make it harder for them to cast their ballots.

The legal challenge to North Carolina’s voter ID law continues apace in federal court in Winston-Salem, and one of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses offered some enlightening testimony:

North Carolina had two verified cases of voter fraud between 2000 and 2014 out of 35 million votes cast in municipal and presidential elections, an expert testified today in a federal trial over the state’s controversial election law.

Lorraine Minnite, a political science professor at Rutgers University, said that voter fraud is rare nationally and in North Carolina …

Nationally, Republican leaders in other states, including Ohio and Texas, have cited voter fraud as reasons for legislation requiring voters to have photo IDs when they show up at the polls.

Minnite said there’s no evidence of significant voter fraud in any of the states that have pushed for photo ID laws, including North Carolina …

Minnite also testified that she saw no evidence that same-day voter registration is more susceptible to fraud than when people register to vote 25 days before an election. Those who use same-day voter registration have to provide more documentation and they have to appear in person before election workers when they register, she said. That makes same-day voter registration a more secure method, Minnite said.

The law is and always has been a solution to a nonexistent problem, unless you consider the wrong people voting the problem.

Someone who sees this clearly is former N.C. Sen. Malcolm Graham, who appeared last week at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation as part of the Center’s First Responder Series on community issues.

The evening’s subject was the Confederate flag and the continuing aftermath of the Charleston mass shooting last month that killed nine people—including Graham’s sister, Cynthia Hurd. Graham, a Charleston native, related the story of that night—how he called his sister, expected a call back, and never got it—and reflected on its meaning.

What Graham got right, even in his grief, was that the Charleston massacre wasn’t in any way senseless or unimaginable. “What happened that night is pretty simple,” he said. “Nine individuals lost their lives … and they were murdered simply because they were black. There’s no way to sugarcoat it … The Confederate flag would still be flying today if that tragedy did not occur.”

And: “We should not wait for a tragedy to occur for us to find our moral compass.”

And, most pointedly: “Racism still exists in our public policy … It’s not as obvious as someone going into a church and killing people. It’s more subtle, and it happens every day in every major city in the country.” He specifically mentioned the voter ID law and North Carolina’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which denies health coverage to nearly 500,000 North Carolinians, most of them minorities.

This is what’s referred to in some circles as “politicizing a tragedy,” a handy term used by people who want these kinds of discussions to stop. The truth is that racism (and classism) find their most profound expression in policy, and it’s simply dishonest to deny any connection between private and public contempt for racial minorities and the poor.

Whether that applies to the N.C. Supreme Court’s ruling that allows private and religious schools to use public money with little to no public oversight is up to you. School vouchers give some kids an opportunity. They desert the other kids in schools that already lacked resources and now have even less. We’re creating a big class of have-nots in North Carolina, and sooner or later, that bill’s going to come due.

Categories: By Greg Lacour, Poking the Hornet’s Nest