Black History Month: A congressional lesson

Since today is the last day of Black History Month, let’s have a black history quiz:

What do the following people have in common? (Chart from the Washington Post)


Yes, they are black. (Why else would they be in this quiz?) But they also represent a significant minority.

Of the 1,950 people who have served in the U.S. Senate, these nine are the only African Americans to hold a seat in the upper chamber of Congress.

Hyram Revels and Blanche Bruce were both senators from Mississippi who served during the post Civil War Reconstruction of the South from 1870-71 and 1875-1881, respectively. Both were appointed by the Mississippi State Legislature, but Bruce was the first black person for serve a full Senate term.

Edward Brooke (1967-1979) of Massachusetts was the first African American to win a Senate seat in a popular vote. The Bay State also was represented by Mo Cowan, who was appointed to the seat in 2013 to fill out the vacancy created by the appointment of John F. Kerry to the post of Secretary of State. Ed Markey now holds that seat.

Illinois has had three black senators, Carol Moseley Braun (1993-1999)), Barack Obama (2005-2008) and Roland Burris (2009-2010). Moseley Braun is the only African American to serve a full term as an Illinois senator. Obama … well, you know what happened to him. Burris was appointed to finish Obama’s term.

Tim Scott of South Carolina was appointed to the Senate in 2013 when Jim DeMint decided he was going to go to the Heritage Foundation to make a lot of money. It will be interesting to see what happens this year, when Scott faces a special election to complete the term. He’s only the third black person to represent a Southern state.

And Cory Booker of New Jersey was elected last year in a special election, but he runs again this year for a full term.

So, by the numbers, There have been five black Democrats and four black Republicans in the Senate. Three have been appointed. Two are up for re-election this year. And one became president.

An interesting countdown for such a tiny group.

Elizabeth Warren for president? Where did that come from?

Anyone have any idea what this is all about?

Hillary’s Nightmare? A Democratic Party That Realizes Its Soul Lies With Elizabeth Warren

This is the cover article for the Nov. 25 issue of The New Republic, but is this something that people have actually been talking about, or was the writer just bored and decided to make something up.

I did a quick glance at the article, and it completely avoids the tidbits that make you even think someone is considering a run at the presidency. There is a reference to New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary, but there’s no indication that Warren is testing the mood there. All the story says is that Warren is in a neighboring state and folks in the Granite State have seen her ads.

The word Iowa doesn’t even appear in the article. Iowa’s where the first caucuses are. Anyone who even thinks about politics knows that is someone is considering a run, they’re getting their machines together in Iowa and New Hampshire. We know already that Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Chris Christie have already been in New Hampshire and Iowa. That means they’re running for president. I should look this up, but would anyone want to pace a bet against Joe Biden having visited either of those states recently? I didn’t think so.

But here’s the New Republic, with it’s Elizabeth Warren as a “Being John Malokovich” substitute, saying that Hillary is in trouble because Elizabeth Warren can wipe out her presidential prospects.


And let’s conveniently ignore the fact that this happened:

All of the female Democratic senators signed a secret letter to Hillary Rodham Clinton early this year encouraging her to run for president in 2016 – a letter that includes the signature of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other senators who are mentioned as potential candidates, two high-ranking Democratic Senate aides told ABC News.

The letter, organized at the urging of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was meant to be a private show of support from a group of 16 high-profile former colleagues and fans who are now senators, urging Clinton to do what much of the Democratic Party assumes she will, the aides said.

The existence of the letter was not revealed publicly until this week, when Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., mentioned it at an event in New York City on Monday. That was an apparent slip-up that prompted a round of apologetic e-mails from her Senate office to other offices on Capitol Hill, according to the aides.

Oh, and let’s call bulllshit on the “was meant to be a private show of support” part of this ABC News report. When 16 senators sign ANYTHING, they know it’s going public.

So I go back to my original question. What’s this all about? Are writers eager to create conflict in the political realm were none exists? It’s like we’ve already have the faux Benghazi scandal, which the GOP is going to hammer Hillary with when she actually makes a run because that’s the only thing they can dredge up (Drudge up would be a better term) to slow her down. But that’s a Republican attack point, which is to be expected and will be ignored by Democrats.

But if you have a “Guess what! Hillary is a woman and a Democrat, and there’s another woman who’s a Democrat who can take her down” scenario, well, By Golly, we got ourselves a Dem on Dem girl fight. Think about it, no one’s going to get excited if it’s a guy challenging Hillary. It has to be a woman to make things spicy.

What would be great though, is if Hillary got the nomination and he named Elizabeth Warren as her running mate. Wall Street, the GOP and all of Wingnut Land would have a stroke.

And I still love this Elizabeth Warren parody ad:

Democrats are being spineless weasels again

Republicans faked Benghazi e-mails to make the Obama administration look bad. But Democrats aren’t going on the attack. What’s their problem? One commenter at TPM says this:

The Democratic Party at the national level looks to Obama and his White House for everything. His Cabinet members (Defense apart) have no policy autonomy; Democratic Senators and Congressmen loyal to the President are also dependent on him and his team for everything from legislative initiatives to daily talking points. The closest thing to Democratic voices independent of the Obama White House are former (and future) campaign consultants on the talk shows.

Obama has chosen not to push back hard against doctored Benghazi leaks that even the tame broadcast media objected to. So no Democrats in Washington is either. Hostility to the opposition, as an organizing principle, is much more deeply established in the Republican Party. This is why real and imagined Democratic scandals inspire so much more indignation (real and pretend) among GOP officials in DC.

This is going to be a continuing problem for national Democrats as Obama’s second term proceeds. It may be a chronic problem until they have a Clinton campaign and White House to tell them what to do, say and think.

They just don’t seem to understand that if they don’t fight back, the GOP is going to kill them.


So how’s Republican outreach doing?

Here’s the latest from the Republican National Committee’s Florida Hispanic Outreach Director:

Yes, I have changed my political affiliation to the Democratic Party.

It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today. I have wondered before about the seemingly harsh undertones about immigrants and others. Look no further; a well-known organization recently confirms the intolerance of that which seems different or strange to them.

Studies geared towards making – human beings – viewed as less because of their immigrant status to outright unacceptable claims, are at the center of the immigration debate. Without going too deep on everything surrounding immigration today, the more resounding example this past week was reported by several media outlets.

A researcher included as part of a past dissertation his theory that “the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ.” The researcher reinforces these views by saying “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.”

Although the organization distanced themselves from those assertions, other immigration-related research is still padded with the same racist and eugenics-based innuendo. Some Republican leaders have blandly (if at all) denied and distanced themselves from this but it doesn’t take away from the culture within the ranks of intolerance. The pseudo-apologies appear to be a quick fix to deep-rooted issues in the Republican Party in hopes that it will soon pass and be forgotten.

The complete disregard of those who are in disadvantage is also palpable. We are not looking at an isolated incident of rhetoric or research. Others subscribe to motivating people to action by stating, “In California, a majority of all Hispanic births are illegitimate. That’s a lot of Democratic voters coming.” The discourse that moves the Republican Party is filled with this anti-immigrant movement and overall radicalization that is far removed from reality. Another quick example beyond the immigration debate happened during CPAC this year when a supporter shouted ““For giving him shelter and food for all those years?” while a moderator explained how Frederick Douglass had written a letter to his slave master saying that he forgave him for “all the things you did to me.” I think you get the idea.

When the political discourse resorts to intolerance and hate, we all lose in what makes America great and the progress made in society.

Although I was born an American citizen, I feel that my experience, and that of many from Puerto Rico, is intertwined with those who are referred to as illegal.

Pablo Pantoja has come to his senses. Who’s next?

Bruce Bartlett on black voters

I just posted an item on Bruce Bartlett‘s essay on his exile from the Republican party. But there’s one section of his piece in the American Conservative that at best is naive and at worse is disingenuous.

Among the ideas he emphasizes to save the GOP from its lemming-like march over the cliff (not just the fiscal one): Have today’s Republicans appeal to the black community.

The best way to get Republicans to read a book about reaching out for the black vote, I thought, was to detail the Democratic Party’s long history of maltreatment of blacks. After all, the party was based in the South for 100 years after the war, and all of the ugly racism we associate with that region was enacted and enforced by Democratic politicians. …

I thought knowing the Democratic Party’s pre-1964 history of racism, which is indisputable, would give Republicans a story to tell when they went before black groups to solicit votes. I thought it would also make Republicans more sympathetic to the problems of the black community, many of which are historical in their origins.

How do I break this to him?

Yes, the pre-1964 Democratic Party was full of racists. Republicans were far more tolerant. Democratic congressmen from the South were the among the vilest bigots on the planet, and Republicans were hated in that region because of Abraham Lincoln’s Northern War of Aggression (Yeah, that’s what they call it down there, and they still hold a grudge).

But in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat and a Texan, got the Civil Rights Act through Congress. It passed because of Republican votes; southern Democrats were against it. No senator from the South voted for it. Tennessee Sen. Al Gore Sr., father of you-know-who, voted against it.

“According to Congressional Quarterly, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed the House 290-130, and Republican support for the bill was much stronger than Democratic: 61 percent (152-96) of the Democrats supported the legislation while 80 percent (138-34) of the Republicans backed it. These numbers were similar in the Senate — 69 percent of Democrats (46-21), backed the bill along with 82 percent of Republicans (27-6).”

Then in 1965, Johnson pushed through the Voting Rights Act, and he gave this speech before Congress:

He also said:

But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.

Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.

“We shall overcome,” the rallying cry of the civil-rights movement. That made southern Democrats apoplectic.

But here’s the important part. In 1968, southern Democrats swarmed like locusts to Richard Nixon. Then they gradually changed parties and became Republicans. It’s all documented in Rick Pearlstein‘s book “Nixonland.”

Don’t believe it? Quick: Name a white southern Democrat currently in Congress? (No, John Yarmuth in Louisville doesn’t count, because as much as the state’s residents hate to admit it, Kentucky was with the Union during the Civil War.)

There’s only one from the Deep South. John Barrow in Georgia. And he voted against Obamacare.

As we all saw at the 2012 GOP convention, at the Romney campaign party on election night and on the blog White People Mourning Romney, the GOP isn’t exactly a party of inclusion. In fact, its Southern strategy since the days of Nixon was based on racial antagonism. Here’s a link back to the Lee Atwater interview posted a few days ago.

I have to think Bartlett knows all this. I can’t figure out if he’s being naive or intentionally deceptive on the idea of the GOP appealing to blacks. And then, there’s this quote in his article:

I thought that blacks and Latinos were natural political and economic competitors, and I saw in poll data that blacks were receptive to a hardline position on illegal immigration.

That’s pretty dickish, right? Make the party stronger by playing on racial animosity.

Look, I remember when older black people were Republicans, because that was the party that ended slavery. Eisenhower got something like 40 percent of the black vote when he was re-elected president in 1956.

But that was almost 60 years ago. The evil southern Democrats of that era are all dead, and when they were alive, black people saw they were eagerly joining the Republican Party. And in 1980, when Ronald Reagan campaigned in Philadelphia, Mississippi (the place were three civil-rights activists were brutally murdered in June 1964) and talked about “states’ rights” (the term used in Southern states to justify every racial abuse they committed), the bigot baton was officially handed off to the Republicans from the southern Democrats.

Anyone who makes the argument that today’s Republicans aren’t the progeny of that era’s Democrats … well, I have to use a quote that appeared in the comment section of the Bartlett article:

“I don’t mind that you lie to me half as much as I mind that you apparently think I’m stupid.”