More Evidence For A Different System Of Justice For The Police

Yesterday I discussed how the grand jury was used in Ferguson was an example of how justice is different for the police than it is for everyone else.  The Washington Post also reports on unorthodox police practices in handling Darren Wilson after the shooting:

When Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson left the scene of the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the officer returned to the police station unescorted, washed blood off his hands and placed his recently fired pistol into an evidence bag himself.

Such seemingly un­or­tho­dox forensic practices emerged from the voluminous testimony released in the aftermath of a grand jury decision Monday night not to indict Wilson.

The transcript showed that local officers who interviewed Wilson immediately after the shooting did not tape the conversations and sometimes conducted them with other police personnel present. An investigator with the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s office testified that he opted not to take measurements at the crime scene

Charles Johnson adds, “Perhaps the most outrageous thing: police never tested Wilson’s gun for Michael Brown’s fingerprints. Since one of the main points of Wilson’s story was that Brown grabbed his gun, why wasn’t this done?”

The National Bar Association has also responded to the decision:

 The National Bar Association is questioning how the Grand Jury, considering the evidence before them, could reach the conclusion that Darren Wilson should not be indicted and tried for the shooting death of Michael Brown. National Bar Association President Pamela J. Meanes expresses her sincere disappointment with the outcome of the Grand Jury’s decision but has made it abundantly clear that the National Bar Association stands firm and will be calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue federal charges against officer Darren Wilson. “We will not rest until Michael Brown and his family has justice” states Pamela Meanes, President of the National Bar Association. 

President Meanes is requesting that the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri not allow this decision to cause an unnecessary uproar in the community that could lead to arrests, injuries or even deaths of innocent people. “I am asking for everyone to remain as calm as possible and to join in solidarity as we continue to support the family of Michael Brown and put our legal plan into full effect” says President Meanes  “I feel the  magnitude of the grand jury’s ruling as Ferguson, Missouri is only minutes from where I reside”, adds President Meanes.

Over the last couple of months, the National Bar Association has  hosted Town Hall meetings informing  attendees of their Fourth Amendment (Search & Seizure) constitutional rights, whether it is legal to record police activity, and how citizens should behave/respond if and when they interface with police officers. “The death of Michael Brown was the last straw and the catalyst for addressing issues of inequality and racial bias in policing, the justice system, and violence against members of minority communities,” states Pamela Meanes.  

The family of Michael Brown requested that District Attorney McCullough step aside and allow a special prosecutor be assigned to the investigation to give the community confidence that the grand jury would conduct a complete and thorough investigation into the tragic shooting death of 18 year old Michael Brown. The grand jury’s decision confirms the fear that many expressed months ago — that a fair and impartial investigation would not happen.

“The National Bar Association is adamant about our desire for transformative justice. While we are disappointed with the grand jury’s ruling, we are promoting peace on every street corner around the world. The only way to foster systemic change is to organize, educate, and mobilize. We are imploring everyone to fight against the injustice in Ferguson, Missouri and throughout the United States by banding together and working within the confines of the law,” states President Meanes.

 

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Two Systems Of Justice: One For Police, One For Everyone Else

The grand jury’s decision in Ferguson not to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown demonstrates how we have two systems of justice in the United States. I am not referring only to the differences in treatment based upon race. This is clearly a major factor, but as it has already been discussed at length at many sources I am going instead to highlight another aspect of this problem. The system works different for police officers as opposed to anybody else. Needless to say, blacks are at an even further disadvantage in a case involving blacks and the police.

The grand jury system was originally formulated in an attempt to place a check over the power of prosecutors and protect those who should not be prosecuted. Instead grand juries typically give the prosecutor an indictment when desired in the vast majority of cases. The exception is when a police officer is the one being investigated. In these cases the prosecutor’s office often takes the part of the defense. In a typical grand jury case, Darren Wilson’s side of the story would not have been presented as it was in Ferguson.

FiveThirtyEight has some data on grand jury decisions:

Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” The data suggests he was barely exaggerating: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.

Wilson’s case was heard in state court, not federal, so the numbers aren’t directly comparable. Unlike in federal court, most states, including Missouri, allow prosecutors to bring charges via a preliminary hearing in front of a judge instead of through a grand jury indictment. That means many routine cases never go before a grand jury. Still, legal experts agree that, at any level, it is extremely rare for prosecutors to fail to win an indictment.

“If the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong,” said Andrew D. Leipold, a University of Illinois law professor who has written critically about grand juries. “It just doesn’t happen.”

Cases involving police shootings, however, appear to be an exception. As my colleague Reuben Fischer-Baum has written, we don’t have good data on officer-involved killings. But newspaperaccountssuggest, grand juries frequently decline to indict law-enforcement officials. A recent Houston Chronicle investigation found that “police have been nearly immune from criminal charges in shootings” in Houston and other large cities in recent years. In Harris County, Texas, for example, grand juries haven’t indicted a Houston police officer since 2004; in Dallas, grand juries reviewed 81 shootings between 2008 and 2012 and returned just one indictment. Separate research by Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson has found that officers are rarely charged in on-duty killings, although it didn’t look at grand jury indictments specifically.

If the grand jury system was changed so that the defense case was routinely heard, there might be benefits to this. However, it is not fair when one group of people receive this benefit but others do not. The system was essentially designed to protect the police and deny justice to victims such as Michael Brown.

Think Progress posted the above video on this topic by Phillip Johnson. This also explains how under normal circumstances a grand jury would have found probable cause for an indictment.

This does not necessarily mean that Darren Wison would have been convicted. There was a tremendous amount of evidence to be examined, some of it conflicting, and is possible that Wison might have ultimately been acquitted in a jury trial where the standard is not just probably cause but evidence of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.  There are legitimate questions to be reviewed as to how much discretion to give to police officers who feel the need to use deadly force in self defense versus the degree to which police should be expected to be able to handle an unarmed attacker without resorting to deadly force. The decision as to whether to indict Wilson should have been made by the same process as would have been used if anyone other than a police officer was the accused, followed by a jury trial to examine all the evidence from both sides.

Update: More Evidence For A Different System Of Justice For The Police

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Republicans Seek To Block Marijuana Law In Washington D.C.

Republicans, members of the party which claims to support small government, individual freedom, and states’ rights, once again shows that it doesn’t mean a word of this.  The Hill reports on one action planned by Republicans:

House Republicans next year will try to block Washington, D.C.’s, newly enacted law legalizing recreational marijuana.

Rep. Andy Harris said he “absolutely” intends to launch a push to dismantle the new law when Congress returns with an empowered GOP majority in the 114th Congress.

While technically not a states’ rights issue, the same principle should apply to respecting a law to legalize recreational marijuana which a majority in Washington, D.C. voted for.

Presumably other top matters on the Republican agenda will include attempts to restrict access to abortion and contraception, and prevent same-sex marriage.

Of course this is as expected. When Republicans speak of supporting small government, it is of a government “small” enough to intervene in the private lives of the individual. When they speak of freedom, they will defend the freedom of businessmen to evade necessary regulations. Otherwise to Republicans, freedom means the freedom for conservatives to impose their views upon others. Republican support for states’ rights is limited to states which wish to enact laws to discriminate against minorities or restrict marriage equality.

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SciFi Weekend: Arrow; The Flash; Doctor Who; The Fall; More Genre Novels Receiving TV Adapatations; Ascension; Community; Mrs. Wolowitz Dies; Porn Stars Explain Net Neutrality; Bill Cosby Rape Allegations

Arrow Black Canary Katie Cassidy

By now  most fans must have figured out that Katie Cassidy’s character is training to replace her sister Sara as the Black Canary, so there is no point in keeping this a secret. Publicity pictures have been released of Cassidy as the Black Canary. Marc Guggenheim has answered questions about when we will find out who killed Sara and has shot down another fan theory in a recent interview. The mystery over Sara’s killer won’t be dragged out over the entire season, but he is not telling exactly when we will find out.

The CW Network has released the synopsis of the cross over episodes of The Flash and Arrow, which will air on December 2 and 3.

Part 1: “Flash vs. Arrow”

“Barry is thrilled when Oliver, Felicity and Diggle come to Central City to investigate a case involving a deadly boomerang. Excited about teaming up with his friend, Barry asks Oliver if he’d like to help him stop Ray Bivolo (guest star Patrick Sabongui), the meta-human Barry is currently tracking. Bivolo causes people to lose control of their emotions and has been using that skill to rob banks. Unfortunately, the superhero partnership doesn’t go as smoothly as Barry expected. When Oliver tells Barry he still has a lot to learn, Barry sets out to prove him wrong by attempting to stop Bivolo alone. However, when Bivolo infects Barry and sets him on a rage rampage, everyone is in danger, and the only one who can stop him is the Arrow. Meanwhile, Iris is furious when Eddie tries to get a task force to stop The Flash, Joe and Dr. Wells agree the Arrow is a bad influence on Barry, and Caitlin and Cisco deal with a new team in S.T.A.R. Labs.”

Part 2: “The Brave and The Bold”

“Oliver, Arsenal and Diggle track down the location of a boomerang-wielding killer named Digger Harkness (guest star Nick Tarabay) but are surprised when they come face to face with an A.R.G.U.S. team. Diggle asks Lyla why A.R.G.U.S. is involved but she defers until Harkness attacks the building, killing several agents and targeting Lyla. The Arrow joins the fight and gets help from an old friend – The Flash. Harkness manages to get away and Oliver teams up with Barry again to find him before he can get to Lyla. When Harkness plants five bombs in the city that are timed to explode at the same time, both teams must come together to save the city.”

The above clip from this year’s upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special was played at Friday’s Children in Need special. Jenna Coleman is shown appearing again as Clara, and we do not know if this means whether Clara is continuing with the show next season or exiting the series as previously rumored.

Steven Moffat has discussed the past season of Doctor Who. With it uncertain as to whether there will be a new companion coming, there has been a lot of attention paid to his discussion of “changing it up with the companion.”

We actually have changed it up quite a lot, look how different those girls have been. Wait and see.

What we have is probably the most enduring form of the show and I think will always tend back to it for whatever reason, but there’s no reason you couldn’t tend away from it and there’s no diktat or special rule book left by Verity Lambert or something.

We absolutely could vary it. The times they’ve varied it, it makes them work hard – you can see them struggling with Leela. She was a great character but they had to civilize her fast because it was getting hard to fit her into stories – but it’s not a hard and fast rule at all.

Some of the bloggers at The Mary Sue disagree that they have changed it up all that much. Comments included, ” I know! Amy’s hair was red, and Clara’s was dark brown! So different“followed by, “And they were played by different women and it wasn’t the same actress in a wig so, right there.” Other comments included, ““And one wasn’t in love with the Doctor” followed by “Yes. One of them only flirted with the doctor. The others flirted and had feelings!” Maybe we’ll see “something really, really different” such as “curly hair.” On the other hand, the current formula works, so why be concerned about changing anything up?

The past season has received mixed reviews from fans, with more criticism of the plot holes in Moffat stories. What Culture has compiled a list of their top “face palm” moments in Doctor Who. While some fans are swearing that Moffat is destroying the show, to be fair to Moffat there were plenty of plot holes in stories before he took over. Examples can be found here, here, and here. Similarly, plot holes can be found during any typical evening of watching television. The nature of the show increases the risk of some plot holes on a show such as Doctor Who, but I also think the number is increased because Moffat often throws far too many clever ideas into some episodes, as he did in Death in Heaven. I feel he did a better job on episodes such as Blink in which he devoted the episode to just one clever idea and fully developed the story around it.

Michelle Gomez is hinting she will return to Doctor Who next season. She did too good a job as Missy to not consider using her again.

The Fall has started its second season, receiving excellent reviews, and Gillian Anderson hints there might be a third season. Netflix, which has the first season of this British series, will release all six episodes of the second season on January 16. The trailer is above.

There seems to be quite a few genre novels being turned into television series. Jonathan Nolan, creator of Person if Interest, is doing an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series for HBO. I could see this working as either adaptations of the books or as stories set in the universe Asimov created. Amazon has announced their planned pilots for 2015 and the list includes a series based upon The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. The alternative history creates a world twenty years after World War II in which the allies have lost. This could be another example of a series which might work by either adapting the novel or writing original stories in the universe created by the novel.

Ascension, a three night mini-series starting on Syfy on December 15 sounds like it could be awesome. Trailer above. From what I’ve read at various sources, the premise is that during the Kennedy years there were fears that humanity would not survive so an interstellar life boat was sent into space with a wide variety of people. The series takes place in the present, but the culture has not changed from the 1960’s, sort of giving us Mad Men in space. The mini-series reportedly deals with problems ranging from a murder to reaching the point of no return and having to decide whether to go on or to return to earth. Cast includes Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica as the scheming wife of the Captain.

Paget Brewster

Community finally starts production next week and will be adding two new cast members following the loss of some regulars over the years. The new members of the cast will be Paget Brewster (above) and Keith David.

Carol Ann Susi, who provided the voice of Mrs. Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory, died last Tuesday. No word yet as to how this will be handled on the show.

Glen A. Larson, creator of the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,  Magnum P.I., and multiple other shows has died.

Karen Gillan’s new series Selfie has apparently not received enough “likes” and has been canceled by ABC. CBS has canceled The Millers, which means that Margo Martindale might now have more time to reprise her role as Claudia on The Americans.

If you heard the rumors last week about Spider-Man’s Aunt May getting her own movie, they aren’t true. The biggest problem with the rumored concept was that the movie was going to take place when she was younger. If the concept had any chance of succeeding, they’d be better sticking with Sally Field, who just  might be able to pull it off.


Funny or Die used porn stars to explain net neutrality in the video above. Consumerist summarizes:

…three adult actresses — Alex Chance, Mercedes Carrera, and Nadia Styles — explain what it would mean if the FCC passes compromised neutrality rules.

“Without net neutrality, Internet service providers could create special fast lanes for content providers willing to pay more,” says Carrera.

Adds Chance, “That means slow streaming, slow social networking, and yes, slow porn.”

Ms. Styles slam neutrality critic, Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas, saying he “doesn’t want me to get naked for you.”

She also points out that the anti-neutrality drive is being led by wealthy older men and says that doesn’t make any sense since, “Old rich guys watch the weirdest porn.”

Ms. Chance compares the current, neutral state of the Internet to “a giant sex party where everyone gets to have sex with anyone they want,” but Ms. Carrera contends that, “Without net neutrality, that sex party is only for rich people.”

 Bill Cosby’s attorney has issued a statement regarding the recent rape allegations:

Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced. The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true. Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment. He would like to thank all his fans for the outpouring of support and assure them that, at age 77, he is doing his best work. There will be no further statement from Mr. Cosby or any of his representatives.

Response from The Washington Monthly:

As I’ve previously noted, I certainly hope the allegations—some of which date back years—against Cosby turn out to be false; if true, every bigot who thinks African-American men, regardless of accomplishments, are sex fiends at heart will say, “See! I told you so!” However, as Boston Globe columnist Renee Graham notes, Cosby’s credibility appears to be compromised:

“Cosby settled a lawsuit in 2006 filed by a woman who claimed the comedian drugged and raped her in 2004, and he has never been charged with any crime connected to the allegations. Yet from comedian Hannibal Buress, who straight up called him “a rapist,” to countless slings and arrows on Twitter, there’s a sense that Cosby won’t emerge from this mess unscathed…

“Howard Bragman, a longtime celebrity public relations consultant, insisted on CNN that Cosby has “got to be willing to go on the air and go on the record, and say ‘These charges are not true, this is nothing I would do.’ ” So far, Cosby has done no such thing, perhaps already realizing his reputation is a lost cause.”

Cosby’s attorney says his client’s lips will remain sealed. We’ll see about that. Meanwhile, I don’t quite get why Rush Limbaugh is leaping to Cosby’s defense; does he think Cosby is a Republican? (By the way, remember when the right went after Cosby’s wife Camille in 1998 after she claimed that American racism played a role in the 1997 murder of their son Ennis?)

Again, I hope these allegations against Cosby turn out not to be true. However, if these allegations are meritorious, I think the lesson to be learned is: stop making celebrities out to be heroes.

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Why The Republicans Won Despite Being Wrong On The Issues, Revisited

Paul Krugman discussed how the Republicans won in the midterm elections despite being wrong about pretty much everything. Kurt Eichenwald has more in Vanity Fair looking at many of the things conservatives were wrong about over  the past thirty years. Although the list is far from complete, I’d suggest checking out the full article for the specifics. Topics covered include:

  • Tax cuts pay for themselves
  • Deregulating the Thrift Industry Will Save It
  • Iraq I: The Tilt
  • Giving Iranian Moderates Weapons Will Help America
  • Raising Taxes Will Cause a Recession
  • Abolishing Some Bank Regulations Will Help the Economy
  • The U.S.–led Bombing of Yugoslavia Would Be a Disaster
  • Bin Laden Was a Front for Iraq
  • Iraq 2: W.M.D.s and a Short, Inexpensive War
  • Obamacare

Many people have given different ideas regarding the other part of the question as to how the Republicans won. Fivethirtyeight.com looked at one issue  from polling data in Iowa. They found that, “White voters in Iowa without a college degree have shifted away from the Democratic Party.”

Loss of white working class votes has been a problem for Democrats for several election cycles, and was most pronounced in the 2012 elections. It will be interesting to see if there is any reduction in this trend when Barack Obama is no longer on the ticket. This is certainly not exclusively an issue based upon a black president. The Republicans have depended upon the southern strategy since the 1960’s, using this in the south along with provoking racial fears to gain the votes of less educated white voters in the north.

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Republican Tactics Of Fear And Voter Suppression

Republicans, lacking a real agenda or any solutions to problems, are basing their campaign this year on a combination of fear and voter suppression. They are even trying to politicize Ebola with threats that it will cross our borders (along with people of other colors) and even mutate to become airborne to attack us. (Does their belief that Ebola will change into an airborne infection suggest a new found belief in evolution for some?) First Read writes:

…these advertisements we’re seeing (here, here, and here) go well beyond faith in institutions or government competence. They’re about fear. And frankly, they come when there’s no evidence of ISIS coming across the border and when (remarkably) there’s still been just one confirmed case of Ebola in the United States. Now we understand why Republicans are picking up this theme — they want to nationalize the election, and they have every incentive to. (The more they get voters going into the voting booth upset at Washington, the more likely they are to get Republicans defeating Democratic incumbents in Senate races.) But some of these candidates are walking a fine line; there is a Chicken Little aspect here regarding Ebola and it can border on the irresponsible.

The New York Times reports:

Playing off feelings of anxiety is a powerful strategy for motivating the Republican base. And few issues have proven as potent when linked together as border security and the fear of terrorism. Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, said this week on Fox News that border agents had told him they apprehended 10 Islamic State fighters in Texas. The Department of Homeland Security said his statement was “categorically false.”

Fear has always been a centerpiece of Republican strategy. They scare poorly educated white males into fearing that minorities and women will take their money. They scare Republican voters into believing that Democrats will take away their guns and their bibles. More recently they have been concentrating on fear of Obamacare, even if every single one of their predictions of dire consequences has failed to come about.

Republicans rely upon fear to get their supporters to turn out to vote, and resort to voter suppression to try to keep Democrats from voting. As the GAO reported, Republican-supported voter ID laws aimed at voter suppression result in fewer minorities and young people voting. Fortunately the Supreme Court has thrown out voter ID laws in Wisconsin and Texas, but they have also allowed a law to stand in North Carolina.

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Quote of the Day

“Marvel Comics announced that the next Captain America will be black. He has the same powers as white Captain America except he has to show ID when he votes.” –Bill Maher

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Three Reasons Democrats Might Retain Control Of The Senate

Republicans have an excellent chance to gain control of the Senate this year due to a combination of Republican voters traditionally turning out in higher percentages in midterm elections and the need for Democrats to defend several seats in red states. Current projections from most sources give the Republicans a slight edge but there are a few reasons to believe that the Democrats might hold on to one or two more seats than projected, and retain control of the Senate:

1) The power of incumbency:

Democrats must hold onto seats in red states, but they are states that Democrats have won once before, even if in a presidential election year which was more favorable to Democrats. While they don’t have this advantage in 2014, having candidates running as incumbents might increase the chance of winning. Since 2000 Democratic Senate candidates have usually won reelection in the south, despite their states going heavily to the Republicans in presidential elections. Polls are showing that incumbent southern Democrats remain competitive.

2) Women voters:

Republican hostility towards reproductive rights and attempts to restrict access to contraception as well as abortion has many women voters angry, hopefully enough to turn out to vote. The Hobby Lobby decision might also motivate women.

With their Senate majority at stake in November, Democrats and allied groups are now stepping up an aggressive push to woo single women — young and old, highly educated and working class, never married, and divorced or widowed. This week they seized on the ruling by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, five men, that family-owned corporations do not have to provide birth control in their insurance coverage, to buttress their arguments that Democrats better represent women’s interests.

But the challenge for Democrats is that many single women do not vote, especially in nonpresidential election years like this one. While voting declines across all groups in midterm contests for Congress and lower offices, the drop-off is steepest for minorities and unmarried women. The result is a turnout that is older, whiter and more conservative than in presidential years…

Single women, Democrats say, will determine whether they keep Senate seats in states including Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan and North Carolina — and with them, their Senate majority — and seize governorships in Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, among other states.

The party is using advanced data-gathering techniques to identify unmarried women, especially those who have voted in presidential elections but skipped midterms. By mail, online, phone and personal contact, Democrats and their allies are spreading the word about Republicans’ opposition in Washington — and state capitals like Raleigh — to pay equity, minimum wage and college-affordability legislation; abortion and contraception rights; Planned Parenthood; and education spending.

3) Black Southern Voters:

Black southern voters have long voted Democratic, but now might turn out in high enough numbers to influence the results. Republican efforts to prevent them from voting might backfire, motivating more blacks to turn out:

Southern black voters don’t usually play a decisive role in national elections. They were systematically disenfranchised for 100 years after the end of the Civil War. Since the days of Jim Crow, a fairly unified white Southern vote has often determined the outcome of elections.

This November could be different. Nearly five decades after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, black voters in the South are poised to play a pivotal role in this year’s midterm elections. If Democrats win the South and hold the Senate, they will do so because of Southern black voters.

The timing — 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and 49 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act — is not entirely coincidental. The trends increasing the clout of black voters reflect a complete cycle of generational replacement in the post-Jim Crow era. White voters who came of age as loyal Democrats have largely died off, while the vast majority of black voters have been able to vote for their entire adult lives — and many have developed the habit of doing so.

This year’s closest contests include North Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia. Black voters will most likely represent more than half of all Democratic voters in Louisiana and Georgia, and nearly half in North Carolina. Arkansas, another state with a large black population, is also among the competitive states…

Democrats lamented low black turnout for decades, but Southern black turnout today rivals or occasionally exceeds that of white voters. That’s in part because black voters, for the first time, have largely been eligible to vote since they turned 18. They have therefore had as many opportunities as their white counterparts to be targeted by campaigns, mobilized by interest groups or motivated by political causes.

Mr. Obama is part of the reason for higher black turnout, which surpassed white turnout nationally in the 2012 presidential election, according to the census. But black turnout had been increasing steadily, even before Mr. Obama sought the presidency. In 1998, unexpectedly high black turnout allowed Democrats to win a handful of contests in the Deep South; in 2002, Ms. Landrieu won a Senate runoff with a surge in black turnout.

The Supreme Court’s decision last year to strike down a central provision of the Voting Rights Act unleashed a wave of new laws with a disparate impact on black voters, including cuts in early voting and photo-identification requirements.

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Republican Extremism Gives Democrats The Edge

Jonathan Chait looked at demographic and political trends to consider whether the trend towards the Democratic Party is likely to continue. Much of what he wrote is a recap of the conventional wisdom these days, with some disagreeing. He considered multiple factors including the tendency of the young and minorities to vote Democratic. To some degree this could be offset by an increased trend for white voters to vote Republican out of a backlash against the increase in minorities. While Democrats are expected to dominate in presidential elections, there certainly can be exceptions if there is a major occurrence favoring Republicans as the party out of power. Plus Republicans should continue to maintain a sizable portion of Congress due to the higher turnout among Republicans in off year elections as well as structural advantages in each House. Republicans have an advantage in the House of Representatives due to gerrymandering and the greater concentration of Democrats in urban areas, giving Democrats victories by larger margins in a smaller number of states. Republicans have an advantage in the Senate due to smaller Republican states having the same number of Senators as the larger Democratic states. Republicans therefore have a reasonable chance of controlling each House, or come close as is now the case in the Senate, despite a larger number of people voting for Democrats to represent them.

The key point which gives us our status quo, and gives the Democrats the edge, is that the Republican Party is now firmly in the hands of a radical fringe which will always have difficulty winning a national election, but which is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future:

My belief, of which I obviously can’t be certain, is that conservatism as we know it is doomed. I believe this because the virulent opposition to the welfare state we see here is almost completely unique among major conservative parties across the world. In no other advanced country do leading figures of governing parties propose the denial of medical care to their citizens or take their ideological inspiration from crackpots like Ayn Rand. America’s unique brand of ideological anti-statism is historically inseparable (as I recently argued) from the legacy of slavery. Whatever form America’s polyglot majority ultimately takes, it is hard to see the basis for its attraction to an ideology sociologically rooted in white supremacy.

Jonathan Bernstein sees the United States as remaining more of a 50:50 nation as in 2000, also citing George Bush’s victory over John Kerry in 2004. However the Democratic advantage in the electoral college has increased tremendously since 2000 when George W. Bush was able to come in a close enough second to take the presidency due to irregularities in Florida and a friendly Supreme Court. This victory in 2000, along with the 9/11 attack, gave Bush, as an incumbent during time of war, an edge which future Republican candidates are unlikely to enjoy.

The current political divisions won’t last in their current form forever. At sometime there is likely to be a major event which shakes up the current divisions. Chait noted that this might have been the 9/11 attack if the Republicans hadn’t squandered their political advantages by their disastrous invasion of Iraq. I would add to that being on the wrong side of far too many other issues prevented the Republicans from becoming a long-term majority party.

Most likely at some point in the future the far right will lose their grasp on the Republican Party as those who actually want to be able to win an election eventually regain control. Perhaps this will come as a newer generation rejects the most extreme ideas of the current conservative movement. If the Republicans don’t change, eventually a third party might challenge them, as difficult as it is for third parties to compete in our current political system. We might also see the Republicans persisting in their current form as a southern regional party as others battle for political control in the rest of the country.

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Obama Warns Of Threats To Right To Vote

Protect Vote

If one followed politics superficially from the mainstream media, they might come to the incorrect view that we have a two party system in which the two parties differ on some issues but are essentially mirror images of each other. Looking more closely, it becomes apparent that instead we have a centrist party which has been struggling to continue our system of self-government and an extreme right wing party which seeks the destroy the vision of America held by our founding fathers. Among those who have bucked the usual media narrative and have reported on this are Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. This pair of centrists who have pointed this out in an essay, Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem, and in their book  It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, which clearly laid out the extremism of the current Republican Party. They have explained that the mainstream media missed the big story of the 2012 campaign–the dishonesty and extremism of the Republican Party.

Republicans benefit by rigging the system in their favor as much as possible. Some of this is built in to the structure of our government, such as giving small Republican states the same number of Senators as larger, Democratic states. Gerrymandering, as well as the tendency of Democrats to concentrate more in urban areas, give Republican an advantage in the House, even in elections such as in 2012 when more people voted for Democratic representatives than Republicans. Republicans take advantage of control over large segments of the mainstream media, including Fox which operates essentially as a house propaganda organ, and then “play the refs” by complaining of fictitious liberal media bias. If this isn’t enough, they try to rig election laws to make it harder for Democrats to vote.

While Republicans use their influence over the mainstream media to promote misinformation to further their cause, Democrats have done a poor job of promoting a message or even of exposing what their opponents are doing. I was therefore happy to see that Barack Obama has spoken out against Republican restriction of voting rights.

“The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago,” Mr. Obama said in a hotel ballroom filled with cheering supporters, most of them African-American. “Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote.”

Speaking a day after a conference in Texas commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, Mr. Obama linked the issue to the movement that helped pave the way for him to become the nation’s first black president.

“America did not stand up and did not march and did not sacrifice to gain the right to vote for themselves and for others only to see it denied to their kids and their grandchildren,” he said.

Republicans in some swing states have advanced new laws that go beyond the voter identification requirements of recent years. Among other things, state lawmakers are pushing measures to limit the time polls are open and to cut back early voting, particularly weekend balloting that makes it easier for lower-income voters to participate. Other measures would eliminate same-day registration, make it more difficult to cast provisional ballots or curb the mailing of absentee ballots.

Over the last 15 months, at least nine states have enacted voting changes making it harder to cast ballots. A federal judge last month upheld laws in Arizona and Kansas requiring proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or a passport, leading other states to explore following suit.

I hope we see more of this. Warnings about the Republican threat to freedom and democracy should not be limited to a single date commemorating a past event. This should be an important part of the political debate between the parties every day. Hopefully people will then realize that they should be wary of a political party which finds that its success depends upon keeping people from voting.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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