Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Civil Rights After the Midterms, Or, the Mostly-Not-So-Good News from Tuesday Night

Watching the VA recount with baited breath? Here's some less-covered election-related info to hew on. Because besides the control of Congress, there were a variety of civil rights-related ballot initiatives throughout the country on Tuesday night, and, unfortunately, progressive notions of justice and civil rights did not do as well as the Democrats.

Because there are no vestiges of slavery or the oppression of women:

As I discussed last week, names matter. And the "Michigan Civil Rights Initiative" seems to have benefited from its misleading name. Also known as Proposition 2, this radically restrictive limit on essentially any government initiatives that take race or gender into account. The initiative was sponsored by California businessman Ward Connerly, and is patterned on California's Proposition 209, which has been broadly interpreted to prohibit all programs designed to increase achievement and opportunity for women and racial minorities. The proposition bans affirmative action in higher education, public employment and government contracts.

The MCRI passed about 58% to 42%, and the win is very symbolic for those who are opposed to civil rights. Since the Supreme Court's decision in Gratz v. Bollinger, conservatives have been pointing to policies at the University of Michigan as all that is wrong with affirmative action. And sure enough, the most visible Michiganer in the campaign for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative? Jennifer Gratz. A friend of mine from Michigan was exalting the election results in this case. He kept arguing, "Well there are poor whites too." I don't disagree. But this initiative does not require the State of Michigan to create programs that consider barriers to education and socioeconomic development for low-income whites. Nor does it eliminate preferences that are disadvantageous to the majority of low-income white people: preferences based on income, alumni status, your attendance at some hoity-toity prep school, your high property taxes which enrolled you at an elite public school, or the ability of your parents to contribute large amounts of money. To claim this law is a law that benefits and protects low-income whites is nothing but a sham.

Programs designed to increase the number of women in science and engineering? Gone. Programs promoting minority-owned businesses and investments in communities? Done.
How these programs created great evils in society (or in Michigan), I'm not quite sure.

The effects of Proposition 209 in CA have been mitigated by a creative legislature and administrative structure that has sought to ensure that the population served by affirmative action and other race-conscious and gender-conscious programs. But California is a much more progressive state than Michigan, and racial minorities have a fairly strong voice in the wide variety of political decisions. In Michigan, racial minorities do not have such "back-up" to protect their interest.

The truth is, disadvantaged white people won't particularly gain as a result of the MCRI. Racial minorities and women will lose, and those who resent social integration will win. That's nothing to be proud of.

DOMA is not enough

Gays aren't so gay:

A number of states proposed amendments to their state constitutions to ban same-sex marriage, though most of them already have statutes doing such. Unfortunately, the timing of the recent New Jersey decision didn't particularly help in this area- though there really wasn't any danger that the courts in these states were going to rule that their particular marriage regimes were unlawful.

My sources give me the following informal projected results:

Yes No
South Dakota - 52% 48%
Colorado- 56% 44%
Virginia- 57% 43%
Wisconsin- 59% 41%
Idaho- 63% 37%
South Carolina- 78% 22%
Tennessee- 80% 20%

Obviously, if there is ever a federal right to same-sex marriage, that will likely trump all of these discriminatory state marriages. And in Colorado, home of the Christian Right, domestic partnership was also up on the ballot, and was voted down.

Arizona: Goldwater-O'Connor Republicans?

Many have been saying that progressives should give up on the South, and focus on the West, and that the battle for control of the country will occur in the West. And Arizona provided some hope in that area last night. Though a state that has been fairly "red" of late, Arizona voters it seems have voted down an amendment to their Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, 49%-51%

New York

New York's Governor-Elect Eliot Spitzer has promised to push for same-sex marriage in New York. He faces a Republican-controlled Senate, but New York may very well be granting same-sex marriage rights in the next few years.

Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land:

South Dakota voters have clearly voted down what was essentially a ban on abortion, which attempted to challenge Roe v. Wade. Passed by the South Dakota legislature last year, opponents successfully made use of a provision in that state's constitution that forced a referendum on the issue. Voters decided they did not want to fly in the face of established Supreme Court precedent, 56% to 44%.

But there is some other good news, maybe:
  • Massachusetts has its first African-American Governor.
  • A woman is third in line to be President.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee may be controlled by Democrats
  • Progressive interpretations of the constitution may find their way into Congressionally-passed laws.
  • Minimum-wage increases passed across the country.
The effects of the 2006 elections on civil rights? Who knows?



At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to understand the impact of the midterm election on civil rights (or any issue), I'd do a quick canvass of the views of the Blue Dog Democrats. They will be REALLY ascentant in this Congress. They'll only add to their ranks with moderates from Red states like Webb, McCaskill, and Tester.

However, the true swing votes won't be the freshmen. It'll be folks like Lieberman and veterans of the Blue Dog Dems. They'll be the people to whom the Freshman look for advice. And they'll be more secure in their seats -- and therefore more likely to take stances that more closely reflect their own political views.


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