The Supreme Court: Cracking Open the Future

The presidential campaign soon will reach its fever pitch.  October is its apogee.  Amid the din and noise and building craziness of the next five weeks, the Supreme Court holds its opening conference today, ahead of the full term that convenes next Monday.  The Court fittingly will begin its work ahead of the voters’ judgment on Nov. 6 –appropriate because its impending term could overshadow the presidential election of 2012 in the long run of history.

I wonder if the Justices in their cloistered reflections ever consider the fate of their families, their grandchildren in particular.  Historians one day almost certainly could look back and see this Court’s term as the decisive moment when the United States positioned itself for another great century or began to drift inexorably into irrelevancy if not periods of outright civil strife.  In the next few months, the Court will consider critical cases that will determine how the country manages changes in its new demography that will bump up against the basic civil rights of its citizens and of destiny itself.

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A swing and a miss but they got a YouTube sensation out of it

Posted on Thursday night for Friday’s blog.

Mitt Romney’s speech was a single with no one on base.  Whether the voters move him around the bases is very much a very open question.  The curve balls the Republican national convention threw the country were too simple and the lines too obvious.  Hispanics. Check.  Women. Check.  Marriage. Check.  Romney could have hit a homerun, but when you start with another Bush, it is hard to be taken seriously.  Jeb Bush defending his brother – certain to go down in history as the worst of presidents – reminded the country of how bad George W. Bush was, how bad a time the country is having recovering and how bad Mitt Romney might be.  The video promoting Romney before he spoke included photographs of Romney’s father, who with his record on civil rights probably would not have supported Arizona’s anti-HispanicLatino that are metastasizing across the country.

This whole enterprise is warped somehow.  The forced, awkward elevation of the man, the lofty descriptions of his business record, the declarations of self-achievement – they all evoke that old Shakespearean line:  “I think he doth protest too much.”  And poor Clint Eastwood.  He represents the skeletal notions of a make-believe past.  The disrespect for the Office of the President with the empty-chair act was astonishing.  I felt sorry for Eastwood and for the men and women who felt they had to prop up Romney with faded delusion and crudeness.  The computer severs at YouTube might be confused at the NSA with spinning centrifuges in Iran.  Not far behind Eastwood were the retellings of family stories – from Marco Rubio’s oddly agitated speech to Ann Romney’s pasta-and-tuna saga of the other night.  They sounded hollow and lonely, even, perhaps meant to scare people into loss.  I figured out that loss was the theme of the convention.  Loss of security. Loss of jobs. Loss of families.  The concept of the family was used to frighten, not to inspire. I also figured out that Paul Ryan is Eddie Haskell.

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The Unintended Paradox of Arizona

Nothing defines an individual more than a different identity being thrust upon him or her. It is more important than just one moment, and it in the long run might be pivotal for the country.  It might convert a leaderless community into one of action — for America’s good.. 

The massive attention given to the Supreme Court decision on Arizona represents only a part of our passage into the new time we are privileged to witness, although many of us will have to adjust our vision to it, as if entering a room suddenly lit.  The intense speculation over the HispanicLatino vote in the presidential race is but another component of the point of no return.  Things HispanicLatino have become and will forever be, with growing strength, a part of the national consciousness.  The Dream Act.  The penetration of the HispanicLatino image into mainstream advertising.  The changing demography.  Unending elections and perennial electoral calculations.  All are real departure points rooted in change but now intensified by the necessity of HispanicLatinos to prove their citizenship by showing their papers until the last remaining part of Arizona is declared unconstitutional. 

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Court on Arizona: Maintains and raises race as central theme of nation’s future

The essence of the American experience throughout its history has been race.  From the country’s very beginning when the founders sidestepped slavery, through the Civil War and through the civil rights movement, racial identity – and the meaning of Americanhood – has been a focal point in the events of our time.  The Supreme Court’s affirmative decision on Arizona’s anti-HispanicLatino law maintains – and in fact raises – race as a central theme of the nation’s destiny.  Not only can any HispanicLatino be stopped by local enforcement officials but also blacks, Asian Americans and any dark-skinned person thought to be from anywhere else.  In that sense, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was correct in claiming that the “heart” of her state’s racist law that permits racial profiling was confirmed. 

But Brewer also said that local enforcement authorities will be held “accountable” if they engage in racial profiling.  From my days covering police departments as a reporter years ago and then later when I worked as a speechwriter for the commissioner of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service, I know the power and discretion that local officers have.  And some, no doubt, will go overboard.  And therein Brewer has no idea how accountable local governments will be held, for the moment that any citizen or any other person in the country legally has his or her rights violated by overzealous officers, they must sue the local governments that officer represents. 

Only a cascade of lawsuits that will hurt local governments financially can push back the wave of discrimination that will soon be visited upon unsuspecting HispanicLatinos and other individuals of color.  County and city and school districts that engage in any kind of discrimination must be taken into account – immediately.  HispanicLatino attorneys must be the first line of attack on the Court’s tragic decision.  In the smaller towns and cities and marginal localities in which HispanicLatinos are at the most risk, properly timed lawsuits against these local governments can bankrupt many of them. The Court left open the possibility that the most odious part of the decision could be challenged almost immediately.  Let those legal assaults begin in earnest on all fronts.  HispanicLatino attorneys literally must invade local courthouses with lawsuits.  Local and state governments should pause before moving forward on ill-fated, ill-advised efforts that will prove counterproductive in the end.

A pivotal implication of the Court’s decision, then, is the slow movement of history pushing HispanicLatinos to the lead of the civil rights struggles of the future through the legal system.  The Court put in high relief the lead role that HispanicLatinos – the principal force changing the country’s demographics – are going to play in its future.

In more ways than most people can appreciate, this is a pivotal moment in the nation’s history.  The Court did nothing to advance the notion that the nation one day will get over the question of the color of one’s skin.  And in deciding infamously on Bush v. Gore, women’s wages, campaign finance reform and, probably, health care and, certainly, on Arizona, the Court is on the wrong side of history.  HispanicLatinos can advance their history-altering responsibilities by making sure that the Court – its decisions and its composition – become an election-year issue.

If HispanicLatinos in fact are destined to change the country, let them start by remaking the Court by helping re-elect a President who might yet have the opportunity to appoint another justice or two.

On summer’s eve: An election way down the road to being decided

As the summer begins, where does the presidential election stand five months before Americans go to the polls?  If retired general Colin Powell is to be believed, he is one of those voters still undecided who make the polls a muddle when in fact I suspect they are not.  I guess we are going to trust his word.  The reality is the election is being decided each day.  It would be a good bet that the endless news cycle is driving more voters to an earlier decision than four years ago.  The much-ballyhooed lack of intensity among voters will be a wash if the campaigns do their work correctly.  Even though the electorates of 2008, 2010 and 2012 will be different one from the other, in many ways the election perhaps is closer to already having been decided – except for the final tally of votes.

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More than about civil rights, education is about national security

Last week in Washington, Mitt Romney said the failure of schools with minority students “is the civil rights issue of our era.’’  Hmmm.  It is more the seminal national security of our time but who’s quibbling?  If HispanicLatinos do not accelerate their educational – and thus their economic – attainment in the short term, they will not be able to stave off the nation’s crushing fiscal demands in the long term.  Without the tax revenues necessary to keep abreast with the technological advances in defense systems, the country’s defenses ultimately will be on par with other nations.  It is only a matter of time.  Not to mention keeping up with other costs.  But this is a fella who cannot bring himself to support any version of the Dream Act, and he seems to not understand how college-opportunities programs after World War II set up the nation for long-term economic growth.

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Same Sex Marriage Does Not Trump Arizona

Many years ago one of the most influential books ever written shaped my own political identity and my view of the world. Ostensibly about the presidential campaign of 1960, Theodore White’s Pultizer Prize-winning The Making of the President told the story of how John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson survived one of the narrowest presidential victories in the nation’s history.  But more than simply converting a political story into a highly interesting narrative, White wrote revealingly about how political markets are hardly more than consumer markets.  In his eyes, fifty states and the District of Columbia – each one different from the other – comprised 51 political markets with many more submarkets of voters, hundreds in fact.  They still do, if not more so.

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The New America: A New Creation

To an already over-populated world undoubtedly harming its environment and contributing to climate change, the thought of adding more people to a global population of seven billion is not a subject easily dismissed nor left blithely unconsidered.  Yet, the arms race of the previous century has been displaced by an undeclared demographic war among nations, and America cannot but continue to grow its own population.

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Not Good: Events Taking Shape Without Significant HispanicLatino Participation

It says a lot about the country today that the Republican nominee for President is being chosen without any meaningful participation by one of its largest population groups.  Aside from Florida where the HispanicLatino vote played some role, the HispanicLatino electoral quotient in the primaries and caucuses has been nil, which is in stark juxtaposition to the cover of Time magazine that has so many across the nation twitter.  Yesterday’s primary in Arizona – of all places – saw almost no participation by HispanicLatinos.  In a different world, HispanicLatinos should have rushed to vote for a more moderate Republican candidate win. But HispanicLatinos skipped the primary as if it never existed – a fact that speaks to how bifurcated the country is politically.

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On Stage Last Night: The Old America

If you believe that the country is undergoing a historic demographic transformation and that a new America has emerged with a majority of the country realizing it needs a new way forward, then you need to look no farther than last night’s Republican presidential forum in Arizona.  The debate was for and about the old America, that is to say, that part of the country that is willing to hear candidates for the Presidency who would spend 25 minutes…on birth control.  The discussion last night was of interest to voters who care about the issues that hardly matter to the rest of America: The bailout of the auto industry that worked; immigration that helps prop up a declining national population and, of course, birth control.  And that was the first hour.

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