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George Curry

Democrats' Smart Butt White Boys Syndrome

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(NNPA) In 1984, former UN Ambassador Andrew Young described the inner circle of Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale as “smart a– White boys” who thought they knew everything.  Obviously, they didn’t because Mondale lost the general election by a large margin to Ronald Reagan.

Knowing that in a president’s second-term, the party in power usually loses 29 House seats, along with the real possibility of Democrats losing control of the Senate this year, some party leaders are trying to give the appearance they are in control and Democrats will buck that historical voting trend.

In an interview with a group of African American reporters last week, for example, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,  described how much better positioned Democrats are this year compared to past off-year elections. He spoke of the DCCC hiring a diversity director for the first time, adding a national voter training director, creating an Internet platform for vendors of color and allowing resumes to be dropped off in the field.

In other words, he talked about the kind of things smart butt White boys talk about. My fear is that another group of smart butt White boys will lead Democrats down the path of defeat unless the strategists reverse course.

The upcoming mid-term election may be yet another example of Black voters never getting the credit they deserve winning seats for the party but getting an overabundance of blame when Democrats get their heads handed to them.

The Washington Post, carried a story under the headline, “Will black voters be House Democrats’ midterm firewall?” In the story, Israel noted that in 15 of the top 25 districts being targeted by the DCCC, Blacks make up at least 10 percent of the voting-age population, enough to provide the margin of victory.

“We have a unique challenge in offsetting drop off with African American voters, with Hispanic voters, and with young female voters,” Israel said. “So we’re tackling those challenges head on.”

In the meeting with reporters, Israel mentioned efforts from getting commercials cut by First Lady Michelle Obama to getting Black voters to sign cards committing them to vote in November. As Election Day nears, those cards will be mailed back to prospective voters, hoping that action will get them to turn up at the polls.

The most troubling aspect of the exchange with Israel was that he appears to be putting more faith in such long-shot gimmicks as voter commitment cards than reaching the Black community through the Black Press.

In fact, when pressed on the issue of utilizing Black media,  Israel said while there may be some Black media buys, “The vast majority of our budget is spent on one thing – that is buying television time. That’s it.”

That may be “it” for Democrats in November if they think the best way to reach Black voters is to lump them in with everyone else who watches TV. Even if television reaches more Black voters than Black newspapers, radio stations, magazines and Internet sites, it is not as trusted by African Americans as the Black Press.

As a Nielsen study found, “Companies mistakenly believe there are no language barriers, that a general market ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy is an effective way to reach African-Americans. Just the opposite is true.”

If smart butt White boys are as smart as they think, they would recognize that in the Black community, the messenger is as important as the message. And that is not limited to the Black Press. It also applies to the largely White-controlled 527 organizations established in recent elections that acted as though they knew more about our community than grass root organizations that are on the ground every day, yet continue to struggle for funding.

Democrats face another hurdle – 67 percent of the Democratic base does not know there is a mid-term election in November, according to polling done for the DCCC by Cornel Belcher, an African American.

In addition, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in July found: “Currently, 45% of registered voters who plan to support the Republican in their district say they are more enthusiastic about voting than in prior congressional elections; that compares with 37% of those who plan to vote for the Democratic candidate.”

Democrats need to give Blacks something to vote for rather than overly relying Republican calls for impeachment to motivate the Black base.

According to an analysis of the Black vote by the Associated Press, African Americans voted at a higher rate than Whites in 2008 and 2012. Obviously, having Barack Obama’s name on the ballot was a key factor.

Blacks can vote at high levels again in 2014 if they understand the success or failure Obama’s last two years in office will be determined by who gets elected in November. But if Democrats stubbornly stick to relying on television to reach Black voters, they will lose in 2014 just as smart butt White boys lost 30 years ago.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

The Politics of Federal Judges

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(NNPA) The two conflicting appeals court rulings last week on the legality of a key provision of the Affordable Care Act – one supporting it and the other rejecting the health law – underscore the nexus between politics and the judiciary. All of the judges voting to uphold the ACA were appointed by Democrats. All of the judges voting to strike down the law were appointed by Republicans.

We’ve seen this scenario played out at the U.S. Supreme Court, with most controversial rulings decided on a 5-4 vote, with conservatives clinging to a one-vote margin. But the most important appointments might be those of federal appeals court judges, the last stop before a case reaches the Supreme Court.

Approximately 10,000 cases are appealed to the Supreme Court each year. Of those, only 75-80 are accepted. Therefore, many important decisions are made in cases that never reach the  Supreme Court.

Separate appeals court rulings on a key provision of the Affordable Care Act on July 22 vividly illustrate the why looking are lower court judges is extremely important.

At issue was whether the federal government could provide subsidies to low- and middle-income citizens in the form of tax credits to purchase insurance coverage on the insurance marketplace operated by federal authorities.

A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said no, with two Republican judges voting against the subsidies and the lone Democrat voting to uphold the provision.  In the majority were Thomas Griffith, appointed by George W. Bush, and Raymond Randolph, an appointee of H.W. Bush.  Dissenting was Harry T. Edwards, a Jimmy Carter nominee.

Hours later, a three-judge panel of 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, all appointed by Democrats, ruled that the Internal Revenue Service correctly interpreted the law when it issued regulations allowing health insurance tax credits for consumers in all 50 states. Judges Andre Davis and Stephanie Thacker were appointed by Obama and Roger Gregory was originally appointed Bill Clinton.

Over the years, the 4th Circuit was considered a bastion of conservatism.  With six appointments since he has been in office – and a seventh pending – President Obama has been able to flip the court’s majority from Republican to Democratic appointees.

This discussion of appeals court is not intended to minimize the importance of Supreme Court justices. In all likelihood, the next president will make one or two appointments that will determine whether the High Court continues to drift to the right or return to the center.

That’s why it’s so important that African Americans again turn out in record numbers for the presidential election in 2016. This November should be a trial run for mobilizing the Black vote without Barack Obama’s name appearing on the ballot

Federal judges have lifetime appointments. And nyone who asserts that a judge’s politics doesn’t impact his or her rulings is living in a make-believe world.

In a study titled “Ideological Voting on Federal Courts of Appeals: A Preliminary Investigation,” published in the Virginia Law Review, the authors  (Cass R. Sunstein, David Schkade, and Lisa Michelle Ellman)  studied 4,400 legal opinions involving politically sensitive issues and discovered that appeals judges –  as they did recently in the case of the Affordable Care Act –

usually decide cases in keeping with the political philosophy of the president who appointed them to the bench.

“From 1980 through 2002, Republican appointees cast 267 total votes, with 127, or 48 percent, in favor of upholding an affirmative-action policy. By contrast, Democratic appointees cast 198 votes, with 147, or 74 percent, in favor of upholding an affirmative-action policy. Here we find striking evidence of ideological voting,” the study found.

An analysis of George W. Bush’s judicial appointments by Robert Carp, Kenneth Manning L. and Ronald Slidham discovered, “Reagan found a good many conservatives on the bench when he took office. Thus he has had a major role in shaping the entire federal judiciary in his own conservative image for some time to come.”

But as bad as Reagan was, George W. Bush appointed judges who were even more conservative.

Carp told reporters, “Our findings are significant because the general consensus is that President Reagan is the most modern conservative president on record, and yet the judges appointed by George W. Bush are even more conservative than the Reagan judges.”

The Virginia Law Review article concluded: “No reasonable person seriously doubts that ideology, understood as normative commitments of various sorts, helps to explain judicial votes. Presidents are entirely aware of this point, and their appointment decisions are undertaken with full appreciation of it.”

So when someone tells you that the political affiliation of the president appointing judges doesn’t matter or when a president claims to be appointing judges who interpret the law and not legislate from the bench, don’t believe them.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

A Victory for Affirmative Action

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(NNPA) Almost lost among the news last week about the war in the Middle East and a war of another kind in Washington between Republicans and President Obama was a bit of good news:  A federal appeals court, acting on a case remanded by the Supreme Court, upheld the University of Texas’ modest affirmative action program.

Celebration of the victory is expected to be short lived because it is certain that the Supreme Court, which remanded the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit last summer, will take the case up again, this time ruling directly on whether the university’s carefully crafted affirmative action program is constitutional.

Unlike the court’s last affirmative action ruling involving Michigan – which had less to do with the merits of affirmative action and was more about whether a state ballot initiative could be used to ban affirmative action – the Texas case goes to the heart of affirmative action.

The lawuit was brought by Abigail Fisher, a White applicant who was turned down for admission to the University of Texas at Austin, the state’s flagship university, in the fall of 2008. Texas operates a Top Ten Percent Plan, which grants automatic admission to state universities to students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class.  The year Fisher applied, 81 percent of the university’s admission slots was filled in that manner.

The remaining openings were filled through what the university calls a holistic review program, which looks at such factors as demonstrated leadership qualities, extracurricular activities, honors, awards, essays, work experience, socioeconomic status, family composition, family responsibilities, the applicant’s high school and race. No numbers were assigned to any of those categories.

Fisher did not finish in the top 10 percent of her class, forcing her to compete with 17,131 other applicants for the remaining 1,216 seats for Texas residents. Given the number of Top Ten Percent students accepted to the University of Texas, even if Fisher had been perfect in her holistic review, school officials said, “..she could not have received an offer of admissions to the Fall 2008 freshman class. If she had been a minority, the result would have been the same.”

Of all of the factors admissions counselors examined, such as essays and awards, Fisher chose to blame her failure to gain admission strictly on race.

Like a string of Whites challenging affirmative action, she filed suit claiming the consideration of race violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. constitution, a provision that was first adopted to protect former slaves from Southern lawmakers. It states that “no state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

As the University of Texas noted, the holistic review was created to give students an individualized review during the admissions process.

“Close scrutiny of the data in this record confirms that holistic review – what little remains after over 80% of the class is admitted on class rank alone – does not , as claimed, function as an open gate to boost minority headcount for a racial quota. Far from it,” the appeals court stated. “The increasingly fierce competition for the decreasing number of seats available for Texas students outside the top ten percent results in minority students being under-represented – and white students being over represented – in holistic review admissions relative to the program’s impact on each incoming class.”

For example, the court noted, “Of the incoming class of 2008, the year Fisher applied for admission, holistic review contributed 19% of the class of Texas students as a whole – but only 12% of the Hispanic students and 16% of the black students, while contributing 24% of the white students.”

In 2003, the Supreme Court, in Grutter v. Bollinger, upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action in a case involving the University of Michigan Law School. The court’s 5-4 majority accepted the assertion that diversity is essential to the educational mission of universities, but required a standard of “strict scrutiny” be applied, requiring that remedies be narrowly tailored to achieve the goal of a diverse student body.

The University of Texas, following a long, documented history of racial animus, complied with that narrow Supreme Court standard and the Fifth Circuit originally sanctioned those efforts. The decision was appealed and the Supreme Court sent the case back to the appeals court. Now, for the second time since 2011, the 5th Circuit judges have stated unequivocally that UT is operating a lawful affirmative action program.

That was evident to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the lone dissenter in the 7-1 decision to send the Texas cases back to the 5th Circuit . She said, “…Like so many educational institutions across the Nation, the University has taken care to follow the model approved by the Court in Grutter v. Bollinger.”

But this conservative-dominated Supreme Court will probably visit this case yet again, trying to find a way to chip away at one of its own rulings.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook
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Republicans' Selective Memory on Executive Order

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(NNPA) To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, arguably the most overrated U.S. president in history, there they go again. They, of course, are Republicans in the House of Representatives. And they are going after President Obama yet again, this time over his use of executive orders, presidential directives that have been issued by every president over the past 73 years.

First, let’s brush up on our high school civics.

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt through Barack Obama have issued orders that seek to leverage the government’s procurement spending to promote socio-economic policies that some commentators would characterize as extraneous to contractors’ provision of goods or services to the government.”

The report, titled “Presidential Authority to Impose Requirements on Federal Contractors,” explained, “Presidential power to issue executive orders must derive from the Constitution or from an act of Congress. Contractor-related executive orders historically have been issued based upon the President’s powers under Article II of the Constitution or the powers delegated to the President by FPASA,” a reference to the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949.

The CRS report noted. “FPASA states that its purpose is to ‘provide the Federal Government with an economical and efficient system for … [p]rocuring and supplying property and nonpersonal services’ and authorizes the President to prescribe any ‘policies and directives’ consistent with the act that he ‘considers necessary to carry out’ the act’s goals of efficiency and economy.”

One of the most significant presidential actions was Executive Order 11246, which was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Sept. 28, 1965. It requires federal contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”

According to CRS, “Under the authority of Executive Order 11246, officials of the Department of Labor issued two orders commonly known as the Philadelphia Plan. The Philadelphia Plan required bidders for federal and federally funded construction contracts in the Philadelphia area valued in excess of $500,000 to submit ‘acceptable affirmative action program[s],’ including ‘specific goals’ for ‘minority manpower utilization’ in six construction trades prior to contract award.”

Of the past 10 presidents, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Obama has issued the fewest executive orders per year. According to the American Presidency Project, Obama issued 147 executive orders during his first term, compared to 504 by FDR, 266 by Dwight D. Eisenhower, 247 by Richard M. Nixon, 213 by Ronald Reagan, 200 by Bill Clinton, and 173 by George W. Bush over a similar period.

As of June 20, Obama had issued 35 executive orders during his second term.

His executive actions have stopped the deportation of immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children, affected climate change by compelling power plants to reduce their emissions by 30 percent by 2030, raised the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour, extended rights for same-sex couples and impacted gun control with 23 separate executive orders.

Strangely, Republicans, who have voted 54 times over four years to repeal or alter the Affordable Care Act, are not planning to sue President Obama on any of those issues. Instead, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has asked Congress for permission to sue Obama because he suspended the start date of the employer mandate provision of the health care law.

It doesn’t get more ridiculous than this. Unable to repeal what they call Obamacare, House Republicans are moving faster than the lips of an auctioneer on crack to sue the president because he is making it easier to comply with what everyone except anti-Obama Republicans recognize as the law of the land.

As Sabastian Payne wrote in the Washington Post, “… For all the accusations of abuse of power, his [Obama] actual uses of his executive authority so far aren’t that far-reaching: Not so much the smack of firm government, more nudging in a certain direction. George W. Bush for example managed to gut the Presidential Records Act (greatly reducing access to presidential records), limit federal funding for stem cell research and sidestep the Geneva Convention on interrogation techniques – all through executive orders, even when he had Congress on his side. Interestingly, all of these orders were later rescinded by Obama.”

Payne continued, “Bill Clinton was no stranger to far-reaching orders either. During his two terms in office, he banned the import of 50+ types of semi-automatic assault weapons and assault pistols… In May 1989, George H. W. Bush temporarily halted the importation of some semi-automatic firearms, following a school shooting in Stockton, Calif. This was made permanent a month later. Ronald Reagan also enacted some significant policy initiatives through executive power. The NSA has said that its controversial collection of e-mail and Internet data, for example, was authorized back in 1981 by Reagan’s executive order.”

What Reagan did was far more dangerous than postponing a health care start date. Yet, there wasn’t even talk of taking him to court.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

Democrats 'Ain’t Loyal'

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(NNPA) Rev. Jamal Bryant of Baltimore was widely criticized recently for quoting a line from a popular Chris Brown’s song: “Hoes Ain’t Loyal.”  Bryant could have avoided controversy – and been on point – if he had instead said, “Democrats ain’t loyal.”

They ain’t, to borrow the vernacular.

Although people of color comprised 45 percent of Democratic voters in 2012, less than 2 percent of the $1.1 billion collected over a 4-year period by the three primary Democratic fundraising committees went to people of color – defined as U.S. residents who are African American, Latino, Asian American or Pacific Islander, or Native American – according to the “2014 Fannie Lou Hamer Report” by PowerPAC+, a national advocacy organization that helps elect progressives to office by building on the political power of the multiracial majority in America.

Actually, the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) figures are even smaller than reported because the study counted any firm that had a person of color as a principal owner, not the more commonly accepted definition requiring that they be the majority owner.

The research was compiled from Federal Election Commission reports filed by the three largest Democratic fundraising committees: the National Democratic Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“Even amidst the massive infusion of ‘outside’ money, the Democratic Party remains the largest source of funds for Democrats seeking office (other than the Presidency ). Each cycle, the

Party takes in hundreds of millions of dollars and uses these funds to provide the national electoral infrastructure and support those of the states,” the report stated.

It explained, “While most of the media attention falls on the mega-donors who make significant financial contributions to the Democratic Party, in the aggregate, small donors actually contribute more to the Party’s finances than do the mega-donors. Indeed, donors who made contributions of less than $200 provided a full third of the Party’s financial resources over the past two cycles, having donated over $371,345,529.”

According to the report, “Well over half a billion dollars was spent on these consultants over the past two election cycles, an amount that represents approximately half of the funds raised and disbursed by the Party.”

But few of those dollars found their way to people of color.

Overall, of 285 firms receiving disbursements from the Democratic Party in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, only 14 – or 4.9 percent – were MBE firms. Five of the MBEs were polling firms, three provided communications services and six provided political strategy services or IT.

Among the 14 firms, four of them received 87 percent of all dollars disbursed to MBEs. They were, in order, Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., $2,206,772.50 (25 percent of all MBE Research, dollars); SKD Knickerbocker, $2,138,671 (24 percent); Brilliant Corners Research, Inc., $1,908,369.26 (22 percent) and Thoughtworks ($1,328,464.92).

Peter D. Hart, whose firm received the most MBE dollars, is a White male. Yet, highly-respected Black pollster Ronald L. Lester received only $45,670.00 from the Democratic Party, according to the report. Brilliant Corners, headed by Cornel Belcher, an African American, was third among MBEs with $1.9 million. Dewey Square Group, with Minyon Moore, African American, and Maria Cardona, a Latina, on its team received only $81,054.73, or 0.9 percent of MBE dollars.

Among the study’s recommendations:

Conduct a disparity study to diagnose the problem;
Set goals for diversifying contract awards;
Make a plan to increase access and capacity and
Measure progress and hold decision-makers accountable.

In 2014, the Democratic Party has no credible excuse for such poor performance. Even with an exaggerated definition of what constitutes a Minority Business Enterprise, Democrats fall short.

“… Today’s voter looks quite different from the model voter of even 50 years ago who was much more likely to be male, have a job with a union that afforded him time off to vote during the work day, and have access to an array of news sources that offered some semblance of balanced reporting on the candidates and their positions, among other things,” the report stated. “Today, women, especially those not married, form a core part of the Democratic Party’s base, as do Voters of Color. To put it bluntly, these voters are already the largest constituencies within our Party, and their influence will only increase over the coming decades.”

Diversifying spending with Black vendors, Black media and African Americans who offer professional services does not detract from the Party’s overall goal.

“…The ultimate goal of these efforts is to win,” the report observed. “And winning among today’s multiracial and ever evolving electorate requires cultural competence at its finest.”

This report should be followed up with others, including an examination of spending by Republicans.

As the report noted, “It is deeply disappointing that we are even having this conversation in 2014… If People of Color are smart and talented enough that one of them can serve as leader of the free world, then they are certainly smart and talented enough to run political campaigns for Congress, Senate, and the White House.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

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