Confessions of a Congressional Candidate

So I am John Wood, Jr., and I am, and ‘till November the 4th of this year will be, the Republican nominee for congress in the 43rd district of California. I am running against a woman everybody (white and black) paying attention to the conversation knows, and that is Congresswoman Maxine Waters. She’s a hero to many in South/South Central Los Angeles, a flame of pure fire in the annals of black political history. On the liberal left she is a champion, and I like her in part cause she’s an old school liberal, a black liberal, and she carved out her place in American politics by embodying the militant convictions of black nationalism. She had the lightning of a true activist, and the elegant thunder of a lady of the church. She is an icon in our culture, and one of the more memorable political personalities in the history of America.

I do not think Maxine Waters needs to be representing the people of Los Angeles in congress anymore. But I think she is an extraordinary human-being. And while she is hated on the right for reasons I almost fully understand, those conservatives I know who truly know her love her the same, even if they disagree with her about everything.

My problem with Maxine Waters is that she has no vision for the future, and in that has become the past. It is not a matter of her being old. But she has no grand strategy to save the inner-city community, or to save America (both of which need saving). Ron Paul is Maxine Waters age, but for years he has been the candidate of the future; and his vision will still determine the future of American politics.

I’m just saying it’s not cause she’s old. :-/

There are certain overwhelming problems facing the future prosperity of inner-city America. Most of these problems reflect the shortcomings of liberal policy planning because, well, liberal Democrats tend to run everything. In black communities, that is almost 100%. (If Republicans ran everything, our problems would reflect the excesses of Conservatism, which there are.) But they equal a social spending system that doesn’t achieve assistance, financial and transitional, effectively enough; an educational system that maintains the social and economic vulnerability of black and brown communities rather than lifting them up from them; a criminal justice system that has yet to be deprogrammed from formulas of justice that unjustifiably promote generational cycles of incarceration among black boys and men, feeding a pattern of fatherlessness and familial deterioration in the deserts of gang violence and drug dependency. The system is rigged against us. It even teaches us to rig it ourselves.

It’s the Willie Lynch mentality. It’s the psychology we were gifted by master to always think less of ourselves, and more of him, to accept what he gives us. It has never really gone away. It has simply morphed through generations of political evolution in American society, and has survived the death of the mainstream acceptability of racism itself. It is the systematic broadcasting of messages across the societal spectrum formed perfectly to make black Americans think less of themselves. It is the patronizing of the welfare state and the hostility of the court. It is the neglect of the educational system and the brutality of the police. It is the confluence of sins from the right and  left wing of the political spectrum that ensure that one-hundred and fifty years after the end of slavery in America the black man isn’t free.

Now the truth is the black man is far freer today than he was yesterday; than he was 50 years ago. (It is also true that the institutionalized racism of many American institutions is not always a product of active racism but of the power structures of a more racist age that have flourished unto now.) But he is not as free now as white men have ever been in this country. Barack Obama is the exception, not the rule. And while that is to glide past a grand historical argument it is just to say that blacks in this country fool themselves when they are led to challenge only one half of the political system, which is to say not at all. Maxine Waters challenges one half of the system by justifying the other half. She can’t defeat the system. She is the system.

Maxine isn’t my enemy then; it’s the system she can’t reform. I can’t reform it either. I’m running to let people know they can.

Why We Need Black Republicans

We need black Republicans. By black Republicans I don’t mean black people who will cheerlead for the Republican Party. I mean black people who actually speak for the interests of the black community within the GOP. There’s a big difference.

Anybody who knows me knows that this article has got to be a little self-serving; I’ll cop to that. I’m a candidate for congress in Los Angeles, and yes I am a black Republican. But the point here is a real one: the black community suffers materially, because the political conversation does not focus on our interests. It doesn’t, because black votes are not in play.

As blacks we vote Democrat because we do not trust the Republican Party. Why would we? The  Republican Party has done virtually nothing to earn the trust of black people for the last 45 years, and in fact has threatened the interests of black and poorer peoples, by threatening welfare and unemployment spending during times of recession (even while some of them continue to support government subsidies for oil companies and tax payer funded bailouts for big banks), and by maneuvering to suppress Democratic turnout by trying to pass cynically timed voter I.D. requirements in key states in the 2012 election. Of course, there is a lot that can be said about the ways in which the Democratic Party has actually betrayed the interests of black people as well, but such points do not absolve the guilt of the Republican Party.

I am a fan of neither party as they currently stand, though I understand why most black people would rather be Democrat than Republican. But it doesn’t change the fact that black people are left in a lousy political situation, taken for granted by the party we’re in and ignored by the party we’re not in. Why should Democrats work particularly hard for black votes on a broad scale when they are going to get them anyway? And why should Republicans when they know they are inaccessible? Black people often complain to me about how it is politicians always seem to be talking about Latino issues and Gay issues, fighting for immigration reform and the DREAM Act, gay marriage and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, etc., but seem much slower to move on issues of direct concern to African-Americans (inner-city education reform, the war on drugs, reparations…?). The answer to this lies in the politics. Latino-Americans and Gay Americans are predominantly Democratic, but between a quarter and a third of them routinely vote Republican. As such both parties feel they have a reason to compete for these votes.

The results of this show themselves in real legislation. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed because Democrats and Republicans supported it as a matter of gay rights, and high profile Republicans one by one have been quietly indicating their support for gay marriage or at least greater rights for gay people (including Dick Cheney). And while immigration reform and the DREAM Act have not passed yet, the bipartisan support for these efforts (especially where you have Republicans representing significant Latino populations) is real, with some Republicans like Marco Rubio and John McCain showing a real willingness to fight their fellow Republicans and work with Democrats to get such reforms accomplished.

Any black American who knows the political history of the Civil Rights movement knows that the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were only possible because Republican and Democratic legislators joined together against segregationist Democrats and reactionary Republicans to make it happen. But in the sixties, there was a significant black population in both parties pushing them to accomplish this. In the early 20th century almost all blacks were Republicans, and we did not get that much accomplished politically. In the early 21st century we are almost all Democrats, and we are failing politically (in terms of getting key bills passed or even considered) for the same reason.

As a people we do not need to turn out a bunch of black Republicans overnight, but we do need to establish power within the Republican Party in order to push both parties to serve our interests. Furthermore there are Republicans that the black community can work with to find real common ground. Ron Paul’s campaign opened the flood gates for a wing of the party that is eager to put the brakes on the war on drugs, to renew voting rights for ex-convicts, to eliminate institutional racism in the criminal justice system and perhaps more importantly than anything to dismantle a bureaucratic and self-interested educational system that systematically punishes inner-city children of color and to replace it with a system of equality. But without blacks speaking for the black community within the Republican Party this coalition will not be forged, and in the mainstream legislative conversation we will continue to be ignored.

The Pros and Cons of Obamacare

There is a criticism of Barack Obama that I hear levied against him, not primarily from white people or Republicans, but from black people, that I take some issue with. It is the claim that President Obama has not done, or has not tried to do, anything for black people. Some will point out that he has championed immigration reform for Hispanics and gay marriage for gay people, but nothing for us. Those who say so however probably have not considered this point within the context of health care in the African-American community. Some conservative critics of the healthcare overhaul have criticized the reform as a 100% solution to a 10% problem. And they’re right, in a way. It had been widely reported at the beginning of the healthcare debate and before that there were 46 million Americans without health insurance in this country. Really though it was never that bad; 10 million Americans without health insurance are people making above $75,000 a year who did not want insurance. 14 million were eligible for state sponsored care and never enrolled, while 6 million were eligible for insurance through their employer but never took advantage of it (another 5 million are undocumented immigrants, another 5 million are legal immigrants who are not insured for various reasons) thus leaving about 6 million Americans without reasonable access to health insurance. Too big a number to be sure, but a relatively small percentage of the American population. Yet of that 6 million, most are black Americans, making what might be thought of as a 10% problem for the rest of America a 100% problem for us. In seeking to expand healthcare coverage for all Americans, President Obama was not simply doing something for the country at large; he was doing something for the black community.

Yet and still there are serious concerns to be had about the new legislation as it unfolds, as well as things to be grateful for. The number one positive thing which the Affordable Care Act (its legal name) does is expand coverage to millions of Americans who did not have it previously (assuming the unfortunate glitches with the website are eventually worked out). As noted, in the black community that is a particularly big deal. Medicaid expansion, subsidies available to lower income Americans, and coverage mandates for children and young adults up to the age of 26 as well as for people with pre-existing conditions will help secure the healthcare of millions, including those who are economically and physically the most vulnerable among us. This is a victory for the health of the black community, and for all those who were unable to afford care.

For the black middle class however, and for working class black families and others making more than a relatively modest income (above $43,000 a year for individuals and above $92,000 a year for a family of four, though keeping in mind too that for many making less than these levels but still doing relatively well the subsidies available to them are smaller) there is an increased economic burden resulting from the law that needs to be acknowledged. One of the reasons for passing the ACA to begin with was to help control rising premiums, costs that have been straining the budgets of many American families, and black families are no exception. But for most people in this income range, premiums are not only still too high but are still getting higher, especially for those who don’t receive employer based coverage. (A study by the Manhattan Institute has shown that average premiums on the individual market have risen 99% for men since the implementation of the law.) Particularly as minimum coverage requirements are applied to insurance plans on the individual market, and as insurance companies seek to recoup monies spent on guaranteeing coverage for those with preexisting conditions by passing costs on to other consumers, it seems that what we can expect is for middle class premiums generally to continue to rise even as subsidies and Medicaid increase affordability and access to care for poor and for many working class African Americans.

One might say that this is a fair trade off, and maybe it is. But we shouldn’t be quick to give up on making things easier for the middle class. After all, the prosperity of this nation and certainly the future success of the black community are built upon having a thriving middle class, and insuring affordable health coverage for the middle class is a necessary part of that process. To that end there are many more reforms to be considered, from defensive medicine reform, to expanding competition across state lines, to encouraging Health Savings Accounts, etc.

The point is that, in some important areas, we have made progress. But make no mistake: the effort to fix the healthcare system continues.

The Break: Obama’s Still President – Now What? (PODCAST)

Listen in to the episode as KC and the family discuss their expectations and desires of President Obama for his second term in office and where the Republican party went wrong this election year. Podcast guests include Chris Lehman, Tash Moseley, Toria Williams, and John Wood.

For comments and questions on this or any other episode, please call the hotline at (323) 455-4219!

My Message to the GOP

On Tuesday, November 6th an over-confident Republican Party had it’s world shaken and it’s bubble burst when President Barack Obama won re-election in an electoral college landslide and the Democratic party strengthened it’s hold on the Senate in a decisive victory. The GOP did hold onto the House of Representatives, yielding nine seats to the Democrats (black conservative Florida congressman Alan West bids us goodbye) but still retaining a large majority, as well as picking up a governorship in North Carolina. And of course, while President Obama won big in the electoral college he only won in the popular vote by a respectable, but not a dramatic, margin of just under 3 million votes. But given the passions and the critical importance both sides put upon this election, (and given the near certainty with which many GOP elites like Karl Rove and Dick Morris predicted President Obama’s downfall), this election can only be seen as a disaster for the Republican Party.

President Obama’s victory reflects a tireless discipline on the part of he and his campaign to maximize voter turnout in the face of a bad economy,  and aggressively and effectively attacking the opposition, defining Governor Romney more than Romney was able to define himself in the eyes of the American people. The Democratic Party and the Obama team deserves credit for the unparalleled efficiency of their organizing, both this year and in 2008. But there is something else at work in America that accounts for President Obama’s victory, and that should serve as a reality check for the GOP. That is that the demographic makeup of the American electorate is changing, and is changing for good. When all is said and done, Mitt Romney won big with one very broad group of voters and that is white voters; particularly among older whites and male whites at that. Now in the past, seeing as white people represent by far the largest racial group in the country, a presidential candidate who carried a large majority of white voters stood a very good chance of winning the presidency. But since 2004 the white share of the electorate has decreased four percentage points while the minority share has increased about the same amount. President Obama won enormously among blacks (93-6), but also among Hispanics (71-27) and Asians as well. The age and gender gaps favored the president too. He won female and young voters by significant margins. What confused Republican strategists was not that the President won these groups; they always expected him to. What confused Karl Rove and others was that the turnout among these groups was anywhere close to the levels they were at in 2008. The GOP intelligentsia thought that 2008 was an anomaly, that minority voters and young voters would not return to the polls in the record breaking numbers they did in 2008 in 2012, now that the excitement over the Obama candidacy had faded across almost four years of economic struggle and political difficulty. But they were wrong. The Democrats seem to have a new coalition, and if the Republicans cannot make inroads with these groups (all of which represent growing portions of the electorate) they will likely cease to be competitive in the future. Thus begging the question, where does the GOP go from here?

My feeling is that, while I believe the Republican Party is more right than it is wrong on the fiscal and economic issues that are so important to the American people today (Mitt Romney won over Barack Obama in the exit polls on the question of who would best manage the economy) the GOP is nevertheless on the wrong side of many issues that are important to the individual ethnic, gender, and age groups that swung this presidential election and the last to Barack Obama and the Democrats, and threaten to make the political future of America one that might be dominated by the left wing. In short, the problem is that the Republican Party, founded as the party of civil rights, has in recent years abandoned the civil rights argument, and has ceded it almost wholly to the Democrats. I must therefore argue, and insist, that the GOP gets back to it’s roots as not just being the party of Reagan and Goldwater and small government, but the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, King and civil rights.

Many Republicans seem to think that Civil Rights as a legitimate issue set ended with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in ’64, and that talk of broad civil right’s issues now is just so much race-baiting and class warfare brought about by cynical liberals. And sure, plenty of it is. But there are many civil rights and minority-specific issues that are not. The issue of fair pay for women, for instance, is a legitimate civil rights issue, and the fact that our party and it’s nominee could not get it together to support the Lilly Ledbetter Act (allowing women more time to sue for pay discrimination) is a mark against us that hurt us with the female vote, and rightfully so. We don’t have to infringe upon the civil rights of religious groups (the one group conservatives seem quick to take a civil rights stand on behalf of) as many Democrats see fit to do by demanding that they provide women with contraception against their will, but the issue of fair pay should be a no-brainer. Likewise with Hispanics and immigration reform. George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich were right: we cannot deport 12 million immigrants from this country even if they are illegal. It is neither practical nor humane. Mitt Romney and his notion of “self-deportation,” were wrong. We do not need to do as some Democrats and self-serving business interests would do and imperil our country by advocating an open border. We must secure the border, and as George W. Bush tried to do we must tie that effort to the effort to legalize and integrate the law-abiding illegal immigrants who are already here. Republicans would not work with President Bush on that issue; hopefully they work with President Obama.

With respect to gays I cannot go so far as to say the Republican Party must endorse gay marriage. I define marriage as being between a man and a woman and that is an issue for the conscience of the individual to decide. But there must still be a basic level of respect for gays and for where they are coming from. It was disgraceful to hear a large part of the audience at a Republican Primary debate boo a gay soldier who asked a question of the candidates, even more disheartening to see that not Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich or any of the candidates stood up for him. On the other hand it was good to see that a large number (though still not a majority) of Republicans voted for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which was indeed a genuine civil rights issue for gay Americans. It was a bipartisan victory for America that that was undone. With respect to African-Americans, I don’t expect the Republican Party to undergo a radical transformation on the issue of Affirmative Action, but they can at least not do things to pro-actively hurt their chances with blacks. I did not consider the voter I.D. initiatives to be racist exactly (they’re likely to affect as many whites as blacks ultimately) but they we’re unnecessary and politically motivated, and allowed hysterical commentators on the left to claim that we had reentered the days of Jim Crow.

Ultimately the most important thing the Republican Party can do with respect to restoring it’s reputation among minorities and women is to simply not be afraid to speak directly to the issues that concern them. It is my belief that free market oriented policies are more likely to bring prosperity and social mobility to all Americans, including blacks and Latinos, women and gays, etc. The GOP is good at saying this, but cannot go beyond that to address the other issues beyond jobs and the economy that concern women and minorities. Barack Obama, on the other hand, actively empathizes with all of these groups. Conservatives can call it pandering, but it is better than seeming not to care. And so the issue is as much one of emphasis, tone and awareness as it is one of adopting sensible policies. The Democrats have a bad habit of seeing discrimination when it isn’t there. But Republicans have a bad habit of not seeing discrimination when it is there, and that tarnishes our ability to promote our policies on the wide range of issues where we could do minority and female Americans a lot of good. It’s time for Republicans to take a wider scope. The GOP does not have to abandon it’s principles of smaller government and individual liberty to move forward competitively into the America of the 21rst century. It just has to reclaim it’s old principles of inclusiveness and equal opportunity. Do that, and there’s no political battleground upon which the GOP will not be able to fight in the future.

The Break: Journey to the Election Part III (PODCAST)

Listen in to this special segment of our “Journey to the Election” podcast series! Moderated by John Calvin Byrd III of Sickly Cat Magazine, this episode focuses on the role of big business in presidential campaigns, missteps of the Obama administration, and the differences (or lack thereof) in the political parties. Podcast guests include: Chris Lehman, Dr. Wayne Byrd, John Wood, and Joshua Stroud.

For comments or questions about this episode, call our hotline at (323) 455-4219!

The Break: Journey to the Election, Part II (PODCAST)

Welcome to the second installment of our “Journey to the Election” podcast series, which will run every Friday until Election Day on November 6th. In this episode, listen as the family discusses the Black vote, Obama’s accomplishments in this first term, questions and concerns about Mitt Romney and the state of politics today. Podcast guests include Chris Lehman, Tash Moseley, Leisha Mack, John and Triawna Wood and Brother Malcolm Darrell. Listen up and chime in! Feel free to drop us a line at (323) 455-4219.

The Substance of the Obama-Romney Debate

President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have now had the first of their much anticipated (by me anyway, and my fellow political junkies) presidential debates. The winner? Well, Governor Romney by a landslide according to the polls and almost all the commentary from Democrats and Republicans, black and white. It is rare when a political party acknowledges it’s own presidential candidate’s defeat. Republicans at least made a cursory effort to suggest George W. Bush won his first (disastrous) debate against John Kerry (it should give hope to Obama supporters to remember that Bush came back to win that election) even if it seemed obvious that they knew otherwise. But every Democrat not working directly for the President seems to have declared their own man the loser; an astounding blow to Obama’s prestige and his intellectual reputation. And I agree; the president lost badly. He was sluggish in his comebacks, listless in his delivery, unable to hold Romney’s gaze and lacking his famous confidence during the most important debate of his career. Romney on the other hand was focused, direct, unhesitating (with better posture no less) and perhaps most importantly, looked directly at the President almost the whole time, conveying a willingness and eagerness to challenge the champion and to take his crown. In other words, Romney came to win, and it seemed like President Obama didn’t even want to play.

But with all this talk of style and delivery (which is very important in politics) it is unfortunate that what is lost in this is a stricter focus on the substance of what the candidates had to say. And on issues of substance, though I agree more with the trend of Mitt Romney’s comments, the truth is that the debate was much closer to even if anyone bothered to pay that close attention. Mitt Romney spoke with force and conviction about his tax plan, and was persuasive in saying that the President had mis-characterized it. Where Obama called it a 5-trillion dollar tax cut skewed towards the rich, Romney claimed adamantly that this was untrue, that by closing loopholes and deductions he would insure that the rich paid the same overall amount of taxes, while the middle class and small businesses would pay less because of reduced rates. To that Obama lamely cited some studies supporting his view and repeated, again without any energy, that that this was “math” and “arithmetic” (quoting Bill Clinton) and that Governor Romney could not do what he said he would do without either raising middle class taxes, or increasing the deficit. All of Romney’s replies to this were forceful and effective…and yet, President Obama was almost certainly correct. There are only so many loopholes and deductions available to be cut, and while they number in the hundreds of billions of dollars, Mitt Romney’s tax cut numbers in the trillions.That is a problem. Romney fills in the blank by saying the difference in revenue will come from growth, but while his approach may well grow the economy (I think it will), it’s a big “if” as to whether he can grow it so much that his tax cuts will essentially pay for themselves. So then what does he do if and when they don’t? Increase taxes? Or let the deficit rise? Obama basically said this, but he did not drive the point home. He hesitated, looked down, speaking without fighting. As a result nobody saw that Obama was on to something. Nobody noticed.

On Medicare the two candidates again made good points, but only one candidate made them effectively. Romney repeated the claim that Obama cuts medicare by 715 billion dollars, and substantiated it by noting that those cuts come directly out of the compensation the government pays to healthcare providers. If Medicare is to pay 3 quarters of a trillion dollars less to providers to care for Medicare patients (keeping in mind that Medicare already pays less to doctors and hospitals than private insurance…that’s my point, not Romney’s) you can expect far fewer medical professionals to care for Medicare patients, hence less Medicare. Romney’s critique was good, and it stuck. Obama’s counter was also good, substantively speaking. Obama made the point that the voucher program Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan support would cause the most vulnerable seniors to remain in traditional Medicare, ultimately crashing the program (because coverage costs would skyrocket and you would have a smaller pool of people paying into the system…again my point, not Obama’s) and leaving everybody therefore to the mercy of skyrocketing insurance premiums that are already killing us now. Obama’s point was good. But it did not stick, because he did not make it stick. Romney went on as if Obama had said nothing at all, and nobody noticed…including, it seemed, the President.

President Obama missed more opportunities than that. Romney scored big on Obama’s wasteful green energy subsidies, a trap Obama stepped into by talking about oil subsidies which is really small ball stuff compared to the overall budget. But Mitt Romney gave Obama a chance to gain those points back and then some. Mitt Romney claimed that people with pre-existing conditions would be covered under his health care policy. Barack Obama pointed out that that is only true for those who already have coverage and that those who don’t still would lack it, but again he did not press the point. The issue of pre-existing conditions is not just a minor policy distinction. Democrats frequently call Mitt Romney a liar. In this case at least, that’s close to being correct. Romney attempted to suggest that his healthcare policy would do what Obamacare does: cover people with pre-existing conditions, when in fact all it would do would leave things the way they already are. Obama’s actually extends coverage to those with pre-existing conditions who do not already have it, giving them protection that Mitt Romney is only pretending to offer. Obama said that, but he should have shouted it! He should have banged his fist on the podium! He should have looked Mitt Romney dead in the eye without flinching, turning away or looking strangely apologetic as he often did, and made it clear that Mitt Romney was flat out wrong. Instead Romney made the case, without saying it in so many words, that Obama was flat out incompetent, and because he seemed to mean it, what he said stuck while Obama’s case fell flat.

Politics is about substance, about policy, about ideas, but it is also about theatrics and performance, because that is the way you communicate and simplify those ideas into things people can understand. Barack Obama’s brilliance as a politician always seemed to be that he understood this better than anyone else. If he’s going to win re-election, it’s a lesson he will have to learn again. Politics is a battle. Be honorable, be honest as possible, but be real. You cannot win the fight if you don’t fight to win. Mitt Romney knows that. Time will tell if Obama remembers.

The Break: Journey to the Election Part 1 (PODCAST)

Welcome to the first installment of our “Journey to the Election” podcast series, which will run every Friday until Election Day on November 6th. In this episode, listen as the family discusses the Black vote, Obama’s accomplishments in this first term, questions and concerns about Mitt Romney and the state of politics today. Podcast guests include Chris Lehman, Tash Moseley, Leisha Mack, John and Triawna Wood and Brother Malcolm Darrell. Listen up and chime in! Feel free to drop us a line at (323) 455-4219.

The Cynicism Behind Voter I.D.

I was watching Al Sharpton on his show Politics Nation on MSNBC the other day. He was showing clips from the civil rights movement, still shots of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other images meant to highlight, in particular, the vicious disenfranchisement wrought upon us back then by Jim Crow and the terrible struggle we had to endure to gain the safeguards for our voting rights finally guaranteed to us by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Powerful. Then he proceeded to tie all this to, and seemingly to equate this terrible persecution with, the current controversy over voter I.D. law requirements being debated in states across this country, laws which according to some could prevent up to 5 million Americans, disproportionately minorities, from casting votes this November.

Come on Al, get real for a moment. Voter I.D. is not Jim Crow revived. We’re not dealing with voter intimidation, poll taxes or literacy tests. It’s nothing like that and to try and draw any type of parallel is, well to me anyway, ridiculous. Having said that, we are dealing with a cynical, election year political tactic being waged by Republicans across this country, and this Republican isn’t afraid to call it what it is.

For those who aren’t familiar the simple background is this: in recent months there has been a push in states across this country (overwhelmingly by Republican lawmakers) to enact voter identification requirements to prevent voter fraud. All that means is that, if your state passes such a law in time for the November election this year, you will probably have to present your drivers license or your state I.D. to be able to cast your ballot. For most people that’s not such a big deal. But not everyone has a state I.D. Some college students, for example, going to school out of state are residents of the state they go to school in but do not have an I.D. issued by that state. Some elderly people who are retired and do not drive have no need of a drivers license and there have already been instances of such people not being able to cast a ballot in states where these laws have gone into effect. But the people who would and will lose the most as a result of these laws are poor people who simply do not have I.D. Such people, disproportionately, are black and Latino Americans and that is what the controversy is all about.

Now some call this voter I.D. push racist. I don’t. As many or more poor white people than minorities will probably be adversely affected by this bill. I do however call it a cynical move by the GOP to gain the upper hand in the elections this November, particularly of course to defeat President Obama. The head of the Justice Department (DOJ), Attorney General Eric Holder (the first black attorney general of the United States), has directed his department to block the implementation of these laws in certain states and has referred to the initiatives as being “a solution in search of a problem.” He’s largely right. There is no evidence of any significant level of voter fraud taking place anywhere in this country, making it rather clear then that the motivation for this legislation is political. And that’s the problem. Truthfully, I have no problem with the proposed laws themselves. There is not much voter fraud going on, but to the extent that there is, voter I.D. would prevent it and that’s a good thing. Moreover, there is no compelling legal argument against it, making the injunction by the DOJ itself rather ridiculous. You need I.D. to do a million other things, why not when it comes to voting? But to do this in an election year, so close to the Presidential and congressional elections particularly, rings of political opportunism more than it does concern for the integrity of the vote. The laws could easily be passed so that they would not take effect until the day after this election, thus ensuring that the maximum amount of people would obtain I.D. in order to vote in the following elections in the states in question. Instead Republicans are content to see thousands and potentially millions not vote at all to give them a leg up in this November.

Having said all this, black people should not complain too much, because laws such as this can only hurt us to the extent to which they capitalize on our own apathy. If you don’t have an I.D. and you care about the rights our parents and grandparents fought for us to have, you need to get one if you live in one of these states. Nobody likes to go to the DMV but this is politics. The Democrats are at least as cynical when they allow illegal immigrants to come freely across our border,distorting the constitution to give people the right to vote who aren’t entitled to it because they know who they’ll vote for. These are the imperfections of our system. But there is no excuse for sitting back and not exercising the rights our people fought and died for just because some politicians decided to make it just a little bit harder to do so.