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July 22, 2004

Commitment to democracy watch. As ever, it’s in the statehouses where politicians are reliably gormless enough to blow the gaff. For instance, here’s Michigan state representative John Pappageorge [R-Troy] in the Detroit Free Press, remarking about Republican prospects in Michigan that “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we’re going to have a tough time in this election.”

Needless to say, but the Free Press says it anyway:

Blacks comprise 83 percent of Detroit’s population, and the city routinely gives Democratic candidates a substantial majority of its votes. […]
Of course, Rep. Pappageorge is truly, deeply sorry if anyone has drawn any conclusions from his accidentally telling the truth:
“In the context that we were talking about, I said we’ve got to get the vote up in Oakland (County) and the vote down in Detroit. You get it down with a good message. I don’t know how we got them from there to ‘racist,’” Pappageorge said. “If I have given offense in any way to my colleagues in Detroit or anywhere, I apologize.”
Yeah, it’s not like Republicans have any kind of history of hanky-panky along these lines. Or, perish the thought, like if you’re particularly good at it, they’ll elevate you to high office.

Bring on the legal SWAT teams, is all I can say. We’re going to need them. [08:41 AM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Commitment to democracy watch.:

Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 09:02 AM:

How do you "get [the vote] down with a good message"? This statement just doesn't make sense at all... A good message is one that stimulates people to vote in favor of the party broadcasting the message.

HP ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 09:24 AM:

Jeremy, I confess that I've been thinking that several Republicans I know are completely disenchanted with Bush and the party leadership, and knowing that these Rs would never, ever vote for a Democrat, I think maybe they'll stay home. And that would be a "good" thing. And a message that would further disenchant Republicans would not be a "bad" message. Does that mean I want to keep the Republican vote down? Am I guilty of wanting to disenfranchise Republican voters? In the sense that a vote not cast is a vote for the other guy, I'd regard low Republican turnout as a Democratic victory.

However, I don't believe that that's what Pappageorge is talking about. I would stop short of disinformation or interference. I don't believe the local Republican organizations have any such qualms. But then, I'm a policy guy; I don't think democracy is a sport.

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 09:47 AM:

Duh. Duh. Duh.

The only positive thing one can say about this is that I think he is honest that the motivation is strategic, not racist. Same, I think, for K. Harris, and her little purge.

Doesn't make it OK.

me2i81 ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 12:48 PM:

"Strategic, not racist." That's pretty rich. Up there with "ballot security," if you ask me. Richard Nixon used the southern "strategy," but that doesn't mean he wasn't a racist jackass.

rea ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 01:42 PM:

I suspect that discriminating against people on the basis of race is, objectively, racist--and it doesn't matter whether, in his heart of hearts, the discriminator really believes in racism or instead is acting for cynical political advantage.

the talking dog ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 02:38 PM:

Well, objectively, there's nothing "wrong" with a strategy to maximize "your voters" coming out and to minimize "their voters" coming out. If some Republican decided to stage some event in downtown Detroit, involving, oh, say, giving away millions of dollars in some contest, or some highly compelling entertainment, or whatever, provided the participants/contestants stayed all day (i.e. polling hours, anyway), and as a result, thousands of people who otherwise would have voted ended up not voting, while its a dirty tactic in some ways, I can't think of a reason why it would be illegal.

Or of course, we could simply turn away Black voters at polling stations whenever they showed up, or arrange to beat them up on the way to polling stations. That would probably also be effective, though incredibly illegal. The good news is that Michigan has a Democratic governor, who would probably order the national guard out if shit like that happened on a grand scale, unlike the rather cooperative-to-illegal-goon-tactics JEB Bush down Florida-way.

Oh, let's do a quick survey of some large-ish Michigan voting groups: Arab-Americans-- resent Bush for heavy-handed tactics re: immigration, kowtowing to Sharon and unilateral Iraq invasion: CHECK. Blacks: resent Bush for having been elected by disenfranchising them, for trying to gut affirmative action at every turn, for gutting social programs at every turn, for mismanaging an economy so that jobs have been lost: CHECK. Industrial workers: Upset at Bush for the perceived acceleration of "outsourced" manufacturing jobs: CHECK.

Yup, Michigan should be counted as a solid red state now-- no need to suppress Detroit voters.

Brian Bruxvoort ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 03:06 PM:

But Dog, you're only talking about the Southeast corner of Michigan; north of 8 mile and west of Dearborn, Michigan looks about as blue as Texas. Remember, we had 8 years of Engler before we got a Democratic gov. Supressing the Detroit vote would be a very effective strategy for the Republicans. But there's no doubt that it's racist. "Detroit" has long been the code word for "black" amongst Michigan Republican officials.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 03:11 PM:

While discouraging the opposition from voting is common political practice, admitting to doing it is not. And "suppressing" the vote from a particular area is not the same thing at all.

I don't see, based on the quotes in the original post, that this guy (I typoed "shit guy" at first, and nearly left it) is "objectively racist." He may have said something more that was, but he's trying to suppress the vote in a solidly Democratic district...if it's solidly Democratic because it's largely people-of-color, that's not racism on his part.

What he is is an antidemocratic SOB. And as I said above, it's one thing to try to get the vote down in your opponents' strongholds (standard dirty politics) and another to "suppress" it (sounds more like illegal activity to me).

If he'd said "we have to suppress the black vote," I'd agree he was being racist. And he may be, at his evil heart; but his statements as reported here don't justify that label in my humble opinion.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 03:18 PM:

Cross-posted with Brian. Didn't know the Michigan political code. Adjust accordingly.

Sandriana ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 04:32 PM:

The definition of what happened lies in the nature of racism itself. Racism can can be direct or indirect: it doesn't matter what the GOP person intended, what matters is the effect.

If he'd said "we have to suppress the black vote," that would have been direct. A racist act would have been caused by his projected suppression of the Democratic vote, because the majority of Detroit Democratic voters are African-American. It follows logically. Intent was irrelevant. What he suggested would still have been racist, though indirectly.

However, if as Brian says, '' "Detroit" has long been the code word for "black" amongst Michigan Republican officials.'' the matter appears in an entirely different light: the issues of direct as well as institutional racism would then arise.

Brian Bruxvoort ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 04:55 PM:

I may have worded it a bit bluntly in my original post, but here is a little background on how many Michigan Republicans view Detroit and how racism entered the 2002 gubernatorial campaign. Detroit and it's suburbs are like a divorced couple, always sniping at eachother. It's always about race and Pappageorge - representing the Detroit suburb of Troy - knows this.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 05:35 PM:

"North of 8 mile and west of Dearborn, Michigan looks about as blue as Texas."

An interesting comparison, in that both Michigan and Texas have an unusually large number of midsized cities aside from their biggest metropolises, and some of those midsized cities have non-trivial numbers of non-right-wing voters.

(For what its worth, although I didn't grow up in Michigan, I was born in Lansing; my mother is from a small town in the middle of the state, and my father was born and raised in Detroit.)

Brian Bruxvoort ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 06:34 PM:

But the largest of those outsate cities is Grand Rapids, which is about as close to a conservative stronghold as a metropolitan area could be. For what it's worth, I probably shouldn't have said "west of Dearborn" either, because that city, with the largest Arab-American population in the US, voted for Bush in 2000. But that could be attributed to Lieberman as VP, and likely won't happen again.

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 07:55 PM:

Let me correct myself -- the statement and goal are racist, but I'm not sure that this dipshit, for all his failings, hates black people for being black. I'm sure he hates democrats, and that means, often, hurting people for race.

Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 09:54 PM:

Re: calling in the National Guard to keep those folks from beating people up

Are there any Guard units left in Michigan, or are they all deployed? In Hawai'i we just saw another 2,000 called up this week.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2004, 11:21 PM:

BSD: the statement and goal are racist, but I'm not sure that this dipshit, for all his failings, hates black people for being black

Y’know what? I don’t really care all that much.

Same goes for all those GOPsters who go on about how much trouble the Dems would be in “if it weren’t for the black vote,” as if their votes — paid for in blood within living memory — were some weird kind of gimmick.

oyster ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2004, 12:54 AM:

Clearly "vote suppression" can't be squared with being pro-democracy, because a "good message" doesn't suppress a voter turnout, instead it changes the distribution of votes. Ostensibly, more votes would be distributed toward the candidate with the "good message".

But neither PapaDoc nor Bush have that message, and I'm quite sure suppression of the (predominantly) black vote is the goal. Don't get too sidetracked about whether the comment stems from racism, pure strategy, unconscious provincialism... or what not. It is entirely undemocratic and at this point I think focussing on the statement's overt anti-democracy (rather than its implied racism) is the smartest move.

Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2004, 02:08 AM:

It's pretty much irrelevant whether he's racist, or what he said is racist; that's a side issue. He's trying to spin it that way, he's trying to apologize for being racist, but that's not the point.

What's really horrifying is that he's a Republican talking openly about suppressing the votes of his opponents.

Whether they're white or black or polka dotted with tentacles, he wants to suppress them because they're going to exercise their legal democratic right to vote against him.

Are your ears bleeding yet?

Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2004, 10:28 AM:

There are different ways to "suppress" a voting block. Some of them are perfectly legal, and I'm not certain they're against the rules of the political game (as currently played.) It's legitimate to advertise messages like, "Voting is important! Get out there and vote!" Why isn't it equally valid to broadcast disagreement and say, "Voting doesn't matter, you might as well stay home and play video games. Don't let any of the scoundrels think you approve of them."

The main problem I see, in general, and thinking as someone who used to live near Detroit, seems to be racism. Most of the anti-voting propaganda I've seen is aimed at young people, or poor people, or people in non-traditional family arrangements. (Does anyone remember the brief fuss around Urban Outfitters, this past winter?) Some of it is geographic, but geography can translate to race, in resegregated parts of modern America.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2004, 10:27 PM:

rea writes: "I suspect that discriminating against people on the basis of race is, objectively, racist--and it doesn't matter whether, in his heart of hearts, the discriminator really believes in racism or instead is acting for cynical political advantage."

But he's not discriminating on the basis of race, he's discriminating on the basis of their party affiliation.

If the citizens of Detroit were black Republicans, the GOP would be trying to boost black turnout, not suppress it.

If the motivation was racism, the GOP probably wouldn't *want* the votes of black Republicans.

If the citizens of Detroit were identical in demographics, but white, and voted Democratic the GOP would *still* want to limit the turnout.

It's still nasty, and racism might be a factor, but it's not really the crux of the matter. Racism might lead the Mich. GOP to be more willing to use dirty tricks against black voters than against white voters, but the heart of the matter is voter affiliation, not race.

It just *looks* like racism because of the current and long-standing racial makeup of Detroit.

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2004, 02:49 PM:

Jon H - I've heard the "incidental racism" arguement many times before. It's one of the main ways that the GOP (unoficially of course) defends its "Southern Strategy" (which officially doesn't exist).

Racism cloaked in keywords is still racism. The GOP acts and promotes policies that are inherently racist, but covered with Orwellian words like "personal responsibility" and "color-blind".

The GOP's racism drives the party registration patterns. To deny that their effort to suppress the Black vote in Detroit is racist ignores the racism that's embedded in the whole political system.

To see how bad it is, go to the White House web site and check out the page called "Compassion." Last time I looked, it consisted entirely of W having photo ops with African Americans. Obviously, if you're Black, you need compassion, and nobody else does.

To my mind, at least, GOP = KKK.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2004, 10:41 AM:

To my mind, at least, GOP = KKK.

Now that's a little extreme. It's like saying "Sinn Fein = IRA."


Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2004, 11:28 AM:

So either
Woodrow Wilson wasn't a Democrat
(Birth of a Nation screening and of course dividing the Federal bureaucracy and U. S. Post Office by a color line)
Hugo Black wasn't a Democrat
(sheet wearing member - never met the man but I have the greatest respect for him in his age and a high regard for Hugo Black Jr. where there are some connections)
KKK = everything?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2004, 11:43 AM:

Good point. Indeed, as remarked here before, Woodrow Wilson was almost certainly the most personally racist individual ever to be President.

I'm about as opposed to the modern Republican Party and all its works as anyone could be, but even I think equations like "GOP=KKK" are counterproductive. For one thing, this sort of talk leaves you with nowhere to go if you actually find yourself up against the KKK.

I also can't help noting just how extremely un-useful all this definitional nitpicking over what is and isn't "racist" has been, and what a distraction it is from basic issues of social and political fair play. The basic issue isn't what kind of wickedness is or isn't in somebody's heart; the basic issue is whether we want a politics in which it's considered fair play to try to "suppress" the votes of particular regions or groups.

mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2004, 11:32 AM:

Xopher, Brian is correct. It's not merely about suppressing the Democratic vote--you don't hear reps from the (overwhelmingly white) suburbs of the metro-Detroit area talk about suppressing the Ann Arbor vote, even though Ann Arbor is full of Lincoln liberal voters who don't much like Bush.

I have no trouble whatsoever believing that a representative from Troy would want to suppress voting in Detroit even if Detroit was lukewarm on Democrats..

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2004, 11:47 AM:

Yep. That sounds right. That gulping sound you hear is me eating those words. (Words are low in carbohydrates, fortunately.)

But Patrick is also right (the "definitional nitpicking" para is the one I refer to). Time to drop it, eh?

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2004, 11:54 AM:

BTW, on NPR this morning, I think one of the Dems made a serious gaffe. He was being interviewed about Barack Obama, and said he could see him as a VP candidate in 2008 (I think).

He meant 2012, of course. In 2008, the incumbent VP candidate will be John Edwards. If the gods are good to us.

(You know, having written the above, I'm not sure he did say 2008. I'll see if I can find the interview again.)

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2004, 04:17 PM:

OK, perhaps that was my anger talking. There are Republicans who aren't racists. I'm just tired of living in a society where people (or at least media people) listen attentively and nod at the apparent wisdom of GOP leaders who advance radical agendas and who build electoral victories on racist strategies and messaging.

As far as fair play goes, I'd really like to see some. Maybe I've become a hopeless cynic. I'd like to think not, and I do still have some hope that we can repair this great country of ours.

So, sorry for the rant and thanks for the constructive criticism. I'll try to keep my thoughts and opinions a bit less angry - it might just do me some good!

David Goldfarb finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2004, 04:10 AM:

From the Google reference I assume it's googlebombing, undeterred by the redirect. Just to make sure, I did follow the link; it's a pr0n site. (Anime pr0n at that.)