The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Lurch toward populism and pandering on the antilynching resolution

The following I posted at the Rachel Maddow Show blog (I'm too lazy to edit it right now!):

Oh, Rachel!

The logistics of the show mean that listeners are pretty much guaranteed to be polisci nerds: you either listen on AM in the middle of the night; or stream; or download an MP3. All three, in broadcasting terms, are damned hard work: for enthusiasts only.

You should rejoice at such a superior (if select) demo!

But, on the Landrieu antilynching resolution - which is full of genuine interest to the said polisci nerd - you decide to go the Rush route (around 26:50 on the MP3):

'27% of the Republicans in the US Senate have refused to come out in opposition to lynching.'

Has the word come down from AAR management that, since Swift Boat tactics evidently work, they're de rigueur at the station?

There is a country-mile-wide space for a principled opposition to the Landrieu resolution that does not imply equivocation on the merits of lynching. (As in: it's a political stunt, sponsored by a woman who voted for Rice and Gonzales, the tort 'reform' and bankruptcy bills, and is looking for some credibility with the non-corporate-whore section of her party; and co-sponsored by a guy whose main claim to fame is having displayed a noose at his law offices.)

And Rachel's explanation - that the non-sponsors were pandering to their lynching-lover constituents doesn't track with the home states of the senators concerned: those of the Law Dork's list of 11 are mostly West and Midwest.

The list also includes Dem senator Conrad of North Dakota, for crying out loud, who appended his name just yesterday according to THOMAS - together with Reed and Bingaman. (Why should these Dems have taken so long to 'come out in opposition to lynching'?)

Is the position of the non-sponsors principled? They're politicians, so the presumption is, Hell no! But there's clearly more to it than pandering to the crackers.

Why was there not a roll call vote? My guess is that there was a unanimous consent agreement for a voice vote. Almost everything in the Senate works on the basis of UCAs, and though I can't trace one in the Congressional Record, I'm pretty sure there was one.

The strange thing is that, on page S6373, at the end of his speech, Noose-Man George Allen says

'I ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding the previous agreement, the Senate now proceed to the vote on the pending resolution...'

They then take the voice vote - and carry on with the debate! Kerry is next up - and notes with evident disapproval the fact that there was a voice vote (rather than a roll call vote) after he's approved the UCA to that effect. ('I complained about it after I voted for it...')

When there's a controversial play in baseball, you get it replayed from all different angles and the pundits explain what's going on. But when it's a play in Congress - not so much. (A wide-open field for TRMS!)

The truth is that there is a Russian doll of symbolism here: suppose by some miracle cloture on one of the original antilynching bills had actually passed. What exactly would the Federal government have done to enforce it?

At the time, the US military was capable of rolling over the Hooverville on the Anacostia Flats, but an occupation of Mississippi? I don't think so! Besides, so many of its officers were Southerners...

No, a Federal antilynching act would have been a standing reminder of the impotence of the government in Washington to flout the will of millions of race-obsessed Southerners.

And of course there were Federal civil rights laws dating from the Reconstruction era that were available in the 1920s and 1930s to US Attorneys to prosecute state and local officials aiding and abetting the lynchers. Like 18 USC 242, under which the Goodman/Cheney/Schwerner case was brought.

It wasn't a lack of law that stopped the Feds from intervening.

The most striking thing reading the debate on the Landrieu resolution: how all the senators sound so gosh darned amazed at how gross those lynchings really were! It's as if they'd never realised until approached by lobbyists that there were kids present whilst solid citizens - all of them Democratic voters! - severed penises and applied blowtorches.

For God's sake, no one tell them about Santa Claus...

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