Black lives matter in elections
June 15, 2015 9:39 AM   Subscribe

If black lives were as long lived as those of whites, some major elections may have turned out differently. From the article: "The unspoken suggestion is that Republicans know this and will oppose programs that increase Black health and decrease Black poverty in part for the same reasons that they have favored incarceration and permanent disenfranchisement of people convicted of felonies."
posted by batbat (37 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
> But Republican opposition to policies that would increase the health and well-being of Black people is probably not motivated by a desire for high rates of Black mortality and thus fewer Black voters.

"probably"
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:56 AM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


From the next paragraph:
That’s a bit extreme. [...] Republican opposition to policies that would increase the health and well-being of Black people is probably not motivated by a desire for high rates of Black mortality and thus fewer Black voters.
Republicans are directly responsible for some pretty horrible stuff, and do a passable job hiding their glee about other clusterfucks that they're not directly responsible for, but that play into the general transfer of wealth and power to old white men, but the pullquote accusation that they're killing black people to win elections is probably not helpful (it sheds more heat than light).

There are much more direct ways of channeling money and power, and the blowback from this particular purported scheme seems to outweigh its potential effectiveness.

This is a public-health problem, and should be addressed, but not because it helps one side or the other win elections (at least, not on the theory that dead people don't vote, except in Chicago.)
posted by spacewrench at 9:59 AM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


holy crap, Foucault was kinda right about that biopolitics stuff.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:00 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Atlantic has a somewhat less inflammatory bit on race and political representation.
Basically the more a policy is supported by Black voters, the less likely it is to be implemented. I should start marching against capital gains taxes and Amtrak funding.
posted by Octaviuz at 10:12 AM on June 15, 2015 [20 favorites]


Focusing hard on intentionality in this particular context seems beside the point. Over the course of the 20th century human societies developed new and effective methods of sustaining life through medical intervention (yay!), and also various statistical tools that allow administrators to treat populations as populations rather than as sets of individuals. The combination of these two new developments means that you no longer have to do anything as messy as actively killing any particular individuals in order to exercise power. Instead, you can exercise power simply through allowing certain populations to die at a greater rate than other populations. I believe the snappy way to describe this difference involves noting that in previous centuries, power was the power to kill, but today power is the power to let die.

There are a range of benefits experienced by the portion of the population that is statistically more likely to have access to medical care and thus have longer lifespans. First, of course, they have access to medical care and thus longer lifespans. However, there's also benefits derived from being in a population that has good access to medical care specifically while other populations do not have access and instead are allowed to die. This article points out one of those benefits; if you are in a democracy and your population has their lives supported while other populations are left to die, your population over time will get progressively more and more control over government through simply having more and more members.

We don't live in a democracy, and likely the powers that be in the Republican party don't make the "let Black people die, that way we'll keep winning elections" a centerpiece of their strategy even when they're in closed-room sessions (but maybe they do — who knows? who cares?). Regardless of intentionality, the pleasant (for Republicans) side effect that this article identifies remains.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:16 AM on June 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


If we're going to cherrypick quotes from an already weak writeup, why not this, too?
More stringent requirements for registration and felon disenfranchisement are, like the poll taxes of an earlier era, directly aimed at making it harder for poor and Black people to vote.
That's a bit extreme. They're not targeting black voters! They're just [innocuous and totally not legally actionable reason]!
posted by indubitable at 10:17 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


In addition to the mortality rate, David Graham at the Atlantic notes that there's additional factors at play that make it even worse (emphasis mine):
There’s a public-policy catch-22 at work here. The authors note that there is a range of factors that help determine racial disparities in mortality. Residential segregation and lower levels of public investment in black neighborhoods reduce lifespans. Black neighborhoods tend to have greater exposure to pollution, are less pedestrian-friendly, have higher food costs, and see more tobacco and alcohol marketing. Access to healthcare is also sharply divided by race. In short, there is a range of problems that could be addressed by public policy. But altering public policy requires voting, and the present policies have combined to remove a chunk of the voting-age population that would otherwise have benefited from their repeal.
I bolded those portions because the same Supreme Court that tore large chunks out of the Voting Rights Act has two cases in front of it that will be decided in the next week or so. The first is pretty well-known, King v. Burwell, the Obamacare case that is so poorly-founded and broken down along political lines that, in many if not most legal scholars' estimation, should never have gone to SCOTUS. Even opponents of the bill have gone on record saying that the plaintiffs manufactured their argument. What is getting far less attention but could have as much if not more impact is Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., which basically does the same thing to the Fair Housing Act as Shelby County v. Holder did to the Voting Rights Act. It should be of great interest that this is coming from the same area as the recent racist pool incident, an area which has been the focus of a lot of complaints about residential and economic segregation. And next year SCOTUS will be looking at killing off the idea of "one person, one vote;" another bedrock of our democratic process that not-so-coincidentally happens to strengthen, and likely completely consolidate, their power over elections for generations.

Conservatives in this country know they're losing power unless they can do something, and so they're doing everything in their power to prevent that. If that means removing voters who oppose from play, whether by suppressing votes, segregating districts and even entire states, or just plain letting people die (even if it isn't about voters), so be it. To her credit, Hillary Clinton is making this one of the central issues of her campaign, and hopefully the timing of Evenwel v. Abbott will wake up a lot of voters in the general election.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:18 AM on June 15, 2015 [21 favorites]


Jeez. Can you guys make me hate republicans even more?
posted by hal_c_on at 10:20 AM on June 15, 2015


Please consider this a reminder that one out of every 13 adult Black Americans is legally barred from voting due to one specific and inexplicably legal version of the poll tax felony disenfranchisement laws. More information at The Sentencing Project [PDF] and this recent WaPo article.
posted by divined by radio at 10:50 AM on June 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


That’s a bit extreme.

Accusing a group of calculated genocide without hard evidence? Yeah, just a bit extreme. Especially when the whole thing can be explained away by the Republican's total indifference to the well-being of anyone who isn't a friend/relation if there are even incidental costs to the individual Republican. This is crap, and discussing it earnestly makes the left look bad. Please stop.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:08 AM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is crap, and discussing it earnestly makes the left look bad. Please stop.

I don't like the OP, but some of the comments in this thread have been good, particularly zombieflanders's write-up of some troubling future Supreme Court cases. Arguing that the OP shouldn't have been posted, or that people shouldn't comment beneath it, because it makes the left look bad, both dismisses out of hand the comments that have been made and assumes the existence of a group of observers who judge the left by comments made on a mid-sized general-interest forum. If those hypothetical observers exist, then I think they're weird blinkered cranks whom we can safely ignore.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:33 AM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


The problem I have with the model is the problem I have with the Rubin causal model. In effect, their authors are argueging for the counterfactual that if black people lived as long as whites, then democrats would do better. But that's a huge effin if, an dif black people lived as long as whites, we would have much less of a whole bunch of other things going on.

But anyway, I think intentionality is misplaced as well. The potential benefits to republicans are way too far removed from any short-term electoral gain. They're simply not that farsighted.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:36 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Arguing that the OP shouldn't have been posted, or that people shouldn't comment beneath it, because it makes the left look bad, both dismisses out of hand the comments that have been made and assumes the existence of a group of observers who judge the left by comments made on a mid-sized general-interest forum.

I think anything's worth posting and discussing, but this is some tinfoil hat bullshit that should be discussed only dismissively. Giving this theory credence hurts nobody except the people treating it credulously. We shouldn't conflate everyday villainy with cartoonish super-villainy.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:46 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm also not keen to hear the converse of this accusation becoming a talking point: "Democrats are trying to steer health care funds toward keeping their voting base alive longer."
posted by straight at 11:47 AM on June 15, 2015


Curley: Is it the case that it's not persuasive to note that the Republican party (which contains few Black people) espouses policies that result in the statistical certainty that Black people will tend to die younger than white people, and also benefits from the early death of Black people?

Or is it the objection instead that it's not true that the Republican party contains few Black people, espouses policies that results in the statistical certainty that Black people will die younger than white people, and benefits from the early deaths of Black people?

Basically, is your objection that the rhetoric is inflammatory, or is it instead that the assertion is untrue?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:53 AM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Accusing a group of calculated genocide without hard evidence? Yeah, just a bit extreme. Especially when the whole thing can be explained away by the Republican's total indifference to the well-being of anyone who isn't a friend/relation if there are even incidental costs to the individual Republican.

It's like George Bush. I don't think George Bush actively hates poor people, or black people, or women. I think people who aren't well-off white men simply aren't meaningfully real to him.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:53 AM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm also not keen to hear the converse of this accusation becoming a talking point: "Democrats are trying to steer health care funds toward keeping their voting base alive longer."

Oh jeez, dude, if I were a Democratic strategist looking into maintaining Democratic allegiance among members of racial minorities having prominent Republicans accuse the Democrats of trying to make PoC live longer would be like manna from heaven.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:55 AM on June 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think anything's worth posting and discussing, but this is some tinfoil hat bullshit that should be discussed only dismissively. Giving this theory credence hurts nobody except the people treating it credulously. We shouldn't conflate everyday villainy with cartoonish super-villainy.

It's fine if there isn't enough eye-rolling here for your liking. I think there are enough rebuttals to the pull quote early enough in the thread that the reputation of the left will remain intact.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:55 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Giving this theory credence hurts nobody except the people treating it credulously. We shouldn't conflate everyday villainy with cartoonish super-villainy.

This shows a rather myopic ignorance of American history. It's a society build directly on genocide and racial slavery after all and has spent the 150 or so years after formally ending slavery keeping its victims poor, oppressed and serving much the same function of disposable labour as before.

Whether or not a gang of supervillains sat down to explicitly work towards this goal irrelevant: the truth is that everything in American society has already been designed to disenfranchise and handicap black people. It's like arguing whether Bush was stupid or evil when launching the War on Iraq: the results are still the same.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:21 PM on June 15, 2015 [18 favorites]


Can anyone explain why we still strip voting rights from felons?

I never got that. It is not a deterrent, and not a fitting punishment for most crimes.

I mean, a person with too many DUI's loses their license. Felons lose gun ownership rights on the presumption that most felons were violent (at one point true, if misguided).

Voting...?
posted by habeebtc at 12:38 PM on June 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think maybe when people see the word "hate" they think that there's only one way to hate; like, you only really hate someone if you hate them like you hate the ex who cheated on you (or whatever), that you're only really hating if you spend all your time seething, relentlessly brooding over the mere existence of the object of your hate.

Although some few KKK types hate this way, and although a relatively large pool of casual white supremacists sometimes pass the time by indulging in this type of hate on and off a few times a day (my white Southern relatives, for example, fall into this category), the most effective hatred around comes in the form of the casual disregard for humanity that people on this thread are (incorrectly) identifying as not being a form of hatred. One reason this type of casual disregard is so effective is that it comes without all of that time-consuming (and generally pathetic-looking) seething. In fact, the way it works is that you don't spend any time at all thinking about the object of your hate, thus freeing your day up to go about whatever other business you please.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:39 PM on June 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


I think anything's worth posting and discussing, but this is some tinfoil hat bullshit that should be discussed only dismissively. Giving this theory credence hurts nobody except the people treating it credulously. We shouldn't conflate everyday villainy with cartoonish super-villainy.

Well, he's pretty cartoonish, I'll give you that, but I have personally heard Rush Limbaugh on his radio show day after day, at the top of his voice, claim that the federal government should do everything in its power to promote smoking rather than discourage it because of the great savings to Social Security that would result from such a shift in policy.

If you think it's any great stretch from that to this, you might want to sign up for that community college Yoga class after all.
posted by jamjam at 12:55 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd have a problem with the claims on intentionality if I had amnesia about Iran-Contra drug running.
posted by srboisvert at 12:58 PM on June 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


I remember when I first read Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and the sudden sweeping feeling of understanding that washed over me. It was far, far easier to believe that our country's sordid history of slavery and oppression of African Americans was motivated by the secret Vampire Cabal to maintain an easy food source than it was to believe that for the last 300 years we've continued these policies out of greed or just shallow meanness.

It's hard not to see a pattern of cartoonish evil in the face of such long term and oppressive policies that seek to overturn every advantage as soon as it's given.

Free the slaves and give them the right to vote? Sure, but we'll put in petty and most likely unconstitutional laws that prevent true equality. Create new social systems to protect most workers after the age of retirement and provide a social safety network that will help support the jobless and medically disabled? Sounds great! But let's exclude those professions and jobs where black people are the most likely to work. Force desegregation? Fine, but we'll keep our redlining of neighborhoods and skewed funding models to keep white schools good and blacks schools poor. Or we'll just send our kids to private schools.

At every turn, where there should be a light at the end of the tunnel, there only seems to be more and more darkness. It used to be the Southern Democrats that actively pissed on the flame of hope and equality, and now it's the Republicans.

...surely this.
posted by teleri025 at 1:29 PM on June 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


These policies don't have to target black people, they just have to target poor people. Genuinely related, a clearly labeled 'lefty' cartoonist points out the obvious about Republican 'pro-life' policies.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:42 PM on June 15, 2015


the most effective hatred around comes in the form of the casual disregard for humanity that people on this thread are (incorrectly) identifying as not being a form of hatred. One reason this type of casual disregard is so effective is that it comes without all of that time-consuming (and generally pathetic-looking) seething. In fact, the way it works is that you don't spend any time at all thinking about the object of your hate, thus freeing your day up to go about whatever other business you please.

That hatred of a thing and general indifference toward it can both produce negative outcomes doesn't make them the same or even equal in character. This bizarre reclassification is all too common, because it's easier to provoke an emotional response to hatred, especially that based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, etc., than it is to get people riled up about indifference, but to my mind it's pretty disingenuous.
posted by echocollate at 2:43 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can anyone explain why we still strip voting rights from felons?

I never got that. It is not a deterrent, and not a fitting punishment for most crimes.


The roots of today's felony disenfranchisement laws grew out of Reconstruction-era legislators' desires to create workarounds for the Fourteenth and especially the Fifteenth Amendment ("The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude").

In 1974's Richardson v. Ramirez, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of felony disenfranchisement by a) invoking states' rights and b) stating that the words "participation in rebellion, or other crime," from Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, are not fundamentally at odds with Section 1/Equal Protection Clause.

Lower courts have similarly agreed that felony disenfranchisement laws are A-OK because even though the laws have a disparate impact (due to the ghastly racism irretrievably bound to every last cog, spoke, and wheel in the American criminal justice system), they do not have a pointedly discriminatory intent. See also Washington v. Davis.

IMO felony disenfranchisement laws comprise the biggest heist to have been pulled off in United States history. Millions of voices, with all of their horizon-expanding, paradigm-shattering new histories and new voices and maybe someday a slightly more proportionate representation in the halls of local, state, and federal governments and courts, silenced with the stroke of a pen. So it goes: Marginalization begets marginalization begets marginalization. It's purposeful, methodical, and frankly evil.

tl;dr - Here's a pretty good breakdown from last year's NYT: The Racist Origins of Felon Disenfranchisement. To call it a complete and utter abrogation of justice is to be much, much too generous.
posted by divined by radio at 2:47 PM on June 15, 2015 [22 favorites]


Indifference is how hate works. Indifference is how it's always worked. Like, slave owners didn't treat slaves like shit because they felt ragey about Black people all the time. They treated their slaves like shit because, once you've developed a depraved indifference to the humanity of another person, the most efficient way to extract value from them involves working them relentlessly and beating them if they slacken their pace even a little.

I am comfortable with, and I believe most people are comfortable with, classifying this type of contempt for humanity as hatred. I think the only people who would conceive of doing otherwise are people who have always felt secure about other people seeing them as people rather than things, and who thereby have never experienced hate.

I mean, yes, one of the people in this conversation doesn't understand what hate means and how it works. I at least have the advantage of using a definition of hate that reflects the actual workings of white supremacist hate in practice.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:16 PM on June 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


This is a really interesting and trenchant point, I think. It doesn't help for the sake of the conversation that we're seeing it recapped on the consistently lazy blog Sociological Images, but that doesn't change the validity. The Republican/Democrat squabble is just the overlay here, and excessively focusing on it is short-sighted. The point is that socially-produced health disparities affecting Black mortality also adversely affect the same population's ability to organize and to consolidate political power, in a significant and meaningful way.
posted by threeants at 4:00 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Indifference vs. Hatred.
Negligence vs. Malice.
Benign Neglect vs. Willful Neglect.
Manslaughter vs. Murder. It doesn't make the dead any less dead.

You can't psychoanalyze people from a distance (and often you can't do it close up). And it's a common practice for the malicious to make special efforts to not seem malicious. The most casual of students of 20th Century history know of "Nixon's Southern Strategy" and its incredibly successful efforts to pull the Openly Racist from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party using a variety of cover stories, a practice which has continued uninterrupted to this day. It's why they have majorities in both houses and so many states, and why so many poor-to-middle-class whites vote "against their own interests" (but again, I can't psychoanalyze from a distance).

Sometimes the cover stories fail to stand up on their own. For example the "pro-lifers" who work so hard to protect fetuses but seem to have so little interest in babies after they are born (standard disclaimer: not ALL pro-lifers).

But if the evidence isn't strong enough to convict in a criminal trial, it may be adequate for an "O.J. Simpson Civil Trial" (remember that?). And reducing the life expectancy of the poor and/or black is (to me) fairly clearly a Republican Party Policy, albeit one that will never appear in the Party Platform. Meanwhile countering that effect appears (slightly less clearly) to be NOT a Democratic Party Policy.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:45 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


That the majority of Americans don't already dismiss the left and consider us a punchline in the political process is naive and touching. Thanks Mayor Curley , I'd love to believe that my views weren't the object of scorn and derision. However despite my penchant for lost causes and stray kittens, I pay attention to the way people talk around me. I am moved by your care for how I appear to others. It's nice when people don't laugh right in my face and wait 'til I leave the room.
Honestly though it makes no difference whether some evil cabal of villainous conservatives is behind these policies or it's a matter of coincidence that the policies espoused by the right have this effect. It exists and needs to be addressed.
posted by evilDoug at 7:28 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]



Can anyone explain why we still strip voting rights from felons?

I never got that. It is not a deterrent, and not a fitting punishment for most crimes.


I am right there with you. Or rather, I totally understand why it exists but am disappointed that it's such an obvious contradiction from our stated and actual rights.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:32 PM on June 15, 2015


Life span of uneducated white women now lower than uneducated black women So much for intentionality and conspiracy
posted by rmhsinc at 9:28 AM on June 16, 2015


okay, so this is a case of me being honestly kinda thick: I don't know what conversation rmhsinc is addressing. Could you explain yourself?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:07 AM on June 16, 2015


Perhps I was off the mark but I though we were discussing, in part, the length of black lives and government policy. I assumed this might suggest that government policies may have unintended consequences and that in many cases poverty can be a potent predictor of well being independent of race
posted by rmhsinc at 12:00 PM on June 16, 2015


oh, I see. Yeah, the intersection of race-based and class-based oppression is complex, for sure.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:41 PM on June 16, 2015


Right...and how does this reconcile with their policies against abortion (35% of which are black)?
posted by Descent at 9:53 PM on June 16, 2015


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