JIM CROW: NOT JUST DRINKING FOUNTAINS

There’s a lot of silliness in this Politico piece reporting that Republicans (and one anonymous Democrat) would like Debbie Wasserman Schultz to be less strident in criticizing them. It’s worth noting that whereas Republican Chairman Michael Steele took hits in the media for criticizing Republicans, Democratic Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz is now taking hits for…criticizing Republicans. But what’s most pernicious in Molly Ball’s article is its selective memory about Jim Crow:

The congresswoman’s latest blunder came Sunday, when she said on television that Republicans “want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws and literally — and very transparently — block access to the polls to voters who are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates than Republican candidates.”

The equating of state legislatures’ efforts to require voters to show identification with laws that required separate schools and water fountains raised hackles, particularly in racially sensitive Democratic circles, prompting a quasi-retraction from Wasserman Schultz.

This raises the perennial question: Is it better to be obtuse intentionally or unintentionally?

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I have to say, the face the Democratic Party showed today deserves much more respect than the one we saw on the same day four years ago. Barbara Boxer deserves the nation’s gratitude for choosing to be a first mover – and the brunt of reactionary criticism – to force a congressional confrontation over a national disgrace. The Democratic leadership, to their credit, chose to frame the challenge as an opportunity to probe a critical crisis of legitimacy in our electoral process rather than distancing themselves from those objecting as fringe radicals. While few were willing to directly question the Bush win, speaker after speaker on the Democratic side shared accounts of suppression and made the case for reform. And in retort, the Republicans had little more to offer than readings of newspaper editorials, whining about whining, stories of dead people voting, and disingenuous praise for John Kerry’s good sportsmanship. As Jesse Jackson argued, no individual’s right to vote will be secure until voting is recognized as an individual right. The Democrats’ report bears troubling witness to just how much work we have to do.