Streetcar Line

Serwer in the Sewer

 Race-baiting accuser should look in mirror.

By 3.14.11

Send to Kindle

The cheapest, most trite, and most vilely dishonest refuge of a leftist sycophant is to suggest that conservatives' motives are racist. It's an especially tawdry trick when it's used to hide racialist (note the difference between the two words) actions by their lefty brethren. In that context, meet Adam Serwer, hack scribe for the American Prospect and blogger for the Washington Post, who won't answer substantive correctives to his own flawed work but who repeatedly makes bald assertions, without evidence, that conservatives long for the days of Jim Crow -- or maybe apartheid. The truth, however, is that the conservatives and centrists fighting for election integrity and equal enforcement of the law have impeccable records on civil rights, while the Obama Justice Department for which Serwer so avidly covers up has a demonstrable record of mendacity, lawlessness and bias.

Serwer ordinarily wouldn't be worth bothering with, except insofar as his idiocies provide a case study of how left repeatedly uses the wolf-cry of conservative racism (see: Obama says Tea Party is racist) to poison the well -- yes, destroy the "civility" -- of public discourse.

Serwer's March 9 post accusing Republicans of a War on Voting was typical. He starts right in like this (my emphasis added): "The GOP generally supports felony disenfranchisement laws because they disproportionately affect blacks who tend to vote for Democrats." How does he know this is the motive? He doesn't say. What evidence does he cite? He doesn't. He just makes the blanket assertion, unmoored to any actual facts. Or maybe the right isn't purely racist, but still vilely political: "Florida Republicans are moving to restrict the voting power of a Democratic constituency in a presidential swing state, nothing more, nothing less." Then this: "Republican legislatures all over the country are actively pursuing policies that could disenfranchise thousands of people because they are more likely to vote for the other side." This is actually somewhat less offensive an allegation as the ones from earlier columns that there is a "feverish alternate universe of racial resentment in which some conservatives seem to reside" and that "conservatives' priorities here speak for themselves, and they aren't what anyone could describe as 'race-neutral'." Finally, the real aim of conservatives, he has written, is "discrediting the whole concept of civil rights enforcement."

This is slander, pure and simple. Why the Washington Post allows it, even in its blogging pages, is a mystery. It's also absurd.

In his most recent column Serwer again insinuates that these supposedly bad motives are the key explanation for why "Republicans treat the New Black Panther voter intimidation case as an outrage." Okay, fine: Let's examine the history of those on the right and center who have insisted on keeping the Black Panther case -- and, more importantly, the window it opens into Justice Department mis-practices -- in the public eye.

Start with the first key witness to the Black Panther intimidation at the Philadelphia polling place. (This aspect of the case has been well publicized, but please bear with me.) Bartle Bull, who called the Panther incident "the most blatant form of voter intimidation I've ever seen," was a Bobby Kennedy lieutenant who did legal work for black civil rights activists in Mississippi in the 1960s. He was a former owner/publisher of the left-wing Village Voice, and Ted Kennedy himself gave Bull a gold medal in 2003 for his civil rights work. Yet, to believe Serwer, Bull is at least knowingly in league with those whose goal is "discrediting the whole concept of civil rights enforcement." Right.

And who might those evil, anti-civil rights crusaders be? Well, of course, there is the original whistle-blower, J. Christian Adams, mortally suspect because, gasp, he was hired at DoJ (as a non-political career attorney) during the Bush administration. Worse, Adams went to law school in South Carolina. Oh, he must be a racist. None of which, though, squares with the facts of his record at the Civil Rights Division of DoJ. It was a record of consistently good reviews, cash awards for excellent work, and promotions -- including a promotion, signed off on by the Obama appointees, just weeks before he resigned in protest. Most to the point, Adams won a special commendation for his work on behalf of black voters in Georgetown County, South Carolina.

One of his colleagues on the immediate attorney team on the Black Panther case, Robert Popper, also won a special commendation from DoJ, his for work enforcing the part of the "Motor Voter" law allowing welfare recipients to register to vote at government aid offices. Then there was the top attorney on the team, fellow whistle-blower Christopher Coates. As has by now been well-publicized, Coates is no Kluxer . A former staff attorney for the ACLU's Voting Rights Project (gee, how reactionary!) and winner of the Thurgood Marshall Decade Award from the Georgia NAACP in 1991, his career within DoJ on behalf of civil rights was similarly distinguished, including selection for the Walter Barnett Memorial Award for Excellence and Advocacy.

In Congress, the chief pursuer of answers about the Panther case has been Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who once bucked the entire rest of the Virginia delegation and Cavalier State newspapers to support civil rights legislation. On the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, all five of the commissioners pushing the investigation into the skullduggery have distinguished records. Probably the most vociferous driver of the inquiry was Todd Gaziano, who started his career on the staff of (and served as official biographer for) liberal Democratic Sen. Jennings Randolph of West Virginia, who voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 even as fellow Mountaineer State Democrat Robert Byrd filibustered the bill for 14 straight hours. Fellow commissioner Gail Heriot started her career by clerking for Illinois Supreme Court Justice Seymour Simon, aptly described in the Chicago Tribune as a "liberal Democratic icon." The three other commissioners -- Gerald Reynolds, Peter Kirsanow, and Ashley Taylor -- all happen to be black men. Unless one believes in the mythical self-hating black man along with mermaids and centaurs and the Gorgons, it's hard to believe they are out to disenfranchise black voters. All three boast tremendously distinguished legal careers, and all have steadfastly insisted that the Obama/Holder team's conduct in the Panther case has been abominable.

Finally, while a column should not be about the columnist, I feel compelled to note that no professional journalist has written more words on the Panther case than I have, ever since I helped break the story on May 29 2009. (Credit where due: I later found out that the indefatigable Michelle Malkin broke the story in cyber-print a day earlier.) And I'll take a back seat to nobody on fighting for black rights and interests. Among a much longer list of activities I could cite, I served as a leader on three different fronts of the effort to stop the then-meteoric political rise in Louisiana of former KKK Gran Wizard David Duke -- including being on the original ten-person board of the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism, which earned international acclaim for its successful work against Duke. As a columnist in Mobile, Alabama, I crusaded against white racism in the private sector, repeatedly took up the cause (when almost nobody else would) of the overwhelmingly black town of Prichard (which had gone bankrupt but which I argued could make a comeback), and tacitly endorsed black Democrat Sam Jones to be mayor of majority-white Mobile over a white Republican -- and wrote about it at the New Republic.

If just one or even two people heavily involved in investigating the Black Panther case had a decent civil rights history, perhaps Serwer could explain away that record and still assert that the overall effort was born of malicious racial intent. He cannot, however, explain away all of this. Those of us who focused so hard on this case -- and, more importantly, on the far broader issue of race-based double standards and mal-enforcement of the law at the Obama/Holder DoJ -- have long, long résumés proving sincere concern for minority rights and interests, and opposition to rubbing racial resentments raw. We also repeatedly have cited have cited facts and narratives that consistently have proved true, while critics of the case have repeatedly refused to address key issues and/or ignored their own previous statements about the seriousness and appallingness of the various issues involved.

In Serwer's fevered imagination, though, we're all racists. In his warped mind, there can be no explanation for our positions other than racial animus or political advantage. We cannot be sincere.

"Felony disenfranchisement laws," he writes, "serve no civic purpose -- no one ever stopped themselves from committing a crime simply because they might lose the right to vote. The formerly incarcerated have served their time, the argument for punishing them post-release by denying them the right to vote is pure politics masquerading as tough-on-crime moral uprightness [sic -- run-on sentence]."

Does it never occur to him that conservatives actually believe that felonies are disqualifying, in themselves, from the full privileges of citizenship, at least until further proof of reform has been shown? Across the board, conservatives tend to treat felonies as less forgivable than liberals do. Our entire worldview is less forgiving of violent law-breaking, and less willing to ascribe such grave transgressions to "cultural influences" or poverty or "youthful mistakes" or other nonsense. Why should conservatives believe any differently when it comes to voting rights than we do when it comes to being otherwise tough on serious crime? When it comes to voting privileges after incarceration, it would indeed be philosophically inconsistent for us not to insist that those privileges must be re-earned. Just because somebody has spent time behind bars doesn't mean he has proved to be a good citizen; only once he has been back in the world of freedom without further transgressions has he proved he again merits the sacred right to vote on how our government will be run.

Yet to Serwer, we just want to suppress Democratic votes. That's offensive.

Typically, though, Serwer is so sloppy that he can't even bother to check the few apparent factoids he cites in his otherwise fact-less rant. "Florida's original felony disenfranchisement law" he writes, "was enacted during Reconstruction, as an effort to limit the political power of newly freed blacks."

Balderdash. In the key case on just this topic, Johnson (et al) v. Governor of Florida in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2005, the full circuit en banc overwhelmingly rejected this ahistorical tommyrot. "There is no doubt," they wrote, "that Florida's decision to adopt a criminal disenfranchisement law in these early Constitutions was based on a non-racial rationale…. Indeed, the plaintiffs' own historical expert conceded that prior to the instant case, no historian who had studied Florida's 1868 Constitution had ever contemplated that the 1868 criminal disenfranchisement provision was enacted with discriminatory intent. The plaintiffs offer no contemporaneous evidence from the 1868 constitutional convention demonstrating that racial discrimination motivated the enactment of the 1868 disenfranchisement provision."

In short, Serwer has no leg to stand on. All he does is attack, without balance, fairness or accuracy, but with plenty of demonstrable mendacity. He does the same when he falsely claims that "in-person voting fraud is virtually nonexistent." (Oh, really??)

His cheap shots would be laughable if they weren't so indicative of how the left and their establishment media cheerleaders (sorry for the redundancy) heaps the same calumny on conservatives every chance they get. It's long past time we fight back -- and long past time for the serious journalists at places like the Washington Post to stop allowing even so much as an inch of their cyber-print to those of Serwer's low ilk.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
Quin Hillyer is a senior editor of The American Spectator and a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom. Follow him on Twitter @QuinHillyer.