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September 10, 2003

BY A VOTE OF 19-2 THE CALIFORNIA SENATE HAS DEMANDED THAT GRAY DAVIS APOLOGIZE for his crack about Arnold's accent.

I'm glad to see them take a stand against Davis's immigrant-bashing. (Via Volokh).

UPDATE: But the fight against racial prejudice at the highest levels of the Democratic Party in California is not without its setbacks, as Cruz Bustamante is still refusing to renounce MEChA. Well, we didn't end Jim Crow overnight, either.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And it's not just California, alas. Mark Kleiman writes:

Sharpton is easily the most despicable major figure in either of the two major parties, and yes I do include Trent Lott and Tom DeLay. The fact that no Democrat can run for President without appearing in the same room as Sharpton is the only good reason I can think of for voting Republican. It's not a good enough reason, but it's not chopped liver either.

He takes Slate to task for not being sufficiently critical of Sharpton. On the other hand (scroll up), I think he's probably wrong about a racial angle to the anti-tax sentiments in Alabama. At least, the Tennessee anti-tax movement is all about not trusting the legislature -- or our previous, Republican Governor, Don Sundquist -- to spend the money wisely, or to keep promises about what would happen to tax rates. Tennessee's not Alabama, of course, and I don't follow Alabama state politics, so the extent to which this analogy holds is unclear, but that's my experience.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails that Davis has apologized, but didn't send a link. I couldn't find a story on it, but while looking I found this Letterman joke:

David Letterman: "It's getting ugly out there. The governor, the recall Governor, Gray Davis, was making fun of Arnold Schwarzenegger's accent. He said if you want to be governor of California, you have to be able to pronounce it. And so, this upset Arnold, and Arnold said to be governor of California, you should be able to govern it."

Ouch.

MORE: Bryan Preston isn't impressed with Bustamante's defenders (!) efforts to root the offending MEChA slogan in Cuban communism rather than simple racism.

STILL MORE: Pro-tax Mobile, Alabama reader Jennifer Jones sends a lengthy response to Kleiman's suppositions regarding race and taxes -- click "more" to read it.

EVEN MORE YET: Reader Lucian Truscott thinks that I'm equating MEChA with Jim Crow above. Huh? (Jim Crow was a set of laws; MEChA is an organization). My point was that it's hard to change entrenched racist attitudes in a political leadership -- as it was with Jim Crow. In this case what's hard to change isn't support for racial separatism by the majority, it's the notion that racial separatism is okay when it's by minority groups. Just in case anyone else was similarly confused, though it seems hard to believe that they could be. But heck, after the Ashcroft business, anything's possible. (And believe it or not, I've gotten irate mail from Ashcroft-defenders since that happened. Sheesh.)

From Jennifer Jones:

You're right. Mark Kleiman is wrong about the racial implications of the No vote for increased taxes in Alabama. I don't know where he gets his information about a problem between the black leadership in Alabama and the Gov. but the fact is that the black leadership publicly endorsed the tax plan and encouraged a Yes vote. On the news there were interviews with black voters who voted No. Why did they vote No? Because they don't trust the legislature to spend the money wisely. This is not speculation, as Kleiman's views are, this is what they said. The good ole' boy network is alive and kicking on both sides of the aisle and the pork barrel is as bloated as our state constitution. It has been this way for generations and having a Governor who wants to make some progressive changes, while encouraging, really changes very little. The same people are in the legislature that have been there for decades and they are the ones that really control the money. Every time I drive by a mile of new road that has taken 5 years to build and see the 20 or so guys sitting on their duffs smoking cigs instead of getting the job done I know where my tax dollars are going.

Alabama's poor whites are not big on voting. For anything. Voter turnout was at 46% and I seriously doubt that there were enough poor Alabama whites to influence the outcome of the vote. So that pretty much shoots down Kleiman's theory that they'll do anything just to spite poor Alabama blacks. Besides the fact that if they are as ignorant as Kleiman believes the pros and cons of the tax changes would be totally out of their realm of understanding.

It has only been 10 years since I graduated from an Alabama public school. I don't believe they've changed much in that time. But let me tell you from experience that you can get a good education here. It is all about what you put into it and what you take from it. The biggest problems that Alabama schoolchildren face, especially in rural areas, are their parents. They expect nothing from the children and don't encourage the children to achieve anything past what they themselves have achieved. The tools are there but the kids aren't encouraged to use them. This is what I saw when I was in public school here and this is what I hear from teachers I know now. Good teachers who care about the children in their care. Teachers who get no support and
reinforcement from the children's parents.

I am a white, Alabama public school (it was a rural school, too, really on the bottom of the funding chain) and college educated Republican. And I voted Yes even as I knew the plan was doomed to failure. I don't trust the legislature any farther than I can drop kick them. But I trust Governor Riley and I believe he thought this was the best solution. Even so, I had my reservations and I voted Yes half hoping that the amendment wouldn't pass. It's a scary thing to turn over that much money to a government as shady as Montgomery's. But it's an even scarier thing to wonder what the future holds now.

Jennifer
Mobile, AL

So there you are.

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