Washington Post columnist George Will misrepresented the effects of the Voting Rights Act to claim that it has given "a few government-approved minorities ... an entitlement to public offices." In fact, the Voting Rights Act has made great strides towards correcting the nation's shameful history of discrimination against minority voters, but minorities are still under-represented in Congress.
In his Post column on Wednesday, Will wrote:
In Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic" -- a book more measured and scholarly than its overwrought title -- Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard says that the party has succumbed to "clientelism," the process of purchasing cohorts of voters with federal favors.
In the 1960s, public-employee unions were expanded to feast from quantitative liberalism (favors measured in quantities of money). And qualitative liberalism was born as environmentalists, feminists and others got government to regulate behavior in the service of social "diversity," "meaningful" work, etc. Cost notes that with the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act, a few government-approved minorities were given an entitlement to public offices: About 40 "majority-minority" congressional districts would henceforth be guaranteed to elect minority members.
Following amendments enacted in 1982, the Voting Rights Act requires that state voting policies do not have the purpose or effect of discriminating on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language-minority group. The law specifies that states must give members of racial and language-minority groups the opportunity "to elect representatives of their choice."
As interpreted by the courts, this means that states may not draw districts so that minorities are so spread out or so packed into a single district that they do not have a fair chance to elect representatives of their choice. This has led to the creation of "majority-minority districts," in which members of a racial, ethnic, or language minority have the ability to choose a representative.
The Voting Rights Act has successfully decreased the level of discrimination against minority groups. But minority groups are far from over-represented in Congress.
The Washington Post's "On Faith" blog published a reponse to Tony Perkins' controversial, anti-gay column on gay suicide. Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network boardwoman Sirdeaner Walker, whose son committed sucide after being harrassed by his peers for being gay, wrote, "Mr. Perkins' tactic, and that of others like him, is to use faith and religion to divide us. They seek to thwart efforts to deal with a problem at the heart of this current crisis--anti-gay bullying and harassment." She added:
If schools perceive addressing anti-gay bullying as a controversial issue, then they'll continue the status quo of putting their heads in the sand and hoping the issue takes care of itself.
It won't. And we need to be clear on one thing - addressing anti-gay bullying is not a controversial issue. If you move through the smoke screen organizations like Family Research Council try to create, you realize addressing anti-gay bullying is simply the right thing to do if we care about all of our young people.
Students who are perceived to be or identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are victimized at much higher rates. My son was bullied with anti-gay remarks. Those kids at his school called him those names because they were probably the most hurtful things they could think of to say. And they hit their mark.
Homophobic bullying and harassment is all too common. And too often school officials do not recognize this kind of bullying and harassment as unacceptable.
We need to ensure that all of our children are protected.
Via Pam's House Blend, I learn that the Washington Post's remarkably poor decision to post Tony Perkins's falsehood laden, anti-gay screed on their On Faith blog (on National Coming Out Day nonetheless) was because they felt they needed to "cover both sides" of "bullying and gay suicide." No, really, they're serious. Apparently they hosted a Live Q & A chat with Dan Savage to discuss "bullying and gay suicide" and his "It Gets Better Project," which is a You Tube channel Savage created in order to reach out to gay youths to prevent suicide. So, to balance Savage, the Post turned to Perkins to respond. Apparently to the Post, gay suicide is a two-sided issue.
GLAAD and the Washington Post had an exchange over Twitter, in which the Post responded to criticism over publishing Perkins' column, by saying, "[W]e're working to cover both sides. Earlier, we hosted Dan Savage of It Gets Better in a live chat." GLAAD rightly replied, "There are not 'both sides' to this issue. Teen suicide isn't a debate-it's a tragedy."
Need I remind you that Perkins's argument was that gay suicide, which often is prefaced by homophobic bullying, was caused not by the bullying, but because "homosexuals experience higher rates of mental health problems in general, including depression," and that the "homosexual movement and their allies" teach kids "that they are 'born gay' and can never change. This--and not society's disapproval--may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide." To back up this insanity, Perkins linked to studies that showed exactly the opposite of what he claimed. While Perkins is right, "Several studies suggest that gay men, lesbians and bisexuals appear to have higher rates of some mental disorders compared with heterosexuals," he's just wrong that this is pathological, and he's equally wrong that there's no link between this and discrimination. Indeed, the article to which Perkins himself linked immediately goes on to report that "[d]iscrimination may help fuel these higher rates." The article further reported: "In a study that examines possible root causes of mental disorders in LGB people, [Susan] Cochran [PhD] and psychologist Vickie M. Mays, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, explored whether ongoing discrimination fuels anxiety, depression and other stress-related mental health problems among LGB people. The authors found strong evidence of a relationship between the two."
The article also reported that the researcher who conducted several of these studies was "concerned that these findings may give ammunition to people who want to falsely promulgate the argument that gay people are by nature mentally ill." The article added:
For one thing, she says, "these are certainly not levels of morbidity consistent with models that say homosexuality is inherently pathological." For another, the data simply don't prove either pro- or anti-gay arguments on the subject, whether it's that the inherent biology of homosexuality causes mental illness or that social stigma provokes mental illness in LGB people, she says.
It seems that Perkins counted on the fact that people wouldn't click through his links, and apparently the On Faith blog editors obliged.
Joseph Stiglitz once wrote of the 2004 elections:
Most of the media not controlled by the right wing tried to play the role of honest broker, giving equal weight to each interpretation. If one side said the sky was blue and the other said it was orange, journalists would work hard, for the sake of appearing balanced, to find some academic, even a color blind one, willing to say that the sky was indeed orange.
Unfortunately, the same still holds true today, and the Post feeling the need to balance a conversation with a gay man about how to prevent gay suicide with a homophobic rant from a crazy man who blames the gays for the suicides, is just the latest sad example of this fallacy.