February 19, 2013
The Seattle Times Thinks That We Should Choose Elected Officials By The Color Of Their Skin, Not The Content Of Their Character

Or at least some elected officials.  In the opinion of our local monopoly newspaper, too few Latinos are being elected to offices in Washington state.

Here's an example of what the newspaper sees as a problem:

Though Latinos make up more than 33 percent of the population in 10 counties across Central Washington, they hold less than 4 percent of local elected offices in those areas.

The Associated Press notes the city of Yakima is now 41 percent Latino, but voters there have never elected a Latino member to the City Council.  The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against the city in 2012 after council members refused to allow an initiative on the ballot that would have required them to run in districts, rather than citywide.

Later, voters also defeated an initiative to alter the status quo.

To remedy that problem, the newspaper wants the legislature to rig the local election system in order to force local governments to change to district elections, whether or not the people in that city (or county) want that change.  Getting the skin colors right is more important to the Times than mere abstractions like democracy.

(This news may not have reached the Times, but choosing by skin color is not an infallible rule.  For an example, the editorial writers may want to study the 2nd Illinois House district.  In recent years, it has been represented by Gus Savage, Mel Reynolds, and, until his resignation, Jesse Jackson, Jr..   All had the correct skin color; none would be considered great statesmen.  When a different skin color was predominant in the district, it was represented by Morgan Murphy, who had the correct skin color for the district — but wouldn't be considered a great statesman, either.)

Decades ago, idealistic leaders argued that we should not judge people by the color of their skin.  Many Americans still hold that view.  That's why, for instance, that Washington state, despite the votes from reactionary Seattle, was able to pass the civil rights initiative, I-200.  That's also why the voters in Washington's 3rd House district have elected Jaime Herrera Beutler, even though the district is not predominantly Hispanic.

But that idealistic belief is rare in our newspapers, and almost unknown among the leaders of the Democratic party, who have, some might think, returned to their older rule of judging elected leaders, first of all, by the colors of their skins.

Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.

(When journalists use numbers, I always worry, just as I worry when I see children playing with sharp knives.  That 33 to 4 percent comparison is bogus, for several reasons.  I'll just mention the most obvious:  Many Latinos are not American citizens.

Is that editorial racist?  That would depend on two definitions.  Latinos — I would call them Hispanics — are not, by any scientific definition, a race, but they are often treated as a race by journalists and other political types.

And it would depend on whether you think that "liberal racism", as described by Jim Sleeper, is also racism, without the qualifier.

I wouldn't say that, but wouldn't quarrel with anyone who does.  But I think that the editorial unquestionably reveals the "soft bigotry of low expectations", in the words of our last successful president.)

Posted by Jim Miller at February 19, 2013 01:41 PM | Email This