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William F. Buckley Jr., founder of National Review, in 1955.
I'm sure the ghost of William F. Buckley is smirking in elitist approval of the positions espoused by his intellectual heirs over at the National Review Online (NRO). The founding father of the so-called intelligentsia of the right was a racist, and his heirs continue to fulfill his legacy.  

In their latest display of double speak they announce how "Congress can help end racial discrimination". Except the punchline is: "Banning racial preferences and eliminating “disparate-impact” claims would take us in the right direction. In other words, take an ax to the Civil Rights Act, and to the voting rights we fought long and hard to achieve. We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of LBJ's signing that momentous legislation, and we are now faced with insidious efforts on multiple fronts that have vowed to move us backwards.    

Those fronts include:

  • The open bigots who bray on the airwaves, like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity—who never bother to hide their overt racism with any subtlety, and who serve the purpose of whipping up frenzies in their viewership.
  • The Roberts Court (with the exception of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan) was put in place to stamp judicial approval on everything from corporate personhood to the burial of civil liberties and affirmative action.
  • The lettered minions who craft the "philosophy of the right" and promote racialized ideologies to that court, and the right-reading public, as they dispense everything from Bell Curve pseudo-science of racial IQ inferiority to misogyny and homophobia.
  • And last but not least—those who fund these efforts, like the Koch Brothers, through think tanks with lofty sounding names like The Heritage Foundation, or even more misleading ones, like the "Center for Equal Opportunity," which was put in place to destroy affirmative action and opportunity for everyone but an elite (preferably a white one).

Follow me below the fold to meet some of the minions and examine the history of National Review racism.

In response to the latest salvo from NRO, Jamelle Bouie wrote "How Not to End Racial Discrimination":

The right has always been against race-conscious remedies to racial discrimination, touting “colorblindness” as the “constitutional” approach to making policy. But it’s only been in the last five years—since the election of Barack Obama—that it’s scored significant victories. “Discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity is unconstitutional, unlawful, and morally repugnant, yet the practice is rife throughout federal law and government programs,” wrote Clegg, von Spakovsky, and Elizabeth Slattery in National Review this week. What they mean, of course, are the laws and regulations designed to prevent and ameliorate the effects of racial bias in hiring, education, voting, and other areas. To use a quote from Chief Justice John Roberts, a fellow traveler in the fight to end race-consciousness, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Von Spakovsky, Clegg, and Slattery focus their fire on the doctrine of “disparate impact,” which treats neutral actions with racially disproportionate outcomes as illegal, if—for example—a business or institution can’t justify a practice as necessary to the job. For them, “Eliminating such claims is therefore another way to help curb the use of racial and ethnic preferences.”

So just who are Von Spakovsky, Clegg and Slattery?
Heritage Foundation Senior Legal Fellow Hans von Spakovsky

Hans von Spakovsky:

originally from Huntsville, Alabama, is a second-generation American whose parents immigrated to the United States in 1951 after meeting in a refugee camp as displaced persons after the end of World War II. He received a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981 and a J.D. from the Vanderbilt University Law School in 1984. Von Spakovsky is a member of the Georgia and Tennessee bars. Before entering politics, he worked as a government affairs consultant, in a corporate legal department, and in private practice.

Von Spakovsky served as Republican Party chairman in Fulton County, Georgia and as a Republican appointee to the Fulton County Registration and Election Board, where he championed strict voter-identification laws. While in Georgia, von Spakovsky was a member of the politically conservative Federalist Society. He worked as a lawyer for George W. Bush's team during the 2000 Florida Presidential election recount. After Bush's election victory, von Spakovsky was appointed to the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

I look at his history and shake my head. Appointing a champion of dismantling Civil Rights to the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice ought to take the cake, but read on.

From Right Wing Watch:

Spakovsky gained his experience in voting law by engineering the purging from voter rolls of supposed felons; indeed, he was a board member of a group involved in the 2000 purge in Florida that disenfranchised thousands of legit voters. As a Justice Department appointee, Spakovsky redirected voting-rights efforts toward combating supposed fraud; his politicized tactics have caused opposition to his subsequent nomination to the Federal Election Commission
In fact, von Spakovsky turns out to be the architect of "The Voter Fraud Myth." All the voter fraud we hear about as a rationale for stricter voting regulations and the need for ID is his mad-racist scientist invention.

Jane Mayer profiled him in the The New Yorker as "The man who has stoked fear about impostors at the polls."

In 2006, President Bush appointed von Spakovsky to the Federal Election Commission while the Senate was in recess. When he came up for confirmation, six career lawyers in the voting section wrote a scathing letter of protest, saying that he had a “cavalier” disregard for legal precedent. They noted that a federal court had struck down Washington State’s attempt to implement his recommendation that eligible citizens be kept “off the rolls for typos and other mistakes by election officials.” They accused von Spakovsky of overruling their judgment that a strict voter-I.D. law in Georgia would result in substantially fewer black voters, and of using a pseudonym to publish an essay in support of voter-I.D. laws while the department was weighing the case. A judge in Georgia struck down the law, likening it to a poll tax. (After considerable modifications, the law was authorized.) Joe Rich, the former chief of the voting section, repeatedly clashed with von Spakovsky and his allies. “I worked at the Justice Department for thirty-six years, twenty-four of them under Republican Administrations,” Rich told me. “The disdain and antagonism that they had for the experience, expertise, and dedication of career civil-rights attorneys was something I had never experienced before. It was just awful.”

Among the lawmakers who spoke out against von Spakovsky’s appointment to the F.E.C. was Barack Obama, then a Democratic senator from Illinois. He put a hold on the confirmation, effectively blocking it. After two years in limbo, von Spakovsky withdrew his name from consideration, and joined the Heritage Foundation, where he continued to inveigh against voter fraud In the spring of 2008, as Obama was clinching the Democratic nomination for President, von Spakovsky issued a lengthy report on electoral fraud, titled “Stolen Identities, Stolen Votes.” In an op-ed piece on the Fox News Web site, he argued that “one doesn’t have to look far to find instances of fraudulent ballots cast in actual elections by ‘voters’ who were the figments of active imaginations.” Yet the most recent evidence he cited in his report was decades old: a grand-jury report documenting criminal collusion, from 1968 to 1982, among Brooklyn election officials and local machine politicians.

Von Spakovsky, in his new role at Heritage, continued to whip up "fraud frenzy" and then allied himself with groups that would carry that agenda forward, like True the Vote, whose actions included alleged voter intimidation. Mayer describes von Spakovskys' relationship to the group:
True the Vote, which was founded in 2009 and is based in Houston, describes itself as a nonprofit organization, created “by citizens for citizens,” that aims to protect “the rights of legitimate voters, regardless of their political party.” Although the group has a spontaneous grassroots aura, it was founded by a local Tea Party activist, Catherine Engelbrecht, and from the start it has received guidance from intensely partisan election lawyers and political operatives, who have spent years stoking fear about election fraud. This cohort—which Roll Call has called the “voter fraud brain trust”—has filed lawsuits, released studies, testified before Congress, and written op-ed columns and books. Since 2011, the effort has spurred legislative initiatives in thirty-seven states to require photo identification to vote.

Engelbrecht has received especially valuable counsel from one member of the group: Hans von Spakovsky. A Republican lawyer who served in the Bush Administration, he is now a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank. “Hans is very, very helpful,” Engelbrecht said. “He’s one of the senior advisers on our advisory council.” Von Spakovsky, who frequently appears on Fox News, is the co-author, with the columnist John Fund, of the recent book “Who’s Counting?,” which argues that America is facing an electoral-security crisis. “Election fraud, whether it’s phony voter registrations, illegal absentee ballots, vote-buying, shady recounts, or old-fashioned ballot-box stuffing, can be found in every part of the United States,” they write. The book connects these modern threats with sordid episodes from the American past: crooked inner-city machines, corrupt black bosses in the Deep South. Von Spakovsky and Fund conclude that electoral fraud is a “spreading” danger, and declare that True the Vote serves “an obvious need.”

Von Spakovsky appears frequently at hearings on the Hill to push Heritage agendas, especially those that push for voter ID and investigations of "voter fraud." At one of those hearings in 2011, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) issued a calm and measured smackdown to Spakovsky.

In his written testimony, von Spakovsky said that the fact that Georgia had the highest voter turnout in its history in 2008 when there was a photo ID law on the books was proof that the measure didn't suppress turnout. He compared Georgia's statistics to neighboring Mississippi, a state which also has a significant African-American population.

"For example, Mississippi, a state with a large African-American population just like Georgia, there was only a third of what it was in Georgia," von Spakovsky said during his testimony.

"Can I ask you something?" Franken interjected. "Do you know how much Mississippi grew in terms of black population during those years versus Georgia?"

"I don't," said von Spakovsky.

"Wouldn't that have to factor into the significance of that?" Franken said. "Here's my question: you did a study and you put in your testimony that it was 'significant' that the percentage of black voters grew more in Georgia than Mississippi and you just cited it again. I would think that, as someone who writes studies, it would be significant to know that the black population grew at more than four times the rate than the black population in Mississippi, and I'm wondering how you didn't factor that in," he said. (Franken later corrected himself to say that the black population in Georgia grew at more than three times the rate.)

These same issues with "the study" were addressed again in 2012, in Hans von Spakovsky's "False Conclusions About Georgia’s Voter ID Impacts".


Roger Clegg,  President and General Counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity
Roger Clegg,  President and General Counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity

And then there's Roger Clegg.

I have to admit, every time I see Roger Clegg's name paired with Center for Equal Opportunity, it reminds me of how the right wing in this country lies with words. Like "right to life" hypocrites praying for people to be put to death by lethal injection and voting against health care that can save lives. The Center for Equal Opportunity's so-called "colorblind" policies are not colorblind at all. They are acutely aware of color and race, and expend all their efforts toward holding onto white privilege—people of color need not apply.

Clegg was a major player attacking the University of Wisconsin's diversity policies in 2011, and he sparked major protests on the campus.

He also recently attacked President Obama's My Brother's Keeper initiative, labeling it "government-sponsored discrimination," when unemployment rates for young black men are deplorable. You can't be colorblind when looking at this data:

Unemployment is a major problem for young Americans in general, but it’s an even bigger problem for young people of color. While the overall unemployment rate for teenagers is 25.1 percent, the unemployment rate for black teens is 43.1 percent. And fully half of black males ages 16–19 are looking for work but unable to find a job.
And, of course, Clegg is gleeful about the latest reactionary rulings from SCOTUS.

Celebrating Affirmative Action Ban Decision, Right-Wing Media Ride The Reverse Racism Unicorn:

On April 22, the Supreme Court ruled in Schuette v. BAMN, a badly split opinion in which the Court's five conservatives rejected long-established equal protection law under the Fourteenth Amendment to uphold Michigan's voter-approved ban on affirmative action. Right-wing media immediately began misinforming about the case, ignoring the serious consequences it could have for minority rights in the United States. By effectively overruling the "political process" doctrine, which forbids setting up a separate and unequal tier of political participation for a disfavored minority, the conservative justices reopened the door to the rigging of political systems, previously disallowed because of its negative impact on communities of color.

Nevertheless, Roger Clegg, the National Review Online's resident anti-civil rights contributor, called this outcome "a resounding win for the good guys."

NRO continued its misinformation campaign about Schuette in its April 22 editorial, claiming that affirmative action is itself a form of prohibited racial discrimination. The editorial went on to call Sotomayor's dissent in Schuette "legally illiterate and logically indefensible" and "offers a case study in the moral and legal corrosion that inevitably results from elevating ethnic-identity politics over the law." To bolster the claim that Sotomayor is preoccupied by "ethnic-identity politics," the editors whistled to the 2009 right-wing media smears that the justice was a racist because she once referred to herself as a "wise Latina."

I wish we could eject the Roberts' Five and add a few more "wise Latinas" to the bench—which will happen in time, and the fear-evoked response from the right proves they know it. Desperation levels rise as they attempt to hold off the "brown hordes" that soon will be a majority in this country.  

Finally, there is Elizabeth Slattery, "senior legal policy analyst" at Heritage, who is  currently building her bigotry portfolio and churning out position papers on everything from abortion to "Obama's lawless presidency" to an anti-same sex marriage agenda couched as "the slippery slope into polygamy."

She's living proof that "female" and "feminist" are not the same. She joins the ranks of a host of right-wing women willing to sell out the women of this country for a place at the patriarchal table.  

Just in case you are wondering why I think of the NRO as the "National Racist's Organ," take a brief glimpse at more of their past practices. They are equal opportunity slur-slingers. Jeet Heer compiled a brief history not limited to racist language about black people:

In 1979, Joseph Sobran complained that if you were working on a history textbook you have to “include celebratory little passages on all the vocal pressure groups: women and minorities, or chicks and spies as you’ll wind up wanting to call them.”

 A 1968 James Burnham’s review of Norman Podhoretz’s Making It started by saying that “among the classic masks assumed by Jews in dealing with the zig-zag of destiny is The Clown.” Later in the review there is this very curious sentence: “Though he resented the break in his program for making it, and hated the first months, those Army experiences did seem to push his semantic nose into a certain amount of reality.” The phrase “semantic nose” really makes no sense at all unless we see it as a strained pun meant to suggest the idea of a “Semetic nose” – i.e. what Burnham is suggesting is that “the army did a good job of rubbing Podhoretz’s Jewish nose into reality.”

In 1969, the anthropologist John Greenway wrote an essay for National Review arguing that “without war and raiding and scalping and rape and pillage and slavetaking the Indian was as aimless as a chiropractor without a spine. There was nothing left in life for him but idleness, petty mischief, and booze.” Greenway asked “Did the United States destroy the American Indian?” and answering his own query replied: “No, but it should have.”  When Native Americans objected to this article, Greenway wrote a response in Hollywood mock-Injun gibberish dialect, which ran like this:

   “How! White brother readum chicken tracks of red brother, makeum paleface heart heavy; tears of sorrow flow all over floor of teepee like great river.

    Lo, many moons ago Injun smokeum peacepipe, promise Great White Father puttum down tommyhawk, no makeum war forever more. Now me thinkum, Injun speak with forked tongue.

    D. Chief Eagle he says he invade white brother own hunting ground and castum lance at white brother. What kind talk this talk? Maybe D. Chief Eagle heap big silly humbug; maybe better watch out, you thinkum? White brother maybe lift up Injun hair pretty damn smart, hey? Maybe bury hatchet in D. Chief Eagle head, he come up here steal land, steal women. Makeum damngood Injun right quick, by Chrise.

    Ugh!

    John Greenway

    Heap Big Chief Medicine Man

Heer concluded, "The interesting thing in all this is that National Review is an intellectual magazine which putatively represents the more civilized strand of American conservative. One would hate to imagine the language used by cruder, more uncouth right-wingers."

The patina of class bequeathed to the inheritors of William F. Buckley is dross. He died in 2008, and the laudatory eulogies poured in, few telling the truth about the man's mission to dismantle any and all forward progress.

I preferred one written by political science Professor David Michael Green who said:

Conservatism has ruled America for three decades now and never more than in the last seven years. Backward, deceitful, polarizing, warlike, arrogant, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, destructive, intolerant, ignorant, lethal and incompetent -- it's just plain ugly, isn't it? Ergo -- as you might have said, Bill -- Americans have awakened sufficiently from their Buckley-induced stupor to now join the rest of the world in embracing this ideology about as much as they might welcome a whopping good case of leprosy. And with roughly the same results if they did.

Eighty-two years old, one can't help but think that smart Bill Buckley got out while the getting was good, just months before the election that would seal forever the fate of his destructive little life's project.

Perhaps he had actually come to believe his own words from an earlier time: "Some of my instincts are reprehensible."

Yes. Your instincts were, and your heirs are.

Reactionary, racist and reprehensible.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Apr 27, 2014 at 06:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges, Black Kos community, White Privilege Working Group, and Support the Dream Defenders.

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