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The New Black Panther Party Is the New ACORN

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Wednesday, 14 July 2010 19:30
Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, 05/13/10. (photo: AP)

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, 05/13/10. (photo: AP)

 

How a weak but fraught voter-intimidation case made the big time.

s voter-intimidation exercises go, it wasn't much. In 2008, a lone white voter reported he had encountered two black men dressed all in black, one carrying a nightstick, at his Philadelphia polling place in a predominantly black neighborhood. The armed man was escorted away by police, and no one reported the incident to the local district attorney. But the incident was caught on camera, making it great fodder for cable news because political campaigns were actively scouting for voter-intimidation cases they could use against opponents. Still, it seemed like the sort of incident that happens at dozens of polling places every Election Day, then quietly recedes.

Twenty-one months later, though, right-wing bloggers can't get enough of the story, and it's starting to make it into the mainstream press. Even Sarah Palin has joined the act, tweeting: "Watch FOX's Megyn Kelly on Black Panther voter intimidation case; she knows the case; she's speaking truth; her revelations leave Left steaming."

So how did the incident become a replay of the ACORN scandal? There's some resemblance between the two: an organization with unacceptable practices and a vague connection to the Obama administration (through voter registration drives in the ACORN case and Justice Department litigation in the Panther case) becomes a tool for critics of the White House to attack it as corrupt and illegitimate. But as in the ACORN case, the scandal is minimal (much of the ACORN hit has been discredited) - and the allegations against Obama flimsy.

Let's start with the cast of characters. The two reportedly imposing men at the Philadelphia polling station were members of a fringe group that calls itself the New Black Panther Party - much to the chagrin of the "old" Black Panther Party, which strenuously rejects the NBPP. Its leaders go by peculiar pseudo-African names (like chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz), and it is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League. Its ideology tends to skew toward the black supremacist and anti-Semitic.

The group typically gets attention every few years when it successfully manages to bait the national media with some nutty stand. In 2006, for example, the NBPP announced it was going to Durham, N.C., to investigate the Duke lacrosse case. Fox News, in particular, loves it: after the Duke charges were dropped in 2007, Bill O'Reilly had Shabazz on the program, where he called syndicated conservative columnist Michelle Malkin a "whore."

Several months after the 2008 Election Day incident (and 13 days before President Obama was sworn in) the Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit against the NBPP under the Voting Rights Act, alleging voter intimidation. In May 2009, Justice - now led by Attorney General Eric Holder, Obama's appointee - successfully obtained an injunction against King Samir Shabazz, the man who carried the nightstick, then dropped the suit, Fox News reported. A spokeswoman at Justice says a career attorney made the call, which was then affirmed by an appointee, because "the facts and the law did not support pursuing claims against the other defendants in the case. A federal judge determined that the relief requested by the Department was appropriate."

That's where things get messy. Starting last summer, some conservative media outlets - notably The Washington Times - began digging into the case, suggesting that because a top Obama appointee had signed off on the decision to drop charges, a move allegedly opposed by career lawyers, it provided proof that Holder's Justice Department was a bastion of politicalfavoritism (and, by implication, racism, given that both Holder and Obama are black).

Although that story didn't go mainstream, it did cause the Commission on Civil Rights, an independent body, to take up the case. As Dave Weigel reported, there was more to that decision than met the eye: after eight years of George W. Bush appointments, the commission tilted definitively right. In addition, the star witness in the case against the NBPP, Bartle Bull, wasn't exactly impartial. The white former Robert F. Kennedy aide, who called the incident "the most blatant form of voter intimidation I have encountered in my political campaigns in many states, even going back to the work I did in Mississippi in the 1960s," had been an outspoken critic of Obama for some time.

The commission has met several times to examine the case, but things really blew open on July 6, when Bush Justice official J. Christian Adams, who is white, suggested that Justice's voting division avoided bringing cases where defendants were black and plaintiffs were white. Adams's testimony is questionable; there are doubts about whether he was actually present for the incidents he described, and he's refused to offer details on key questions. Critics see other credibility problems for Adams: he was, for instance, hired when Bush's Justice Department was systematically weakening the civil-rights division by forcing out career lawyers and replacing them with attorneys who had strong conservative credentials but little in the way of civil-rights experience.

This week's resolution by the NAACP blasting "racism" in the Tea Party has further fanned the flame. At its 101st annual convention in St. Louis, the nation's oldest civil-rights organization condemned the party's "continued tolerance for bigotry." Tea Party leaders heatedly rejected the criticism, and Palin dismissed it as "a diversionary tactic." To some commentators on the right, the NAACP action is rank hypocrisy, given that the group hasn't condemned the racism they see festering over at Justice.

With some help from Fox News's Kelly, the New Black Panthers story is now gaining steam. While there's little doubt that the NBPP is a fringe group, critics of the decision to drop the suit have a tough case to make. The problem is that although it may look like voter intimidation, there aren't actually any voters who filed an official complaint claiming to have been intimidated. As Adam Serwer writes, a polling station in a predominantly black neighborhood isn't the best place to go if you're trying to scare white voters off: "I imagine that the New Black Panthers thought they were protecting black voters from some phantom white-supremacist conspiracy (their public statements say as much)." And Weigel, who's followed the case, has suggested there's not much to it either - plus, "there's no evidence the NBPP's clownish Philadelphia stunt suppressed any votes, or that they'll try such a stunt again."

Of course, even if the case against the NBPP is thin as onion paper, it's still a problem if the Justice Department is systematically screening its cases by race. So is there evidence of that beyond Adams's testimony? The department denies the charge. Spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler says in part: "The Department makes enforcement decisions based on the merits, not the race, gender or ethnicity of any party involved."

Cord Jefferson of the The Root, a black-issues Web site, says the case is spurious, but that Justice must explain itself further. But Abigail Thernstrom, a white conservative member of the Commission on Civil Rights, complains that it's all light and no heat:

Get a grip, folks. The New Black Panther Party is a lunatic fringe group that is clearly into racial theater of minor importance ... This case is a one-off. There are plenty of grounds on which to sharply criticize the attorney general - his handling of terrorism questions, just for starters - but this particular overblown attack threatens to undermine the credibility of his conservative critics.

Thernstrom may be right, but she misses the point. Like the ACORN case, it's not about a real investigation; it's about staging an effective piece of political theater that hurts the Obama administration.

 

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+3 # Guest 2010-07-15 03:58
Graham misses a crucial point. If Obama had actually been fulfilling his populist promise, the ACORN scandal and the NBPP incident would be inconsequential pinpricks. Instead, they have given the right some real edge.

You can coast for a while in neutral, but frictional loss will bring you to a stop sooner or later. We have to shift Obama's gears; it is apparent he will not do it on his own.
 
 
+6 # Guest 2010-07-15 06:59
Whoa, Nellie......got problems with ACORN??? Why not call the real Wizzard of Ooze, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee front and center and ask him what happened to the investigation into ACORN that he was conducting and why he dragged his feet from 2004 through 2008?

The ACORN so called scandals,point to one particular problem within the organization. Do your homework.

Why is it OK for the conservative right to have strength in numbers and be praised regardless of the illegal tactics,insults and innuendos they employ, but any attempt on the part of the working poor, unemployed, disabled, and plain old average Americans who are and have been doing the work to keep the wheels on this USA condemned and abused for practicing their rights?

Sounds more and more like my country is a budding Fascist government and citizenry.
 
 
+8 # Guest 2010-07-15 05:45
If no one paid any attention to the right-wing blow hards -- Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Levin, et al -- this would not be a story at all. The real story is as Graham shows how the right wing will go to any lengths to inflate a mole hill into a mountain of attacks on Obama and his administration. That's how the republicans practice politics -- attack all the time, distort facts, exaggerate like hell. And they think voters will give them control of congress again!!!! What a joke. The lunatic right wing has a base of about 20 milliion voters who follow every word that comes from AM hate radio and Fox news. If no progressives show up at the polls, they can win. If normal Americans show up to vote, the loonies on the right will lose. Their 24/4/265 campaign of smears and attacks is the real voter imtimidation scheme. There goal is to drie down the progressive voter turnout in November.
 
 
+6 # Guest 2010-07-15 08:54
rm, the "ifs" in your comment are very telling.unfortu nately, they aren't so iffy.People DO pay enough attention to this lunatic fringe to make a difference and their enthusiasm is intoxicating enough to some who have been sickened by government they will gain power simply from that.They have lost some followers but they still hold enough in their ranks to make a difference.Reme mber Bush's elections, Rove made him president because he appealed to a similar lunatic fringe that people were inclined to dismiss.The real problem with these guys is that our lackadaisical approach to them allows them to organize and get to polls like dems haven't done since the 60's.Their drive(lunacy) will be our undoing if we don't stop blowing it off and fight it with more than a hand wave.They WILL get control of Congress...but how will those people who hate government govern?Will anyone please ask them?These nay-sayers will be as much a danger to their own party as they will be ours.They'll vote, so must we!!!
 
 
0 # Guest 2010-07-15 14:00
I agree, ignoring the wingnut hate ranters has cost us dearly. Palin is only around our necks now because we blew off her idiotology, thinking it was a "fringe" element. Wrong. It's a core element in this country. I wish to God real journalists (Rachel Maddow, are you listening?) would stop mocking Palin and the Teabaggers--giv ing them more airtime than is healthy for the national dialogue--and start taking them seriously. The mocking hasn't worked. They're gaining in volume and viciousness when they should have been laughed out of the building last summer. It was only because left media thought they were being so clever, so snarkey with their mockery that the wingnuts are still holding the mics, getting camera time, and laughing at our inability to maintain internal coherence. The price of pride is loss of mid-terms. The price of ignoring the power of ignorant hatred is waking up to Karl Rove's face again every day for 4 years. Nice guys finish last in politics; so do smartasses.
 
 
+7 # Guest 2010-07-15 06:23
What do you want to bet that they're getting ready to try to take down the NAACP?
 
 
+1 # Guest 2010-07-15 08:54
Do you the TEA Party and the GOP or both?

They can try but even they know that the NAACP is not the weak Executive, Judicial and Congressionla branches of government! No indeed, from now the TEA Party and the other right wing conservative nuts will be watching their back in fear!

It was about time the heroes of day, the NBBP displayed it's muscle power once more. Too bad the Hispanic caucus are too intimidate to do likewise the NAACP and the NBBP are doing!
 
 
+6 # Guest 2010-07-15 06:30
"If Obama had actually been fulfilling his populist promise" ... I think that should be if Republicans stop blocking every initiative of President Obama, the reality of the ACORN and NBPP non-scandals would be readily apparent. ACORN was scammed and the NBPP did not intimidate anyone. Unfortunately it is the Big Lie rather than truth that holds sway in America.
 
 
+5 # Guest 2010-07-15 07:32
ACORN was organized and conduct by decent intelligent who were raised to be "gentlemen and ladies' of the day. They put all their energies on decent politics and they were right except they were not dealing with one of the most vicious right wing political groups in the entire world.

The problem was, once the votes were counted, the rank and file leading democrats sat on their asses and did nothing about it. After, who would listen to the party of NO, Nowhere, blabbing idiots! Rank and file democrats (like our president) forgot being "nice" isn't good at times.

That is where both the NAACP and BPP steps in! These organizations are not so easily intimated and they fight fire with fire. It's ultimate fear the GOP and racism in American have. The NAACP, let alone the BP Party is more than a match both the GOP and the TEA Party.

T
But the NAACP didn't go far enough by singling out the TEA Party, they should include the entire GOP as racists!
 
 
+4 # Guest 2010-07-15 07:58
Having had an opportunity to meet and talk with original Black Panther Party members in the 60's, I learned that their goal was to bring pride and equality to minorities, end racism, bridge misunderstandin gs between all races, establish food programs for the poor and implement community control of policing their neighborhoods. They didn't initiate acts of violence, but, did act in self-defense. America owes them a debt of gratitude for their work and sacrifices to make this a better country.
 
 
+2 # Guest 2010-07-15 08:18
Michelle Malkin is a betrayer of Middle America and all preferred races. That's what was meant to be said on the air, because it is 100% the truth. I can surely understand the use of the other euphemism in this context. A better choice of words was apprporiate, but it certainly wasn't totally uncalled for.
 
 
+5 # Guest 2010-07-15 08:22
The extreme right causes one thing: Violence. Wake up America. Fox is an apparatus of the anti-Christ.
 
 
+6 # Guest 2010-07-15 08:46
Race,always simmering beneath the surface of America,is once again being placed in the broiler.Obama's election was simply unthinkable to many in the country.Even if justice was skewered to favor Blacks, and I don't for a moment believe it is,(look at the demographics of incarceration across the country), its not like it was never skewered to favor whites."Justice " for African-America ns has been,to put it mildly, elusive for over 300 years.Right wing flame throwers will use any tactic,no matter how insignificant to drum up hate,and by proxy, support for their core concept that white folks should still be calling the shots and that a term like diversity is simply a "colorful" metaphor to be trotted out at political conventions and graduation ceremonies.We are not a post racial society. If anything we are regressing as evidenced by the blistering attack on social programs that are continuously labeled out of control spending whilst the real out of control spending, i.e. Defense, remains sanctified.
 
 
0 # Guest 2010-07-15 08:58
Holding Obama responsible for the actions of overzealous supporters is paranoid. But holding Obama's administration responsible for voiding the court's guilty decision (there were a number of affidavits as well as clear videotape evidence supporting the court's guilty decision) is appropriate. The court had declared these guys guilty and they were awaiting sentencing when Holder's office withdraw the prosecution! I have no idea why the prosecution was withdrawn but Holder is misrepresenting the situation. It had nothing to do with the lack of evidence: the evidence had already been heard and had resulted in a guilty verdict.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
 
 
+1 # Guest 2010-07-15 11:41
We can prefer to hate and fear or we can prefer to seek justice and act with at least some rational understanding. This country has been divided against itself by the deliberate fostering of certain attitudes. Watch Katherine Hpeburn's dying speech in Keeper of the Flame!
 
 
+2 # Guest 2010-07-15 12:29
There is a black man in the White House. Many white Americans are unable to deal with that. That this should be true now is all the more astounding. But it is. That has been the problem for THEM since election night 2008. Barack Obama has been demonized since Day 1 of his Administration and the fallout shows America's racist shirttails hanging out. The NAACP stand against Tea Party bigotry is just the start of some needed push-back from progressive elements in the nation. This race-baiting behavior must stop. It points to the hypocrisy of American ideals and proclaims these compromised ideals to the world.
 
 
+3 # Guest 2010-07-15 13:24
'ACORN' (as a political straw man). 'LIMBAUGH,' 'FOX NEWS' (so-called), perhaps even the 'TEA PARTY'.., would probably either not exist or would not be able to muster much of an audience or following if not for the following:

After 30 years of Neo-Corporate CONservative efforts to flim flam Americans and bring us all LESS GOVERNMENT (of Ourselves) through LESS REGULATION (of everything Corporate) and LESS TAXATION (of the Corporate-Wealt hy Class) by disguising it all as 'Getting Government Off Our Backs' (GGOOB), but which never had anything to do with getting Government off anyone's backs except that of the Global Corporate Class, such has not only empowered and enriched the Global Corporate Class beyond reason, it has allowed for just a very few Gigantic Global Corporate, Largely CONservative Entities to now own almost all Media Enterprises in America and to operate without any Fairness Doctrine in Media and use the Media as they please.

FAIR and BALANCED..????
 
 
-2 # Guest 2010-07-16 16:09
The Black Panther guy was caught in full para military uniform with a club, hanging out in front of a polling station, threatening White people who might want to vote. That's a fairly clear case of racially motivated violation of the Voting Rights Act. But then we come to the spins that Black people are always being picked on for NO reason and that Blacks are always victims of Civil Rights abuse, never perps. A.G. Haider even testified that he didn't believe straight White Americans could be victims of Hate Crimes.

Yes folk, some Blacks do criminal bad acts - including racially motivated assaults, rapes and murders of Whites.

Google the Wichita Massacre, Knoxville Horror or just check out the crime blog in my Chicago > 700 murders a year, including unprovoked attacks on Whites, murder of police officers etc.

One doesn't have to watch Fox News to understand America has serious problems with Black crime, including racially motivated violence.
 
 
+1 # Guest 2010-07-17 10:25
Tell that lie long enough and you might began to believe it. Oh wait! You already believe it!

What the NBPP and the NAACP and now the LULAC's are doing is to protect their families, children, women and men from the likes of you mad rabid racist subhumans!
 
 
+2 # Guest 2010-07-16 16:14
Two black men with sticks throw the rightwing into a racially charged tizzy.

Meanwhile dozens of white guys with semi automatic weapons march at tea rallies and the reichwing says nothing.

It's something like 40 years since the Black Panther Party's armed march on Sacramento which caused statewide passage of gun control laws back then.

Nothing seems to have changed.
 
 
0 # Guest 2010-07-17 10:59
"Meanwhile dozens of white guys with semi automatic weapons march at tea rallies and the reichwing says nothing."

Are you implying that white men carrying guns in public is somehow something unusual? Pretty soon you'll claim that guys wearing white sheets with conical white caps and carrying ropes are out of the ordinary in this nation.

The possibility of black males carrying a stick in mostly black area is disturbing in the extreme to the white men carrying guns in public venues. Who gave those black men the right to carry sticks? Do they have written permission?

Lets get real. America's racism is part and parcel of the Republican party and its tea bagging wingnuts. Without racism no Republican would be elected anywhere in America's south. It is the festering hotbed of racist sentiment no matter how hotly they may deny it. Of course racism exists in the north as well its just not as strong a bedrock support of the GOP.
 
 
0 # Guest 2010-07-17 10:47
You must understand the rule. Its allright if a Republican does it. It is a feloney or a crying shame if anyone else does it. That is the over-riding rule in the country. Republicans are exempt from sanity or from making sense. They are the 2 year old toddler engaging in politics.

There is no evidence that the Republican party gives a hoot about the problems of the midle class or the poor. It is utterly focused on the wishes and desires of the top 1%. They fawn over and coddle the ultra rich like parents with a new born child.
 
 
0 # Guest 2010-08-09 11:09
There is no evidence that the Republican party gives a hoot about the problems of the midle class or the poor. It is utterly focused on the wishes and desires of the top 1%. They fawn over and coddle the ultra rich like parents with a new born child.صور للعيد ،
 

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