The Transformative Justice Coalition, a social justice advocacy group, recently released a one-hundred and fifty-six page report on ‘Protecting and Expanding Voting Rights.’ In addition to addressing issues surrounding voting rights, the Coalition concerns itself with police reform, youth leadership, and international human rights. Led by a board of accomplished left-wing attorneys, professors, and pastors—including former Donald Trump protege Omarosa Manigault—the Coalition has partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to produce the current voting rights report.
The first thing to notice about this report is that it is fundamentally and essentially a document by and for progressives. The report beats the usual war drums against Republicans and “voter suppression,” sprinkles in passing references to fashionable groups like Black Lives Matter, and all but assumes a pervasive and systematic program on the part of conservatives to disenfranchise minority voters. This is all done with the thinnest of acknowledgements that those (on the right and left) working to advance voter identification measures are generally acting in good faith.
Thus the strange and contradictory figures the report marshals to its argument, such as the claim that “voter suppression reached a fever pitch in 2008 [during the election of Barack Obama]” despite the plain fact that, as the report acknowledges, some “two million more African Americans, two million more Latinos, and 600,000 more Asians voted [in 2008] when compared to 2004.”
For scaremongers on the left, it is sufficient to suggest the evil intentions of voter ID advocates, regardless of the fact that most of these measures, when enacted, have led to an increased turnout among minority voters.
Still, central to the report’s recommendations, and presumably the source of the Kellogg Foundation’s interest in the project, is its emphasis on “promoting civic engagement,” including ten-year educational programs aimed specifically at Latino teenagers. The specifics of such an ambitious undertaking are strategically left unexplained, except to say that leftist nonprofits like the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials could spearhead such programs.
So tired partisan shibboleths and vague policy recommendations are apparently what pass for correct opinion at a leading civil rights organizations. This cannot but suggest a certain cynicism at play when such a group claims to be promoting “civic engagement.” After all, any robust sense of civic engagement must be premised, first of all, on the idea that there is a civil society to speak of; i.e., that fellow citizens, even if divided by political opinion, are operating in light of their genuine commitment to the common good.
Rather, it seems, the Coalition is trading with the currency of broad-minded rhetoric in order to tar political enemies. This hit-and-run approach weakens civic society by undermining social trust. More than other contentious issues, it seems arguments over voting rights still struggle to achieve an honest exchange of views.
Pictured: Barbara Arnwine, President of the Transformative Justice Coalition
Photo credit: W.K. Kellogg Foundation via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-ND