Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Beyond Bitter

By Shawn Healy
I interrupt the punditry's obsession with Rev. Jeremiah Wright to address an issue with greater implications for this election and those in the future, namely the political inclinations of white working class voters. They emerged as a poignant political force in this election cycle when it became clear that Sen. Barack Obama, despite his widespread electoral success to date, with the exception of Wisconsin, could not wrest control of this demographic group from his rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Obama lamented about this in comments at a private fundraiser in San Francisco on Apr. 6:

"It's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

He refers not to Sen. Clinton's undeniable success with white working class voters, but instead the tendency for this cohort to vote Republican on the basis of social issues. Obama adopts the thesis of Thomas Frank's 2004 book What's the Matter with Kansas?, believing that the economic interests of white working class voters lie with the Democratic Party. On this count, both are wrong.

Alan Abramowitz and Ruy Teixeira recently published a paper for the Brookings Institute titled "The Decline of the White Working Class and the Rise of the Upper Middle Class." In it, they attempt to define what constitutes membership in the white working class, using educational, income, and occupational classifications, finding them all imperfect. As indicated in the title, this demographic group is shrinking. For instance, in 1940 3/4 of adults older than 25 were high school drop-outs and a mere 5 percent held a college degree. By 2007, only 14 percent were dropouts and 29 percent completed college, with a full 54 percent having at least some post-high school education. Similarly, the percentage of white collar jobs has increased from 32 percent in 1940 to 60 percent in 2006. Those doing manual labor declined from 36 to 23 percent during the same period. Finally, the median family income in 1947 in 2005 dollars was $22,000. This rose to $56,000 by 2005, with ample evidence of upward mobility.

These trends considered, the authors suggest that the white working class is defined as those with less than a four-year college degree (narrower definition: high school or less), who do not hold a professional or managerial job (narrow: manual or service jobs), and household incomes below $60,000 (narrow: $30K). By this definition, the United States was "overwhelmingly" white working class in 1940, but increases in education, income, even the nature of working class jobs (only 1/6 hold manufacturing jobs nowadays) have all served to erode its dominance.

Back to politics. Whereas white working class voters were once a staple of FDR's New Deal Coalition, they began to abandon the Democratic Party in droves beginning in the late 1960's as their economic predicaments changed, along with the party's response to the civil rights movement and the political policies and programs employed to address the needs of its minority constituents. The authors write: "The Democratic Party fell victim to the ideological impetus of a liberalism which had carried it beyond programs taxing the few for the programs taxing the many on behalf of the few."

This all came to a climax with the colossal defeat of Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern in 1972. Over the course of the preceding decade, working class whites shifted away from the Democratic Party by a margin on 20 percent, from 55 to 35 percent. Ronald Reagan would further cement the GOP's relationship with working class whites throughout the 1980's, averaging 61 percent support among this demographic to his opponents' 35 percent. Bill Clinton averaged only a 41 percent success rate in his two plurality victories in the 1990's, and Al Gore and John Kerry lost this group to George W. Bush by margins of 17 and 23 percent respectively.

The numbers in the 2004 election are particularly illuminating. For those in the $30,000-$50,000 household income demographic, Bush beat Kerry by a margin on 24 points. For those in the same category, but with a college degree, the candidates split the vote evenly, 49-49 percent. Working class whites earning between $50,000-$70,000 went to Bush by a startling 70-29 percent margin, but the gap shrinks to 5 percent for those who completed college.

Moreover, contrary to Frank's claim, the culturally conservative voters attracted to the GOP come from the higher income thresholds, not the white working class. Larry Bartels makes this point in an Apr. 17 op-ed piece in the New York Times, though Abramowitz and Teixeira take issue with his definition of white working class voters. Bartels finds that small-town, rural, working class voters are less likely to distrust government than their affluent urbanite peers, but also less likely to vote on the basis of their position on abortion or the frequency by which they attend church than the cosmopolitans who populate our metropoles.

What does this all mean in the context of the 2008 election? In order for the Democratic candidate, whoever it may be, to prevail this fall, he or she must narrow the margin by which they lose the white working class vote. Should McCain attain the 23 percent margin of his predecessor, he will cruise down Pennsylvania Ave. for a third straight GOP term. If, however, the Democratic candidate closes the margin to a more respectable 10 percent as the party did in the 2006 midterm elections, America will likely have its first African-American or woman president.


Voter ID Law Vindicated

By Shawn Healy
The Supreme Court today, in a 6-3 decision, upheld Indiana's Voter ID Law eight days in advance of the pivotal primary scheduled for May 6. The majority split along moderate-conservative lines, with left-leaning Justice John Paul Stevens penning the lead opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy. The conservative wing, led by Justice Scalia, and including Justices Thomas and Alito, concurred with the results, but offered different reasoning for their conclusions. The liberal bloc also split, with Justice Souter writing one dissent, joined by Justice Ginsberg, and Justice Breyer writing his own solo dissent.

At issue was the constitutionality of the Voter ID Law passed in 2005. It requires persons casting a ballot at polling stations on election day or in advance at the office of the circuit court clerk to furnish government-issued photo identification. Exceptions exist for those who cast absentee ballots, along with those who live in state-licensed nursing homes. Residents with religious objections to having their photo taken for a government ID may cast a provisional ballot and file an affidavit with the circuit court clerk within ten days. A similar exception exists for those who fail to furnish an ID at the polls. Photo ID's are not required for voter registration, yet they are issued free of charge.

The suit was brought by two parties, one led by the Indiana and Marion County Democratic Party, and the other by two elected officials and a host of non-profit organizations. They were consolidated, and argue that the law substantially burdens their right to vote in violation of the 14th Amendment. Moreover, they charge that it is an unnecessary and unsuccessful means of combating alleged fraud, not to mention disenfranchising some and placing an "unjustified burden on those who cannot readily obtain such identification." There were an estimated 43,000 state residents without a state issued license or identification as of 2005.

The majority rejects these arguments, and proceeds to dissect them point-by-point. They refuse to apply a 1966 decision ruling a Virginia poll tax unconstitutional, placing state justifications for the statute alongside the burdens it imposes upon voters. State interests include deterring and detecting voter fraud, cleansing voter rolls of displaced and deceased persons, and safeguarding voter confidence. Fraud, while rarely documented, is deemed a real risk and a threat to throw a close contest. Inflated voter rolls are a similar threat, and the third justification, voter confidence, is held in the highest esteem, for it encourages voter participation in the process.

For those without state-issued ID's, the majority find that the burden of obtaining one is not substantial. Stevens deals with a looming objection near the end of his opinion, namely that this statute is a Republican-inspired trick to reduce Democratic turnout, as those without ID's are disproportionately members of demographic groups that tend to favor the Democratic Party. While not dismissing partisan intentions, the majority once more affirms the legitimacy of the law on grounds of "neutral and sufficiently strong" justifications.

Justice Scalia concurs with the judgment, but fears that the majority opens a Pandora's box for future litigation in federal courts, at once dismissing the petitioners' premise as "irrelevant" and the burden imposed by the Voter ID Law "minimal and justified." Applying past precedent, Scalia concludes that "burdens are severe if they go beyond the merely inconvenient." He thus defers to states to govern their own elections short of imposing "a severe and unjustified overall burden upon the right to vote."

Justice Souter takes the majority to task, arguing that the burdens imposed by the Indiana law is indeed severe and unjustified, specifically the "significant percentage...of individuals...likely to be deterred from voting." These burdens include travel costs associated with obtaining a new ID, not to mention fees associated with acquiring a mandated birth certificate or passport. Together they would fall disproportionately on "the poor, the old, and the immobile." Souter concludes that Indiana's law is one of the most restrictive in the country. Justice Breyer, in his own dissent, doesn't shed much additional light on the case other than to hold up laws in Florida and Georgia as less restrictive means of pursuing similar ends.

Given the green light the Supreme Court gave for voter identification requirements, the ruling is likely to have ramifications elsewhere. For example, Wisconsin's state legislature passed similar legislation three times, but met the governor's veto in each instance. Republicans in the state legislature vow to continue pushing this agenda item.

Given that next Tuesday's contest in Indiana is central to only the Democrats, disenfranchisement or deterrence attributed to the statute isn't likely to have a meaningful impact, although we have witnessed significant demographic differences between Sens. Clinton and Obama in the nominating contests to date. However, come fall, if the habitually "red" Hoosier State is in play, the Voter ID Act may make it crimson.


Immigration: Bypassing Difference

By Winnie

With the failure of the immigration bill still causing murmurs across the nation, the topic of immigration, legal and illegal, has finally moved to the front burner of American politics. Public opinion surveys suggest that Americans see both the good and bad sides of immigration at the same time. A June 2006 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found the public evenly divided on the fundamental question of whether immigration helps or hurts the country, with 44 percent saying it helps and 45 percent saying it hurts the U.S.

Several individuals who oppose immigration argue that immigrants steal jobs from the loyal Americans, overcrowd schools; ruin the health care system and abuse health, public and federal services. Michael Huffington, a former member of the U.S House of Representatives from California, explains: “Spending on illegal immigrants is out of control.” On the other hand, many argue that immigrants are actually good for America’s present and future status. Statistics show that immigrants lower unemployment rates, pay more taxes and expand our economy by consumption of goods and other services.

Immigration has also long divided both the Republican and Democratic Party, with advocates and opponents in each. Among Republicans, support for immigration was economic (corporations), while opposition was cultural (nativists). Among Democrats, it was the reverse: support for immigration was cultural (ethnic groups), while opposition was economic (unions).

But are immigrant’s job- takers or job-makers? Are they really overcrowding schools and ruining health services?

One of the very first myths that came with the wave of immigrants was the fact that Americans believed that immigrants stole jobs from native-born Americans, and thus, increased the competition for jobs. Immigrant workers do increase the competitiveness for both local and international industries but they are also revitalizing our cities...building our new economy...strengthening our ties to the global economy, just as earlier waves of immigrants settled on the new frontier and powered the Industrial Revolution. They are also energizing our culture and broadening our vision of the world. Almost all the relevant research has concluded that immigrants do not displace native workers. In truth Immigrants workers stimulate local economies, create jobs and pay far more in taxes than they receive in public services.

Another issue that troubles the U.S public is the immigrant right to benefits and public services. Do immigrants pay their way in the welfare state? Some of these benefits include housing and Urban Development, General Assistance, Medicaid, emergency services, services for pregnancy women and many other benefits.

Maybe immigrants are job-takers, maybe they do energize our culture and revitalize our economy; but I also believe that these different views about immigrants and immigration is the cause to the many problems and questions that in some respect create the insecurity and doubt among the American public today. So, I say, it is time to bypass these differences and create policies that institute some consensus among policymakers, immigrants and the American public and maybe, just maybe the immigration issue will be resolved.


Keystone State Clash

By Shawn Healy
Sen. Hillary Clinton's decisive victory over Sen. Barack Obama yesterday in the Pennsylvania Primary lent credence to the argument that she should remain in the race through the end of the competitive election process in early June, but also raised further questions about Obama's ability to compete toe-to-toe with presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain come fall in critical battleground states and among key demographic groups. Clinton's 10-point margin of victory should not be minimized in light of the attention Obama devoted to the state, not to mention the $11 million he spent on ads, more than 2 times the amount spent by his opponent.

A continuation of consistent trends present throughout this gripping Democratic contest was evident once more in yesterday's exit polls. Obama's strengths rested in urban Philadelphia, home to 30 percent of the state's Democratic voters, including African-Americans, 90 percent of whom cast their ballots for the junior IL senator. Clinton swept the balance of the state, including Pittsburgh, largely on the backs of white voters who favored her by a 60-40 percent margin. Clinton beat Obama among weekly church-goers and gun owners, two groups implicated by the widely disseminated "bitter" comments emanating from Obama in an Apr. 6 speech. Obama struggled once more with Catholics, blue collar voters, and voters older than 60 (all critical components of the Democratic base), while dominating the 18-29 demographic once more.

Of greater concern to Democratic prospects this fall is the high percentage of Pennsylvania voters who said they would either vote for McCain or sit out the election in its entirety. If Clinton is the Democratic nominee, 11 percent said they would vote for the GOP standard-bearer and 6 percent would abstain. The numbers are higher if Obama is the nominee: 15 percent would opt for McCain and 10 percent would sit on their hands. I view these numbers with more than a small dose of skepticism, as I do expect the Democratic Party to unite and consolidate around their eventual nominee, whoever it may be. The negative tone that this contest has assumed could force many to the sidelines, however, imperiling what once looked like a slam dunk Democratic victory.

Moving forward, May 6 contests in North Carolina and Indiana loom large. Although Clinton has vowed to fight to the finish, the Hoosier State may indeed be her swan song should she lose to Obama in a state that borders his home state, but shares many of the demographic qualities of Ohio and Pennsylvania that play to Clinton's wheelhouse. Clinton is cash-strapped at a time when her opponent continues to swim in an unprecedented pool of greenbacks. Moreover, North Carolina looks like a blowout in Obama's favor, and he is well-positioned to win in Guam (May 3), Oregon (May 20), and Montana and South Dakota (both on Jun. 3). An Indiana win should enable Clinton to soldier on to victories in West Virginia (May 13), Kentucky (May 20), and Puerto Rico (Jun. 1).

Where will the race stand as of Jun. 4? Short of a Clinton withdrawal or a massive shift of superdelegates to one candidate or the other, neither candidate will have the delegates necessary to claim the nomination, but Obama will likely hold slim, but healthy leads in both elected delegates and the popular vote. Still unresolved are the contests in Florida and Michigan. Mind you, if the popular vote margins in these states are added to the existing lot, Clinton would emerge with a slight lead. Revotes in these states are highly unlikely, meaning some alternative form of delegate allocation may be necessary. I find it highly unlikely that the two campaigns will reach agreement on what they deem a fair compromise. Should Obama head into the fall campaign by excluding these state delegations, his chances of winning two more battleground states will be further undermined.

As I (and many others) have said repeatedly since Tsunami Tuesday (Feb. 5), the eventual Democratic nominee will rely upon unelected superdelegates to place him or her over the top. It appears highly unlikely that superdelegates will go against the grain and crown Clinton should she continue to trail among elected delegates and the popular vote. Nonetheless, her argument that Obama will struggle this fall against McCain was strengthened by yesterday's results, and she may be able to hold off the remaining uncommitted superdelegates from flocking en mass to Obama at this juncture. However, despite signs of buyer's remorse among Democratic voters, Obama's ascension to standard bearer of the party may be all but inevitable.


Justice For All

By Shawn Healy
Jim Newton made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of Chief Justice Earl Warren and his impactful tenure on the Supreme Court from 1953 through 1969 in his 2006 book Justice For All (Riverhead Books, 525 pp.). The tome is an extensive biography of a monumental man. It begins with his birth in Los Angeles and upbringing in internal Bakersfield. Warren attends the University of California-Berkeley for both his undergraduate and law degrees, then remains in the Bay Area to launch his legal career. He begins as a prosecutor in Alameda County and uses his law and order record to attain the top law enforcement job in the Golden State, Attorney General. From here he moves on to Governor, serving longer than any person in state history.

While Governor, Warren was first offered a place on the Republican presidential ticket with NY Governor John Dewey in 1944. He declined and delivered a lackluster convention speech, but was persuaded to join the reprise effort in 1948, the infamous Harry Truman comeback. The loss left Warren well-positioned to claim the party nomination in 1952, but his ambitions were undermined by fellow Californian, U.S. Senator Richard Nixon, who would go on to become Eisenhower's VP. Warren was promised the first Supreme Court vacancy by Ike, and when Chief Justice Vinson died suddenly, Warren lobbied intensely for the nomination he eventually received.

Warren entered a Court in ideological disarray, but quickly molded it into his own liking, finding unanimity in perhaps the most consequential case in the 20th Century, Brown v. Board of Education (1954), decided at the end of his first term as Chief Justice. This ignited a firestorm throughout the South, leading to the Southern Manifesto and billboards calling for Warren's impeachment. The Court would retrench a bit during the later years of the Eisenhower Administration, but would come out firing once more as Camelot entered the White House. Baker v. Carr, a decision that outlawed disproportionate districting that failed to take into account population, followed in 1962. In 1963, Gideon v. Wainwright would mandate legal representation for indigents at the state level, and three years later Miranda v. Arizona would require police to read defendants their rights from that day forward.

Warren's legacy is not without warts, however, for he was a man of moderate inclinations who was not owned by either the political left or right. A WWI veteran, he voted with the majority to prosecute young men who burned their draft cards during the Vietnam War, refusing to equate conduct with speech. The O'Brien Test remains with us until this day, but Warren later pivoted toward protection of non-speech expressive behavior in the landmark student expression case, Tinker v. Des Moines, decided during his final term on the bench.

Warren's earlier years have similar warts, from hasty prosecutions on the accused as a county prosecutor to his inexcusable complicity with the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans as California Governor during WWII. Although a Republican, Warren always displayed a progressive bent alongside his law and order tendencies. He drew support across the ideological spectrum as Attorney General and Governor, and later drifted decisively to the left on issues involving civil liberties, poverty, even war. Warren and his ideological ally William Brennan, both Eisenhower appointees, would later convince the President that they were his two greatest mistakes while in the White House. Warren indeed voted for Adlai Stevenson and for Democratic presidential candidates from 1956 on.

Warren became close with President Kennedy, even warning him of Texans' temperament as he made that fateful journey to the Lonestar State in November 1963. The Chief Justice would later be asked by President Johnson to chair the committee charged with the investigation of the martyred president's assassination. He team, which included future president Congressman Gerald Ford, produced a report in 1964 that produced charges of conspiracy almost from the day it was released. In painstaking detail, the author concludes that the conclusions of the Warren Commission have stood the test of time, conspiracy theories and conventional wisdom aside.

Warren served the country he loved for more than 50 years at the time of his retirement in 1969. He had hoped to be replaced by a Democratic president, namely Lyndon Johnson, but the nomination of Justice Abe Fortas was nothing less than a complete and utter debacle, and the nomination to replace Fortas with Thornsberry also failed. Indeed, the Senate even failed to consider the nomination of the former. This left the decision to President-elect and hated rival Richard Nixon, who tapped Warren Burger for the post, adding Harry Blackmun to replace the disgraced Fortas.

Warren, despite his many detractors, fundamentally reshaped the American legal landscape during his tenure on the High Court. Ever the pragmatist, Warren sided with what he thought was right, shunning harsh ideological doctrines. His skill was the gentle art of persuasion, the ability to form majorities behind positions that extended legal rights for minorities, the poor, even students. He is nothing less than a giant, but ironically, there are few testaments to his accomplishments in either California or Washington, D.C. The author attributes this to the fact that Warren was owned by neither the left or the right. The former is uncomfortable with his law and order record and cannot excuse him for his role in Japanese internment. The latter shuns his inclination to "legislate from the bench," "undermine" states rights, and extend legal rights to accused criminals.

Short of a monument, Warren's contributions to the law nonetheless stand. Many of them, like desegregation, one person-one vote, and Miranda rights, are considered settled law. Even the conservative-trending Burger and Rehnquist Courts did little more than clip at the edges of the Warren Court's doctrines. At a time of intense ideological polarization, Warren stands as somewhat of an anachronism. One cannot help thinking that something was lost when Warren departed the world in 1974, just days before Richard Nixon would resign. In perhaps the bitterest of ironies, Nixon escorted Warren's widow Nina to his funeral. Two California icons departed the national scene at once, one disgraced, the other revered.


Western-style Democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Winnie

Democracy may be a word familiar to most, but it is a concept still misunderstood and misused in a time when totalitarian regimes and military dictatorships alike have attempted to claim popular support by pinning democratic labels on themselves. The New York Times Magazine published an article by Jim Holt titled “Export This?” in which he discusses the difficulties associated with the use of the word “democracy.” He points out that the word has been used to refer to forms of government that are often radically different from one another including some that most would actually consider a dictatorship.

My everyday news gathering as a Five Freedoms Intern has prompted me to blog about democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa; specifically democratic elections and their legitimacy in promoting democracy in Africa. Because of the recent post election conflicts in Kenya and Zimbabwe and so many other countries in Africa, I raise the question of whether Africa is capable of following the European or American style of democracy. I sincerely believe that Africa needs a form of government that speaks to its culture and traditions.

I understand that a Western-style democracy has the potential to confer legitimacy, moderate dissent, engender compliance, and heighten citizen efficacy. Elections are especially crucial for eliciting consent from those citizens who would prefer alternative rulers and policies. But do Western-style elections fulfill these functions in Africa, where competitive elections are often unfamiliar and imperfect? Specifically, do citizens who feel close to ruling parties (winners) believe that their government institutions are more legitimate than do citizens aligned with opposition parties (losers)? If losers are more disgruntled than winners, is it because they doubt the procedural fairness of the recent elections?

Take Kenya, for example, a country in Africa challenged by its attempt to govern its people under a western-style democracy. Although Kenya has a strong economy, the botched elections that recently took place put this beautiful country on the “Failed State” list with other African nations using Western-style democracy to elect their leaders. This list of allegedly failed states includes: Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and Cote D’Ivoire. There are other countries in Africa who want to believe that this system of democracy is working although it is clear that their countries also stand on the brink of being classified as failed states.

The elections that took place on December 27, 2007, have kept Kenya in the spotlight of daily world news because of the violence that has spread outside of the capital, Nairobi. World leaders, in their effort to help bring an end to the violence that is destroying the country, have traveled to Kenya, called the leaders of both parties, and asked former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to try to negotiate a peace settlement. As I watched and read the news reports about the tragedy in Zimbabwe and in Kenya, where nearly 1,000 have been confirmed dead, 300,000 displaced, stores looted and property burned, I came the conclusion that the Westminster System of Democracy might be a poor fit for Africa.

Africans, as most people of the world, long for democracy where the masses are free to choose their leaders without a trail of death and destruction before and after elections. So in order for this to happen, Africa needs a think tank comprised of “the best minds” that can develop a form of democracy that speaks uniquely to the African experience, and also considers the best interest of the continent's countries. I believe the conflicts in Kenya and Zimbabwe bring home the reality that trying to adopt a Western-style system of government for the people of Africa might actually be a failure; It is time for a change in Africa’s style of governance.


My Colombia Trip Cliff Notes

By Eran Wade
Now that my experiences in Colombia have come to an end, I cannot resist one final story. This one comes from an anthropologist who kept a diary for two weeks in a small town in Colombia sometime between 2001-2006. Michael Taussig, professor at Columbia University in New York, tells a story of a displaced group that is very similar to the stories I’ve heard while here in Colombia. The book is titled, Law in a Lawless Land. He writes:

“I was invited by a schoolteacher who worked there many years and knew the peasants in the mountains in that region. He showed me the army barracks by the barrier across the only road leading from Buga to the mountains of the cordillera Central. There’s no way the army wouldn’t know the paras went by on their on their way to cut people to pieces. ‘It was a terrible thing to see that apparatus,’ a young peasant man said in the newspaper, referring to the laptop computer the paras use when they pull into a mountain village to check their death list more than likely provided by army intelligence. Everyone evacuated the area immediately and came down the mountain to stay in Buga. I interviewed a few of the several hundred living in an enclosed basketball stadium. They had been there exactly a year, sad and scared to go home, their farms and animals gone.”

He continues, “Even cornered in the stadium they were receiving death threats. Where else can they go? They cannot go back to their farms. The army says it cannot guarantee their security. What the army means, I think, is “We will kill you…either directly or by setting loose the paras.” I was told by the peasant refugees that the army had supplied the paras with transport and even, on one occasion, helicopter gunship support when they engaged with the guerrilla that has been in the high mountains there for many years.”

As one of the United States leaders of the program said, “There are 3 reasons for going to Colombia: 1) To see 2) To be seen and 3) To communicate what’s going on with people in the United States”

Our presence in Colombia allows us to walk alongside those leaders who are being intimidated, threatened, and violated. We then see the work that is going on and the reason for their request for accompaniment. Finally, if we communicate what’s happening with those in the U.S., we can do our part to put an end to the injustices that cause the abuses in the first place. With our freedom of speech and petition, we can make our voices known to the United States government to make sure our relationship with Colombia is predicated by true and independent verification of basic human rights and freedom.

One day, we were called to an unexpected meeting. The meeting had to be scheduled at the last minute because there was someone wanting to meet with him that could be dangerous. This was the one time it was clear to me how my role possibly helped deter any abuse. Who knows how many potential threats were averted by our presence as international observers? I remember thinking, my God, how is it fair that these people—my friends—have to live in this predicament? Unfortunately, I've been sent word that some of the leaders I met in Colombia received threats a couple weeks after I left. It makes me feel sad and weird that this would happen to my new friends.

People always asked what I was going to be doing in Colombia—“Building something, teaching, giving out basic necessities of life?” Yes ,I did all of these things. I built something. I taught. I gave out provisions. I built a new frame of mind. I taught intimidated communities that they were not alone. I gave out provisions of hope, time, and the ideas that there are people in the United States who are just like them who care about them. This reminds me of our copy of the U.S. constitution we received as volunteers at the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum. The front cover says, "What will you build?" My time in Colombia and understanding from being at the museum has also built something in me.

Taussig mentions in his writings that human rights groups have been criticized for not condemning the work of the guerrillas as often as they should. One of the pastors in Colombia described his view of the situation, “We are in defense of life. There are no other marches.”

I did not do this by myself. I took each one of you with me. I was supported by many friends and family. All the good that came out of this trip was a result of the gifts of so many in my life—including being allowed to blog with Shawn. Thank you, thank you, and thank you! I hope my writing gave a picture of both the challenges and the vision to make our world a better place (cue the Michael Jackson music now).

Click here to view my previous blog.


Five Freedoms on the Field

By Shawn Healy
An ongoing battle between the Illinois Press Association (IPA) and the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is shaping up to be a victory for the former. At issue is the right for media organizations to document high school sporting events through photography, and to disseminate these pictures to the general public through newspapers, web sites, even offering them to proud parents free of charge or for a nominal fee. The IHSA signed an exclusive contract with Visual Image Photography, Inc., providing them with a picture-taking monopoly on state high school championship events. This sweet deal goes so far as to snatch the digital camera from the hands of mom and pop!

The State Senate voted last week to deny this proposed course of action, and a similar bill is pending in the House. Assuming Gov. Blagojevich continues his commitment to the First Amendment (he signed legislation protecting college press rights and vetoed the mandatory moment of silence bill), freedom of the press may be vindicated in Springfield.

This controversy sheds light on the frequent intersection between the First Amendment and sports in recent years. I've already written about the BALCO boys and their stand for source anonymity surrounding the federal case against Barry Bonds, et al., not to mention the Tennessee case where a high school football coach charged that his freedom of association was violated when the state high school athletic governing entity punished him and his team for advance recruiting of players.

Two years ago, Major League Baseball (MLB) began challenging the use of its players and statistics by fantasy baseball leagues under the guide of copyright infringement, striking fear in many newsrooms that box scores will be permanently banned from sports pages. Last year, the NCAA ejected a blogger from coverage of the College World Series, arguing that his play-by-play analysis undermined exclusive broadcast rights awarded for a lucrative fee. MLB has issued similar threats in recent weeks.

Let's be honest here: these recent developments are mostly about making money. Media organizations can grasp for First Amendment cover, and sports entities seek similar refuge under the copyright provisions extended by the Constitution. The question is what is best for the public. All of the aforementioned athletic entities have long tolerated, if not solicited press coverage, and the two established a mutually beneficial partnership. The former benefited from what was essentially free publicity, while the latter used the nation's fascination with all things sport to sell papers and drive ratings.

What is different now is the emergence of the Internet as an alternative means of documenting athletic competition. Photos no longer rest only on film, nor are statistics strictly the province of the sports page. Games may be broadcast over the Internet, and play-by-play analysis need not be strictly done by radio announcers. Loss of control equates with competition for the almighty dollar, lest we forget that sports are a a lucrative locale. In general, the public wins when competition is the rule, and loses when monopolies are granted and protected.

This is more than a mere sideshow. The fights in defense of civil liberties are often fought on the fringes of society. In these cases, our pastimes call for renewed vigilance. This sports nut sides with greater competition and respect for the First Amendment. Thankfully the Illinois State Senate agrees, and it's time for the IHSA, MLB, and the NCAA to follow suit.


Jan Greenburg and the "Supreme Conflict"

By Winnie

Jan Crawford Greenburg, an experienced Supreme Court watcher, and the senior legal correspondent for ABC News in Washington has produced another chronicle-analysis of the court in her eloquent book, subtitled "The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court;” by far the most illuminating account to date of the political and ideological forces that has shaped the current court.

Relying on personal interviews with justices, White House insiders and others, Greenburg discusses how high court decisions have moved in the past 20 years, starting with the appointment of Justice Anthony Kennedy and proceeding through personnel changes on the court and in the executive branch. She also provides a rich account of the birth of today's conservative court led by Chief Justice John Roberts, a court, as she notes in her book that “will be shaping the direction of American law and culture long after many of us are dead.”

Introduced by our moderator James Warren, the Managing Editor for the Tribune, Jan Crawford Greenburg at the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, briefly highlights the Supreme Court’s undertakings currently. She primarily talks about executive power and how the court has gotten involved in President’s Bush war making powers. She asserts that in the last four years, the Court has gradually chipped away President Bush policies on detainees in Guantanamo Bay; ruling in a case on detainee rights, that the President could not suspend Habeas Corpus because he did not have the sweeping authority to do so. A good lead in to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the crucial swing vote Justice in the new court, like that played by Justice O’Connor, Greenburg notes. She states that in determining Presidential power cases, Justice Kennedy holds the deciding vote and will most likely vote with the liberals.

then raises the question, “Is this a Kennedy Court?” Greenburg answers, stating that yes, it is a Kennedy Court, and that in twenty cases decided on the court, in a closely divided case, the result was usually 5-4, with Kennedy voting with the majority. She notes that Kennedy definitely has a more grandiose vision of his role in the court than most of the conservative justices. She asserts that he sees the court as much more active unlike Alito, Thomas and Scalia. Greenburg

then talks in detail about Justice O’ Connor, a pivotal figure on the bench… “As Justice O’ Connor went so did the court,” Greenburg declares. She talks about O’Connor’s nomination by President Reagan, and her unexpected retirement before Chief Justice Rehnquist. Greenburg notes that O’Connor’s retirement bestowed President Bush’s with his first Supreme Court Justice nominee. She states that George Bush succeeded where all those past Republican presidents failed because his nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, are solid, judicial conservatives; and they're not going to drift to the left like some of the Justices have after they've been nominated.

James Warren then questioned Jan Greenburg on the status of the court with only one female Justice, Justice Ginsburg, on the bench. Greenburg asserts that although Justice Ginsburg is frail and very small in statues, she is very big in her ideas, and very big in her opinions and questions and quite a force on the bench. Jan Crawford Greenburg then speaks to personal experience and how the justices cant help but personalize a court decision through their own personal experiences. She gives the example of a Fourth Amendment Case and a discrimination case in which O’Connor and Ginsburg both in making their decisions personalized the cases using their experiences as women.

moves on to the two new Justices, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. She mentions how the liberal justices had the notion Roberts would be cooperative and willing to compromise in certain cases but that would not be the case; Justice Roberts was in his first term, extremely conservative. She briefly talks about Alito and his quiet, observant personality on the court in his first term. She implies that Justice Alito might be the Justice to bring Justice Kennedy over to the conservative side.

concludes the discussion on Clarence Thomas, who joined the Supreme Court in 1991, replacing the great liberal icon, Thurgood Marshall, and is clearly the most conservative Justice in the Supreme Court currently. She talks about the story line that Thomas was a puppet of Anotnin Scalia that he was walking in Scalia's shoes. Totally false. Greenburg notes that Thomas came on the court and, from his first week he was on the court, he had these strong, clear, conservative views. That year, if any Justice changed their vote that year, it was Scalia changing his vote to join Thomas.

Greenburg ends the discussion stating that the two new members through chance and good timing will be in a position to achieve what other conservatives before them could never accomplish. She asserts that because their styles are less caustic and "bold" than those of conservative judicial icons like Scalia and Bork, Roberts and Alito will be in an unprecedented position to "build alliances and working majorities." That assertion, is one that history will have to judge. In the meantime, As Gormley states, “Greenburg's window into the genesis of the current Supreme Court, shaped dramatically by the Bush administration, is the sort of rich, balanced account that will add immeasurably to the historical record.


Torching Tyranny

By Shawn Healy
With the Summer Games in Beijing still months away, the raucous protests expected to coincide with China's position on the world stage have erupted early throughout Europe as the torch makes its circular tour of the globe. The flame itself has been extinguished at several points already as demonstrators have attempted to wrest outright possession of the symbol of peace and unity from the Olympic athletes carrying the torch. China's human rights record has long been a source of international scorn, and its recent incursions against Tibetans and Uighur Muslims, not to mention its complicity with genocide in Darfur, have only served to fan the flames of outrage.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) intention of announcing its country's emergence on the world stage will not come without several embarrassing hiccups. Long oppressed minority groups without doubt see the attention lavished on the mainland as an opportunity to galvanize opposition to long-overlooked violations of basic human rights. The reality is that much of the Western world has used periodic rhetoric to condemn Chinese human rights violations, while at the same time refusing to use the ultimate weapon, trade sanctions, to facilitate the change their empty words will never precipitate. The winds of change, however, appear to be extinguishing more than the Olympic torch.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy has threatened to boycott the opening ceremonies if the crackdown in Tibet does not subside. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked the same of President Bush, and though he has maintained his intention to attend, he has also repeated his criticism of China's importation of oil from Sudan, effectively enabling an ethnic massacre in the western province of Darfur. Reporters are threatening to boycott the entire games on account of restrictions the CCP has applied to members of the media despite an earlier commitment to censorship-free coverage. For instance, Tiananmen Square, the site of a violent crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989, is off limits for any on-site reporting.

I expect the athletes themselves to carry their political agendas to the games alongside their world-class skills. Through body art, t-shirts, and post-event interviews the participants can shed a light on the hypocrisy of a country that revels in freedom of the marketplace, but not its identical twin in the realm of civil liberties. While the CCP denies a place for politics in this global athletic competition, they have long played a definitive role in the international theater that transcends sports. For instance, Jesse Owens made a mockery of Adolph Hitler's racial supremacy rhetoric and policies in 1936, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos called attention to the plight of African-Americans in the United States in 1968 with their "Power to the People" salute. The US boycott of the 1980 Moscow affair, and the Soviet's reprise four years later in Los Angeles represented some of the final blows of the Cold War.

The reality is that change in China must come from within. The CCP harnesses the mechanisms of political control to perpetuate its power. The equation is that simple, but it's a losing battle, for people who enjoy liberty in one realm of their lives will eventually demand it in others. Despite its most desperate measures, censorship of the media will fall on its own sword in the Information Age. Try as they might, the Internet and its progeny simply offer too many tentacles for any government bureaucracy, no matter how large and pervasive, to nip the winning ideas of freedom and liberty in the bud in a global marketplace that spawns new appendages by the second.

Will China be brought to its knees this summer for its actions in Tibet and similar dissent in Xinjiang province? Moreover, might China be persuaded to end its relationship with the genocidal regime in Sudan, or at least demand a halt to the mindless killing associated with the government-sponsored janjaweed? How about the unconscionable crackdown against its own dissidents who dare to question the regime for its denial of basic human rights to its people since the modern country's inception? The answer to each of these questions is a qualified "no," I predict.

True, China must placate its international detractors to some degree, but we are speaking of an entrenched regime schooled in the Soviet model of command with an iron fist. Instead, China's coming out party will unravel from every corner, the implications of their human rights transgressions an international embarrassment. The slow, but steady path toward the realization of basic freedoms in the world's largest country will be realized not in Olympic-sized leaps and bounds, but baby steps that indicate, for once and for all, that the times indeed are a changin'.


The Fierce Urgency of Now

By Shawn Healy
Forty years ago today the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. died too young at the ripe age of 39. He represented hope for a nation long-scarred by a legacy of slavery and racial segregation. His tactics of civil disobedience and moral suasion proved more productive than the violent, separatist notions of black nationalism. From the Montgomery bus boycott where he first came to fame through the Memphis garbage strike where he met his untimely death 13 years later, King was a man who transcended race and used our founding freedoms as a means of forcing the nation he loved to live up to the true meaning of its creed.

We honor his legacy on this most important of days, and confess that our nation still too often divides itself along racial lines. The recent furor over the remarks made by Sen. Barack Obama's minister forced the candidate and the nation to look in the mirror at our country's original sin. Slavery was written into the Constitution through the legitimization of the slave trade. Enslaved African-Americans were counted as 3/5 of a person for the purpose of apportionment in the same document. The Supreme Court went so far in the Dred Scott case (1857) as to equate slaves with property, entirely devoid of any human rights. This house divided could not stand, and a Civil War that cost more than 600,000 American lives brought some resolution to the issue. The Constitution was amended to outlaw slavery, bestow civil rights upon former slaves, along with the right to vote.

The end of Reconstruction jeopardized each of these constitutional breakthroughs as Jim Crow took deep root in the South and de facto discrimination ruled in Northern ghettos. The Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), only 58 years later correcting the errors in its ways, deeming "separate facilities...inherently unequal" in Brown v. the Board of Education (1954). King would shape the aftermath of this decision like no other, forcing Americans to come to terms with its schizophrenic legacy of rights on paper meaning nothing in practice. In the end, Rosa Parks would have her seat at the front of the bus, Bull Connor's attack dogs and fire hoses would turn the populace against such mayhem in Birmingham, and King's "I Have a Dream Speech" would lead to passage of the long-awaited Civil Rights Act. His March to Selma in 1965 would clinch the second piece of the puzzle later in the same year, the Voting Rights Act.

King turned his attention next to poverty and found this issue tougher to conquer. He was played for a fool by our own Mayor Daley in Chicago, and wrestled with this very issue in April 1968 while stationed at the Loraine Hotel in Memphis. His work was unfinished then as it is now, but we are arguably further along forty years later on account of his legacy. A man of mixed heritage stands on the cusp of his party's presidential nomination, winning the support of millions across racial lines. African Americans hold prominent positions in the White House, on the U.S. Supreme Court and in the halls of Congress. Entrance to our nation's most prestigious colleges and universities is no longer a pipe dream, along with working in prominent positions at Fortune 500 firms and every other walk of life.

Still, the promise remains unfulfilled. The prominent presidential candidate must still address the fiery racial rhetoric of his minister and spiritual advisor. The electorate splits dramatically along racial lines, even amongst the progressive Democratic Party. A white majority still dominates professional America, and black graduation rates are exponentially lower than those of their white peers. A disproportionate number of black youth are housed in our nation's jails and prisons, and unemployment levels are more than twice that of the white population. Out-of-wedlock births continue to jeopardize an already fragile social structure. King's expectation that we can do better resonates more than ever.

Sen. Obama is apt to quote King and the "fierce urgency of now." At this time, at this hour, on this most historic of days, the time to heal old wounds and address the matters that divide us couldn't be more pressing. We honor King by having a national conversation about race, the mediocre at best status quo, and a common future. We are all Americans, and must force our leaders and country to once and for all transcend race. This is a cause greater than Sen. Obama or any individual for that matter. On the 40th anniversary of his death, King reminds us that the very ideals of this nation are at stake.


High Court Hits

By Shawn Healy
The Supreme Court on Monday dove back into the murky waters of First Amendment jurisprudence by accepting separate cases that address issues tackled in part in recent terms. The involves a request from government officials in Pleasant Grove City, UT, who denied a request from a religious group known as Summum to display a monument called "The Seven Aphorisms of Summum" in a public park. Already present is a Ten Commandments monument installed 47 years ago by the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the group, arguing that the park is a public forum for private speech. Local officials do not so much fear the message that the proposed addition would deliver, but instead the Pandora's box of requests that could follow. The case stirs memories of two separate Supreme Court rulings in 2005 concerning the public display of the Ten Commandments. The first, McCreary County v. ACLU, was a 5-4 ruling where the Court determined that the Ten Commandments were unconstitutionally posted in a Kentucky courtroom. Justice Souter, writing for the majority, raised Establishment Clause concerns, suggesting that the "...text of the Ten Commandments (is) distinct from any traditionally symbolic representation," not to mention the fact that the document "...stood alone," and was "...not part of an arguably secular display."

The second case, Van Orden v. Perry, was decided by a similar 5-4 margin, with only Justice Breyer changing sides. It concerned a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn of the Texas State Capitol, one of 21 historical markers on the site. Breyer, in a concurring opinion, acknowledged that "...the Establishment Clause does not compel the government to purge from the public sphere all that in any way partakes of the religious." What distinguishes this monument is its 40-year presence on the site, the fact that it stands with other historical, non-religious markers, and its donation by a private group, yes the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

In Utah, the Ten Commandments statue appears safe, but might other additions be welcomed in a public space that clearly welcomes private speech? On the other hand, shouldn't the city have some leverage in determining reasonable limits on the addition of more statues in a place they manage? Time, place, and manner restrictions seem reasonable here. Moreover, the complexion of the Court has changed since 2005, with Chief Justice Roberts replacing Chief Justice Rehnquist, a one-for-one conservative trade-off, and Justice Alito replacing Justice O'Connor, a conservative for a moderate trade-off. Since O'Connor voted with the coalition opposed to the public display of the Ten Commandments in both 2005 cases, Alito's presence could constitute a change.

I predict a 5-4, if not a 6-3 decision in favor of Pleasant Grove City to determine the time, place, and manner of private religious displays on public property so long as they are content neutral. The case is Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, and it will likely be decided in the fall term.

A second First Amendment case echoes last year's decision concerning the right of the state to pass legislation enabling non-union teachers to opt out of a payroll deduction system that allocates some of their union dues for political purposes. The unanimous opinion ruled that the law was constitutional, negating the union's argument that their First Amendment associational rights were undermined in the process. The case was Davenport et al. v. Washington Education Association.

This time around the Court will scrutinize an Idaho law that prohibits cities, counties and school districts from making payroll deductions for donations to political candidates and parties. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that only cities, counties, and school boards can make such a decision independently, but the state cannot impose this upon them. In the Washington decision, the Court ruled that states could enable an opt-out system, but were not required to do so. Idaho, on the other hand, refuses to allow this choice, thus presenting the Court with a different dilemma altogether.

I see another conservative-liberal split here, with the five conservatives siding with the state under the premise of federalism, but also denying a union's unencumbered right to extract campaign donations from member paychecks. The four liberals will claim that the associational rights of unions are undermined by this law, calling for its repeal in dissent. We will once again have to wait for the fall term, with oral arguments and a final decision coming soon thereafter.

Sticking with the subject of the Supreme Court, Nathan Richie and I interviewed Dan Transue, a local gun rights activist who attended the Mar. 18 oral arguments in the Second Amendment case District of Columbia v. Heller. Click here to listen to the podcast, and here to access Don's web site

Finally, next week the Freedom Museum will host Jan Crawford Greenberg, author of Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court. I've made my way through this readable tome twice, and highly recommend it to a lay audience interested in the internal dynamics of the current Court. To RSVP for the free program on Apr. 10 from 6-7:30pm please click here.


Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at