Finally, The End for Kris Kobach

New Orleans     What a great birthday present – happy birthday to me!  Kris Kobach was defeated in the Republican primary in Kansas in his latest bid for another elected job, this time vying for an open seat in the U.S. Senate.  That wasn’t the only great news from the primary elections, but it makes my day even more special.  The fact that Missouri voters joined the Medicaid expansion list of states under the Affordable Care Act is like an extra dab of icing on the cake.  Oklahoma earlier this year, and now Missouri, hey, ACA haters, are you hearing the voters?  Better listen up!

I don’t want to get distracted though from the Kobach story, because if we can start believing in Kansas voters, then there’s hope for America.  Kobach didn’t just lose in the primary, he was beat down like a mangy dog.  Notice I didn’t say redheaded stepchild, having been a redhead forever, even if it doesn’t look that way on this birthday.  The winner, some more moderate, mainstream conservative polled 158,208 with 40.3% of the vote and Kobach tallied a measly 26.3% of the vote, barely breaking 100,000 by only 3197 votes.  I worried for a minute that there might be a breath of political life for Kobach, if there were a runoff since no candidate had more than 50% of the vote, but thanks to Ballotpedia, I can assure right thinking people everywhere that Mr. Hater-Baiter Kobach is toast, since they clearly state that by Kansas statues:

The winner of a primary election is the candidate who receives the greatest number of votes cast for that office, even if he or she does not win an outright majority of votes.

Hip, hip, hooray!

This makes Kobach a two-time loser.  There’s a Democrat now sitting in the governor’s chair in Kansas, thanks to the fact that Kobach was the Republican nominee for governor in that election.  Yes, if we wanted to live dangerously, we might have hoped that Kobach was the Republican nominee for Senate, giving a Democrat the best chance to take the seat in that state since 1932, but I’m sorry, I’m grabbing this bird in the hand.  To do otherwise would be the equivalent of helping the next Joe McCarthy get elected, just substitute Kansas for Wisconsin.

Kobach, to remind everyone, has been the primary architect of one anti-immigrant law and referendum after another.  Remember him please as the enabler of Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  His second infamous claim has been as a leader in voter suppression.  In Kansas he became a laughing stock trying to prove voter fraud, where there was none.  Trump made him a principle in his committee to try to establish voter fraud in the 2016 election, and with Kobach in the lead and fake data, fake purges, and fake press releases, the whole committee crashed and burned.   I could go on and on about his outrages and destruction of any pretense of democracy, but now, why bother?

Kobach first came to my attention when he ran for Kansas Secretary of State on a platform more than a decade ago to keep ACORN from stealing the election, even though ACORN had no staff, office, or operations in Kansas at the time.  He is just a two-bit demagogue, who has been in my sights since then, but you know the old saying, “what goes around, comes around.”

His career in political office is done.  How sweet it is!


US Police Roots Spring from Slavery

New Orleans     We would all love to simply believe that the police are there, and have always been there, as the slogan goes, “to serve and protect.”  Jill Lepore, the noted Harvard historian and frequent New Yorker indefatigable and invaluable contributor, in a recent piece in that magazine detailed in brief the history of American policing, and it was not a pretty story.  She starts with the transfer from Britain to the US of the police as the “king’s force,” but finds that once on American soil, the roots are all wrapped around the poisoned tree of slavery.

It began with a something akin to a neighborhood watch in Boston in 1631, New York in 1658, and Philadelphia in 1705, where rich men hired poor and elderly men to take their turns.  These watches and incipient militias were married with slave patrols whose purpose was the brutal and rigid enforcement of slave codes in the states that began with those passed in Virginia in 1680, which make it “lawful …to kill said negroe or slave so lying out and resisting” being recaptured or breaching the code.  Slave patrols began in South Carolina in 1702, Virginia in 1726, North Carolina 1753, and so on.  “New Orleans was distinctive in having la police: armed City Guards, who wore military-style uniforms and received wages, an urban slave patrol,” as Lepore terms it.

Lepore also cites the role of slavery in police history that underscores the claims of Boston creating the first modern urban police force in 1838, citing instead that it was a reaction to a call in 1829 by a Black abolitionist David Walker for violent rebellion, provoking mob attacks on abolitionists and fear in many cities and states.  North Carolina created something they called a “police” force, but meant slave patrol in response to Walker’s call.

The story doesn’t get better.  In the unorganized territories, US Marshals, where they existed, only enforced federal laws, opening the door for vigilante committees to handle local matters often violently through lynching and tar and feathering.  After the Civil War, the US Army was the police force in the West, engaging in more than 1000 combat operations against Native peoples.  Modern police tactics instituted by August Vollmer in 1909 as chief of police in Berkeley, California, imitated military experience in the West and in actions in US colonies.  Vollmer-era police enforced Jim Crow laws passed since Reconstruction, the new editions of old slave codes, all of which criminalized being Black.

It goes on and on.

We need police.  We need their service and protection.  Our members in lower income and minority communities actually want more police, not less, and don’t pretend that a neighborhood watch is protection.  Nonetheless the systemic infection of racism, dating to slavery and slave patrols and moved forward through Jim Crow, wars against crime, and other rationalized and politicized campaigns against minorities and immigrants, has to be leeched out in order to create a policing system that in fact is fair and equitable, protecting all, and targeting none.