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    How Republicans Are Weaponizing Critical Race Theory Ahead of Midterms

    Republicans hope that concerns about critical race theory can help them in the midterm elections. The issue has torn apart one Wisconsin suburb.Little more than a year ago, Scarlett Johnson was a stay-at-home mother, devoted to chauffeuring her children to school and supervising their homework.That was before the school system in her affluent Milwaukee suburb posted a video about privilege and race that “jarred me to my core,” she said.“There was this pyramid — where are you on the scale of being a racist,” Ms. Johnson said. “I couldn’t understand why this was recommended to parents and stakeholders.”The video solidified Ms. Johnson’s concerns, she said, that the district, Mequon-Thiensville, was “prioritizing race and identity” and introducing critical race theory, an academic framework used in higher education that views racism as ingrained in law and other modern institutions.Since then, Ms. Johnson’s life has taken a dramatic turn — a “180,” she calls it. She became an activist, orchestrating a recall of her local school board. Then, she became a board candidate herself.Republicans in Wisconsin have embraced her. She’s appeared on panels and podcasts, and attracted help from representatives of two well-funded conservative groups. When Rebecca Kleefisch, the former Republican lieutenant governor, announced her campaign for governor, Ms. Johnson joined her onstage.Ms. Kleefisch’s campaign has since helped organize door-to-door outreach for Ms. Johnson and three other school board candidates.Ms. Johnson’s rapid transformation into a sought-after activist illustrates how Republicans are using fears of critical race theory to drive school board recalls and energize conservatives, hoping to lay groundwork for the 2022 midterm elections.“Midterm elections everywhere, but particularly in Wisconsin, are pretty dependent on voter turnout as opposed to persuasion,” said Sachin Chheda, a Democratic political consultant based in Milwaukee. “This is one of the issues that could do it.”Scarlett Johnson in Mequon, Wis., in September. Ms. Johnson is an activist against teaching critical race theory in schools, orchestrating a recall of her local school board.Carlos Javier Ortiz for The New York TimesBallotpedia, a nonpartisan political encyclopedia, said it had tracked 80 school board recall efforts against 207 board members in 2021 — the highest number since it began tracking in 2010.Education leaders, including the National School Boards Association, deny that there is any critical race theory being taught in K-12 schools.“Critical race theory is not taught in our district, period,” said Wendy Francour, a school board member in Ms. Johnson’s district now facing recall.Teachers’ unions and some educators say that some of the efforts being labeled critical race theory by critics are simply efforts to teach history and civics.“We should call this controversy what it is — a scare campaign cooked up by G.O.P. operatives” and others to “limit our students’ education and understanding of historical and current events,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.But Republicans say critical race theory has invaded classrooms and erroneously casts all white people as oppressors and all Black people as victims. The issue has become a major rallying point for Republicans from Florida to Idaho, where state lawmakers have moved to ban it.In July, Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia, promised to abolish critical race theory on “Day 1” in office. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, facing re-election next year, said recently, “I want to make sure people are not supporting critical race theory.” And in Arizona, Blake Masters, a Republican hoping to unseat Senator Mark Kelly in 2022, has repeatedly slammed critical race theory as “anti-white racism.”In some places, the tone of school board opponents has become angry and threatening, so much so that the National School Boards Association asked President Biden for federal law enforcement protection.Few places will be more closely watched in the midterm elections than Wisconsin, a swing state that Mr. Biden won by just over 20,600 votes and where Republicans would like to retain control of the Senate seat currently held by Ron Johnson, as well as to defeat Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat.To succeed, Republicans must solidify support in suburban Milwaukee, an area of historical strength for the party. Recently, though, Democrats have made inroads in Ozaukee County, and particularly its largest city, Mequon, a mostly white enclave north of Milwaukee. President Donald J. Trump won the city last year with only 50.2 percent of the vote — a poor showing that contributed to his Wisconsin defeat.Now, with midterms on the horizon, prospective statewide candidates — including Ms. Kleefisch, Senator Johnson and the relative political newcomer Kevin Nicholson — have emphasized their opposition to critical race theory.Senator Johnson, who has not announced whether he will seek re-election, has talked about the importance of local elections as a prelude to next year’s midterms. He recently urged constituents to “take back our school boards, our county boards, our city councils.”Traditionally, school board elections in Wisconsin have been nonpartisan, but a political action committee associated with Ms. Kleefisch — Rebecca Kleefisch PAC — recently contributed to about 30 school board candidates around the state, including one elected last spring in Mequon.“The fact that this is being politically driven is heartbreaking,” said Chris Schultz, a retired teacher in Mequon and one of the four board members facing recall.Ms. Schultz relinquished her Republican Party membership when she joined the board. “I believe school boards need to be nonpolitical,” she said. “Our student welfare cannot be a political football.”Now, she thinks, that’s over. “The Republican Party has kind of decided that they want to not just have their say on the school board but determine the direction of school districts,” she said.Rebecca Kleefisch, Wisconsin’s former lieutenant governor, announces her candidacy for governor in September. Last week, volunteers from Ms. Kleefisch’s campaign organized outreach for Ms. Johnson’s school board candidacy.John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal, via Associated PressAgainst this political backdrop, Ms. Johnson, who calls herself a lifelong conservative, is waging her own battle in the district that serves 3,700 students. Ms. Johnson, 47, has five children, ranging in age from 10 to 22. Her two oldest children graduated from Mequon-Thiensville’s vaunted Homestead High School. Complaining about a decline in the system’s quality, she said she chose to send her younger children to private schools.Ms. Johnson first got interested in school board politics in August 2020, after a decision to delay in-person classes because of an increase in Covid-19 cases. Angered over the delay, Ms. Johnson protested with more than 100 people outside school district headquarters.“Virtual learning is not possible for the majority of parents that work,” Ms. Johnson told a reporter.The next day, protesters gathered outside the business of Akram Khan, a school board member who runs a private tutoring center.“There was this narrative that I, as a board member, elected to close the schools down because it would directly benefit my pocketbook, which is the farthest thing from the truth,” Mr. Khan said.He shut down his business temporarily as a result of the protests and is now facing recall.Things got worse. Protesters showed up outside the home of the district superintendent; relationships among neighbors began to fray. School board meetings, formerly dull affairs, dragged on for hours, with comments taking on a nasty and divisive tone.“We’ve been called Marxist flunkies,” Ms. Francour said. “We have police attending the meetings now.”Akram Khan is facing a school board recall.Carlos Javier Ortiz for The New York TimesWendy Francour, who is facing a recall, said school board meetings have gotten divisive: “We have police attending the meetings now.”Carlos Javier Ortiz for The New York TimesAnger grew over masks, test scores and the hourlong video the school system posted about race, one of two that Ms. Francour said were offered because parents had asked what to tell their children about George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.Led by two consultants, the optional online seminar for parents included a discussion of the spectrum of racism — from lynching to indifference to abolitionism — and tips on how to become “anti-racist” through acts such as speaking up against bias and socializing with people of color. It ended with news clips about Mr. Floyd’s death.Ms. Johnson, who grew up poor in Milwaukee, the daughter of a Puerto Rican teenage mother and a father who had brushes with the law, said the video ran counter to her belief that people were not limited by their background or skin color.“For me the sky was the limit,” Ms. Johnson said in July on “Fact Check,” a podcast hosted by Bill Feehan, a staunch Trump supporter and the La Crosse County Republican Party chairman.The Wisconsin Democratic Party recently provided The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with deleted tweets by Ms. Johnson expressing nonchalance about the threat of white supremacy and accusing Planned Parenthood of racism.Spurred partly by the video, Ms. Johnson began leading an effort, Recall MTSD.com, to recall four of seven board members. Petitions were available at local businesses, including a shooting range owned by a Republican activist, Cheryle Rebholz.While the recall group insists theirs is a grass-roots effort, representatives of two conservative nonprofit organizations turned up to help.Amber Schroeder, left, and Ms. Johnson dropping off recall petitions in Mequon in August.Morry Gash/Associated PressOne of them, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, is funded by the Bradley Foundation, known for promoting school choice and challenging election rules across the country.The organization stepped in to help Ms. Johnson’s group by threatening legal action against the city of Mequon when it tried to remove banners, placed on public property, that promoted the recall.Another volunteer with a high profile in conservative circles was Matt Batzel, executive director of American Majority, a national group that trains political candidates. Mr. Batzel’s organization once published a primer on how to “flip” your school board, citing its role overturning a liberal board in Kenosha, Wis.Mequon’s recall election is Nov. 2. One candidate is Ms. Rebholz, the shooting range owner, who wrote an essay arguing that, “If the Biden-Harris team wins in November, Americans won’t be safe.”Meanwhile, Ms. Johnson is branching out.She serves as a state leader for No Left Turn in Education, an organization against critical race theory, and has recently been named to a campaign advisory board for Ms. Kleefisch.She spoke at a Milwaukee event last month. The topic: “What is Critical Race Theory and How to Fight It.” More

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    Democrats Can’t Just Give the People What They Want

    Over the 20-year period from 1970 to 1990, whites, especially those without college degrees, defected en masse from the Democratic Party. In those years, the percentage of white working class voters who identified with the Democratic Party fell to 40 percent from 60, Lane Kenworthy, a sociologist at the University of California-San Diego, wrote in “The Democrats and Working-Class Whites.”Now, three decades later, the Democratic Party continues to struggle to maintain not just a biracial but a multiracial and multiethnic coalition — keeping in mind that Democrats have not won a majority of white voters in a presidential election since Lyndon Johnson’s landslide victory in 1964.There have been seven Democratic and seven Republican presidents since the end of World War II. Obstacles notwithstanding, the Democratic coalition has adapted from its former incarnation as an overwhelmingly white party with a powerful southern segregationist wing to its current incarnation: roughly 59 percent white, 19 percent Black, 13 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent Asian American and other groups.William Julius Wilson, a sociologist at Harvard, put the liberal case for the importance of a such a political alliance eloquently in “Rising Inequality and the Case for Coalition Politics”:An organized national multiracial political constituency is needed for the development and implementation of policies that will help reverse the trends of the rising inequality and ease the burdens of ordinary families.Biden won with a multiracial coalition, but even in victory, there were signs of stress.In their May 21 analysis, “What Happened in 2020,” Yair Ghitza, chief scientist at Catalist, a liberal voter data analysis firm, and Jonathan Robinson, its director of research, found that Black support for the Democratic presidential nominee fell by 3 percentage points from 2016 to 2020, and Latino support fell by eight points over the same period, from 71 to 63 percent.At the same time, whites with college degrees continued their march into the Democratic Party: “The trends all point in the same direction, i.e., a substantial portion of this constituency moving solidly toward Democrats in the Trump era.” Among these well-educated whites, the percentage voting for the Democratic nominee rose from 46 percent in 2012 to 50 percent in 2016 to 54 percent in 2020. These gains were especially strong among women, according to Catalist: “White college-educated women in particular have shifted against Trump, moving from 50 percent Democratic support in 2012 to 58 percent in 2020.”In a separate June 2021 study, “Behind Biden’s 2020 Victory,” by Ruth Igielnik, Scott Keeter and Hannah Hartig, Pew Research found thatEven as Biden held on to a majority of Hispanic voters in 2020, Trump made gains among this group overall. There was a wide educational divide among Hispanic voters: Trump did substantially better with those without a college degree than college-educated Hispanic voters (41 percent vs. 30 percent).Biden, according to Pew, made significant gains both among all suburban voters and among white suburban voters: “In 2020, Biden improved upon Clinton’s vote share with suburban voters: 45 percent supported Clinton in 2016 vs. 54 percent for Biden in 2020. This shift was also seen among White voters: Trump narrowly won White suburban voters by 4 points in 2020 (51-47); he carried this group by 16 points in 2016 (54-38).”Crucially. all these shifts reflect the continuing realignment of the electorate by level of educational attainment or so-called “learning skills,” with one big difference: Before 2020, education polarization was found almost exclusively among whites; last year it began to emerge among Hispanics and African Americans.Two Democratic strategists, Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, both of whom publish their analyses at the Liberal Patriot website, have addressed this predicament.On Sept. 30 in “There Just Aren’t Enough College-Educated Voters!” Teixeira wrote:The perception that nonwhite working class voters are a lock for the Democrats is no longer tenable. In the 2020 election, working class nonwhites moved sharply toward Trump by 12 margin points, despite Democratic messaging that focused relentlessly on Trump’s animus toward nonwhites. According to Pew, Trump actually got 41 percent of the Hispanic working class vote in 2016. Since 2012, running against Trump twice, Democrats have lost 18 points off of their margin among nonwhite working class voters.In an effort to bring the argument down to earth, I asked Teixeira and Halpin three questions:1. Should Democrats support and defend gender and race-based affirmative action policies?2. If asked in a debate, what should a Democrat say about Ibram X. Kendi’s claim that “Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black and Brown minds and legally exclude their bodies from prestigious schools?”3. How should a Democrat respond to questions concerning intergenerational poverty, nonmarital births and the issue of fatherlessness?In an email, Teixeira addressed affirmative action:Affirmative action in the sense of, say, racial preferences has always been unpopular and continues to be so. The latest evidence comes from the deep blue state of California which defeated an effort to reinstate race and gender preferences in public education, employment and contracting by an overwhelming 57-43 margin. As President Obama once put it: ‘We have to think about affirmative action and craft it in such a way where some of our children who are advantaged aren’t getting more favorable treatment than a poor white kid who has struggled more,’ There has always been a strong case for class-based affirmative action which is perhaps worth revisiting rather than doubling down on race-based affirmative action.Teixeira on Kendi’s arguments:It is remarkable how willing liberal elites have been to countenance Kendi’s extreme views which ascribe all racial disparities in American society to racism and a system of untrammeled white supremacy (and only that), insist that all policies/actions can only be racist or anti-racist in any context and advocate for a Department of Anti-Racism staffed by anti-racist “experts” who would have the power to nullify any and all local, state and federal legislation deemed not truly anti-racist (and therefore, by Kendi’s logic, racist). These ideas are dubious empirically, massively simplistic and completely impractical in real world terms. And to observe they are politically toxic is an understatement.The left, in Teixeira’s view,has paid a considerable price for abandoning universalism and for its increasingly strong linkage to Kendi-style views and militant identity politics in general. This has resulted in branding the party as focused on, or at least distracted by, issues of little relevance to most voters’ lives. Worse, the focus has led many working-class voters to believe that, unless they subscribe to this emerging worldview and are willing to speak its language, they will be condemned as reactionary, intolerant, and racist by those who purport to represent their interests. To some extent these voters are right: They really are looked down upon by elements of the left — typically younger, well-educated, and metropolitan — who embrace identity politics and the intersectional approach.In March, Halpin wrote an essay, “The Rise of the Neo-Universalists,” in which he argued thatthere is an emerging pool of political leaders, thinkers and citizens without an ideological home. They come from the left, right, and center but all share a common aversion to the sectarian, identity-based politics that dominates modern political discourse and the partisan and media institutions that set the public agenda.He calls this constituency “neo-universalists,” and says that they are united by “a vision of American citizenship based on the core belief in the equal dignity and rights of all people.” This means, he continued,not treating people differently based on their gender or their skin color, or where they were born or what they believe. This means employing collective resources to help provide for the ‘general welfare’ of all people in terms of jobs, housing, education, and health care. This means giving people a chance and not assuming the worst of them.How, then, would neo-universalism deal with gender and race-based affirmative action policies?“In terms of affirmative action, neo-universalism would agree with the original need and purpose of affirmative action following the legal dismantling of racial and gender discrimination,” Halpin wrote in an email:America needed a series of steps to overcome the legal and institutional hurdles to their advancement in education, the workplace, and wider life. Fifty years later, there has been tremendous progress on this front and we now face a situation where ongoing discrimination in favor of historically discriminated groups is hard to defend constitutionally and will likely hit a wall very soon. In order to continue ensuring that all people are integrated into society and life, neo-universalists would favor steps to offer additional assistance to people based on class- or place-based measures such as parental income or school profiles and disparities, in the case of education.What did Halpin think about Kendi’s views?A belief in equal dignity and rights for all, as expressed in neo-universalism and traditional liberalism, rejects the race-focused theories of Kendi and others, and particularly the concept that present discrimination based on race is required to overcome past discrimination based on race. There is no constitutional defense of this approach since you clearly cannot deprive people of due process and rights based on their race.In addition, theories like these, in Halpin’s view, foster “sectarian racial divisions and encourage people to view one another solely through the lens of race and perceptions of who is oppressed and who is privileged.” Liberals, Halpin continued, “spent the bulk of the 20th century trying to get society not to view people this way, so these contemporary critical theories are a huge step backward in terms of building wider coalitions and solidarity across racial, gender, and ethnic lines.”On the problem of intergenerational poverty, Halpin argued thatReducing and eradicating poverty is a critical focus for neo-universalists in the liberal tradition. Personal rights and freedom mean little if a person or family does not have a basic foundation of solid income and work, housing, education, and health care. Good jobs, safe neighborhoods, and stable two-parent families are proven to be critical components of building solid middle class life. Although the government cannot tell people how to organize their lives, and it must deal with the reality that not everyone lives or wants to live in a traditional family, the government can take steps to make family life more affordable and stable for everyone, particularly for those with children and low household income.Although the issue of racial and cultural tension within the Democratic coalition has been the subject of debate for decades, the current focus among Democratic strategists is on the well-educated party elite.David Shor, a Democratic data analyst, has emerged as a central figure on these matters. Shor’s approach was described by my colleague Ezra Klein last week. First, leaders need to recognize that “the party has become too unrepresentative at its elite levels to continue being representative at the mass level” and then “Democrats should do a lot of polling to figure out which of their views are popular and which are not popular, and then they should talk about the popular stuff and shut up about the unpopular stuff.”How can Democrats defuse inevitable Republican attacks on contemporary liberalism’s “unpopular stuff” — to use Klein’s phrase — much of which involves issues related to race and immigration along with the disputes raised by identity politics on the left?Shor observes that “We’ve ended up in a situation where white liberals are more left wing than Black and Hispanic Democrats on pretty much every issue: taxes, health care, policing, and even on racial issues or various measures of ‘racial resentment’, ” before adding, “So as white liberals increasingly define the party’s image and messaging, that’s going to turn off nonwhite conservative Democrats and push them against us.”The result?“The joke is that the G.O.P. is really assembling the multiracial working-class coalition that the left has always dreamed of,” Shor told Politico in an interview after the election in November.On Oct. 9, another of my colleagues, Jamelle Bouie, weighed in:My problem is that I don’t think Shor or his allies are being forthright about what it would actually take to stem the tide and reverse the trend. If anti-Black prejudice is as strong as this analysis implies, then it seems ludicrous to say that Democrats can solve their problem with a simple shift in rhetoric toward their most popular agenda items. The countermessage is easy enough to imagine — some version of ‘Democrats are not actually going to help you, they are going to help them’.Bouie’s larger point is thatThis debate needs clarity, and I want Shor and his allies to be much more forthright about the specific tactics they would use and what their strategy would look like in practice. To me, it seems as if they are talking around the issue rather than being upfront about the path they want to take.Shor’s critique of the contemporary Democratic Party and the disproportionate influence of its young, well-educated white liberal elite has provoked a network of counter-critiques. For example, Ian Hanley-Lopez, a law professor at Berkeley, recently posted “Shor is mainly wrong about racism (which is to say, about electoral politics)” on Medium, an essay in which Lopez argues thatThe core problem for the Democratic Party is not too many young, liberal activists. The fundamental challenge for Democrats is to develop a unified, effective response to the intense polarization around race intentionally driven by Trump and boosted by the interlocking elements of the right-wing propaganda machine.Haney-Lopez agrees thatDemocratic messages alienate voters when they are predicated on a sense of identity that voters do not share. For instance, “defund the police” and “abolish ICE” are deeply connected to a story of the police and ICE as white supremacist institutions that oppress communities of color. In turn, this story depicts the country as locked into a historic conflict between white people and people of color. It thus asks white voters to see themselves as members of an oppressive group they must help to disempower; and it asks voters of color to see themselves as members of widely hated groups they must rally to defend. This framing is acceptable to many who are college educated, white and of color alike, but not to majorities of voters.But, in Lopez’s view,Shor weds himself to the wrong conclusion. As the Ezra Klein piece reports, Shor “and those who agree with him argue that Democrats need to try to avoid talking about race and immigration.’” This is Shor’s most dangerous piece of advice to Democrats. For Shor, this has become an article of faith.Lopez argues that the best way to defuse divisive racial issues is to explicitly portray such tactics as “a divide-and-conquer strategy.”The basic idea, Lopez wrote,is to shift the basic political conflict in the United States from one between racial groups (the right’s preferred frame) to one between the 0.1 percent and the rest of us, with racism as their principal weapon. In our research, this race-class fusion politics is the most promising route forward for Democrats.Steve Phillips, the founder of Democracy in Color (and, like Haney-Lopez, a frequent contributor to The Times), goes a giant step further. In an email, Phillips argued that for over 50 years, “Democrats have NEVER won the white vote. All of it is dancing around the real issue, which is that the majority of white voters never back Democrats.” Even white college-educated voters “are very, very fickle. There’s some potential to up that share, but at what cost?” The bottom line? “I don’t think they’re movable; certainly, to any appreciable sense.”Phillips wrote that hisbiggest point is that it’s not necessary or cost-efficient to try to woo these voters. A meaningful minority of them are already with us and have always been with us. There are now so many people of color in the country (the majority of young people), that that minority of whites can ally with people of color and win elections from the White House to the Georgia Senate runoffs,” noting, “plus, you don’t have to sell your soul and compromise your principles to woo their support.In his email, Phillips acknowledged that “it does look like there has been a small decline in that Clinton got 76 percent of the working class vote among minorities and Biden 72 percent. But I still come back to the big picture points mentioned above.”On this point, Phillips may underestimate the significance of the four-point drop, and of the larger decline among working class Hispanics. If this is a trend — a big if because we don’t yet know how much of this is about Donald Trump and whether these trends will persist without him — it has the hallmarks of a new and significant problem for Democrats in future elections. In that light, it is all the more important for Democratic strategists of all ideological stripes to spell out what specific approaches they contend are most effective in addressing, if not countering, the divisive racial and cultural issues that have weakened the party in recent elections, even when they’re won.Saying the party’s candidates should simply downplay the tough ones may not be adequate.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    Jumaane Williams Is Exploring a Run for New York Governor

    Mr. Williams, the New York City public advocate, would offer Democratic voters a clear left-leaning alternative to Ms. Hochul, a centrist from western New York.Jumaane D. Williams, the left-wing New York City public advocate, announced an exploratory committee for governor on Tuesday, the most substantive sign yet that next year’s primary may become a vigorous battle over the direction of New York’s Democratic Party.Mr. Williams pledged to press an ambitious progressive agenda if he runs, and, in a nearly 40-minute interview, attempted to draw overt and implicit contrasts with Gov. Kathy Hochul — suggesting that she did not do enough to push back on Andrew M. Cuomo before his sudden resignation in August.His announcement amounts to an unofficial kickoff to the 2022 Democratic primary for governor, a race poised to be defined by both matters of competence and issues of identity, geography and ideology.Mr. Williams said he intended to make a firm decision in the next month, in consultation with an advisory committee that includes two prominent New York City progressive leaders: Brad Lander, likely the city’s next comptroller, and Antonio Reynoso, who is on track to become Brooklyn borough president.With the field of Democratic candidates still largely unsettled, Mr. Williams’s allies hope his move gives him an edge over other prominent New York Democrats looking at the race. Letitia James, the attorney general, is privately discussing the contest with party donors and officials, with her allies sounding increasingly bullish on the likelihood of a campaign to be America’s first Black female governor.Mayor Bill de Blasio is also thought to be interested, and other Democrats from across the state are in various stages of examining the race as well. Ms. Hochul, who has said she will run for a full term next year, has participated in a flurry of fund-raisers and recently expanded her senior campaign staff.Some Democrats have questioned whether Mr. Williams will ultimately pursue a bid should Ms. James, his fellow Brooklynite, jump in the race, given overlapping — but certainly not identical — bases of support. But Mr. Williams, for his part, electrified many progressive voters during his 2018 run for lieutenant governor, losing to Ms. Hochul by 6.6 percentage points. And in a rematch, Mr. Williams would benefit from better name identification than he had before and experience running statewide.But Mr. Williams, a self-identified “activist elected official” who says he is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, would also face significant skepticism from the many moderate voters who remain a force in New York Democratic politics, both in the state and, as this summer’s mayoral primary showed, in the city.And Ms. Hochul, New York’s first female governor, is now in a far more powerful position, having taken over as chief executive after Mr. Cuomo resigned in disgrace.She is poised to enjoy significant advantages of incumbency as she unveils projects across the state, seeks to build an overwhelming fund-raising advantage and experiences, for now, a sense of good will from many lawmakers who appreciate her efforts to break with the governing style — and with some of the personnel — that defined the Cuomo administration.Gov. Kathy Hochul recently named Brian Benjamin, a state senator from Harlem, as her lieutenant governor.Brittainy Newman for The New York TimesMs. Hochul, plainly aware of the need to build her profile downstate, is constantly in New York City for public events and fund-raisers alike, and she recently tapped Brian A. Benjamin, formerly a progressive state senator from Harlem, as her lieutenant governor. She has pleased left-wing lawmakers with several recent policies, including extending the eviction moratorium and releasing nearly 200 detainees from Rikers Island amid a crisis there.But Mr. Williams signaled that if he were to run, he would make the case for electing an Albany outsider who represents a total break with the capital’s culture.“We have consistently, vocally pushed back on the atmosphere that was there, and I think that’s the type of leadership we need,” Mr. Williams said.“It’s hard to renew and recover,” he said at another point, “if you have the same old systems and structure that allowed the toxicity, allowed the scandals, allowed egos and personality to get in the way of progress.”Asked if he disagreed with any of Ms. Hochul’s actions as governor, he said she should have visited Rikers Island but acknowledged “some of the low-hanging fruit that has happened, which is positive.”Still, he suggested that as Mr. Cuomo’s lieutenant governor, she could have spoken out against him more forcefully. “I just imagine if there was a lieutenant governor that pushed back a little bit harder, we may have not been in the situation we’re in,” he said, though Mr. Cuomo iced Ms. Hochul out of his inner circle. “There’s more that a lot of people could have done, but I ran very intentionally and specifically in 2018 on that message.”In 2018, Ms. Hochul, a centrist Democrat from western New York, declined to name any areas of disagreement with Mr. Cuomo during a debate with Mr. Williams, and spent her time in office traveling the state, promoting the administration’s policies.But she also backed the independent investigation into Mr. Cuomo, accurately noted that she was not close to him or part of his decision-making processes, and has promised that “no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment.”“It’s a little early, given that the governor has only been in office four weeks,” Jay Jacobs, the moderate chairman of the New York Democrats, said of Mr. Williams’s move. “You have to be running for reasons that transcend ambition. There has to be a rationale that makes you believe that you would be better than this governor. So we’ll see what he has to say.”A representative for Ms. Hochul declined to comment.Mr. Williams indicated he was committed to an exploratory committee regardless of who else decides to run, and said that his efforts would include building out infrastructure for a potential campaign. But pressed on whether he would run for governor if Ms. James did so, he did not answer directly.Mr. Williams, center, has an activist background that may draw skepticism from the many moderate voters who remain a force in New York Democratic politics.Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times“The attorney general is doing an awesome, awesome job,” Mr. Williams said. “To my knowledge, she hasn’t publicly expressed interest in running. What I will say is, this exploratory committee and public service in general, I’m not doing this to run against anybody. I’m doing this to run for something.”Mr. Reynoso, a city councilman, said he spoke with Ms. James over the weekend about the governor’s race, and expressed admiration for both her and Mr. Williams.“Everybody that loves Tish loves Jumaane, and I think they’re going to have to figure out what they have to figure out,” Mr. Reynoso said, adding that Ms. James told him she intended to speak with Mr. Williams. “I care deeply about both Jumaane and Tish, but my history with Jumaane specifically in the Council has made it so that I will be with him should he run.”A representative for Ms. James declined to comment.Mr. Williams has governed as a left-wing official who is closely attuned to combating gun violence, arguing that investments in the social safety net are a vital component of public safety and central to promoting an equitable recovery from the pandemic. Mr. Williams would be competing against at least one history-making female candidate. He acknowledged that “identity is very important” and pointed to his own, as a first-generation American; as a person with Tourette Syndrome, and as someone with the potential to be the first Black New Yorker elected to the governorship. (The former Gov. David A. Paterson, the first Black governor of New York, assumed the position after former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s resignation.)“It’s important for people to see themselves,” he said. It is also vital, he said, to ensure that “the right person is there to fight for all of the identities when the politics get hard. And we’ve seen, too often, that not happen.” More

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    Democrats Continue to Struggle With Men of Color

    The big headline is that the California recall failed. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom gets to keep his job. He handily fought off the Republican challenge.But there is a worrisome detail in the data, one that keeps showing up, one that Democrats would do well to deal with: Black and Latino men are not hewing as close to the party line as Black and Latina women.There are, of course, issues with exit polls, and results often change as more votes are counted. But that said, the California exit polls do seem to reflect what polls have shown for some time now.In CNN’s exit poll, nearly half of the Hispanic men surveyed and nearly a quarter of the Black men voted to support the recall. The largest difference between men and women of any racial group was between Black men and Black women.Even if these numbers are later adjusted, the warning must still be registered.For many of these men, saying Republicans are racist or attract racists or abide racists isn’t enough.For one thing, never underestimate the communion among men, regardless of race. Men have privileges in society, and some are drawn to policies that elevate their privileges.For instance, many Black and Hispanic men oppose abortion.Some men liked the bravado of Donald Trump and chafed at the rise of the #MeToo movement. Some simply see trans women as men in dresses and want to carry guns wherever they want.The question for Democrats is how do they lure some of these men back without catering to the patriarchy. From a position of principle, the party can’t really appeal to them; it must seek to change them.Add to the patriarchal issues a sense of disillusionment with the Democratic Party and its inability to make meaningful changes on the issues that many of these men care most about, such as criminal justice reform and workplace competition. Democrats often resort to emotional appeals in election season, telling minorities that they must vote for liberal candidates as a defense, to prevent the worst. But many of these men believe that the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans.The idea of always playing defense and never offense is, well, offensive.Instead, Democrats have to craft a message of empowerment and change. They have to say to these men that they don’t have to operate from a position of weakness and pleading, holding back the forces that would otherwise overwhelm them.To be honest, a robust, offensive messaging campaign would resonate with all people who tend to vote Democratic — men and women.The truth is that in a two-party system, voters have only two choices, so protest votes are self-defeating, as is sitting out elections or supporting the opposition to scare your favored side into better behavior.In a two-party system, if you don’t want the Trump Republicans to win, you must vote Democratic. You are trapped in that way, and no one likes the feeling of being trapped.But “trapped” is not an inspiring campaign message, particularly to people who spent a lifetime feeling trapped and have tired of it, as these men have.Yelling at them isn’t going to work, neither is shaming them or thinking that you are “educating” them.My fear is that these men will continue to drift away from the Democratic Party, not because the Republican Party is the most welcoming of spaces, but because Democrats cannot or will not do more to appeal to Black and Latino men.To my mind, the Democratic Party must do a few things:Admit that it makes many promises to Black people in election seasons that it not only doesn’t accomplish, but sometimes doesn’t even take up.Acknowledge that many of these men feel that the system itself has failed them, that the status quo has failed them.Give the plight of Black and brown men the same prominence that both parties have given the plight of working-class white men.Black and brown men need to feel that they are being seen as more than victims of a predatory justice system or part of the so-called immigrant crisis. They need to be rendered in full and seen as whole.When they are not, it leaves an opening for Republicans to exploit, and conservatives have done a clever job of doing just that in recent elections.If you are like me, you are thinking: These men should know better. They are voting in ways that invite injury or not voting at all. They shouldn’t be coddled. The world is sick of coddling selfish men.But we, too, are stuck in this two-party system, and as such, we must do whatever it takes to prevent calamity and eek out progress.In that world, when men of color vote against the interests of people of color and out of the male ego, we must gingerly talk them down rather than aggressively chant them down.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and Instagram. More

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    How Strong Is America’s Multiracial Democracy?

    The issue cutting across every aspect of American politics today is whether — and how — the nation can survive as a multiracial democracy.One key question is what the political impact has been of the decades-long quest to integrate America’s schools.A study published last year, “The Long-Run Effects of School Racial Diversity on Political Identity,” examined how “the end of race-based busing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, an event that led to large changes in school racial composition,” affected the partisanship of students as adults.The authors, Stephen Billings, of the University of Colorado, Eric Chyn, of Dartmouth, and Kareem Haggag, of U.C.L.A.’s Anderson School of Management, found that “a 10-percentage point increase in the share of minorities in a student’s assigned school decreased their likelihood of registering as a Republican by 8.8 percent.” The drop was “entirely driven by white students (a 12 percent decrease).”“What mechanisms can explain our results?” the authors asked.Their answer:Intergroup contact is a key potential channel. Several theoretical frameworks provide predictions for how exposure to more minority peers may shape party affiliation. For white students, we focus on the “contact hypothesis,” which posits that meaningful contact with out-group members can reduce prejudice toward them. This theory suggests that exposure to minority peers should reduce the likelihood of registering as a Republican by weakening “racially conservative” attitudes that have been linked to support for the Republican Party.In support of their argument, the authors cite two additional papers, “The Impact of College Diversity on Behavior toward Minorities,” by Scott E. Carrell, Mark Hoekstra and James E. West, economists at the University of California-Davis, Texas A&M and Baylor, which found “that white students who are randomly assigned a Black roommate in their freshman year are more likely to choose a Black roommate in subsequent years,” and “Building social cohesion between Christians and Muslims through soccer in post-ISIS Iraq” by Salma Mousa, a political scientist at Yale, which found “evidence of positive impacts of religious-based and caste-based intergroup contact through sports.”In major respects, the busing of public school students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg in North Carolina meets the requirements for productive interracial contact posited by Gordon Allport, a professor of psychology at Harvard, in his classic 1954 book “The Nature of Prejudice.”Allport wrote that prejudicemay be reduced by equal status contact between majority and minority groups in the pursuit of common goals. The effect is greatly enhanced if this contact is sanctioned by institutional supports (i.e., by law, custom, or local atmosphere), and provided it is of a sort that leads to the perception of common interests and common humanity between members of the two groups.The Charlotte-Mecklenburg integration program had widespread public support. Education Week reported that after the federal courts in 1971 ordered busing to achieve integration:Charlotte’s political and business leaders moved to support the busing order. Antibusing school-board members were voted out and replaced with supporters of the order. Parents of children scheduled to be bused joined together to seek ways to smooth the logistical problems. No serious protest has erupted since then, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district is often cited as a successful example of mandatory busing.In that respect, Charlotte-Mecklenburg stood out in a nation where cities like Boston and Detroit experienced divisive and often violent protest.A 2018 study, “Past Place, Present Prejudice,” explored some of the complexities of court-ordered racial integration. The authors, Seth Goldman, a professor of communications at the University of Massachusetts, and Daniel Hopkins, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, report that “if a non-Hispanic white person grew up in a county with no African Americans, we should expect that person’s prejudice to be 2.3 points lower than an otherwise similar respondent growing up in a county that is 18 percent Black.”Goldman and Hopkins described their data as supporting the following conclusion: “Proximity during one’s formative years increases racial prejudice years later.”Chyn, an author of the “School Racial Diversity” paper, and Goldman, an author of the “Past Place” paper, both stressed by email that they were comparing racial and political attitudes under different circumstances.Goldman wrote:I don’t see any contradictions between the findings and those in my and Dan’s paper. It is a common misperception that studies finding a relationship between living in more racially diverse places represented as larger geographic units such as counties and expressing higher levels of racial prejudice contradicts intergroup contact theory. On the contrary, this relationship is due to the lack of sustained interracial contact among most whites in racially diverse areas. The typical situation is one of proximity without contact: whereas merely being in proximity to members of different groups promotes threat responses, sustained contact helps to alleviate prejudice.Chyn said:At least one difference is that our work focuses on intergroup exposure within schools whereas Goldman and Hopkins study the influence of racial context at the broader county level. This distinction matters as it is often thought that sustained and cooperative contact is necessary to reduce prejudice between groups. Schools may be a particularly good setting where such beneficial contact can occur. Goldman and Hopkins’s work may be picking up the effect of having geographic proximity to racial outgroups with no substantive interaction between children growing up in an area.Brian T. Hamel, a political scientist at Louisiana State University, and Bryan Wilcox-Archuleta, a research scientist at Facebook, studied intergroup contact in a context more likely to intensify racial conflict. They reported in their paper “Black Workers in White Places: Daytime Racial Diversity and White Public Opinion” that “voting behavior in presidential and congressional elections, feelings of racial resentment and attitudes on affirmative action” of whites are more conservative in neighborhoods where the share of Black nonresident workers is significantly higher than in places with fewer Black nonresident workers.“Whites respond to just the passing, irregular presence of Blacks who commute into their neighborhood for work,” Hamel elaborated in an email. “The upshot is that Blacks do not have to even live in the same neighborhood as whites to get the kind of racial threat reactions that we see in other work.”David O. Sears, a political scientist at U.C.L.A., contends in his 2014 paper “The American Color Line and Black Exceptionalism” that:People of African descent have an exceptional place in American political life because their history, described by the racial caste prototype of intergroup relations, has been unique among American ethnic minorities.Sears adds that:the one-drop rule applied to blacks is considerably less permeable than is the color line applied to Latinos and Asians, particularly in later generations further removed in time from immigration.The history and experience of Black Americans, compared with other minorities’, are unique, according to Sears:Although Latinos and Asians have certainly faced discrimination and exclusion throughout U.S. history, the majority of contemporary U.S. residents who identify as Latino and Asian are not descendants of the generations who were subjected to second-class citizenship in the 19th or 20th centuries. Instead, most are true immigrants, often not yet citizens, and often do not speak English at home. In contrast, the vast majority of blacks living in the United States are native-born citizens, speak only English in all contexts, and are descendants of generations who were subjected to enslavement.Sears cites data in support of his argument that African Americans have faced different historical contingencies in the story of American integration:“In the 2010 census, the segregation of blacks from whites remained extremely high, with a dissimilarity index of 59,” while the dissimilarity index (a measure of racial or ethnic segregation or isolation) was 48 for Latinos and 41 for Asian Americans.Sears continued:Blacks (25 percent) were almost four times as likely as U.S.-born Latinos (7 percent) or Asians (5 percent) to show the highest level of aggrieved group consciousness.55 percent of the blacks, as against 36 percent of the U.S.-born Latinos and 23 percent of the Asians, were at least moderately high in group consciousness.In this regard, economic factors have been instrumental. In “The Color of Disparity: Racialized Income Inequality and Support for Liberal Economic Policies,” Benjamin J. Newman and Bea-Sim Ooi, political scientists at the University of California-Riverside, and Tyler Thomas Reny, of Claremont Graduate University, compared support for liberal economic policies in ZIP codes where very few of the poor were Black with ZIP codes where a high proportion of the poor were Black.“Exposure to local economic inequality is only systematically associated with increased support for liberal economic policies when the respective ‘have-nots’ are not Black,” according to Newman, Ooi and Reny.A 2021 study, “The Activation of Prejudice and Presidential Voting” by Daniel Hopkins — a co-author of the “Past Place, Present Prejudice” — raises a related question:Divisions between whites and Blacks have long influenced voting. Yet given America’s growing Latino population, will whites’ attitudes toward Blacks continue to predict their voting behavior? Might anti-Latino prejudice join or supplant them?Hopkins examined whites’ responses to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, which contained more overt anti-immigrant rhetoric than anti-Black themes. The result nonetheless: “Donald Trump’s candidacy activated anti-Black but not anti-Latino prejudice,” Hopkins writes.Hopkins acknowledges that “people who expressed more restrictionist immigration attitudes in 2008 and 2012 were more likely to shift toward Trump,” but argues that it did not translate into increased bias against Hispanics because it reflected an even deeper-seated racism:Although the 2016 campaign foregrounded issues related to Latino immigrants, our results demonstrate the enduring role of anti-Black prejudice in shaping whites’ vote choices. Even accounting for their 2012 vote choice, partisanship and other demographics, whites’ 2012 anti-Black prejudice proved a robust predictor of supporting G.O.P. nominee Donald Trump in 2016 while anti-Latino prejudice did not.Hopkins speculates that Trump successfully activated anti-Black views because “generations of racialized political issues dividing Blacks and whites have produced developed psychological schema in many whites’ minds, schema that are evoked even by rhetoric targeting other groups.”The long history of Black-white conflict has, Hopkins argues:forged and reinforced durable connections in white Americans’ minds between anti-Black prejudice and vote choice. It is those pathways that appear to have been activated by Trump, even in the presence of substantial rhetoric highlighting other groups alongside Blacks. Once formed, the grooves of public opinion run deep.Against this generally troubling background, there are some noteworthy countervailing trends.In an August 2021 paper, “Race and Income in U.S. Suburbs: Are Diverse Suburbs Disadvantaged?” Ankit Rastogi, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Immigration, challenges “two assumptions: that people of color are concentrated largely in cities and that communities of color are disadvantaged.”Rastogi — using data from the 2019 American Community Survey — finds instead that:By and large, racially diverse suburbs are middle class when comparing their median household income with the national value ($63,000). The most multiracial suburbs host populations with the highest median incomes (mean ~ $85,000). Black and Latinx median household incomes surpass the national value in these diverse suburbs.By 2010, Rastogi points out, majorities of every major demographic group lived in suburbs:51 percent of Black Americans, 62 percent of Asians, 59 percent of Latinx, and 78 percent of whites. Many people of color live in suburbs because they see them as desirable, resource-rich communities with good schools and other public goods.In addition, Rastogi writes:roughly 45 million people of color and 42 million white people lived in suburbs with diversity scores above 50 in 2019. On average, these people live in middle-class contexts, leading us to question stereotypes of race, place and disadvantage.While Rastogi correctly points to some optimistic trends, David Sears presents a less positive view:Blacks’ contemporary situation reveals the force of their distinctive history. African Americans remain the least assimilated ethnic minority in America in the respects most governed by individual choice, such as intermarriage and residential, and therefore, school, integration. By the same criteria, Latinos and Asians are considerably more integrated into the broader society.The key, Sears continues:is America’s nearly impermeable color line. Americans of all racial and ethnic groups alike think about and treat people of African descent as a particularly distinctive, exceptional group — not as just another “people of color.”Sears does not, however, get the last word.In a March 2021 report, “The Growing Diversity of Black America,” the Pew Research Center found some striking changes in recent decades:From 2000 to 2019, the percentage of African Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree rose from 15 to 23 percent, as the share with a master’s degree or higher nearly doubled from 5 to 9 percent.At the same time, the share of African Americans without a high school degree was cut by more than half over the same period, from 28 to 13 percent.Median Black household income has grown only modestly in inflation-adjusted dollars, from $43,581 in 2000 to $44,000 in 2019, but there were improvements in the distribution of income, with the share earning more than $50,000 growing.In 2000, 31 percent of Black households made $25,000 or less (in 2019 U.S. dollar adjusted value), 25 percent made $25,000 to $49,999, 28 percent made $50,000 to less than $99,999, and 16 percent made $100,000 or more.In 2019, 29 percent of Black households made less than $25,000, a quarter earned $25,000 to $49,999, 17 percent made $50,000 to $74,999, 10 percent earned $75,000 to $99,999, and 18 percent earned more than $100,000.Evidence of extraordinary Black progress has been underreported — indeed minimized — in recent years. That reality notwithstanding, there has been consistent and considerable achievement. Given the historical treatment of African Americans in school and in society, perhaps the most striking accomplishment has been in the rising levels of educational attainment. The economic gains have been more incremental. But neither set of gains can or should be ignored.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    How a Defunct Federal Provision Helped Pave the Way for New Voting Restrictions

    Curbs on drop boxes, tougher ID requirements and purges of voter rolls would have been weakened, or never even passed, if a federal oversight system had been in place.Georgia toughened identification requirements for absentee voting. Arizona authorized removing voters from the rolls if they do not cast a ballot at least once every two years. Florida and Georgia cut back sharply the use of drop boxes for mail-in ballots.All of these new voting restrictions would have been rejected or at least softened if a federal civil rights protection from the 1960s were still intact, experts in election law said.For decades, the heart of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a practice known as preclearance, largely detailed under Section 5 of the statute. It forced states with a history of racial discrimination to seek approval from the Department of Justice before enacting new voting laws. Through preclearance, thousands of proposed voting changes were blocked by Justice Department lawyers in both Democratic and Republican administrations.In 2013, however, Section 5 was hollowed out by the Supreme Court, as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in a majority opinion that racial discrimination in voting no longer constituted a significant threat.As Republican-led state legislatures have tightened voting rules after the 2020 election, new restrictions have been enacted or proposed in four states that are no longer required to seek approval before changing voting laws: Georgia, Arizona, Texas and Florida. Those new restrictions would almost certainly have been halted, stalled or altered had Section 5 still been in use, according to interviews with former federal prosecutors and a review by The New York Times of past civil rights actions by the Justice Department.“There’s nothing subtle about what they’re trying to do,” said Tom Perez, the former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “If Section 5 were still around, those laws would not see the light of day.”The restoration of preclearance is now at the center of a debate in Congress over the passage of federal voting legislation.On Tuesday, the House passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore preclearance in several states, among other changes. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has urged Congress to revive preclearance, but Senate Republicans oppose such a move, and a filibuster in the Senate threatens to sink the bill before it can reach President Biden’s desk.President Lyndon B. Johnson greeted Martin Luther King Jr. after signing the Voting Rights Act into law in August 1965.Lyndon B. Johnson LibrarySection 5 covered nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and several counties in New York, Florida, California, South Dakota and North Carolina.Many changes sailed through the Department of Justice during the years of preclearance. Still, thousands of proposed voting laws and rules were found to be discriminatory. From January 1982 to July 2005, Justice Department lawyers filed 2,282 objections to 387,673 proposed voting changes under Section 5, according to a study by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.Again and again this year, states have enacted voting restrictions that closely track measures that were flagged and rejected years ago under preclearance.In Georgia, a law that toughened ID requirements for absentee voting will have a disproportionate effect on Black voters, who make up about a third of the electorate. More than 272,000 registered voters lack the forms of identification that are newly required to cast absentee ballots, according to a study by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. More than half of them are Black.“If you have a voter-ID law where a lot of people don’t have one of the IDs, that’s a red flag,” said Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a former voting rights lawyer for the Justice Department under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.Mr. Perez, the head of the civil rights division from 2009 to 2013, recalled an Arizona bill that proposed barring third parties from dropping off absentee ballots on behalf of voters. The Navajo Nation protested that some of its communities were hours from the nearest mailbox, making the act of voting by mail an arduous one.The Justice Department pushed back at Arizona lawmakers in preclearance. “We asked them a series of very pointed questions because we had real concerns that it was discriminatory, and they withdrew it,” he said. “As a result of the questions we asked, Section 5 worked in that case. But once Section 5 was emasculated in 2013, they had free rein to enact it.”That bill, Mr. Perez noted, was similar to a new Arizona ban on ballot collection upheld in a recent Supreme Court decision.Republicans across the country have defended the new voting laws and denied they are restrictive, often repeating the mantra that the laws make it “easier to vote, harder to cheat.”Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia called a Justice Department lawsuit over the state’s new ID requirements “disgusting” and a “politically motivated assault on the rule of law.”Republicans do not dispute that the current Department of Justice, under Mr. Garland, would have challenged the new laws under Section 5. But they argue that the Biden administration is focusing on the politics of voting rights and not on the merits of the laws.“Laws that would have likely been precleared in a previous Democratic administration would be easily objected to by the current Biden administration,” said Justin Riemer, the chief counsel at the Republican National Committee.He added: “And it is very apparent to us that their determinations would be politically motivated in stopping states from enacting reasonable regulations that protect the integrity of their election processes.”Six former leaders of the civil rights division under Republican presidents from Ronald Reagan to Donald J. Trump declined to comment or did not respond to requests to comment.The greatest power of Section 5, voting rights experts said, was as a deterrent.The burden of proof that laws were not discriminatory was placed on covered states: They had to show that the laws were not going to further restrict voting rights among communities of color.“A lot of these provisions would have never been enacted in the first place if Section 5 were still there,” Mr. Greenbaum said. “Because these states know that if they couldn’t disprove retrogression, it would go down in flames.”The recent law in Arizona that removed voters from the permanent early voting list if they do not cast a ballot at least once every two years caught the eye of Deval Patrick, who led the civil rights division during the Clinton administration and later was governor of Massachusetts.People rallied in support of the Voting Rights Act outside the Supreme Court in February 2013.Christopher Gregory for The New York TimesIn 1994, Mr. Patrick objected to a Georgia proposal that would purge registered voters from the rolls if they failed to vote for three years unless they reaffirmed their registration status. He said the Arizona law struck him as another example of purging.“I think purging is one of the more pernicious undertakings, and I say this as somebody who is preternaturally neat,” Mr. Patrick said. “It is easier in many states today to keep a driver’s license than it is to keep your voter registration.”Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, a Republican, insisted that the new law was about election integrity. Active voters would still get ballots, while resources would be freed for “priorities like election security and voter education,” he said in a video after signing the bill. “Not a single Arizona voter will lose their right to vote as a result of this new law.”Mr. Patrick also said the preclearance process had helped prevent changes in voting rules aimed at engineering a victory.He pointed to Georgia, where Mr. Biden won by fewer than 12,000 votes. Georgia’s new voting law prohibits the use of provisional ballots by voters who show up at the wrong precinct before 5 p.m. on Election Day. But “out of precinct” voters accounted for 44 percent of provisional ballots last year, by far the most common reason. Of 11,120 provisional ballots counted, Mr. Biden won 64 percent.“When the margin of victory was as slim as it was, the notion that the provisional ballots might not be counted because of some very technical and frankly trivial issue, that’s a problem,” Mr. Patrick said.Voting rights lawyers also liken new laws curbing the use of drop boxes to past attempts — blocked by the Justice Department under preclearance — to reduce the numbers of polling places or absentee-ballot locations.In 1984 alone, for example, Reagan administration lawyers objected to the relocation of a Dallas polling place to a predominantly white community from a largely Black one, and challenged bills in Arizona that would have reduced access to polling places by rotating locations and cutting operating hours.In Georgia, 56 percent of absentee voters in urban Fulton County and suburban Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties returned their ballots in drop boxes, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Under Georgia’s new law, those counties will now have just 23 drop boxes, compared with 94 during the 2020 election.And in Texas last year, with roughly a month left before Election Day, Gov. Greg Abbott directed counties to offer only one location for voters to drop off mail-in ballots.“So you had counties with four million people and it was one place essentially to drop off your ballot,” said Chad Dunn, a longtime voting-rights lawyer. “Those are provisions that would have been stopped immediately.” More

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    Brian Benjamin Is Kathy Hochul's Pick for N.Y. Lieutenant Governor

    Gov. Kathy Hochul chose Mr. Benjamin, a state senator from Harlem, to fill the second highest-ranking role in New York’s government.ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy C. Hochul has chosen Brian A. Benjamin, a Democratic state senator from Harlem, to be her lieutenant governor, the second highest-ranking position in New York State, according to two people familiar with the decision.Ms. Hochul, a Democrat from Western New York who was sworn in as the state’s first female governor on Tuesday, is expected to announce the appointment at an event in Harlem on Thursday.The selection of Mr. Benjamin, who is Black, underscored Ms. Hochul’s attempt to diversify her ticket as she mounts her first campaign for governor next year, choosing a potential running mate who could help broaden her appeal in the voter-heavy New York City region.Mr. Benjamin is the senior assistant majority leader in the State Senate, where he has been a vocal proponent of criminal justice reforms. He ran unsuccessfully for city comptroller earlier this year, placing fourth in a crowded Democratic primary. Ms. Hochul’s office declined to comment. Mr. Benjamin, 44, who represents a large swath of Upper Manhattan, did not respond to requests for comment.A lieutenant governor becomes governor when the governor dies, resigns or is impeached. He or she also serves as acting governor when the governor is absent or disabled.But the position, which became vacant as a result of Ms. Hochul’s ascension after former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s resignation, has traditionally served a mostly ceremonial role, entrusted with few statutory duties besides the formality of serving as president of the State Senate.Ms. Hochul, who was recruited by Mr. Cuomo as his running mate in 2014, did not have a close relationship with her predecessor during her nearly seven years as lieutenant governor; for example, she was not a part of Mr. Cuomo’s coronavirus briefings.Pointing to the work dynamic between President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Ms. Hochul has said recently that she wanted to avoid sidelining whoever she picked as lieutenant governor, and entrust them with a policy portfolio.Ms. Hochul had indicated that she intended to select someone from New York City. Ms. Hochul, who is white, approached a handful of city politicians who are people of color, including State Senator Jamaal Bailey, a rising star in Bronx politics; Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, the leader of Brooklyn’s Democratic Party; and Rubén Díaz Jr., the outgoing Bronx borough president.She settled on Mr. Benjamin, a graduate of Brown University and Harvard University who worked at Morgan Stanley and was a managing partner at Genesis Companies, a real estate firm with a focus on affordable housing, before entering politics.In 2017, he ran for the State Senate seat vacated by Bill Perkins, who had won a seat in the City Council. He emerged as the Democratic Party’s pick for the seat after a convention vote in March and went on to easily defeat his Republican opponent in the overwhelmingly blue district, assuming office that June.As a senator, Mr. Benjamin has backed efforts to close Rikers Island and supported legislation on a range of criminal justice issues, from ending cash bail and reforming discovery to ending solitary confinement and reforming parole laws.He has also sponsored bills to get banks to divest from private for-profit prisons and create a so-called “rainy day fund” that New York City could tap into during fiscal emergencies. Mr. Benjamin said earlier this year that he supported the defund the police movement.Michael Blake, a former assemblyman from the Bronx who endorsed Mr. Benjamin in the comptroller primary, stressed that he should be recognized for his skills and experience, not just how his race and standing among Black voters could aid Ms. Hochul politically.“I think it’s important to realize that Brian is talented, and he is also Black,” Mr. Blake said.“People are always paying attention to talent even when there is no success,” Mr. Blake added. “He ran for city comptroller — I think he was the most qualified — and lost, but at the end of the day, God had bigger plans for him.”The competitive Democratic primary for comptroller included Corey Johnson, the speaker of the City Council, and Councilman Brad Lander, who emerged victorious as the standard-bearer of the party’s left flank. Mr. Benjamin finished fourth, behind Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC anchor.During the primary, Mr. Benjamin’s campaign relinquished nearly two dozen donations after The City raised questions about their authenticity.Mr. Benjamin’s poor showing in the primary could raise questions about how many votes from New York City he could help Ms. Hochul attract as a running mate, especially if the governor faces a primary challenge from a person of color.Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate, has said he is actively exploring a run for governor and Letitia James, the state attorney general, is considered a strong candidate, although she has given no indication that she intends to run.“Brian did not have a successful run citywide, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have a successful run statewide,” said Christina Greer, an associate professor of political science at Fordham University. “He has a financial background and could galvanize Black voters. He would translate well upstate.”Mr. Benjamin is a close friend of Keith L.T. Wright, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Manhattan, who backed Mr. Benjamin’s Senate candidacy. On Wednesday, Mr. Wright praised Ms. Hochul’s choice.“He’s bright, he’s intelligent and I think he’ll be a great pick,” Mr. Wright said. “I think he would be someone who would roll up his sleeves and get to work.”Charles B. Rangel, the former congressman and New York political icon, described the selection of Mr. Benjamin as “a tremendous opportunity for the governor to broaden her base now and make her case for re-election.”Some wondered whether Mr. Benjamin’s ascension could signal a resurgence of Black political power in Harlem, which has ceded ground to Brooklyn.David N. Dinkins, the city’s first Black mayor, hailed from Harlem and was a part of the “Gang of Four,” a group of African-American elected officials who had an outsize influence on state politics. David A. Paterson, who served as the state’s first Black governor and lieutenant governor, was connected to that history through his father, Basil Paterson, a former state senator. Mr. Rangel and Percy E. Sutton, the former Manhattan borough president and a civil rights leader, were the other members of the group.“It’s nice to see that younger generation of Harlem politicians come into their own,” said Lupé Todd-Medina, a Brooklyn-based Democratic communications strategist who counts Mr. Benjamin as a former client.Even so, many of the leading elected officials in the city and the state are Black and hail from Brooklyn.“The public advocate is from Brooklyn, the state attorney general is from Brooklyn, the incoming mayor is from Brooklyn and the possible first Black speaker of the House is from Brooklyn,” Ms. Todd-Medina added, “so I think that speaks for itself.” More

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    The Congressional Black Caucus: Powerful, Diverse and Newly Complicated

    The group, which includes most Black members of Congress, remains publicly united. But in private, an influx of new members who think differently about its purpose are making a play for the future.The Congressional Black Caucus is the largest it has ever been, jumping to 57 members this year after a period of steady growth. The 50-year-old group, which includes most Black members of Congress and is entirely Democratic, is also more diverse, reflecting growing pockets of the Black electorate: millennials, progressives, suburban voters, those less tightly moored to the Democratic Party.But while a thread of social justice connects one generation to the next, the influx of new members from varying backgrounds is testing the group’s long-held traditions in ways that could alter the future of Black political power in Washington.The newcomers, shaped by the Black Lives Matter movement rather than the civil rights era, urge Democrats to go on the offensive regarding race and policing, pushing an affirmative message about how to overhaul public safety. They seek a bolder strategy on voting rights and greater investment in the recruitment and support of Black candidates.Perhaps more significant than any ideological or age divide, however, is the caucus’s fault line of political origin stories — between those who made the Democratic establishment work for them and those who had to overcome the establishment to win.Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, a Democrat and the most powerful Black lawmaker in the House, said in an interview that the group still functioned as a family. But that family has grown to include people like Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, an outspoken progressive who defeated a caucus member in a hotly contested primary last year, and Representative Lauren Underwood of Illinois, whose district is overwhelmingly white.“There was not a single member of the caucus, when I got there, that could have gotten elected in a congressional district that was only 4 percent African American,” Mr. Clyburn said, referring to Ms. Underwood.“We didn’t have people in the caucus before who could stand up and say, ‘I know what it’s like to live in an automobile or be homeless,’” he said of Ms. Bush, whose recent dayslong sit-in on the Capitol steps pushed President Biden’s administration to extend an eviction moratorium.In interviews, more than 20 people close to the C.B.C. — including several members, their senior aides and other Democrats who have worked with the group — described the shifting dynamics of the leading organization of Black power players in Washington.Representative Lauren Underwood of Illinois serves a district that is overwhelmingly white.Sarah Silbiger/The New York TimesThe caucus is a firm part of the Democratic establishment, close to House leadership and the relationship-driven world of political consulting and campaigns. However, unlike other groups tied to party leaders, the caucus is perhaps the country’s most public coalition of civil rights stalwarts, ostensibly responsible for ensuring that an insider game shaped by whiteness can work for Black people.Today, the C.B.C. has swelling ranks and a president who has said he owes his election to Black Democrats. There is a strong chance that when Speaker Nancy Pelosi eventually steps down, her successor will be a member of the group. At the same time, the new lawmakers and their supporters are challenging the group with a simple question: Whom should the Congressional Black Caucus be for?The group’s leadership and political action committee have typically focused on supporting Black incumbents and their congressional allies in re-election efforts. But other members, especially progressive ones, call for a more combative activist streak, like Ms. Bush’s, that challenges the Democratic Party in the name of Black people. Moderate members in swing districts, who reject progressive litmus tests like defunding police departments or supporting a Green New Deal, say the caucus is behind on the nuts and bolts of modern campaigning and remains too pessimistic about Black candidates’ chances in predominantly white districts.Many new C.B.C. members, even those whose aides discussed their frustration in private, declined to comment on the record for this article. The leadership of the caucus, including the current chair, Representative Joyce Beatty of Ohio, also did not respond to requests for comment.Miti Sathe, a founder of Square One Politics, a political firm used by Ms. Underwood and other successful Black candidates including Representative Lucy McBath, a Georgia Democrat, said she had often wondered why the caucus was not a greater ally on the campaign trail.She recounted how Ms. Underwood, a former C.B.C. intern who was the only Black candidate in her race, did not receive the caucus’s initial endorsement.In Ms. Underwood’s race, “we tried many times to have conversations with them, to get their support and to get their fund-raising lists, and they declined,” Ms. Sathe said.Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, an outspoken progressive, defeated a caucus member in a hotly contested primary race last year.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesRepresentative Ritchie Torres of New York, a 33-year-old freshman member, said the similarities among C.B.C. members still outweighed the differences.“It seems one-dimensional to characterize it as some generational divide,” he said. “The freshman class — the freshman members of the C.B.C. — are hardly a monolith.”Political strategy is often the dividing line among members — not policy. The Clyburn-led veterans have hugged close to Ms. Pelosi to rise through the ranks, and believe younger members should follow their example. They have taken a zero-tolerance stance toward primary challengers to Democratic incumbents. They have recently pushed for a pared-down approach to voting rights legislation, attacking proposals for public financing of campaigns and independent redistricting committees, which have support from many Democrats in Congress but could change the makeup of some Black members’ congressional districts.And when younger members of Congress press Ms. Pelosi to elevate new blood and overlook seniority, this more traditional group points to Representatives Maxine Waters of California and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi — committee chairs who waited years for their gavels. The political arm of the Black caucus reflects that insider approach, sometimes backing white incumbents who are friends with senior caucus leaders instead of viable Black challengers.Representative Gregory Meeks of New York, the chairman of the caucus’s political action committee, said its goal was simple: to help maintain the Democratic majority so the party’s agenda can be advanced.“You don’t throw somebody out simply because somebody else is running against them,” he said. “That’s not the way politics works.”Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the most powerful Black lawmaker in the House, said the group still functioned as a family.T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York TimesIn a special election this month in Ohio to replace former Representative Marcia Fudge, the newly appointed housing secretary and a close ally of Mr. Clyburn’s, the caucus’s political arm took the unusual step of endorsing one Black candidate over another for an open seat. The group backed Shontel Brown — a Democrat who is close to Ms. Fudge — over several Black rivals, including Nina Turner, a former state senator and a prominent leftist ally of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.Mr. Meeks said the caucus had deferred to its ranking members from Ohio, including Ms. Beatty and Ms. Fudge. Mr. Clyburn also personally backed Ms. Brown. In the interview, he cited a comment from a campaign surrogate for Ms. Turner who called him “incredibly stupid” for endorsing Mr. Biden in the presidential primary race. “There’s nobody in the Congressional Black Caucus who would refer to the highest-ranking African American among them as incredibly stupid,” Mr. Clyburn said.Ms. Turner, a progressive activist, defended the remark and said the caucus’s endorsement of Ms. Brown “did a disservice to the 11 other Black candidates in that race.” She argued that Washington politics were governed by “a set of rules that leaves so many Black people behind.”“The reasons they endorsed had nothing to do with the uplift of Black people,” Ms. Turner said, citing her support of policies like reparations for descendants of enslaved people and student debt cancellation. “It had everything to do about preserving a decorum and a consensus type of power model that doesn’t ruffle anybody’s feathers.”Privately, while some Black members of Congress were sympathetic to Ms. Turner’s criticism, they also regarded the comment about Mr. Clyburn as an unnecessary agitation, according to those familiar with their views. Last year, several new C.B.C. members across the political spectrum grew frustrated after concluding that Democrats’ messaging on race and policing ignored the findings of a poll commissioned by the caucus and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The poll, obtained by The New York Times, urged Democrats in swing districts to highlight the policing changes they supported rather than defending the status quo.But the instruction from leaders of the caucus and the Democratic campaign committee was blunt: Denounce defunding the police and pivot to health care. “It was baffling that the research was not properly utilized,” said one senior aide to a newer member of the Black caucus, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to voice the frustrations. “It could have helped some House Democrats keep their jobs.”The caucus is perhaps the country’s most public coalition of civil rights stalwarts, ostensibly responsible for ensuring that an insider game shaped by whiteness can work for Black people.Anna Moneymaker for The New York TimesMr. Clyburn makes no secret of his disdain for progressive activists who support defunding the police. In the interview, he likened the idea to “Burn, baby, burn,” the slogan associated with the 1965 Watts riots in California.“‘Burn, baby, burn’ destroyed the movement John Lewis and I helped found back in 1960,” he said. “Now we have defunding the police.” Mr. Meeks, the political point man for the caucus, said he expected its endorsements to go where they have always gone: to Black incumbents and their allies. Still, he praised Ms. Bush’s recent activism as helping to “put the pressure on to make the change happen,” a sign of how new blood and ideological diversity could increase the caucus’s power.But Ms. Bush won despite the wishes of the caucus’s political arm. And those who seek a similar path to Congress are likely to face similar resistance.When asked, Mr. Meeks saw no conflict.“When you’re on a team,” he said, “you look out for your teammates.” More