Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Jonah Goldberg is an idiot.

In the Los Angeles Times, Jonah Goldberg pens a typically inflammatory column about felon disenfranchisement. It's the usual, but for this:

Not surprisingly, liberals are more than eager to turn the prison ballot into the race card. . . . The president of the American Bar Assn. claims that the "origins of America's felony disenfranchisement laws are linked to post-Civil War efforts to disenfranchise former slaves, a sad racial legacy that manifests itself today in the fact that people of color make up more than 60% of our nation's prison population."
An inconvenient problem is that this isn't true. Even two of the chief advocates of felon re-enfranchisement -- Human Rights Watch and the Sentencing Project -- acknowledge in a joint publication that "disenfranchisement in the U.S. is a heritage from ancient Greek and Roman traditions carried into Europe."

In fact, the inconvenient problem is Jonah's. The publication he cites, "Losing the Vote: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States," acknowledges nothing of the sort.

What does Losing the Vote: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States acknowledge?

Disenfranchisement in the U.S. is a heritage from ancient Greek and Roman traditions carried into Europe. . . .
The exclusion of convicted felons from the vote took on new significance after the Civil War and passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave blacks the right to vote. Southern opposition to black suffrage led to the decision to use numerous ostensibly race-neutral voting barriers -- e.g., literacy and property tests, poll taxes, grandfather clauses and criminal disenfranchisement provisions -- with the explicit intent of keeping as many blacks as possible from being able to vote. Although laws excluding criminals from the vote had existed in the South previously, "between 1890 and 1910, many Southern states tailored their criminal disenfranchisement laws, along with other voting qualifications, to increase the effect of these laws on black citizens." Crimes that triggered disenfranchisement were written to include crimes blacks supposedly committed more frequently than whites and to exclude crimes whites were believed to commit more frequently. For example, in South Carolina, "among the disqualifying crimes were those to which [the Negro] was especially prone: thievery, adultery, arson, wife-beating, housebreaking, and attempted rape. Such crimes as murder and fighting, to which the white man was as disposed as the Negro, were significantly omitted from the list." In 1901 Alabama lawmakers -- who openly stated that their goal was to establish white supremacy -- included a provision in the state constitution that made conviction of crimes of "moral turpitude" the basis for disenfranchisement.

Having read that, would you believe, as Jonah does, that "two of the chief advocates of felon re-enfranchisement" don't agree that the "origins of America's felony disenfranchisement laws are linked to post-Civil War efforts to disenfranchise former slaves?"

No, you wouldn't. Unless you were an idiot, like Jonah.