Call­ing out Walker’s racist at­tack on Gronik’s cam­paign

Wisconsin Gazette - - Editorial -

Scott Walker owes much of his po­lit­i­cal suc­cess to his shame­less ex­ploita­tion of racism. When­ever he needs to so­lid­ify his base ahead of an elec­tion, he raises the specter of evil: bro­ken Mil­wau­kee, which is not co­in­ci­den­tally home to 65 per­cent of the state’s African Amer­i­cans.

Walker’s back­ing of a Repub­li­can mea­sure to test food­stamp re­cip­i­ents for drug use is a great ex­am­ple. He knew from the out­set the law had cost other states much more on test­ing than they saved from kick­ing peo­ple off food as­sis­tance when they tested pos­i­tive.

So why the push?

It in­spired his fol­low­ers, many of whom think of so­cial as­sis­tance pro­grams as a “black is­sue.” Of course, that’s not the case — in 2016, more than 36 per­cent of food­stamp re­cip­i­ents were white, while un­der 26 per­cent were black — but Walker doesn’t let facts get in the way of a good, scary story.

In the cur­rent elec­tion cy­cle, Repub­li­cans are run­ning scared — and sure enough, just lis­ten for that racist dog whis­tle. Walker and the Repub­li­can Party’s lat­est act of des­per­a­tion was an odi­ous chal­lenge to dis­qual­ify nom­i­nat­ing pa­pers that vol­un­teers for Demo­crat Andy Gronik’s cam­paign for gov­er­nor gath­ered in pre­dom­i­nantly AfricanAmer­i­can ar­eas of Mil­wau­kee.

With sur­gi­cal pre­ci­sion, as his cam­paign put it, the GOP fo­cused its com­plaint on sig­na­tures from Mil­wau­kee neigh­bor­hoods that are the most seg­re­gated in the na­tion.

The party claimed two of Gronik’s cir­cu­la­tors weren’t el­i­gi­ble to cir­cu­late his pa­pers due to felony con­vic­tions, as well as al­leged mi­nor tech­ni­cal ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

Those ac­cu­sa­tions were de­signed to high­light two com­mon racist stereo­types: that African Amer­i­cans are crim­i­nals, and that they’re not in­tel­li­gent enough to fol­low the rules.

Walker’s chal­lenge to Gronik’s sig­na­ture col­lec­tion was — of course — not grounded in elec­toral real­ity. The state Elec­tion Com­mis­sion re­viewed the com­plaints and went on to unan­i­mously adopt the staff’s rec­om­men­da­tion to place Gronik on the bal­lot. His vol­un­teers col­lected 3,602 valid sig­na­tures, far sur­pass­ing the min­i­mum of 2,000.

In a state­ment to the press, Gronik fired back at Walker and the GOP and re­jected the sug­ges­tion that Gronik’s judg­ment should be ques­tioned for hir­ing ex-felons who’ve paid their debt to so­ci­ety. “I do not be­lieve that ev­ery sen­tence should be a life sen­tence,” Gronik said. “It’s ab­surd that Walker’s Repub­li­can Party would sug­gest my judg­ment is im­paired for hir­ing peo­ple just try­ing to get on with their lives.”

ON­GO­ING EF­FORTS TO DIS­EN­FRAN­CHISE BLACKS

The chal­lenge to Gronik’s nom­i­nat­ing pa­pers is rightly seen as part of the on­go­ing Repub­li­can cam­paign to dis­en­fran­chise African Amer­i­cans. That’s a cor­ner­stone of the party’s elec­toral strat­egy — and it paid off for them in 2016, when the black-voter turnout in Wis­con­sin dropped 19 per­cent from 2012. While the lack of an African Amer­i­can at the top of the ticket in 2016 may ex­plain part of the fall-off, much of it was also the re­sult of Walker’s photo ID re­stric­tions and the end to early vot­ing. It’s pos­si­ble that the lat­ter fac­tors were large enough to have changed the elec­tion out­come in the state: Trump won by around 22,000 votes.

With such bla­tant dis­plays of racism com­ing from the very top of Wis­con­sin’s gov­ern­ment, it’s no won­der that stud­ies con­tin­u­ally find the state has the na­tion’s high­est black-white gaps in terms of in­come, em­ploy­ment, health, in­car­cer­a­tion and ed­u­ca­tion. No­tably, those dis­par­i­ties have grown worse dur­ing the 30 years that Walker has held elected of­fice, and some of the dis­par­i­ties, such as ris­ing poverty rates among African Amer­i­cans, can be tied di­rectly to poli­cies that Walker has pro­moted.

Gronik tried turn­ing the ta­bles on Walker by us­ing the Repub­li­can at­tack on his cam­paign as a teach­able mo­ment. He held a news con­fer­ence at Cof­fee Makes You Black to give three of his vol­un­teers — Bianca Shaw, Ch­eryl Meeks and Torre John­son — the chance to talk about their ex­pe­ri­ences with the elec­toral process.

We hope Walker’s lat­est at­tack on African-Amer­i­can vot­ers will back­fire by en­er­giz­ing black vot­ers to turn out in greater num­bers in Novem­ber — along with the many white vot­ers who are dis­gusted by racism.

Edi­tor’s note: Wis­con­sin Gazette has en­dorsed Gronik for gov­er­nor.

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