Abigail Thernstrom In NRO Says "Forget About" Panthers With Billy Clubs, Concentrate On Something More Boring

Abigail Thernstrom, the surviving neoconservative Republican on on the Civil Rights Commission, writing in NRO, says that conservatives should

Forget about the New Black Panther Party case; it is very small potatoes. Perhaps the Panthers should have been prosecuted under section 11 (b) of the Voting Rights Act for their actions of November 2008, but the legal standards that must be met to prove voter intimidation--the charge--are very high.

In the 45 years since the act was passed, there have been a total of three successful prosecutions. The incident involved only two Panthers at a single majority-black precinct in Philadelphia. So far--after months of hearings, testimony and investigation — no one has produced actual evidence that any voters were too scared to cast their ballots. Too much overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges has been devoted to this case.[The New Black Panther Case: A Conservative Dissent, National Review Online, July 6, 2010]

Instead, she wants us to concentrate on something much more wonkinsh and boring--the racial gerrymandering that takes place every ten years or, in an attempt to make the election of minorities inevitable in "majority-minority" districts.

Her cri d'ennui is quoted with approval by David Brock's Media Matters.

She has a very boring point, and if you read Voting Rights--and Wrongs: The Elusive Quest for Racially Fair Elections and Whose Votes Count?: Affirmative Action and Minority Voting Rights, you'll see what she means, supposing, that is, you can stay awake.

But people are moved by symbols. During the campaign for Civil Rights, the lunch counters were a symbol, the police dogs were a symbol, and bridge at Selma were symbols. When Hillary Clinton pointed out that these wouldn't have added up to much, if there weren't people like LBJ actually in office passing laws, everyone sneered, laughed, or cried out in horror.

Well, the armed Black Panther standing in the polling place door saying "You're about to be ruled by the black man, cracker," is powerful symbol, even if he's a "fringe" character.  But he's not really-- at Obama's DOJ, the  Assistant Attorney General said, in effect, the same thing.

According to J. Christian Adams, Loretta King, (who is black) said with reference to the official photographs of Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama that are displayed at the Department of Justice:


"I can’t tell you how exciting it is to go to work every day, and look up at the photos, and see that we now have two black men running the country."[J. Christian Adams: DOJ Opponents of Race-Neutral Law Should Explain Themselves, July 6, 2010]

The man with the billy club  may be a fringe character, but Assistant Attorney General Loretta King isn't. She's the one who dropped the charges.