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African American Women Could Swing the Election

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

EXCLUSIVE Black Women Could Swing November’s Vote

President Obama rallies voters in Philadephia for the midterm elections. Photo by Emery Hines. This article first appeared as an Exclusive article in the Women’s Media Center on October 25. 2010.

With the midterm election fast approaching, African American women are emerging as crucial to success for Democrats according to voting analysts and the Democratic National Committee. In 20 House races, mostly in southern states, African American women could be the deciding factor.

Analyst Page Gardner, founder of Women’s Voices, Women Vote, follows women’s voter enthusiasm.  Her review reveals a recent increase in interest among unmarried and minority women. And small blocs of voters can be decisive. As Gardner recalls, in the last midterm election, there were 15 House races that were decided by only about 2000 votes. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released an October 14 report by David Bositis, a longtime political analyst, which confirms African American voters could tip many of the most competitive races.  Hence, voter turnout among African American women is the key for Democrats success.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine met with a group of mostly female, influential African American bloggers to stress the point of getting the 5 million first time African American voters from 2008, most of whom were women, back out again in 2010. Efforts are also aimed at longtime, reliable African American women voters.  The DNC has spent $3 million specifically to court the African American vote—unprecedented for a midterm election.  Since June, the DNC has focused on grass roots activities, taking its message to African American communities by talking in beauty salons, door knocking, phone calling, mailing, texting, contacting clergy—and reinforcing the effort with radio, print and online ads.

Getting out the African American women’s vote will not be an easy task.  Approval among African Americans for President Obama still soars above 90 percent compared to 47 percent overall. And crowds rally enthusiastically to see him, as witnessed in recent rallies in Philadelphia and Bowie, Maryland.  Yet, until recently, there has not been much enthusiasm in the African American community for the midterm election.

The tide is slowly turning. The DNC and Democratic candidates are educating the African American electorate that voting in the midterm is the same as standing in support of President Obama.  And the president is taking his case directly to his main base of African American women, telling crowds, “don’t make me look bad.” African American women are getting the point. At rallies, President Obama is now seeing their signs saying, “we’ve got your back.”  Among African American women, there is still a strong sense of family pride with President Obama.

Historically, there is precedent for African American women making a significant change in the outcome of a midterm election.  In the 1998 midterm race, where Republicans sought to impeach President Bill Clinton, African American women turned out in significant numbers.  And President Obama’s favorable rating among African American women is even higher in some competitive states than was President Clinton’s.  This year, the attacks on President Obama by the Tea Partiers and Republicans could backfire, bringing out more African American women to defend their own.

 Yet, African Americans have a something of a bi-polar mentality when it comes to President Obama.  Often African Americans are euphoric in their support for President Obama but at other times depressed at his handling of issues affecting them.  No one can be sure which side will show up for the midterms.

Despite high approval ratings for the President, a harsh reality faces African Americans.  While the nation’s unemployment stands at 9.6 percent, unemployment for African Americans is over 16 percent. Foreclosure rates remain higher in the African American community:  Prince George’s County, Maryland, one of the most affluent African American communities in the nation, has the highest foreclosure rate in the state. Many African American women feel the President has not done enough for them. Voters such as Velma Hart—who asked at a recent town meeting, Is this our new reality?”—are not sure that he has had their back. African Americans also express disappointment with the President’s handling of racial issues such as the Professor Henry “Skip” Gates incident and the Shirley Sherrod debacle.  Many African American women do not feel engaged in the process.

 There are three things African American women must do. They must demand that Democrats continue to engage them in the process even after the polls close on November 2. They must continue to push Democrats for needed reforms in the African American community.  But first they must vote on November 2. The euphoric side of African American women must show up that day.

Debbie Hines, Esq. is an attorney who also blogs for the Huffington Post and Women’s Media Center. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington Univesity Law School and a BA from University of PA.  She is based in Washington, DC.

President Obama Video Pics in Philly

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

POTUS in Philly by  Emery Hines @ YouTube video presentation: @

A picture is worth a thousand words.  So, these pictures are priceless capturing the magic of President Obama at the first Philadelphia rally on  Sunday, October 10. He is scheduled to appear for another rally the weekend of October 30, 2010.  Vote November 2, 2010.

Blog Talk Radio Interviews Debbie Hines

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Blog Talk radio interviewed Debbie Hines, founder of LegalSpeaks in a rousing discussion on the media, law and politics.   She shares her views on race and racism in the media, law and politics. Debbie spoke on the media’s lack of efforts to engage intellectual  and educated experts on black topics; her thoughts on President Obama and the upcoming midterm election; the career of law and racism in the profession.  Please listen here for the full interview on BlogTalk radio on Raising the Bar with Attorney Debbie Hines.

Obama and Dems Feel the Magic at Philly Rally

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

On Sunday, October 10, 2010 I travelled to Philadelphia to cover and report on the Move America Forward rally with President Obama, Vice President Biden and elected Philadelphia officials.  The mood, music and message were magical much like the 2008 Obama election rallies. But, this is a far cry from 2008.  The Dems and Obama need a little magic to pull out the mid -term election unscathed.   I wrote my first article on Huffington Post on the rally titled:  President Obama and a Magical Moment at a Philly Rally.

To hear and see video and photographs from the rally, click on my  FaceBook  page.

Tell me your thoughts on the upcoming election.  Is it too soon to tell? Is it a done deal for the Democrats?  Is a little magic too late? Share your  thoughts and opinion.

Debbie Hines, Esq. writes on race, law and politics. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.  She is based in Washington, DC.

GOP Pledges Gutting of People

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

As a student taking exams knows, you never want to peak too soon. You always want to save the best for the exam day. In listening to Majority Whip Clyburn (D. SC) and Congressman Xavier Becerra (D.CA), that’s exactly what the Democrats are doing for the November mid- term election. The Democrats are hitting their stride right now, a few weeks before the mid- terms.  That’s exactly what they need to do. Here’s what Majority Whip Clyburn and Congressman Becerra   had to say on a recent  Center for American Progress Fund conference call.

The  facts are now being told by Majority Whip Clyburn in a way easily understood by everyone.  For instance, in talking about the GOP pledge, which should be called the Gutting of People pledge, Majority Whip Clyburn clearly made his points. The cutting of Pell grants will affect around 8 million students, most of which are African American and Latino who rely on these grants for a quality education. A quality education should be accessible for everyone not just the rich and affluent.  I could not have become an attorney without the use of grants.  The GOP Pledge seeks to repeal key portions of the health care law passed earlier this year. Republicans want to eliminate the extension of health care insurance benefits for young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26.  Why would anyone be opposed to helping young adults get a fresh start? The benefits are extended to allow  students the additional time to become employed after college graduation.   Acknowledging that we are in bad economic times but yet not wanting to give some relief to young adults seems hypocritical.  The Pledge to further gut health care benefits would repeal pre-existing  health conditions of children.   So, if your child has a pre-existing condition, the GOP wants them eliminated from your health insurance. 

Republicans don’t want to just gut health care benefits but gut  jobs too.  The GOP Pledge would eliminate 1 million jobs from the job market while everyone knows unemployment is high.  Cutting   1 million jobs would further increase the 16% black unemployment and 12% Latino unemployment.  The unemployment of blacks in some areas reaches 35%.  Imagine what unemployment will soar to if the Republicans carry out their pledge to gut jobs.  Republicans fail to acknowledge that 790,000 jobs were lost in the same month George Bush   handed over the keys to the country to President Obama, according to Clyburn.   A   report   from the Center for American Progress Fund details how the GOP intends to further bootstrap minorities and the country.

The Democrats are not only stressing what the Republicans are pledging to do. They are clearly and plainly telling their own story. Majority Whip Clyburn compared their efforts to a down payment on a house.  President Obama has paid the down payment on the house and now we need to do our part to keep us on track with the rest of the payment.  In a clear tone, Rep. Clyburn said we need to protect what the Democrats have done so far.  Tangling a carrot, he says if we do, some of those things left out, like the public option, could become a reality.  Majority Whip Clyburn stressed the Democrats kept their promise. Will the Republicans keep their promise to gut the people of America?  I hope we don’t get the chance to find the answer.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines, Esq. writes on race, law and politics.  She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.  She is a native of Baltimore, MD.

Freedom of Speech or Right to Privacy: Which is Superior?

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Imagine your son or daughter volunteers for military service. Then imagine, he or she is deployed oversees to fight for our country. Next imagine that he or she dies in the call of duty for our country in Iraq.  Next, imagine grieving the loss of your child to war.  Now, imagine that you attend the funeral of your child where members of an out of town religious sect protest, chant, yell and cause a circus atmosphere at the funeral of your child.  Those protestors shout that God is mad at us for the war and many other things having nothing to do with your son and shout the killing of your child is justified.  Does the Constitution protect this protest and speech under free speech?  Are the grounds of a funeral exempt from this type of behavior and speech?  That’s exactly what happened in the case of Snyder v. Phelps.

The case of Snyder v. Phelps stems from a 2006 funeral in Westminster, MD where protests by the Phelps’ Topeka, Kansas Westboro Baptist church during the funeral of Marine Matthew Snyder turned it into a circus atmosphere. According to Albert Snyder,  it took the last good memory of his son from his family.  The Phelps family church previously   protested the funerals of 200 soldiers. Allegedly, they protested the Snyder funeral because the family is Catholic.  The church claims US war deaths are God’s punishment for abortion and gay rights.  The Westboro Baptist church is certainly an unorthodox church.  Only family members are allowed to attend services.  Less than 20 persons attend. Doors are locked to all outsiders.

A jury in Baltimore, after hearing all the facts, awarded the family the sum of $10 million for invasion of their privacy and emotional distress caused by the protests. The trial court cut the verdict in half. The Westboro Baptist church appealed to the 4th Circuit court in Richmond, VA which overturned the verdict as protected by the 1st amendment and freedom of speech. Now, it’s the Supreme Court’s turn to decide the case. What will the Court decide? On Wednesday morning, October 6, 2010, the Supreme Court heard arguments in this very interesting case which shows fact is stranger than fiction.

Protestors showed up outside  for the oral argument before the supreme Court bearing signs reading,  Thank God for Dead Soldiers,  Thank God for Breast Cancer and Thank God for Hitler,  to name a few. One issue is whether the first amendment and free speech is absolute and superior to the Snyder family’s right to privacy in the burial of their son.  The Snyders argue that, at least, some type of balancing analysis should be applied to exempt funerals.  After all, funerals are like the sanctity of a home. There is no place to run or hide.  Several groups have weighed in on the arguments. Some media outlets, including the AP, are siding with Phelps’ Westboro church saying that freedom of speech needs to be upheld.  Veterans groups, forty states and the federal government support the Snyder family. Forty states and the federal government have filed amicus briefs in support of the Snyder family’s right to privacy in the burial of their son. States and the federal government have passed laws that govern and limit the time, place and manner of protests around funerals. They argue that funerals should be given greater status in reviewing free speech arguments.

Free speech covers the burning of the flag, pornography and the September 11th proposed Koran burning.  Free speech covers freedom of expressions including protests and signs; however, offensive and insensitive, they may appear to outsiders. 

This case is one of the first ones that new Justice Elena Kagan will hear. As former Solicitor General, she recused herself from many cases.   Of the 9 justices, 6 are Catholic.  Will the religious background of the justices play a role in the decision? Religion should not play any role in the Court’s decision. All justices and judges take an oath to be impartial. That includes their religious ideas and beliefs. Whichever way the court rules, it will probably be a close decision.

The oral arguments before the court will be on the Supreme Court’s website @ http://www.supremecourt.gov  on Friday, October 8.  It will be one of the most important decisions on first amendment and free speech rights in a long time.  A decision is not expected for a while.

Debbie Hines, Esq. writes on race, law, women and politics. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.  She is a native of Baltimore, MD.