Civil Rights first item under Obama ‘Agenda’ on his White House Web site

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He pledges to end gender and race-based pay disparities, push through the Fair Pay and Employment Non-Discrimination Acts, harshly penalize voter fraud, outlaw racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies, provide financial incentives to local and

He pledges to end gender and race-based pay disparities, push through the Fair Pay and Employment Non-Discrimination Acts, harshly penalize voter fraud, outlaw racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies, provide financial incentives to local and state police to ban racial profiling and to dump the race-tinged drug sentencing disparities. President Barack Obama also promises to push through Congress the long-stalled Matthew Shepard Act. This markedly expands hate crime prosecutions. None of these things are really new.

Obama pledged to take swift action on hate crimes, voting rights, employment discrimination and the repressive drug laws on his campaign website. Yet they never got off the campaign website and were virtually nonexistent as campaign talking points.

Candidate Obama’s reluctance to talk much about his civil rights agenda on the campaign trail was a calculated political move. Talk of civil rights has been taboo in all recent American presidential races. It seeps into presidential debates only when a Democratic or Republican presidential contender or president snatches the issue to assure middle class voters that he will not tilt toward or pander to minorities or to race bait their opponents.

In a 1988 debate, Bush Sr. slammed Democratic contender Michael Dukakis as being soft on crime for allegedly letting Black convict Willie Horton roam free to commit rape and murder. Bill Clinton used Jesse Jackson as a foil to assure middle class voters that he would fight just as hard as conservative Republicans to protect their interests. In one of their debates in 2000, Bush and Democratic rival Al Gore clashed over affirmative action. Both were intent to distance themselves from the issue.

Obama knew that talk of civil rights invariably translates out to talk of race. This was a minefield that could blow up at any time, and the explosion could mortally wound his candidacy. The endless TV sound loop of his former pastor Jeremiah Wright’s inflammatory racial tirades in the midst of his fierce primary battle with Hillary Clinton sent momentary shell shocks through the campaign. It forced Obama to scramble fast and do damage control. The Wright flap guaranteed that race would not be even a vague utterance during the remainder of the campaign.

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