The content of Joe Biden’s speech before the nation’s largest civil-rights organization on Wednesday sounded a lot like the last one he gave there two years ago.
The vice president, just as he did at the NAACP’s annual convention in 2012, said that “it’s good to be home.” He reminded his audience that today’s conservatives are not “your father’s Republican Party.” He gave another shout-out to his old friend, an unidentified man nicknamed Mouse, who was there with the Delaware delegation. And he said that voting rights in the United States should be expanded, not diminished.
The context of this year’s speech, however, was vastly different. A year after Biden addressed the NAACP in 2012, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that calls for closer federal regulation of voting laws in states with a history of racial discrimination. Since then, several states have changed their voting policies, establishing restrictions that stand to make casting a ballot more difficult for black voters (ProPublica has a useful “now and then” map of the state-level effects of the Court’s decision).
After a century of disenfranchisement, black voters are becoming a decisive base for both midterm and general elections. Their turnout in the 2012 presidential election exceeded that of white voters for the first time in history, which helped to send President Obama to the White House. But in 2010, a low black voter turnout contributed in part to major wins for Republicans in the House of Representatives.
Although voter turnout is usually lower during midterm elections than general elections — for all voters — black voters can have a big impact in some races this November, explains Nate Cohn at The New York Times. He writes:
If Democrats win the South and hold the Senate, they will do so because of Southern black voters. This year’s closest contests include North Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia. Black voters will most likely represent more than half of all Democratic voters in Louisiana and Georgia, and nearly half in North Carolina. Arkansas, another state with a large black population, is also among the competitive states.
In his speech on Wednesday, Biden tried to rally support among such voters, calling GOP efforts to expand restrictive voting policies like identification laws “an aberration.” “America is strongest when no voice is diminished,” he said.
Two years ago, Biden was animated and jovial. This year, four months ahead of a pivotal election for his party, he was stern. “We’ve got to awaken the country,” Biden said, and people began to clap. “I mean this earnestly, it’s not an applause line.”
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."