October 17, 2018

A Bridge Too Far

This week listeners to “>The New York Times likely learned about what was described as “one of the biggest problems we have in the system of justice that continues to create a lot of doubt and skepticism in communities of color,” the relatively small number of minorities and women serving as elected prosecutors around the country. An ailment for which a bizarre remedy was offered.

The “>Reflective Democracy Campaign.

The report reveals, in its “>data revealed that the vast majority of elected prosecutors around the country are white males (79%), approximately 16% of prosecutors around the county are female and 5% minorities of color.

From the data it collected, the report created a “National Representation Index Power Score” (the “NRI power score”) to indicate the extent to which “white men have representation” exceeding that of the rest of the population.

California, for example, is found to have a 3.4X “>piece on Tuesday, Stevenson responded to a question about how to increase minorities and women in prosecutorial offices (certainly a worthy goal):

….The other thing I think we need to talk about is whether we should be retreating from the election system and thinking more about an appointment process that reflects the complexity of these communities. If we're not going to see internal improvements, we're going to have to impose some of those improvements externally.

Stevenson, convinced that his flawed methodology has revealed Holy Writ, has no compunction about suggesting that the ultimate remedy would be to abrogate (i.e. “retreat from”)  the electoral process to “impose” (his word) “improvements” to the gender, ethnic and racial proportions in elected prosecutorial offices around the country.  More benign courses of action (e.g. running minority and female candidates, raising funds for such individuals, or encouraging more minorities to attend law school etc.) aren’t even hinted at; the system is, apparently, beyond saving.

If the results don’t comport with your notions of whom should be elected, cut out the elections!

Were America what it was a few decades ago, that argument might have had some persuasive force; minorities rarely got elected in large districts in which they were not the dominant segment of the population, one of the reasons for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But 2015 is NOT the 60s and the realities of elections in the 21st century are more complex and nuanced.

Former California State Senator Gloria Romero offered an analysis in the “>Cano v Davis):

…ultimately, we trust the voters. Most citizens cast their votes the American way—-they vote for the most qualified candidate, regardless of race or gender. All we have to do is compete for votes the old fashioned way: by earning them.

It’s a risky and dangerous game to presume to know how elections should come out and to tinker with democracy to achieve an “improved” result.