Part 2—Alabama’s 28 counties: In this morning’s New York Times, David Brooks bashes the pseudo-conservative world’s revolution of the saints.
This ongoing, sputtering revolution features “elected leaders of jaw-dropping incompetence,” Brooks incomparably says. He lists the values and practices which took hold when these saints came to power:
“Political identity became a sort of ethnic identity,” Brooks writes. Also this: “Compromise is corruption. Inconvenient facts are ignored.”
Inconvenient facts are ignored! We thought of our own tribe’s most recent jihad, the one involving driver’s licenses in darkest Alabam’.
Our own saints have been pushing this jihad for about two weeks now. As our most saintly have told the tale, quite a few elementary facts have been ignored, disappeared.
You may know the outline of the claim. Late last month, as part of a budget cutback, Alabama announced it was closing 31 locations which conducted driver’s license tests, sometimes on a one day per week schedule.
These 31 locations were found in thirty of Alabama’s 67 counties. As a result of these closings, 28 counties lost their only site where a driver’s license could be obtained.
(Renewals can still be done in all counties. These closing only involve the initial acquisition of a license.)
Our saints understood what this meant. Alabama now requires photo ID to vote. Therefore, these closings must be an attempt to keep black Alabamians from being able to vote.
Our saints proceeded to cherry-pick certain counties to tell us about. This is part of what Rachel told us:
MADDOW (10/2/15): But here’s where it gets amazing. Here’s where the stories come together, because at the top of the short official state IDs Alabama will accept at the polls, top of the list is a driver’s license. And, of course, the state just made it harder to get a driver’s license. But they didn’t make it equally harder to get for everyone.On a technical basis, Rachel was flirting with plagiarism as she presented that work. Beyond that, her full presentation was grossly misleading, in various ways, as we’ll detail tomorrow.
Of the 28 counties losing the place in that county where you get a driver’s license, half of them are in the Alabama Black Belt. Half!
Look at this. Of the counties in that state where three-quarters of the registered voters are black, every single one of those counties—every single one of them—is losing the place where you can get a driver’s license that would let you vote in Alabama!
Every one of the counties which is more than 75 percent black!
For today, let’s just say this: In the 2010 census, there were only two counties in Alabama which were more than three-quarters black by population. And it's true:
Every one of those (two) counties had its location closed!
In fairness, there may be three such counties, depending on how Rachel’s source was counting. Meanwhile:
“Of the 28 counties losing the place in that county where you get a driver’s license, half of them are in the Alabama Black Belt?” Tomorrow, we’ll show you how badly Rachel had to stretch to make that fervent statement.
(Hint: Most of the Black Belt counties to which she refers are not majority black. We’ll guess her staff didn’t know that.)
Rachel was picking and choosing her facts to create a preferred impression. Rather, her source had picked and chosen his facts. Her staff had then cut and pasted.
Having said that, how about the overall population of those 28 counties—the 28 counties which are losing their driver’s license locations?
Over the weekend, we made our analysts do the work which Rachel’s staff skipped or ignored. And uh-oh! Here’s what they learned about those 28 counties:
In the 2010 census, Alabama’s statewide population was 67.0% white, 26.2% black. And uh-oh! In that same census, the population of those 28 inconvenienced counties was, according to our best arithmetic, 28.2% black!
Given those numbers, does it still look like black Alabamians were targeted in these closings? Should Rachel have mentioned those numbers as she stirred our souls?
Should Rachel have given us those ignored facts? Below, you see the eight biggest counties which lost their only driver’s license location last month. Remember—as a whole, Alabama is 67.0% white:
The eight biggest counties which lost their locationsFor the record, those eight counties contain almost exactly half the population of the 28 affected counties. Does it still look like this was a plot to target the state’s black voters?
Lauderdale County: 86.4% white
Lawrence County: 77.6% white
Chambers County: 58.8% white
Franklin County: 83.0% white
Geneva County: 86.3% white
Cherokee County: 92.7% white
Winston County: 97.3% white
Bibb County: 75.8% white
Please note: We’re not saying it was a good idea to close those 31 locations. Unfamiliar as we are with Alabama’s budget, we have no particular view about that.
Also note: As far as we know, there was no good reason for Alabama to require photo ID for voters in the first place. That said, the current jihad doesn’t concern that decision, which was made in 2013. The current jihad concerns the claim that last month’s closings were an attempt to target black Alabamians, to make it harder for black Alabamians to vote.
That claim becomes much harder to sustain when you allow yourself a full range of facts. Perhaps for that reason, “inconvenient facts were ignored” to an embarrassing extent when our tribe’s most fervent saints gave us our latest story.
In her full presentation, Maddow cherry-picked certain facts. She “ignored” quite a few others.
Starting tomorrow, we’ll look at her full presentation. For today, consider something the New York Times did.
On Saturday morning, the Times did its first news report about this exciting new jihad. Just a guess:
The Times understood the relative weakness of our tribe’s latest claim—it just didn’t want to say so! We got that impression as we observed the murky way reporter Campbell Robertson conveyed, or possibly failed to convey, another basic fact:
Alas! In every county in Alabama, a citizen can still obtain a free voter ID card. There is no charge for that photo ID. You can get one in every county.
As far as we know, there’s no good reason why Alabama chose to require a photo ID in the first place. But an Alabamian doesn’t need a driver’s license in order to vote. He or she can obtain a free voter ID right there in his or her home county.
That fact is part of this story too. Rachel never mentioned that fact as she stirred the souls of our own tribe’s saints.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at Rachel's fuller presentation—at the many facts she chose to ignore, at the cherry-picked and misleading facts she chose to convey. Eventually, we'll consider the way the New York Times conveyed, or failed to convey, that additional fact about free voter ID.
As our saints have told and retold this story, the misrepresentations have only gotten worse. This morning, Brooks correctly trashes this sort of behavior when done by the other tribe.
Tomorrow: Horrible all the way down
Adding to our facts: Today, we’ve added to our collection of basic facts. We’ve cited a few “inconvenient facts” which have largely been “ignored.”
Let’s review, working from the 2010 census:
As a state, Alabama was 67.0% white, 26.2 percent black. According to our best arithmetic, the population of the 28 counties which just lost their driver’s license location was 28.2% black.
You can learn to love Alabama’s counties too! To find all the data we are using, start here, scroll down, click on.
Which 28 counties lost their locations? To review Kyle Whitmire's map,
you can just click here.