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April 18th, 2013
06:04 PM ET

Immigration reformers seek to avoid deja vu

By Halimah Abdullah, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Opponents of a bipartisan Senate effort to reform the nation's immigration policies calculate that dragging out debate by offering so-called "poison pill" amendments designed to tank support and stoking conservative ire on the airwaves will derail the proposal.

It is a strategy that stymied the immigration overhaul efforts of 2007.

Legislative aides and the bill's supporters worry that with days running out in the congressional calendar and a heavy plate of issues before lawmakers, efforts to overhaul the nation's immigration system could get sidelined.

The so-called "Gang of Eight" senators who have labored for months, largely in secret, are expected to discuss their proposal at a press conference on Thursday.

But the pushback has already begun.

"It seems pretty clear that they are pursuing a strategy of trying to draw this out as long as possible because this bill has to get done as quickly as possible," said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, which advocates for low-income communities.

"It's a ploy to try and throw sand in the gears and I suspect there will be a long list of poison pill amendments that will be offered through committee," Bhargava said.

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March 19th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

Tough racial issues face GOP in minority outreach

By Halimah Abdullah, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Republican K. Carl Smith is African-American and he knows that the GOP's racial reckoning won't come from 100-page reports from party headquarters with carefully worded prescriptions about "outreach" to "demographic partners."

Instead, the type of sea change needed to shake the GOP's image as a party of old, white and culturally-insulated men will require the type of profound grassroots shakeup that might make some in the GOP uneasy.

"You got your establishment Republicans who want to keep things the same," said Smith, an Army veteran who grew up in Alabama during the Civil Rights era. "The status quo needs to go through some, I won't say diversity classes, but I'll say liberty classes and learn about helping people on the bottom of the ladder."

He said the party also has to deal with small but noisy elements that co-opt any message of inclusiveness if it wants to win the "propaganda battle."

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November 14th, 2012
09:09 AM ET

New U.S. House: Women and minorities to the left; white men to the right

By Halimah Abdullah, CNN

Washington (CNN) - When the incoming U.S. House freshmen of the 113th Congress take their class photo, the image will reflect two very different visions of the nation.

On the Democratic side: Women and minorities - a coalition that, along with young voters, largely helped re-elect President Barack Obama - collectively will for the first time in the nation's history outnumber white male Democrats.

On the Republican side: The majority of the House seats will be held by white men - a group which far outnumbers the now dwindled numbers of House GOP women and minorities after the losses of two minority members and about a half dozen women from that caucus.

"They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well the picture that you see before you is worth millions of votes, millions of aspirations and dreams of the American people for problem-solvers to come to Washington to get to the job done, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in welcoming the incoming freshman class to the Capitol for orientation.

"Today we officially welcome our Democratic freshmen to Washington. They are extraordinary leaders who will make our House Democratic caucus the first caucus in history, in the history of civilized government, to have a majority of women and minorities in the caucus."

It also symbolizes something else that is more troubling politically.

"It's basically a sign that both parties are distilling to their core, and they are living in parallel universes," said David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Ethnicity • History • How we look • Politics • Race • Women
November 8th, 2012
07:00 PM ET

How women ruled the 2012 election

By Halimah Abdullah, CNN

Washington (CNN) - In many ways, the 2012 election was the year of the woman.

Women — who have historically formed one of President Barack Obama's key constituencies — once again united behind him in large numbers and helped fend off defections from white male and independent supporters.

A record 20 women will hold U.S. Senate seats next year—including newly-elected Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, the first openly lesbian senator. The New Hampshire congressional delegation will be all female and, in Obama's home state of Hawaii, Democrat Mazie Hirono will represent the islands in the Senate.

"I'm not sure if it was as much a coincidence as a perfect storm," said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

"The conditions were right and the Republican nominee gave women pause."

According to CNN's exit polls, 55% of women and 45% of men voted for Obama and 44% of women and 52% of men voted for Romney. That level of female support for the president made an especially big impact in swing states like Ohio where the gender breakdown mirrored the national figures.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • History • How we live • Politics • Women
October 12th, 2012
06:30 PM ET

As Election Day nears, voter ID laws still worry some, encourage others

Editor's Note: CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns will debut a one-hour documentary, Voters in America: Who Counts, which focuses on new voting laws and how they may affect the outcome of the 2012 presidential election, airing on CNN/U.S. on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. ET and PT.

By Halimah Abdullah, CNN

Washington (CNN) - For LaVon Bracy, the pain of racial discrimination, of fighting for her rights as a U.S. citizen, still aches every time she thinks about Florida's new voter identification law.

"When I think I had ancestors that died for this right. I owe it to them ... to do what I'm doing," said Bracy, who years ago helped desegregate her Florida high school and today is fighting to change voting restrictions she feels are designed to keep people like her away from the polls.

Parts of the Florida law - which required a photo ID to vote, restricted voter registration techniques and limited early voting - have been curtailed by federal courts.

Still, it is one of more than two dozen laws across the country approved in at least 15 states since 2011 to deal with concerns around voter fraud and election irregularities. But courts and the Justice Department have reversed or weakened several of those regulations in a flurry of recent litigation.

Anita MonCrief, however, could not disagree more strongly with Bracy.

MonCrief, who is also African American, told women gathered at the Woman's Up Pavilion at the Republican National Convention in August that she resents when other blacks suggest that efforts to crack down on voter fraud are racially motivated.

"This is not the 60's and blacks are not your victims," MonCrief tweeted during the week of the convention. "Do you know any blacks that have been disenfranchised by having poll watchers in place? Neither do I."

CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns will explore the impact of tough new voter laws in an hour-long documentary set to air on Sunday. It focuses on new legislative voting changes in Florida and how those changes may affect the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.

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