Posted 1 month ago on June 23, 2014, 8:12 p.m. EST by LeoYoh
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The ALEC Angle in Scott Walker's "Toxic Strain of Racial Politics"
Monday, 23 June 2014 11:04
By Brendan Fischer, PRWatch | Report
Scott Walker's political success in Wisconsin is attributable to "a toxic strain of racial politics," the New Republic argues this month in a front-page article. But Walker has long backed policies that have a disproportionate impact on people of color, particularly the harsh sentencing laws he pushed as a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that have contributed to Wisconsin's worst-in-the-country record of racial disparities in incarceration.
The thesis of the New Republic piece -- which most right-wing bloggers seem to have missed -- is not that Walker necessarily has personal animus towards people of color, but that his political success is largely attributable to deep support in the overwhelmingly white suburbs surrounding Milwaukee and from the polarizing talk radio hosts that hold sway in those enclaves. This might win elections in the Dairy State, but may not be a recipe for success on a national stage, the New Republic argues.
The piece doesn't focus on Walker's record of pushing policies that have disproportionately impacted people of color. But that record exists.
Most notably, as a state legislator and ALEC member in the 1990s, Walker pushed ALEC-inspired tough-on-crime measures that experts say contributed to Wisconsin having the country's highest rate of African-American men behind bars. As governor, he has eliminated programs designed to track and remedy these disparities, and rolled-back efforts to soften harsh sentencing laws, even as sentencing reform gains bipartisan support across the country.
Nationally, the incarceration rate for African-American men is 6.7 percent, but it is nearly double in Wisconsin, at 13 percent. This rate is three percentage points higher than in Oklahoma, the state in second place. According to recent data, African-American men are only 6% of Wisconsin's overall population but 48% of the state's prison population.
These complex disparities don't have a single cause, but criminal justice experts say that tough sentencing laws passed in the late 1990s -- with Walker's backing -- have been a significant contributing factor.
"The explosion really took place in the year 2000 to 2008 where mandatory sentencing, three strikes was put in place and it more than tripled the population in just a few years, which meant about half of the black men in their 30s or early 40s in Milwaukee County would have spent time in the state's correctional facilities. And two-thirds of the men come from the six poorest zip codes in Milwaukee," University of Wisconsin Professor John Pawasarat told National Public Radio.