State. Rep. Alan Clemmons is not a racist.
Now onto the real issue
The authors of the new voter ID law in South Carolina told us it was about protecting the integrity of the voting process.
They neglected to tell us that it was also about comparing poor black voters who might be disenfranchised to racist stereotypes some believed had been put out to pasture with Jim Crow.
Apparently, though, the claims by some critics that the law felt like a dialing back of the clock to the Old South, where legal maneuvers by powerful men were used to hurt minorities werent far-fetched, even if they were unintentional.
Clemmons, who represents Myrtle Beach in the General Assembly, was forced to admit on the stand during a case that will determine if the law violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act that he responded positively to a racist email while he was crafting the voter ID bill.
An email to Clemmons from a man named Ed Koziol said that if the legislature offered a reward for identification cards, it would be like a swarm of bees going after a watermelon.
How did Clemmons respond?
Did he tell the man it had nothing to do with race and he would not participate in such ugly banter?
Did he tell the man he knew the email was a reference to a racist past that the state has moved beyond and never wants to replay?
Did he tell the man during the private email exchange what he had been telling us publicly, that it was simply about improving the voting process?
According to reports, Clemmons hesitated before answering, It was a poorly considered response when I said, Amen, Ed, thank you for your support.
If that was all there was, it would be tempting to chalk it up to a one-off slip up by Clemmons, a nothing-to-see-here story about a man caught not responding well to a broadside racist appeal, a test which most of us have probably failed and will again.
But that isnt all there is.
Numerous studies have shown that these laws will adversely affect the types of people Clemmons and Koziol so breezily demeaned.
A former head of the Florida GOP said his party actively and specifically spoke about trying to suppress the votes of blacks and Latinos.
The proliferation of such laws did not only push photo IDs. The made voter registration drives harder to sponsor and cut off procedures designed to make it easier for those who are eligible and want to vote.
Clemmons did everything he could to make the law as restrictive and regressive as possible even as many in his own party tried to lessen its potential negative impact.
One of the most powerful Republican politicians in South Carolina history, Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, also testified. He said the law would have been more in compliance with the Voting Rights Act if provisions such as an early voting period were included, which would have made it easier for eligible voters who had trouble securing photo IDs to still participate in the cherished democratic endeavor.
The Senate passed such a bill, but Clemmons fought against it, promising to pass an early voting bill later something he did not do.
And Clemmons has yet to prove that the voter fraud he said the bill is trying to prevent even exists.
It doesnt make Clemmons a racist any more than it makes anyone else who has made a mistake on this issue.
But it strongly suggests that he used other peoples legitimate concerns about voting integrity to target those bees on a watermelon.
Issac Bailey will be tweeting and blogging from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte beginning Sunday. Follow him at MyrtleBeachOnline.com.
Contact ISSAC J. BAILEY at 626-0357, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.com at @TSN_IssacBailey.