At least my name got spelled right

In his weekly sermon berating us for failing (once again!) to meet his high moral and civic standards, Dallas Morning News opinion columnist Rod Dreher quotes me a number of times without, of course, actually identifying me.

The passages were from a 2005 feature on why Dallas doesn't have a native intellectual class, and specifically a chief reason I advanced for this lack: It's one of the effects on area culture and society of our wicked "churn." Research has shown that Dallas has an extremely high percentage of residents who are brand-new and won't stay long. We're here for the jobs and then we're gone -- that's churn. It's very difficult, book/daddy concluded, to maintain any sort of collective effort. Neighborhood groups, brainy networks, social outlets, even political campaigns can't muster up regular support. (The other chief reason for a dearth of brainy sorts is a lack of relevant jobs -- there are few policy journals, think tanks, institutes and even a serious graduate research library in these parts.)

In this context, Monsignor Dreher quotes me as writing "it's hard to establish traditional social networks with such a mobile population." Actually, I never wrote that -- the monsignor added the word "traditional." My adjective was "citywide" and the examples I used were arts groups and professional associations. Probably not, one suspects, the conservative monsignor's notions of "traditional."

More importantly, Msgr. Dreher uses this info as a way to chastise readers for our lousy voter turnout last weekend (in reality, it was low but higher than expected). His real purpose, though, is to blast a lawsuit by Hispanic activists in Irving, Texas (a suburb of Dallas), demanding a court-imposed system of single-member districts as a way to ensure better minority representation. Funnily enough, such a lawsuit -- even though the monsignor says this one shouldn't win and won't win -- is exactly what happened in Dallas a generation ago. To the consternation of the News and to establishment whites in general at the time, the federal courts forced Dallas to develop its current single-member set-up because of a history of calculated racial exclusion.

One does wonder where those Hispanic activists get their wild-eyed ideas. Silly buggers. Of course, after two terms of the Bush administration stuffing Justice Department positions and federal judgeships with people dedicated not to enforcing discrimination laws, perhaps the monsignor is right in his prediction.

But that's not why Msgr. Dreher thinks the lawsuit will fail -- no surprise there. The lack of HIspanic representation in Irving is not due to an unfair system, he argues. It's actually because of laziness and indifference among Hispanic voters, and he cites voter turnout and population figures to prove it. Apparently -- if we are to follow the monsignor's argument here bringing in my point about churn there at the beginning -- apparently, Hispanics, who have a much larger percentage of adults without a high school diploma, are coming here for those big-buck, high-tech, leaf blower jobs but then they're moving on to greener pastures when they get promoted to senior office manager. There's a lot of churn and advancement in the yard maintenance, housecleaning and no-skill construction areas.

If Msgr. Dreher hadn't been so quick to hurt himself, patting himself on the back for voting last Saturday even though, he confesses, he really didn't care much about the outcome, he might have delved a little further into some of the research on voter turnout, especially among the working-class, the poor and minorities. Their turnout record is a fine example of his fellow conservatives' pride and joy: the self-interest of the marketplace.

Basically, why should they vote? There's very little advantage for them: Very little changes or has changed in their favor. Health care, affordable housing, the well-established prejudice in housing loans against them (and owning a home automatically would elevate them into middle-class tax breaks but they can forget those), the lack of mass transit that requires them to own a car (and car insurance), the inability of minimum wage increases to make a dent on their poverty level even when working two jobs: These problems haven't really changed in decades. And the widespread perception -- surely it's only a perception -- that government policies skew toward benefiting the wealthy and well-connected, this just might increase their sense of alienatioin. The argument, made by these guys, for one, is that positive party contacts with folks across socioeconomic levels help demonstrate the effectiveness of voter participation. And as politicians have decided to hell with that, we need to court the rich donors, such positive, grass-roots contacts have plummeted. And so has voter turnout.

Or then again, it could be just those Mexicans, being lazy and indifferent again.

November 11, 2007 4:24 PM | | Comments (1)



Nice, sharp-tounged piece. Good for you. I came across this page ( looking to find out the current status of the lawsuit.

What is the current status of that?

Simon L


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