[this is Part Two of yesterday’s post by Joshua Robert Dale]
Trial Lawyers to the Rescue!
How are racial-identity politics profitable to lawyers in the circumstance of voter composition? Before the answer to that is revealed, a couple of disclaimers: This author is a trial lawyer. I’m also white, and, as cable news often reminds me, I purportedly lack the moral privilege to even comment upon race-based identity politics.
To debunk that nonsense, I’ll reveal that I’m a centrist, having grown up in Orange County during a period that by modern standards seems racially insensitive, but was also, for purposes of the public schooling I received, the golden era of the post-MLK, Jr. epoch, when the ideal of a color-blind society didn’t seem naïve or unreachable, and was repeatedly taught to us as children as the ultimate goal of the Civil Rights Movement. Resultantly, when I vote, I never look at race or race-based issues. I’m certainly an “issue” voter as opposed to a slate voter, but none of my issues converge with racial-identity politics. And I don’t need a white candidate to represent my political interests any more than I need a male candidate to represent my interests as a man.
So on the rare occasion when I am forced to dabble in identity politics, I do so based upon vocation, and to adopt the preferred nomenclature, in those instances where I must, I self-identify as a Lawyer-American. As a Lawyer-American, I’m often hired to engage in rhetoric for the purpose of my clients’ cause while making me money. But rhetoric about racial-identity issues rarely helps either me or my clients in my particular practice. For others who may qualify as Lawyer-Americans though, racial-identity politics can be very remunerative, particularly in the circumstance relevant to what Fullerton residents are facing; i.e., California voter rights and the use of the CVRA to enforce those rights.
(As an aside, if we’re measuring the constitutional adequacy of political representation solely by self-identity criteria, as a Lawyer-American I feel very well represented by the current city council members. The current council has two attorneys on it. I don’t know exactly know where this 40 percent representation on my local city council compares in terms of California’s overall demographics, e.g., based on our car insurance rates, it seems like at least 40 percent of all Californians must be lawyers by now. Nonetheless, regardless of the state’s total demographic breakdown, two-out-of-five councilmembers seems like a generous amount of representation for the interests of the soulless and damned such as me.)
When it was first adopted, the aim of the CVRA was to empower California citizens to address inequities in local election systems. Imagine a company town where a small minority of company-aligned voters gets into office and rigs the system against the workers, and the workers use the CVRA to fix the system. But like most things in California, the CVRA was almost immediately corrupted into a make-work program for trial lawyers. From Proposition 65 to employment laws to public records laws to disability access laws, most California laws designed to right an injustice quickly become sops to trial lawyers seeking to recover attorney’s fees for bringing suit on behalf of some beleaguered or not-so-beleaguered group. So thus, not one, but five (five! The Lawyer-American in me screams, “boo-yah!”) sets of law firms eagerly lined up to help Mr. Paik and Ms. Jaramillo bring light and justice to the City’s voting procedure, which light and justice of course included the following settlement agreement provision: “The City agrees that it shall pay Plaintiffs’ reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in the CVRA Lawsuits.”
Money Grabs Masquerading as Progress
The inexorable march of progress (for attorney’s fees) continues to make its way through Orange County, first through Anaheim in 2014, and now through Fullerton. Who knows where it will next stop, but as tuition bills for college-age children become due in lawyers’ offices throughout Irvine and Los Angeles, it’s not unreasonable to expect the justice to be swifter and march of such progress to speed up. And as the progress continues, Fullerton and other affected cities’ residents who grew up being inculcated in the benefits of a color-blind society, and who gave little thought to racial or ethnic identity in electoral choices, have been taught a valuable lesson about not looking past the apparent importance of racial-identity politics.
Regardless of what Fullerton residents decide to do – to fully and enthusiastically participate in the dissection of the city into arbitrary racial suffrage pockets or to reject the effort outright during the general election and vote to keep at-large voting – one constituency will definitely win: lawyers. If Fullerton residents adopt district-based voting, then such will reinforce the practice of attorneys generating fees in Orange County cities by suing them in CVRA lawsuits. And if Fullerton residents reject district-based voting, then five sets of attorneys – or maybe more – will go storming back to court to continue the CVRA lawsuits against the City, with more attorney’s fees sought to be recouped from the City’s treasury for that continuing effort.
The Hypocrisy of Racial-Identity Politics
The lesson underscored by the forced cleaving of the community into racially-separated voting blocs, is that voters are apparently naïve to continue with a color-blind approach to voting that, among other things, prompted me and others to vote for a Korean-American in 2014 to represent us in the State Assembly. Based on plaintiffs’ salient points in their successful lawsuits, I and a majority of other Fullerton residents were fools to have so blithely assumed that Assemblywoman Young Kim could adequately represent our interests. On my part, I apparently failed because I didn’t factor into my voting choice the fact that my ancestors haled from the south bank of the River Aire and from the Rhône Valley but Assemblywoman Kim’s ancestors haled from the Han River estuary.
That’s nearly 12,000 miles of separation that, according to Asian Americans Advancing Justice – one of Mr. Paik’s sponsors and co-plaintiffs in his lawsuit against the City – we should have given at least as much consideration to as we gave to Assemblywoman Kim’s political ideology and her positions on the issues. I’m not sure where the ancestors of Assemblywoman Kim’s opponent in that election, incumbent Sharon Quirk-Silva, haled from, but based on Ms. Quirk-Silva self-identifying as Hispanic in her last two elections, and Hispanic being intertwined with the Caucasian classification, this was apparently a factor in her favor that I and many other white voters unnecessarily discounted in voting for Assemblywoman Kim.
Voters ignored these apparently important race and ethnicity factors despite Ms. Quirk-Silva helpfully attempting to point out the racial disparity between herself and Assemblywoman Kim. Thus, when late in her failed 2014 campaign, Ms. Quirk-Silva warned us in a campaign flyer that Ms. Kim was “not one of us,” we were wrong to dismiss such a tactic as merely crude racial pandering.
In 2014, Fullerton voters succeeded in ignoring the hypocrisy of racists telling us to be racist in how we vote. But thanks to lawyers and a couple of lawsuits, you can’t do that anymore. And Fullerton taxpayers get to pay for the process by which they are robbed of the right to avoid that hypocrisy.
What to Do About the Forced Death of Color-Blind Voting in Fullerton
June 7th gives Fullerton residents the opportunity to decide how invested they are in the racial-identity politics that have been injected into city electionsn by lawyers’ predation with the CVRA. Residents can look at the various maps being proposed and let their current councilmembers know during that council meeting why their individual political and racial-identity interests are most closely aligned with neighbors on one side of Commonwealth Avenue as opposed to those on the other. Perhaps Mr. Paik can inform the council why Asian-Americans’ concerns will be better addressed if a district boundary divides voters on either side of Bastanchury, but why a grave injustice that disenfranchises him and others will occur to him and the Asian-American electorate if a district boundary line is drawn up Euclid as opposed to Harbor. If he does offer any such explain, it will be a more cogent explanation of the harm he’d experience than was ever provided by him or his lawyers in the lawsuit that prompted this expensive exercise in the first place.
Regardless of outcome, some measure of justice is bound to occur if only because expensive private colleges are now a realistic possibility for some lawyer’s kid due to that lawyer’s firm seeing an increase this year in its profits-per-partner. And as a Lawyer-American, I’ve learned that I should be extremely happy with that outcome. In the era of identity politics, anything that’s good for lawyers is apparently the best way to serve my own interests.