The Racial Politics Of Erik Paulsen

An analysis of Erik Paulsen’s voting record reveals that he’s only voted in favor of legislation that promotes racial equality less than 12 percent of the time. That’s according to Politics That Work, a political data site.

In 2013, for instance, Paulsen voted in favor of an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act that stripped protections from Native Americans and LGBT women. The amendment ultimately failed 166-257.

In 2015, Paulsen voted in favor of two amendments to H.R. 2577, an appropriations bill, that negatively impacted racial minorities. The first amendment, offered by Rep. Paul Gosar (R.-Ariz.) prohibited the use of funds to enforce the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. The AFFH rule was issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2015 to “[promote] housing choice and [foster] inclusive communities free from housing discrimination” in communities supported by HUD funds. But conservatives — including Paulsen, presumably — saw the effort to fight housing discrimination as another instance of “massive government overreach.” (“Presumably” because he has never offered a public explanation as to why he voted for the amendment.)

The second amendment Paulsen supported was intended to prohibit spending on administration or enforcement of HUD’s Implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s Discriminatory Effects Standard, a 2013 regulation that formalized HUD’s interpretation of discriminatory effects in housing. The Discriminatory Effects Standard allowed the department to apply a consistent standard nationwide when evaluating what passed as discrimination in housing. The Clearinghouse Review Journal of Poverty Law and Policy described the standard as “a long-awaited confirmation of core civil rights principles.” Yet Rep. Paulsen opposed it by voting for the amendment.

That same year, Paulsen voted against an amendment that would have authorized the STEM Gateways program, an initiative designed to increase participation of minority students in STEM. Minorities are dramatically underrepresented in STEM occupations and university majors. According to The Hill, “In 2011, 11 percent of the workforce was black, but only 6 percent of the STEM workforce. Similarly, Latinos comprise 15 percent of the workforce but only 7 precent of STEM workers.”

Last year, Paulsen voted against an amendment designed — as Politics That Work explains — to “protect the viability of civil rights class actions.” The bill (H.R. 1927) would have made it made it harder for people to file class action lawsuits. In class actions, one group of people with broadly similar interests sues for damages caused by a certain product or action — like, for instance, institutionalized racial discrimination in housing, employment, or wages. John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced an amendment to ensure that such civil rights suits would be unaffected by H.R. 1927. Unfortunately — thanks in part to Rep. Paulsen — Conyers’ amendment failed and the bill passed, further eroding America’s civil rights protections.

It’s unsurprising that Paulsen is reluctant to embrace an agenda that supports racial and ethnic minorities. His party, after all, has proven perfectly willing to activate and pander to the most racist elements of our society in order to maintain power.

The Third Congressional District is almost 90 percent white, but inequality and racial discrimination affects us all. Paulsen should not be allowed to continue scuttling efforts to improve the lives of our fellow citizens.

Featured image via YouTube.

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