Did anyone else notice that of the "ATT 5" (hat tip on the moniker to MyDD) -- the five Dems who crossed party lines to join the Republicans on yesterday's net neutrality vote -- three are Congressional Black Caucus members (Edolphus Towns, Albert Wynn, and Bobby Rush) and one is a Congressional Hispanic Caucus member Charlie Gonzalez? What gives?
I'll tell you what gives. This amendment was staring down the barrel of a Republican committee majority, and these four made the cynical calculation that black and Latino folks don't care about / don't follow internet regulation policy. What better time to toss the telecom lobby a freebie?
Yesterday's vote was an opportunity to show a little principle, but the nays by Towns, Wynn, Gonzales and Rush were gutless (if not downright craven.) The votes were also poor policy decisions that may very well cost their constituents hard-earned dollars. Lots of folks have explained net neutrality better than I'll be able to, but suffice to say that if telecoms are allowed to pin premium pricing schemes to the delivery of services they currently treat "neutrally," black and Latino consumers -- who have gone from redlining victims to crap MVNO-target market -- will be among the first to get screwed.
Setting aside the narrow issue of how fast, say, Amazon loads on a browser in Flatbush, the votes throw a neatly illuminating light on the coming disconnect between the civil rights establishment and the overwhelmingly white "net-roots." It's fair to say both sides view each other with some distrust. We're living through a deeply contradictory time when black folks (and what's left of the unions) are the Dems only truly reliable voting block, and yet every other manifesto for Democratic revitalization is some kind of attenuated, okie-doke Souljah-moment retread. War or no war, that particular center will not hold, and when it comes finally undone the pressure will be on our black and Latino Democrats to articulate a vision of civil rights, diversity and community that intuitively understand issues of net neutrality as one of "our" issues. Performances like yesterday's make me a little nervous, though.