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Published with permission from Media Matters for America

The NRA’s magazine America’s 1st Freedom celebrated racist former NRA board member and NRA Executive Council member Jeff Cooper and recommended that people read the late Cooper’s newsletter — which was peppered with racial slurs and defenses of slavery — before the 2016 election.

In an August 3 article, America’s 1st Freedom feted the upcoming 40th anniversary of Gunsite, a shooting academy founded by Cooper. The article lavishes praise on Cooper’s “well-known erudition,” calling him “a formidable historian and philosopher of broad, eclectic taste.”

The article concludes with a note suggesting, “For further reading, we highly recommend Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries” before linking to where the newsletter can be read online. Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries were a monthly to bi-weekly publication that ran from 1993 until Cooper’s death in 2006.

According to the NRA, the commentaries “are insightful, wide-ranging and quite frequently laugh-out-loud funny” and “Even 10 or more years later, many of his observations remain astute and timely, particularly in advance of the 2016 presidential election.”

Cooper often used racial slurs in his newsletter, including calling people of Middle Eastern descent “ragheads,” black children “pickaninnies” and “goblins,” Japanese people “nips,” Vietnamese people “gooks,” American Indians “pesky redskins” and “Injuns,” and black South Africans “kaffirs” — a term equivalent to the slur “nigger” in the United States.

After the Transvaal Province in South Africa was renamed to the Gauteng Province during the 1994 post-Apartheid elections which were open to all races, Cooper suggested that the province’s inhabitants should be referred to as “Oranggautengs.”

In response to a 1999 speech by Nelson Mandela, Cooper put forward the racist idea that “Equality is biologically impossible, and liberty is only obtainable in homogeneous populations very thinly spread.” Years later, he also wrote, “Sorry, Mr. [Thomas] Jefferson, but all men are not created equal. (‘All ya gotta do is look.’)”

A recurring theme in Cooper’s newsletter was defending the institution of slavery. In one instance, Cooper claimed that “slavery has been the normal condition of mankind for most of history. What do you do with the losers? You either kill them outright or put them to work”:

We reflect, in this period of racist agitation, that slavery has been the normal condition of mankind for most of history. What do you do with the losers? You either kill them outright or put them to work. If you pen them up you have to feed them, and you have enough trouble feeding yourself. Despite this a large number of semi−literate types in the States seem to think of slavery as a unique invention of the southern states of the US over a period of a few generations.

Cooper mused that abolishing slavery in the United States was “a mistake” in another commentary, suggesting the institution of slavery is as inevitable as “gravity,” and argued that “Without the institution of slavery, civilization would never have been achieved, for no one could ever have done anything intellectual if he had to spend all his time hewing and digging and fighting.” According to Cooper (emphasis original), “Colonial Africa was a far better place for both black and white before the colonists gave up.”

Cooper was an anti-gay bigot who praised Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe for calling LGBT people “perverts who do not deserve civil rights.” He also wrote that “lesbians make lousy shots” compared to “normal girls.”

The NRA article praising Cooper’s commentaries was published the day before an NRA representative appeared on Fox News to discuss NRA efforts to appeal to a more diverse audience:

NRA Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre speaks during the leadership forum at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting Friday, May 3, 2013 in Houston. (AP Photo/Steve Ueckert)

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

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In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

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Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

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