Author: Douglas

Capitol Disobedience

Capitol buildings are citadels of power.

Their ornateness and their discongruity from the neighborhoods that surround them tends to engender equal parts awe and hatred, and this is by design. They could also be a place, however, where the working class captures the attention of those who have long ignored their voices. A place where we make democracy something tangible, something real. However, there are few moments in our political process that crystallize the limits that are placed on popular participation in our government than the public comment period of legislative hearings.

The Black Belt’s Revenge

(This was co-written by Douglas and Bryan.)

It came down to turnout, much as it always does.

1.3 million people voted in Alabama tonight, a turnout of over 50% in an off-year election. Black voters especially overperformed, turning their hands against Roy Moore, a man who said the last time America was great was before the Civil War (and an sexual predator to boot…seems like revanchist politics and predatory behavior is co-morbid). This has resulted in making Doug Jones, a prosecutor previously best known for successfully prosecuting Klan murderers, Senator from Alabama.

When Moore was last on the ballot, in 2012, he very narrowly defeated Bob Vance, Jr. to retake his seat as Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court. The Black Belt, named as much for the Black people who had been enslaved on plantations before the Civil War as much as the rich soil those plantations were situated on, was a wall across the state that ultimately broke Roy Moore’s dream of becoming Senator. The county-by-county turnout of that 2012 election largely matches the pattern seen in tonight’s election, with three exceptions: Lee County (home of Auburn University) and Talladega County went from supporting Moore in 2012 to opposing him, and Pike County ended up doing the opposite.

Other major communities in Alabama also turned out in force: Tuscaloosa went for Senator-elect Jones by seventeen points. Huntsville did much the same. Montgomery, Mobile, and Birmingham all went for Jones, and it was turnout in those communities that put Moore away tonight, now hopefully for good.

A More Progressive South? You can find it in Virginia.

What a night.

In my native Virginia, voters across the Commonwealth sent Republicans packing. Not only was there a second consecutive sweep at the top of the ballot — the first occurrence of this since the 1980s — but the state House of Delegates appears to have been fought to a 50-50 tie, though this might shift into Democratic control of the House as provisional ballots get counted and recounts occur. Even with the present composition, however, it would be the first time Republicans did not have control of Virginia’s lower chamber since the 1999 elections.

It was a landslide unlike anything we have seen in recent memory in the Commonwealth, and, contextually, anywhere else for that matter. There have been other Southern legislatures that have flipped heavily — all to the GOP — but those elections were less of a realignment than a predictable sorting: legacy Democrats who had long voted Republican at the federal level simply made their ballots a straight ticket in a political atmosphere where every election is nationalized. What happened in Virginia was much different, as Democrats won in places — like Virginia Beach and Prince William County — that are not typically seen as swing districts or even remotely friendly to their candidates.

And all this occurred despite a gubernatorial candidate whose campaign seemingly did its level best to give the whole damn thing away.

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Virginia Deserves Better.

Virginia is in the final hours of a gubernatorial contest that none of its residents deserve. But it did not have to be this way.

Tomorrow’s election had the markings of a bonanza for the Democratic Party. The Republican gubernatorial primary was a knock-em-down-and-drag-em-out affair, with a cheap Sons of Confederate Veterans knockofffrom Minnesota! — coming with 5,000 votes of the party’s nomination.

The eventual nominee, former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie, is probably the worst candidate to have running in a year where his party is about as popular as head lice, syphilis, and root canals. He is a Washington insider, a Virginia outsider (from New Jersey!), and is emblematic of the worst elements of the current rendition of his party.

The Democrats even have history on their side: With the exception of 2013, the opposition party has won every gubernatorial election in the Commonwealth since 1977. Boosting the opposition party’s chances this year is a historically unpopular president who could not even garner the votes of his party’s only living presidents in last year’s presidential election. And people are not passively disapproving of Trump, either: they’re getting active, building movements, and running for office, giving the Democrats the kind of energy that has not been seen since 2008. The national media has helped in a way, framing this as the first statewide electoral test of Donald Trump’s presidency, and it is one that is happening in the administration’s backyard.

And, yet, here we are: in the final hours of this election, the Republican candidate is now even-money to become the Commonwealth’s 73rd governor.

Kia Ora! A critical assessment of Jacindamania

(This is a guest post by Olivier Jutel, lecturer of journalism at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. You can find him on Twitter at @OJutel.)

For those looking for an escape from Trump’s America, New Zealand appears to be a choice destination to ride out the catastrophe, with historic achievements like the first welfare state, a robust anti-nuclear movement successfully staring down the United States, and the Waitangi tribunal that monitors the government’s progress on keeping its obligations to the Maori.

Yet, fantasies born out of one’s own political desperation do not tend to hold up well under scrutiny.

It is telling that misanthropist billionaire vampire and Trump supporter Peter Thiel became a citizen of New Zealand, indulging in equal parts his Lord Of The Rings fantasies and bunker style apocalypticism. The role New Zealand plays in the dreams of the rich was recently captured in a Forbes column featuring cataclysmic projections of sea level rises and land reclamation. The author states, “New Zealand will grow in size…will quickly become the glory land, and ultimately become one of the safest areas in the entire world.”

uture map of Australia and New Zealand by Gordon Scallion
Hey, I wonder if Glenn Beck has been advising his followers to buy farmland in New Zealand?

A Statement In Solidarity With George Ciccariello-Maher

Sometimes, the takes are such drool-dribbling nonsense that it is hard to craft a response. But for the likes of Zaid Jilani — and in defense of Dr. George Ciccariello-Maher — it is worth the effort to try.

Jilani’s piece is a mess from beginning to end. From claiming that it was a student who gave up their seat in first-class to a soldier — it was, in fact, an older businessman — to the notion that George’s call for “the spirit of John Brown to visit upon North Charleston” was a call for “vigilante mass murder”, the piece is a masterclass in lacking basic reading comprehension.

(This is to say nothing of the citations Jilani uses from websites like The College Fix, which has both structural and financial ties to Betsy DeVos and her coterie of right-wing anti-public education causes.)

Lies, Damn Lies, and Fake News

The first thing you notice about the newly-launched Free Telegraph is its politics. But then, with headlines like, “Vice President Mike Pence To Campaign For GOP Gubernatorial Nominee Ed Gillespie In Virginia”, and. “Leaked Memo Shows Rhode Island Dem Gov Gina Raimondo More Focused On PR Than Leading The State”, it does not particularly stand out from the panoply of conservative news media that has populated the internet in the era birthed by the Drudge Report and whelped by Fox News.

No different, that is, except for one thing: the site is funded by the Republican Governors Association, a 527 organization — so named after the section of the tax code that governs its existence — dedicated to the promotion and election of Republican gubernatorial candidates across the United States. This might not have been much of a problem, except that the website did not initially list its affiliation, only making it visible once it became clear that the Associated Press was going to run a story about the site’s true origins.

Such a story might seem strange, but the war over what constitutes “news” or “newsworthiness” is one that has raged for years.