Category: Southern politics

West Virginia And The Coming War For Labor’s Survival

We have a guest post today, talking about the illegal strike that’s ongoing in West Virginia. C. formerly tweeted as @thehousered and works as staff for an education union in rural America.


Labor militancy isn’t a novelty in West Virginia.

It’s almost poetic, then, that West Virginia’s public school employees are on the fourth day of an illegal strike as the Supreme Courtat the behest of the bossescomes for the rights of working people.

The emerging struggle doesn’t fit anyone’s narrative. Liberal elites have eagerly devoured narratives from right-wing shills like J.D. Vance about the reactionary, racist white working-class of rural Appalachia. In the coastal liberal imagination, West Virginians are Exhibit A of the category of so-called “deplorables” that elected Donald Trump.

Nor does it fit the right’s preferred tale, of red states wholeheartedly embracing ‘pro-growth’ capitalist public policy. West Virginians are in a populist uprising in defense of public institutions, and against predatory corporations and corrupt pro-business politics: hardly the characteristics of the Republican Party’s long standing agenda. The populist uprisingsomething that seems to fit cleanly into the Left’s political imaginationis in rural Appalachia instead of the coastal metropolitan enclaves Left “thought leaders” inhabit.

Yet for the second time in 28 years, West Virginia’s public school employees have drawn a line in the sand in defense of public education, and turned​ to militant industrial action to fight for the common good.

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.

The Readjustment

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

Roy Moore is terrible. He has been terrible for years, and the scope of terrible that he brings to American society just greatly expanded this week.

It is easy to run a campaign as “not Roy Moore”; all that takes is a measure of compassion, humility, empathy for those who are less fortunate, and not ‘dating’ fourteen year olds as a man in your thirties. Judging from his statewide television ads, Alabama’s Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate — Doug Jones — seems content to meet that bare minimum standard.

There is lots of talk of “bipartisanship” and “working across the aisle”, which must sound great to people who have been living in some crag-based domicile for the last decade or so. The ads also play on his background as the federal attorney that put the surviving co-conspirators of Dynamite Bob Chambliss in jail for the rest of their natural lives, and urge “unity”. But unity with who? Republicans? The same conservatives who agitated racial animus to their political benefit until it blew up in their faces? The people in the Evangelical Church who are more than willing to blame the women who have come forward against Roy Moore? What iteration of that unity would benefit Alabama’s most vulnerable?

There is a resolution to this horrible situation out there, and its seeds can be found in Virginia.

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.

Really, Ralph, You Don’t Have To Do This

Democrats never learn, do they?

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam is running for governor of Virginia. The same Virginia that white supremacists descended on for their mini-version of the Nuremberg rallies, and the same Virginia that Heather Heyer gave her life defending from the same. Donald Trump’s response to the rally and Heyer’s death was to state that there was violence “on many sides” and to condemn the efforts to remove Confederate monuments.

After all of that, though, Ralph Northam still believes that Trump is someone that can be “worked with”.