The Democrats’ mutual denial society

President Obama holds a press conference at the White House after the 2014 midterm  elections, Nov. 5, 2014 (
President Obama holds a press conference at the White House after the 2014 midterm elections, Nov. 5, 2014 (

“There is much that is going right in this country, and there is still time for Democrats to say so.”

New York Times Editorial Board, October 21, 2014

If President Obama would not have delayed acting on immigration until after the election, he may have saved the seats Democrats lost in the Senate, that he was trying to protect by not acting. That wasn’t his idea. It was the idea of the Democratic Senate candidates.

If the Democrats running statewide in North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana and Kentucky had not tried so hard to distance themselves from Obama, by not meeting with him, not having him campaign for them, touting his economic record and and his call for a raise in the minimum wage, the successes of Obamacare and the efforts at fair pay and immigration reform, they might have won.

They disavowed the leader of their party by refusing to say if they voted for him, by stammering through questions about his policies and even by omitting their party affiliation from their campaign ads. They could not run away fast enough.

When the president said at an economic speech at Northwestern University in early October, “But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot — every single one of them,” Democrats groaned.

Then he told Rev. Al Sharpton, at the end of the same month:

“The bottom line is though, these are all folks who vote with me; they have supported my agenda in Congress; they are on the right side of minimum wage; they are on the right side of fair pay; they are on the right side of rebuilding our infrastructure; they’re on the right side of early childhood education.”

And in an effort to get the Democratic base fired up in Georgia, he called an Atlanta radio station two days later and gave the Republicans this little morsel for an attack ad:

“If Michelle Nunn wins, that means that Democrats keep control of the Senate. And that means that we can keep on doing some good work.”

The problem with all of these assertions that the president made isn’t that they weren’t true. They were. The problem for the Democrats in states the president recognized he lost in 2012, was that they became blatheringly and disingenuously defensive. Rather than assert, “Yes, I support these policies. They are good for the middle class and for the American people,” they sought to distinguish themselves from President Obama with ineffective TV ads.

“I’ve always believed that it’s not an effective strategy to run against a president of your own party, unless you’ve been actively opposed to that president,” Obama political strategist David Axelrod told the Washington Post, a week before the election. “You’re going to get tagged with it anyway.”

They could have danced with the president. Instead, they left him by the punch bowl to talk about his agenda and accomplishments to anyone who would listen.

The New York Times editorial board urged the Obama deniers to change their ways. “By not standing firmly for their own policies,” they advised, “Democrats send a message to voters that the unending Republican criticism of the president is legitimate.”

In Georgia, in a rebuttal to charges that he was slow to help his fellow Democrats and was cozying up to Republicans to aid his future plans, Atlanta mayor and sometimes Obama surrogate Kasim Reed retorted, in a Tweet, “When the President landed to visit the CDC. I was there to greet him. That’s what a ‘true Democrat’ would do.”

And, he went on:

“I never saw any of them. When I was running for re-election, I proudly accepted President Obama’s endorsement and support… a ‘true Demcrat (sic)’ would not lead their party to failure and then get on Fox5 [local news] & blame ‘Obama, Obama, Obama…'”

“Wow,” he concluded.

There is no telling how Grimes, Pryor, Nunn or Hagan would have fared had they been more welcoming of the president. It’s all hindsight. The only thing for sure is that even good candidates with the best campaign volunteers in the country are unable to bring out the base better than he can. By definition, the base is the most committed to party principles. If you voice it, authentically, they will turn out for you. A “D” after your name doesn’t get you votes. Being what your party stands for does. Being “Republican Light” does not.

“Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.” – Samuel Johnson



Broken government comes from a broken electorate

“It stung like hell.”
– Georgia Democratic Party Chair, DuBose Porter, in a conciliatory email to party activists

If a dramatic election happens and no one votes, does it still mean the electorate changes to purple?

The finger pointing over who was to blame for Tuesday’s devastating losses started as soon as the polls closed – maybe even before in places like Colorado and Kentucky, where flawed campaigns and unforced errors by candidates killed off an incumbent and skewered a rising star.

In Georgia, the senate campaign of Democrat Michelle Nunn was shaking its heads in near disbelief. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported it:

“As soon as the GOP nomination was settled, the names ‘Harry Reid’ and ‘Barack Obama’ were hung around Nunn’s neck like a two-headed albatross. She couldn’t get out from under it, her team said.”

But Democrats and political analysts all realize that, for the most part, it wasn’t the candidates. It wasn’t the message. It wasn’t the low approval numbers for President Obama in states that could have been in play, or the billions spent by outside groups to link Democratic candidates to him and the majority leader.

It was the voters – those who chose to show up and those who stayed home.

“So, to everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you,” President Obama acknowledged at a post-election briefing, Wednesday afternoon, adding, “To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too.”

As Politico rightly points out, the president’s choice of words indicate he doesn’t see the Republicans’ big night as any kind of mandate from the people, since it’s only a third that chose to have their voices heard. A lopsided third, but a third nonetheless.

Who showed up? In Georgia, even with a turnout that was better than the national average, at just under 50 percent, neither young folks nor minorities voted in sufficient numbers to achieve the results Democrats were looking for. It was older white people who did their civic duty. According to exit polling reported by ABC News, only 13 percent of those under 30 voted nationally, down six points from the way they turned out in 2012. Yet in the Peach State, 59 percent of that demographic went for Michelle Nunn.

But the real damage to the Nunn and Jason Carter campaigns came from a lack of African American voters both registered and at the polls. While African Americans accounted for nearly 30 percent of the Democrats’ tally in Georgia, it was only about the same as the numbers who voted in 2012. In order to win, there had to be an increase in voter registration of a half-a-million voters. Voter registration groups were only able to garner 85,000.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who was slow to show his enthusiasm for Carter’s campaign, pointed out the shortfall to the New York Times:

“‘We needed to change the electorate,’ Mr. Reed said. He faulted the campaigns of Michelle Nunn, who was following in her father’s footsteps in running for the Senate, and Jason Carter, a grandson of Jimmy Carter who was running for governor, for not spending more time and resources to register and turn out what he said were roughly 600,000 unregistered black voters in Georgia, and 200,000 unregistered Latinos.”

Why were so many needed? “The pros estimated they needed 500,000 new black voters in order to get 200,000 to the polls,” reports Walter Jones of Insider Advantage.

William Boone, a poli-sci professor at Clark University, told Jones that:

“…blacks tend to think of the president as the most significant office and figure other posts are not important enough to bother voting over. In a sense, that makes Democrats victims of their own presidential campaigning where they overpromise what control of the White House means without explaining the role of Congress, governors and legislators.”

Jones goes on to point out:

“Consider that black males typically have a 66 percent turnout in presidential elections but just a 44 percent rate in non-presidential years. Compare that to white males’ 75 in presidential years and 58 percent in off years, a 22-percent[age point] falloff versus a 17.”

Volunteers at a Democratic field office in DeKalb County, Georgia, use Obama campaign methods to reach out to targeted voters. (PBG/Prose and Thorn)
Volunteers at a Democratic field office in DeKalb County, Georgia, use Obama campaign methods to reach out to targeted voters. (PBG/Prose and Thorn)

While volunteers were using Obama-proven targeting methods to make phone calls and knock on doors to motivate people to vote, it just wasn’t enough. “Some of my biggest, hottest precincts, there was no activity, no street corner activity, no poll activity,” lamented State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) to the AJC. “They were running an Obama-style campaign without Obama. It’s like doing ‘Othello’ without Othello.” Or an audience.

In the end, Michelle Nunn was only able to capture 23 percent of the white vote. Their estimates said they needed to capture at least 30 percent. Republican David Perdue took 70 percent. Seventy.

The stark contrast was evident by the actual impact in two of the least racially diverse counties in the state. The AJC reported Wednesday:

“In his march to victory, Senator-elect Perdue, had his best showing (84 percent of the vote) in Pierce County, which has a white voting population of 83 percent. He did worst (15 percent) in Clayton County, which has a white voting population of 14 percent.”

How did they manage to grab such a large chunk of the electorate? During the last week of the campaign, Louisiana’s incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu told NBC’s Chuck Todd it was something insidious in our social and political DNA. “I’ll be very, very honest with you,” she said, “The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”

Former evangelist and author Frank Schaeffer says it comes down to two things – lies and racism:

“Since the economy has rebounded, health care reform has worked, all that remained for the GOP was to lie. And since the base of the GOP is white aging southern evangelicals the GOP was in luck. These are easy folks to lie to. That’s because they already accept an alternative version of reality. Also, of course since the lies are about a black man, that doesn’t hurt. Yes, race is ‘still’ an issue.”

“This is about race,” a particularly nasty viewer told a C-Span host on a call-in show, Thursday. “The Republicans hate that n—– Obama.”

While that may be at least partly true, it’s important to keep in mind no group is politically monolithic (Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal received 10 percent of the black vote in his reelection, after all), and there is definitely work to do for the Democrats to reach out to white Americans. “Republicans know they have to expand their base to include minority voters,” state Rep. Scott Holcomb (D) told the AJC, “and we need to do a better job expanding ours to include white voters.”

Despite the Republican slate’s unexpected margin of victory, Georgia’s Democratic Party chair, DuBose Porter, was optimistic.”Make no mistake about it ya’ll,” he wrote to supporters, “Georgia was, and is, in play.”

The goal remains to expanded the voter rolls for 2016, so the state can make a tectonic shift and awaken from this apathetic slumber.

Says Porter:

“I understand taking a bit of time to lick these wounds. But not too much time. We have work to do. We will continue to build. We will continue to raise hope. We will continue to believe in Democrats.”

Two years is not a lot of time. Before the next state legislature convenes and tries to limit voter registration, we need to go back out there and get more than 500,000 new voters registered. Two years, starting last week. Go.


PS: Click here for a full list of states with on-line voter registration. If you live in Georgia, you can register anytime through the Secretary of State’s website:

Electing Democrats in Georgia eases the path to Liberal Progressivism

Canvassing in Stone Mountain, Georgia, Nov. 1, 2014.

Time, money and faith – this is the most I have given of all three to Democrats in Georgia. I’ve written posts. I’ve knocked on nearly 400 doors. I’ve opened my wallet to attend and host fundraisers.

I do this not only to return Democrats to power in statewide and national offices, but also because I believe that this state cannot succeed, this country cannot turn the corner economically and socially, with Republicans steering policy in a hard right direction. In this part of of the country, when it comes to Republican politics, there is no soft right, no simple fork. Every right turn the Georgia GOP makes is 90 degrees from center.

Canvassers pick up packets for final days at Democratic Campaign Headquarters in Decatur, Georgia. (PBG)

In the phone calls and the canvassing, I have met a handful of folks who do not see the point in voting. I can tell them, as Michelle Obama did on a visit in support of our candidates in September, that if we can just get 50 more votes in each precinct, we can turn Georgia blue. I can tell them that Michelle Nunn will work for all Georgians, bringing her skills in philanthropic activism, getting those with means to have a social conscience and help those in need. I can tell them that Jason Carter should be our next governor because he believes in strengthening education, understands that Medicaid expansion would return federal money to our state that we’ve already paid, and could help 650,000 Georgians, and will do everything he can to restore integrity to the ethically challenged office of the state’s chief executive.
I can tell them that, but the most important thing to remember, is that even though we have been disappointed by Democrats as well as Republicans, and the Democratic Party in the South has a long way to go to be the party of FDR, getting Southern Democrats elected now, prepares the soil for the acceptance of the kind of liberal, progressive Democrat we really want. It is much easier to plant a seed in accepting ground than to keep trying to force a plant to root in frozen, unyielding soil.

The time is now. Vote Tuesday. The future of a progressive South is in your hands.


Is another 6 years of obstruction what we really need in the Senate?

Campaign signs
Campaign supporters flank the entrance at Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta, Sunday, for the U.S. Senate debate. (PBG)

“We have to make a hard right hand turn.”

– David Perdue, Georgia Republican candidate for U.S. Senate

Put it down to defensiveness born of desperation. David Perdue has been running marginally close to his Democratic rival, Michelle Nunn, over a string of recent polls, in a state he and the GOP thought was likely in their pocket. He has been forced to scream inside the echo chamber of his party’s conservative base, to get their attention and rile them up to go vote. That may explain why he dog-whistled his way through the pair’s last debate, Sunday night, in Atlanta.

Over and over, he reiterated his charge that Nunn was “handpicked by Obama,” and therefor would be a “rubber stamp” for his policies because “she’s not going to bite the hand that feeds her.”

He also charged that Nunn’s campaign has been funded by “liberal parties who want to come in here and steal this election,” like gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg (hardly a liberal) who recently gave over $300,000 to a PAC supporting the Democrat.

Sam Nunn
Former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) greets voters who have come to support his daughter, Michelle, at the U.S. Senate debate in Atlanta. (PBG)

Nunn was gracious, but sharp. To the former point about the president, she simply stated that Obama was not on the ballot in Georgia, that she disagreed with him on several policies, and that “no one hand feeds me.” To the latter, she said that despite Bloomberg’s largesse, “right now” she only supports Manchin-Toomey legislation, which calls for universal background checks.

While Nunn promised to “work with whoever is the president, Democrat or Republican,” Perdue called for “a hard right hand turn” in Washington.

The real question is, is that where the voters of Georgia are? Admittedly, I tend to operate within an echo chamber with a liberal bias, but I have seen no evidence that six more years of unapologetic obstructionism by Congressional conservatives is what the American people want. Time and again, in poll after poll, voters blame the stubborn Republicans for our nation’s legislative failures. The president may be at 41% approval, but Congress remains in or near the single digits. In that type of relative atmosphere, Obama may be underwater, but at least he doesn’t have to come up as far for air.

Despite my wishes and the expressed desires of many of my friends, there is no doubt Georgia is a conservative state. Sadly, it often seems our politicians would feign ignorance unbecoming their level of education, just so they can be mouthpieces for the one-percenters who fund their campaigns, and promise continued quid pro quo support once elected. We’ll know by January just how far right we are allowing our politicians to take us.


Nunn’s strength: caring community through corporate involvement

In the summer of 2013, weeks before Michelle Nunn announced her run for the U.S. Senate, a nationally recognized Democratic VIP asked me if I thought she would fulfill the rumors and finally throw herself into the race. Referring to the extremely right wing members of Georgia’s House delegation who had joined the Republican field of candidates, he punctuated his question by saying, “With all those crazy people running, she could actually win this thing.”

By the end of the GOP primary and subsequent runoff, all the “crazy people” had fallen, leaving Romney-esque businessman David Perdue as the Republican nominee, meaning Nunn had to find something besides the sanity card to play in the lead up to November.

Michelle Nunn, Jason Carter
Democrats for Georgia: US Senate candidate Michelle Nunn and gubernatorial candidate, State Sen. Jason Carter at a fundraiser in Decatur, Georgia, Oct. 20, 2014. (Photo by PBG)

With all due respect to the aforementioned Democratic vizier, anyone who expects the Georgia Democratic nominee for Senator to fail because she doesn’t have a foe with “loser” tattooed on their face, doesn’t understand that Michelle Nunn will win on her own strengths and merits, not because of her family name, and not because of a lame opponent.

In the South, you don’t win elections based on who you are or what you say, as much as what you do, meaning how you show up in the community. Nunn shows up big in the wide spectrum of communities that matter to Georgians, from the needy to the corporate giants that dominate this state, like Delta Airlines, Coca Cola and Home Depot.

Her campaign has not only received donations from R.E. “Ted” Turner – who recently donated $20,000 to her Super PAC – but also from Arthur Blank (Home Depot co-founder and owner of the Falcons), real estate developers Tom Cousins (Cousins Properties), Jim Cox Kennedy (Cox Enterprises), and John Wieland (John Wieland Homes). With the exception of Turner, as Bloomberg reported last fall, they all have something else in common – they’ve given heavily to Republicans in recent cycles, including to Romney in 2012 and Georgia’s other senator, Johnny Isakson (R), in 2010.

“Michelle understands that middle ground, and that’s why we wrote the checks,” Wieland explained to Bloomberg, last year.

It’s not only the political “middle ground” that Nunn gets, but the social middle ground as well. The volunteer organization she started 25 years ago, Hands On Atlanta, works directly with United Way to provide willing hands for the charity organization’s many good works, including helping the homeless, veterans and battered women and families. That is where her heart is.

Michelle’s other connection to corporate Georgia comes directly through the organization’s corporate partners. These are not just blind dollars going into a charity’s coffer. United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta creates a community for its friends, including regular breakfast meetings where volunteer community leaders mix with the corporate community. Besides Cox, Delta and Coke, other million dollar United Way of Atlanta supporters include AT&T, Wells Fargo and UPS.

The other positive her work with Hands On has brought her is the outcome of the group’s merger with the Points of Light Foundation, where she was CEO. It has brought her into the room with presidents, including President George H.W. Bush whose words inspired the founding of the organization.

Recently, Nunn has been under fire from Perdue’s supporters because of her insistence on using photos of her with the elder Bush in ads, as a demonstration of her bipartisanship. Bush 41’s camp has repeatedly requested her not to use the photo, as the former president has publicly thrown his support to fellow Republican Perdue. But it’s likely that endorsement was out of party unity, and not because of any animus toward Nunn.

When the GOP started accusing her of running an organization that “gave money to organizations linked to terrorists,” current Points of Light CEO and son of G.H.W. Bush, Neil Bush, reacted angrily.

“It really makes my blood boil to think that someone would make that kind of an allegation,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in September, “whether it’s an independent political group or a candidate for office.” He added:

“Neither Points of Light nor Michelle Nunn have had anything to do with funneling money from our organization to terrorists organizations. Anyone who makes that claim needs to understand the facts and then they need to denounce those claims. To attack an organization founded by my father, whose integrity is unimpeachable, to smear our organization for political gain, is in my opinion shameful.”

The Democratic nominee is out with a new ad that again shows a photo of her with Bush 41, but also one with her standing near the last President Bush, and one with President Obama, to bolster her claim that she can “work with Republicans and Democrats.”

The Nunn ad is a counter to a commercial for Perdue featuring a photo of Obama’s arm around Nunn, implying she’ll be a “rubber stamp” for his policies. In her spot, Nunn says the photo of her and Obama was taken at the same event as the photos of her and the elder Bush, so instead of showing her allegiance to our president, it demonstrates her bipartisan approach.

Indeed, in his earlier defense of Michelle Nunn, Neil Bush went on to praise Nunn for demonstrating “the right kind of visionary leadership – a non-partisan or bipartisan approach to our service world.”

It is precisely that approach to serving the public at all levels that makes her such an appealing candidate, and why she has been leading in the most recent three polls, albeit within the margin-of-error. Her work demonstrates she is authentically engaged in making the world a better place for everyone, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat.

Perdue’s outsourcing debacle and his stated pride in that activity points to the real problem with the Republican playbook in Georgia – an awareness by the rank and file that the economy may be doing well for the wealthy, but remains stagnant for everyone else. As reports surfaced recently of a secretive Swiss investment fund for multimillionaires being part of his portfolio, it threatens to expose him as an elitist fat cat who doesn’t think blue collar jobs matter.

Politico posted a report from Georgia, Thursday, where they examined why the outsourcing attacks are taking a toll on Perude’s campaign:

“Nunn, in an interview after an event in Decatur[, Georgia,] this week, called Perdue ‘out of touch’ with Georgia citizens. ‘I was surprised at his response, and I think most Georgians have been whether by starting out by saying he was proud of his career in outsourcing or then moving forward and saying that Georgians didn’t understand business.'”

“Republicans are supposed to be the party of American business and the economy and all that,” Augusta resident Elizabeth Grubbs told Politico, “but [Perdue]’s moving jobs overseas. It isn’t right.”

The 30 year old Waffle House waitress, who leans Republican, is unsure about Nunn, too, but recognizes the economy isn’t getting better. “It’s still crap,” she said.

The numbers bear that out, for Georgia. For the second month in a row, the state has been dead last, with the worst unemployment in the country, at least two points higher than the national numbers. The Wall Street Journal points out that the decline in manufacturing jobs in the Peach State in the last ten years is largely responsible for that.

Yet incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal (R), in a tight reelection race with State Sen. Jason Carter (D), has been running around touting Georgia’s number one status as a “place to do business.” So yes, given the tax breaks he has offered companies to relocate to Georgia, companies are coming here, but jobs are not. A good environment for business does not directly correlate to a good environment for jobs.

With low paying retail and service sector jobs filling the void, “don’t expect Ms. Nunn to stop her attacks any time soon,” warns the Wall Street Journal. “Outsourcing attacks may have become common among Democrats, but they seem to have particularly fertile ground in which to take root in Georgia.”

To be clear, there’s no Romney class jealousy, here. No one begrudges Perdue his millions, but in what way does his ability to make money for himself and his clients help most Georgians, other than the fat cats in this state whose own purses are sure to be padded if he wins? He will make a couple of hundred investors happy, but there are more than 6 million of us who have a stake in Georgia. Both David Perdue and Nathan Deal ignore us at their own peril, and to the detriment of their party, which is due to flame out in Georgia in the next few years, anyway. They’re just the ones driving the train as it derails.


Voter’s gamble in a casino where election officials rig the game


“You have to understand that this is an election year… It’s a political game. When you are in charge, when you are the one making the shots, you’re going to do what’s in your best interest to maintain your power.”
– State Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D), of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, after a recent meeting with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, whose office is allegedly holding up processing thousands of voter registration forms

There is no such thing as a sure bet in gambling, but there is one thing in politics that has great odds. Those who control ballot access usually win. Gerrymandering is only one popular tool lawmakers use to achieve a victory for those in power. It is a thumb on the scale for electoral homogeneity.

Then there are the more nefarious laws that impede a voter’s access, like requiring voter ID. The governor of Pennsylvania made an infamously outrageous admission to that effect during the 2012 presidential campaign, stating that was the express purpose of his state’s voter ID law.

In Georgia, the Secretary of State is believed to be holding up processing 51,000 voter registrations acquired and submitted by an organization called New Georgia Project, a left leaning group led by Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptists Church (Martin Luther King, Jr’s former pulpit) and House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta). In total, the group has submitted 85,000 forms from across Georgia.

The reason for the hold up of voter registration forms, according to Secretary Brian Kemp’s office, is “The presence of” 25 “confirmed forgeries… Each instance of forgery can result in multiple felonies and the Office of the Secretary of State has a constitutional obligation to pursue every illegal act to the full extent of the law.”

Therefor, NGP has been subpoenaed by investigators to come up with reams of information by this Friday. Kemp’s spokesman, Jared Thomas, admitted to MSNBC, “that investigators had no evidence suggesting that NGP as an organization was responsible for the fraud. ‘We have not found anything that leads us to believe that this was orchestrated by leadership of the group,’ Thomas said.”

Thomas’ claim means that it is not NGP, but “alleged voter registration fraud by some workers” in the organization that is being investigated, the Atlanta Journal Constitution points out.

The allegations do not necessarily point to some grand conspiracy on the part of Georgia’s Democrats. Both the AJC and MSNBC cite “national experts” who say that in registration drives like this, “it is not unusual to have some problematic forms.”

Kemp’s objectivity was questioned after he told a Republican Party rally in July that his party was going to be challenged in the upcoming elections by voter registration drives conducted by left leaning groups, like the NGP. GOP stalwarts enjoy a good dog whistle, so Kemp made sure his comments included more ACORNs than fell on Ashley Wilkes’ head at Twelve Oaks.

“Everybody remembers ACORN, right,” he rhetorically asked those at the meeting, then refreshed their memories with the hit job the GOP put on the defunct community services group. “When ACORN was out registering people to vote, they were filling out applications. They were sending stuff in. You don’t know who these people are, where they’re from, the people they’re registering and the people that are filling those out.”

To be fair, Kemp was using the ACORN example as a counter to the perceived authenticity of a state administered web and smartphone voter registration app manged by his office. But his inference was clear that old fashioned, grassroots voter registration drives, where organizations go door-to-door to sign up new voters, were legitimately questionable from the start, because their methods resemble ACORN’s.

“You know, the Democrats are working hard,” he warned the party faithful, “You hear all these stories about them registering all these minority voters that are out there, and others that are sitting on the sidelines. If they can do that, they can win these elections in November.” He then instructed them to get out their cellphones and get folks registered through a process he promised his office would certify.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R), who is in a very tight reelection battle against Democratic State Sen. Jason Carter, is leaving it up to Kemp to see this through, but that hasn’t kept him from injecting himself into another Georgia 2014 electoral controversy.

Three Georgia counties, and possibly a fourth, including heavily Democratic DeKalb County, have decided to open at least one polling place on the last Sunday of early voting in the state. Sunday voting has not been an option in the Peach State since advanced voting was implemented in 2008.

The irony is that if it weren’t for the Supreme Court striking down the preclearance formula of the Voting Rights Act, last year, the counties would not have been able to make these voting changes unilaterally. They would have had to have gone through the U.S. Department of Justice.

That is irksome to state Republican lawmakers. State Rep. Fran Millar, from the small portion of DeKalb that is not a haven for Democrats, vented on his Facebook page that at least one of the places open for voting that Sunday is “dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches” and he promised to “try to eliminate this election law loophole [during the next legislative session] in January.”

Besides the heavily African American area that Millar was complaining about, DeKalb’s acting CEO, Lee May, also added Sunday voting to two other parts of the county where there are Republican voters.

Rather than encouraging other counties to take similar action and expand ballot access statewide, Millar found it more prudent to complain about people he’s afraid of having a say in who controls Georgia. “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters,” he wrote in response to several comments on his ill conceived post. Despite his later correcting himself, saying he meant “informed” not “educated,” there is little doubt he has no problem with poorly educated Whites voting.

Deal has vowed to close that “loophole” in the 2015 state legislative session, if he’s still governor. After all, what good is being able to write the rules to the game if you can’t change them to your advantage?

“It apparently has a partisan purpose,” Deal told reporters earlier this month, pointing to the heavily Democratic areas where the precincts are scheduled to be open, October 26. Then the man who signed the bill prior to the 2012 election cutting the early voting period in half, added, without a hint of sarcasm, “I don’t think anything that has to do with elections should be tilted one way or the other for partisan purposes.”


Trust broken, empowerment renewed – the new Obama legacy

(Adapted from White House photo)
(Adapted from White House photo)

Expectations always lead to attachment, and attachment, the Buddha tells us, leads to suffering. So it is with the faith we put in the man who we expected to be a new kind of president, one who was deliberative and thoughtful, who we thought was compassionate and fair. Indeed, he often exhibits those qualities, personally.

However, his inability to implement them into a Great Society or New Deal kind of policy, which is what, I think, most of us hoped for when we rallied to him in 2008, means we are left with squandered opportunity. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as excited about another presidential candidate in my lifetime as I was about Barack Obama.

The good news is, we can do something about our collective disappointment, but I’ll get to that a little later.

Granted, it hasn’t all been his fault. For most of his presidency, he has had a recalcitrant congress, and even meaningful bills that made it through the House, like the DREAM Act, died in filibusters on the Senate floor.

He has been more political in his calculus than I believe most of us thought he would be, especially since he lost the House and a filibuster-proof Senate in 2010. That loss is directly attributable to the agonizing effort it took to pass the Affordable Care Act, and the unwillingness of congressional Democrats to do anything too risky before Obama’s first midterm, even though they could have easily passed it. Issues like gun control, minimum wage, raising revenue, marriage equality and immigration reform sat on the back burner because Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were afraid of the electoral consequences if they took them up.

Even passing Obama’s stimulus package, to help us out of the Great Recession, which should have been a no-brainer for Democrats, was like pulling teeth, and ended up being hamstrung because of Obama’s compulsion to make it more bipartisan.

It reminds me of a key strategy of backgammon that someone once imparted: if you are in a position to bear off your pieces, don’t fuck around incrementally moving them into better position; just move them off. Why? Because you never know how good your opponent’s next roll will be. You know, like the Republicans did under George W. Bush, when they had the White House and both Houses of Congress, they passed huge tax cuts. Twice.

So here we sit, with immigration reform punted, an unsympathetic farm bill that cut billions from nutritional assistance programs, no cost-of-living adjustment to the minimum wage, and on the eve of another round of prolonged military action in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.

I firmly believe that if the president had gotten more done to help people in the first two years of his administration, he wouldn’t be so far underwater in his latest poll numbers, at real risk of losing Democratic control in Congress, and making it impossible to accomplish anything in his last two years.

That brings us to the reason attachment is suffering. By attaching our emotions to other people and circumstances, we come to depend on their power for our happiness. You don’t have to be a Wayne Dyer fan to get that in a relatively free society like ours, the only person in control of your happiness is the one you see in the mirror every morning. (I’ve gotten flack for statements like that before. I realize that real, daily subjugation and control by an authoritarian figure or a tragic circumstance of life is impossible for many to overcome. That isn’t the kind of suppressed determination I mean.)

I, for one, am not resigned to the inevitability of a failed presidency from the man who promised hope. I am not resigned that the best I can say about President Obama’s tenure is he obviously tried. As Yoda said, “Try not. Do or do not. There is no ‘try.'”

I may be detaching from my expectations of Obama, but I am far from disengaged from the possibility of a government committed to the progressive values I believe in. The government’s gridlock has no chain around my legs, no muzzle on my mouth. I remain committed to getting voters registered and getting them to the polls for the upcoming midterm elections. It’s something I can do for my state and my country.

If you think about it, that is what President Obama has been asking us to do all along: be engaged. His numerous policy tours – over jobs, minimum wage and pay equity, to name a few – were meant to rally the troops, get us to create a critical mass by contacting our representatives in Congress, to get them to do the right thing.

I don’t think we need the president to tell us once again, “Don’t boo. Vote!” Even if it is he who is being jeered, I think Obama would say the same thing. “Don’t boo. Vote!”

Your vote is your voice, louder than all the special interest money in the world, and together we can reach a conventional wisdom shattering crescendo, but we have to show up.

“I’m so proud,” Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate and State Sen. Jason Carter told a voter registration rally in Atlanta, Monday, “to be on the side that says, ‘If more people vote, we win.'”

Register. Vote. Win. It’s something you can do, without waiting for Washington. Besides, it’s your duty as an American.


What do women want? Not Republicans

It’s tough to be the one at the party the girls don’t want to dance with. It’s not that they’re not willing to be a lady’s partner. Republican men and women just brought the tools with them they found at home, thinking what they use to woo all voters will charm the votes out of most women, too. Instead, they just end up appearing “intolerant” and “stuck in the past.” They’re like Brendan Fraser’s character in Blast from the Past – all Ozzie & Harriett and Ray Conniff Singers in a world of Nicki Minaj and Echosmith. But unlike Brendan, they’ve shown up at the midterm sock-hop with all the creepy charm of Eddie Haskell.

That’s not to say the Democrats have women swooning. The GOP has a 49 percent disapproval rating among female voters, according to their own poll, while the Democrats are disliked by 39 percent. But this is a Republican poll, and the relatively narrow margin, when one is talking about half the electorate, has given the party of Palin a way to claim that there aren’t any winners.

“I don’t think any party can do a victory lap here,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Thursday. His spin? A ten point difference is actually good news, here. It means, he said, if they “push back on what the Democrats are selling out there in the field, you can actually win women over.”

That poll was part of an overall report titled, “Republicans and Women Voters: Huge Challenges, Real Opportunities,” and was revealed, Thursday, by Politico. It was commissioned by Karl Rove and other groups that support the GOP.

What it is the “Democrats are selling” is respect for women, their right to choose what to do with their bodies, affordable healthcare for their families, and pay equity in the workplace. Those are indisputable policies that are part of the platform of President Obama and every member of Congress with a “D” after their name.

Republicans were assured by former House majority leader, and now former congressman, Eric Cantor, that most women want charter schools and flexible work schedules, which according to the poll is certainly not the case. Even if it were, ideas like that couldn’t make it through his congressional colleagues because it involves the government getting involved in people’s lives (extra-uterully) and in private enterprise.

The “push back” Priebus was referring to is the GOP strategy to acknowledge the social differences and re-direct to the economic ones. “[D]eal honestly with any disagreement on abortion, then move to other issues,” Politico quotes the report as saying.

“The general gist of [the GOP report] was,” Priebus said, “the economy is the number one issue.” After dismissing the emphasis on social issues, like reproductive rights, as important only to pundits, he added, “If Republicans talk about things like the economy, the debt, make the case for jobs and schools and education, and push back,” Republicans will win.

The GOP thinks economic issues resonate because they’re family issues, and in their world, women are the family bookkeepers, always aware of the bottom line. If that’s true, it might explain why Republicans do so much better with married women. “Married women prefer a Republican over a Democrat, 48 percent to 38 percent,” Politico revealed. The article goes on to quote Dan Conston, from the American Action Network, one of the sponsors of the report:

“‘Just like a gender gap exists, a marriage gap also exists,’ Conston said. ‘While young unmarried women have always skewed liberal, the polling found married women across the country are far more likely to be conservative and are receptive to center-right policies.'”

No wonder why the GOP wants to see more “traditional” families. It’s a pretty reliable vote for them. The problem is the immediacy of elections doesn’t require finding the future Mrs. Right; it requires getting Ms. Right Now.

But the Republicans have never been as good at wooing as they are at old-fashioned courting, so for now, they’re just going to have to pace along the folding chairs by the wall, and wait for their next door neighbor’s mom to come over and ask them to dance. It is, sadly, the slow dance, but that’s more their speed, anyway.

Broom dancer
Photo Credit: Adolph B. Rice Studio,
Library of Virginia


What’s missing from Congress saves a Senator

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)

It is now becoming apparent that Senator Thad Cochran and his supporters used political savvy to rally some Democratic voters to come out and vote for him, last Tuesday. We like to think our politics are pure, that any movement for a candidate is grassroots, driven by a concerned citizenry wanting to ensure they are represented by someone who will listen to their requests and act, someone who will take care of their needs.

We know the reality is more complex, that the most successful campaigns employ algorithm-driven get-out-the-vote tools and techniques (Obama), that they use reverse psychology to face a beatable candidate (McCaskill), and now, that they use direct appeal through operatives with whom they may have nothing in common to save them from certain defeat (Cochran).

According to Jim Galloway, a political columnist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

“Late campaign disclosure documents filed in the race show that Mississippi Conservatives, a political action committee run by the son of that state’s former governor, Haley Barbour, paid tens of thousands of dollars to get-out-the-vote artist Mitzi Bickers, an African-American pastor and former president of the Atlanta school board.”

Because it was a PAC that hired Bickers’ consulting firm, the Bickers Group, there is no direct connection to the Cochran campaign, so if her actions, which are believed to be two robo-calls, are the “irregularities” Cochran’s opponent, Chris McDaniel, was referring to in his defiant, non-concession speech, then he has no case against the six-term incumbent.

What the Barbours did, in support of Cochran, was recognize that Republican idealists would vote for McDaniel, but pragmatists would vote for Cochran, and Haley, Henry, et al., are nothing if not political pragmatists.

That hyper-awareness of the facts on the ground is also something red state Democrats might want to consider in particularly tight races, where they actually stand a chance. Tacking to the political center might help you get votes from the center, but it will not help with siphoning votes from the right. You may not necessarily want to be their voice, but you probably need their vote. This opens the campaign on three fronts: assure the partisans that you are with them; assure the middle that you are not an extremist, and; inform the right that it’s better for them and their community if they vote for you. Of course getting all your targeted voters to actually vote is the biggest stumbling block, one that researchers say, if successful, would have resulted in a very different political dynamic in red states, and in Washington, DC.

If Republicans and Democrats have no problem reaching across party lines to campaign, perhaps, then, they would be willing to reach across the aisle more in Congress. Thad Cochran is as socially conservative a senator as they come, but if he gives back to the Mississippi Democrats who helped him hold his seat, by helping where the people in the poorest state in the country need it most, then we may have a new recipe for leadership, from a very old politician.


Evolution: seeing without the lens of war

“[T]he United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.”
-President Barack Obama, addressing the United States Military Academy commencement ceremony, May 28,2014

Just because we start seeing the world without looking at it through a lens of war doesn’t mean we have stopped loving it. Rather, our relationship has grown. Its nature has changed. It is time to let the world finish its rebellion against our authority, presumed or actual, and let it go, let it fly.

“But the world is changing with accelerating speed.”

Perhaps President Obama’s recent declarations about our changing military role is a correlation to having two growing daughters, getting closer to leaving the nest and living on their own. Maybe he’s just trying to get us all to see, it’s time to release our young, and, if we have raised them right, watch them soar.

“The question we face, the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead — not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe.”

US Soldier in Afghanistan
US Army photo

We never asked to be the world’s parental nest. We never asked. But we had the most money, the most successful populace with a laissez faire attitude about world affairs, and the biggest fist, the strongest hammer. Yet, as President Obama said at the West Point graduation, last week, “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

“[T]o say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution.”

There is difficulty in letting go of power, but there is greater difficulty in using it in unwelcome ways, like missile firing drones and monitored cellphones. If we want to have a relationship with the world, we must allow that relationship to evolve. Once we have stopped being the heavy hand with the rest of the planet, we can be the tender touch to nurture, from the strength of knowing how to get things done, what a free world creates.

That won’t be easy, mostly because the time of the United States being trusted to get things done was pretty much relegated to myth, ever since Colin Powell wagged a vial of Saddam’s “imminent threat” (which was neither a threat, nor was it imminent) at the United Nations Security Council in 2003. It was the legend with which we boastfully imbued ourselves for half a century, coming out on the winning side of two world wars (the last of which resulted in veterans actually being taken care of), propped up by Hollywood and exploited by politicians. Whether it was ever true after the 1970s is arguable. The only thing that kept it alive that long was the legacy of a strong middle class, supported by good union jobs and high taxes.

When the basis of your vision for America as the “greatest country on Earth” is rooted in soil that’s been dead for decades, you have to find a plot on a nearby field and plant anew, before the drying, prideful stalk on which we now find ourselves turns to dust.

Not talking revolution. This is a progressive evolution.

And it won’t happen with the current DC dynamic – an intransigent Congress that views any military disengagement as weakness, any unilateral action taken by the executive branch to ease tensions between us and our enemies (and to rescue American soldiers) as an unconstitutional power grab, and a chief executive doing whatever the law allows to satisfy those of us who voted for him (twice), as he tries to reconcile his legacy with the Nobel Prize he won when his administration began.

But it will happen.

In spite of decades of screw-ups on the international stage, we know how to come together to build something. It’s in our DNA, part of the nature of our republic. We can step back without stepping aside, and bring compromise and consensus back to Washington. But it will require true democracy to prevail, rather than the one bought by billionaires and run by millionaires. For that to happen, we have to commit to sowing the real grassroots, so roll up your sleeves and bring your shovel. This is going to be hard work.