The Carpet Bagger's Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi

May 30, 2011

Voter ID as the new expression of racism in Mississippi

What the cops used to do in Mississippi voters of color -- now the Republicans want to institute an ID requirement in the same spirit of oppression.

It’s a crime today in Mississippi to do what the cops in this photo are doing — preventing a black man from registering to vote.  However, the Republican establishment of Mississippi, given their fear of a black activist voting population, want to make it effectively harder to vote in the State of Mississippi.  The Republicans are trying to introduce voter ID measures in the state that are unAmerican and anti-human-rights.

How can it be that in a country that requires ID to drive and to purchase alcohol that providing ID would be anti-democracy?  Imagine for a moment that the white men in this photo holding the black man in submission let go of him.  Let’s say they let him register to vote, get to a polling place.  Then, looking him square in the eye, filled with the implicit threat of their hatred of his rights, they demand to see his ID before he casts his ballot.  In a small town, one perhaps like the one in Mississippi where the prom is still segregated, voter ID is a deterrent for the people of color of the community the way that these cops holding this man back from registering to vote was a deterrent in the early 1960s.  Fair-minded people ought to be outraged at the very suggestion of a voter ID bill by Republicans, who desperately would like the black population of Mississippi to stay home on the first Tuesday of November.

The Republicans claim their concern is for voter fraud, but they re not concerned about fraud at all — the only game-changing  frauds are in the GOP, given the low, low turnout for most elections.  In many of districts in Mississippi, the majority of adult citizens are black.  This is a consequence of slavery and generations of share cropping.  In some districts, the percentage of people of color is above eighty percent.  Yet the majority of eligible persons are not voting.  The Democrats bear some responsibility for this — in some cases they have failed to inspire a turnout.  However, no one will doubt that the majority of people of color, were they to vote in the State of Mississippi, would not vote for candidates like Haley Barbour, who is the darling of white racists and a former presidential hopeful for the Republicans.  They would vote for Democrats.  Yes, an election where less than half of the people who might have voted actually vote is fundamentally fraudulent.  This by itself is not the fault of any one political party, but an initiative to limit access in even the slightest way to the ballot should shock the sensibility of any American.

Ironically, often the Republicans run in Mississippi on the notion that government needs to get out of our lives,  that regulations are unAmerican.  The gun laws in this state, for instance, are so very lax that I don’t even need to have a permit to own one on my own land.  I could own an arsenal without showing ID, one that would make David Koresh look like he was unarmed.  That’s the way Republicans want it.  However, if they get squeamish at the idea of voting without ID, I wonder who they think they are fooling.  Frankly, their work reminds me, particularly given Mississippi’s very libertarian gun laws, of the revolt to racist thinking that inspired  Malcom X to write his  famous speech “The Ballot or the Bullet.” Is that a choice for any  citizens in the 21st century?  Have we overcome so little in Mississippi  since this photograph was taken about 40 years ago?  Republicans just want these cops in this photo to look the black voter in the eye, check ID — intimidate — and keep this  man and  his family away from the polling places.

They disgust me.

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November 3, 2010

Good Riddance to Blue Dogs

Bad dog! Bad dog!

What does it mean to be a Democrat?

In the news of this turnover of Congress, I was not sorry to read that 28 so-called “blue dog” Democrats were unseated out of the 60 seats in Congress lost by the Democrats.  That’s almost half of the seats they lost.

Why did they lose?  The media will ask this question ad nauseum, no doubt.  Why did they ever call themselves Democrats in the first place?  — That strikes me as a much better question.

This shift to the Right has occurred in American politics because Americans don’t have job growth back yet.  While no amount of rhetoric is enough to restore American confidence when, as the 1980s song “No Romance Without Finance,” says, there “ain’t nothing going on but the rent,” Americans have been right to feel disillusioned by the difference between the Obama-expressed idealism and what a majority Democrat Congress was actually willing to deliver.  The timidity, the hand-wringing, the unwillingness (with several important exceptions) of representatives to take strong stands for things like a public option in Healthcare, or — as was famously pointed out on The Daily Show — stand strong for a bill to guarantee mesothelioma care for rescue workers on September 11th while the Republicans stood against it, those are the reasons that many Democrats felt disillusioned and why Americans did not understand the importance of keeping a House Democratic majority in place.  After all, if a Democrat acts like a Republican, talks like a Republican, votes like a Republican, runs a campaign claiming to have stood up to a Democratic president, why on Earth would anyone care enough about him or her to vote for him against a Republican?  The Republicans are not apologetic for who they are — they walk like themselves, talk like themselves, think like themselves.  Why should anyone ever vote for a Democrat who thinks like a Republican?

Frankly, to most of us out there — it looked pretty Chicken Sh#t.

Travis Childers, whom I wrote about in this blog not long ago, lost his seat yesterday, and I won’t weep over this loss.  He mis-managed his campaign.  His ads proudly announced that he stood up to Obama.  Childers is indistinguishable from a Republican — except that he repudiates his supposed allies.  Between a Blue Dog Democrat who turns on his friends, or a loyal Republican , why would any voter embrace a Blue Dog Democrat?

What Americans lacked in this election was a sense that they had a choice between two very different visions of how America should go.  This is entirely the fault of conservative Democrats, who worried more about losing their own jobs than about fiercely standing up for the needs of Americans who had just lost theirs.

I am very sorry to see Nancy Pelosi lose her job as Speaker.  As the first woman who ever held that position, she was a champion deal maker, a tireless negotiator.  She was so effective that she became the target of most Republican television ads.  That’s a compliment to her.  By being the first woman to ever hold that job and hold it effectively for her party, no one will ever question again whether a woman is qualified to hold the position.

That said, I am thrilled to see the Blue Dogs go.  Voters need to see clear choices when they go to the polls.  They need to understand that a party has a platform, that the platform stands firm on issues that affect them.  They need to know that the candidate for whom they vote stands by a platform that means something positive to their lives.

Democrats have the ability to fumigate the blue dog poopy smell from their back rooms.  They can repopulate now with idealists who will take firm stands for the electorate.  I just pray they have the wisdom to do this.  I believe that they can take back the House in two years if this becomes their strategy today.

October 14, 2010

Ole Missed Opportunities — why voters should re-elect Childers, then dump him in two years

 

this man's staff is incompetent, or he is

 

The voters of the first district of Mississippi should re-elect Travis W. Childers (D-MS) to Congress on November 2, and on November 3, the local Democratic Party should start looking for someone to back against him in a primary, since he is bad for the Party.  He had an opportunity to make fellow and sister Democrats running locally matter in this election, and he kept the opportunity all to himself — stupidly, since the resulting political commerce, with every Democrat within a hundred miles owing him a favor would have made him a State Party Chairman with presidential potential.

Out of a combined sentiment that this election matters and a possible nostalgia, Bill Clinton chose to stump for Childers today in Oxford at the Ole Miss Grove of football mania fame.  He gave a speech far more humble than he needed to as a former President, and his Good Ol’ Boy charm remained intact despite looking tired.  He spoke to the people at Ole Miss the way one speaks to a Rotary Club luncheon if one is running for City Council — unpretentiously, with clear facts and figures related to fiscal issues that should make any — fill in the blank here — Democrat a desirable candidate.  He spoke in football metaphors and down home vernacular, in that Clintonian way that he does so masterfully — where we see that Bubba, or “Brother Bill,” as State Attorney General Jim Hood called him at the rally, is a genius.

Before Bill Clinton got there, the mayor of Oxford, the State Attorney General, a minister, and a very good Gospel Choir, took up perhaps fifteen minutes of a two-hour tardiness not uncommon when ex-Presidents go on the campaign trail for candidates.  What was glaringly obvious was that there was a crowd, for once, of thousands gathered in Mississippi, and there was an empty space of one hour and forty-five minutes when politicians could have addressed them.

Why weren’t the candidates of the Democratic party invited to speak, even under a “time permitting” invitation?  The crowd was restless.  Delays in such situations are predictable.  So why were there no other speakers invited?

Only two answers are possible, both of them quite plausible:

1) His campaign staff was incompetent.  If I were the candidate, I certainly should choose to fire them.  They could have made him bigger locally than he currently is, and his campaign communications director is the rudest woman I have ever met in politics.  She should be fired before the sun goes down tonight.  Understand that campaign communications directors are supposed to smile and nod at everyone, even when they think they are crazy, and they are there to promote the campaign’s agenda to the electorate.  She was snotty to me in a surprising way when I asked her for the campaign manager’s name — some kind of rookie since Joel Coon abandoned him — and she did not offer her own.   I wish I could type it here.  I also wish that I could think of a more sophisticated  word than the one that comes to mind to describe her — I only think of something that one might have drunk on a now-defunct airline — TWA tea.  She’s a rude cup of that kind of tea, and she has no business working in politics in any quarter.

2) Travis W. Childers is only interested in the good of Travis W. Childers, not the good of his electorate, and not the good of his party.  I have read that he said he had an “obamatross” hanging around his neck.  I somehow doubt he said it — it’s a bit cleverer than I imagine him to be, quite frankly, so I don’t think he said that.  “Let them eat cake” is more probable, as he voted against the Health Care Bill, and he did so in order to be reelected here.  He is probably not on the best of terms with the rest of the Mississippi Democratic Party.  He is short-sighted, because he could have, by sharing the limelight just a little bit, made a good number of friends here today, even among his enemies in the Party and his frenemies in the Party. A man that short-sighted is probably myopic because of an enlarged ego.

In either case, Bill Clinton is right.  The Democrats need not to give up this seat in Congress.  However, I have to believe that there are nicer, smarter and more forward-thinking Democrats in the Oxford area, and I believe that one of them needs to run against him in a primary in 2012.

Ex-Presidents carry a cachet with them.  This election is a tough one for Democrats.  Hoarding the wealth is a recipe for defeat.  Bill Clinton is eloquent and makes me proud to be a Democrat in Mississippi.  Childers should be ashamed of the way he played politics today and owes his Party an apology.

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