mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Dear Bernie Sanders; Black Votes Matter”: In The South, Black Votes Matter — A Lot

African Americans in the South can’t get a break when it comes to voting, as history can’t deny.

After all they’ve endured through slavery, Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, their voices are still treated dismissively by tone-deaf politicians who would ask for their votes.

If you’re thinking Bernie Sanders, you’re partly right.

This month, having lost massively to Hillary Clinton across the Southeast, Sanders commented that the bevy of early Southern primaries “distorts reality.” In other comments soon thereafter, perhaps covering for what was obviously a lapse in political acumen, he clarified that those early states are the most conservative in the country.

Not really. And not really.

While some segments of the South are undeniably conservative, Dixie is also home to a large and reliably Democratic cohort — African Americans. Many of the most liberal people serving in today’s Congress were elected by Southerners, and especially black Southerners. The reality is that Sanders failed to earn their votes in part by treating the South as a lost cause.

Many took Sanders’s remarks as insinuating that the black vote isn’t all that important. Adding to the insult, actor Tim Robbins, a Sanders surrogate, said that Clinton’s win in South Carolina, where more than half of Democratic voters are African American, was “about as significant” as winning Guam.

Not cool, Mr. Robbins, but you were great in “The Shawshank Redemption.”

The gentleman from Vermont (black population: 1 percent) and the gentleman from Hollywood failed to charm Southern Democratic leaders, who recently responded with a letter condemning Sanders’s remarks. The signatories, including the Democratic Party chairs of South Carolina (an African American), Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, expressed concern that Sanders’s characterization of the South minimized “the importance of the voices of a core constituency for our party.”

The letter writers also pointed out that some of Sanders’s victories have been in states that are more conservative than Southern ones, such as Oklahoma, Utah and Idaho.

That black voters would prefer a familiar candidate such as Clinton over someone whose personal experience among African Americans seems to have been relatively limited, notwithstanding his participation in civil rights demonstrations, is hardly surprising. For decades, the Clintons have worked for issues and protections important to the African American community.

But the Clintons, too, have been dismissive toward black voters when things didn’t go their way. During the 2008 primaries when it was clear that Barack Obama would trounce Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, Bill Clinton remarked that Jesse Jackson also had won the state in 1984 and 1988.

No one needs a translator to get Clinton’s meaning. His next hastily drawn sentence — “Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here” — did little to distract from the implication that Obama would win because he was black.

Not cool, Mr. President.

Hillary Clinton got herself into a hot mess when she asserted that President Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the Civil Rights Act, which many saw as dismissive of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. She scrambled to explain herself and mitigate the damage, but feelings once hurt are hard to mend.

Then again, time is a miracle worker, and all is apparently forgiven. Clinton is the new black and has been duly rewarded for her loyalty, patience and sportsmanship. She played nice with Obama, crushing her resentment beneath the heel of her sensible shoes and erasing from memory Obama’s condescending “You’re likable enough, Hillary” during a debate.

On the campaign trail, Clinton now tosses rose petals at Obama’s feats, promising to carry on his policies not because she necessarily agrees with them but because it’s politically savvy. For his part, the president has all but endorsed Clinton, returning the favor of her indulgence and her husband’s vigorous support.

The truth is, only Obama could have defeated Clinton for the 2008 nomination, and he probably did win at least partly because he was African American. The country felt it was time for a black president and Obama’s message of hope against a purple-colored backdrop of streamlined unity, baby, was intoxicating. He was a dazzling diamond in the rough world of partisan politics.

Clinton shares none of Obama’s sparkle, but she has more than paid her dues, and African American voters have rewarded her loyalty. For his part, Sanders not only confirmed African Americans’ concerns about his disconnect from their daily lives but also was badly mistaken about the South’s distance from reality.

In the South, black votes matter — a lot — and no one has understood this better than the Clintons.

 

By: Kathleen Parker, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 222, 2016

April 25, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, The South | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“His Red-State Wins Matter More Than Hillary’s”: Why Is Bernie Sanders Slamming Southern Democrats?

So what do we make of Bernie Sanders’s continuing habit of denigrating the Democratic voters of the South? He did it Wednesday night on Larry Wilmore’s show, when he said that having early Southern primaries “distorts reality.” And he did it again in the debate, when he dismissed the importance of Clinton’s votes from the South because the region is “the most conservative part of the country.”

Okay. I’m (in)famously on record as saying the Democrats should just forget the South. The argument of that column, admittedly florid rhetoric aside, was that for the purposes of general elections, the Democratic Party shouldn’t even try very hard in the South anymore. The party should of course fight to hold the African American House seats, and there might be occasional opportunities to swipe a seat in a college town. But other than that, for the foreseeable future, the South is gone, I argued, and the Democrats shouldn’t throw good money after bad down there. You can agree or disagree with that, but it is an argument about general elections (I wrote it right after Mary Landrieu lost to Bill Cassidy in a Louisiana Senate race).

Primary elections, however, are completely different animals. Primary elections are about voters within a political party—and sometimes without, in open primaries, which are another debate that we may get to in the future—having their shot at choosing which candidate their party should nominate. There are of course some states that matter more than others. But there aren’t any individual votes that matter more than others, at least among primaries (caucuses don’t usually report individual votes). For Sanders to dismiss Clinton’s Southern votes as distortions of reality is hugely insulting to Democrats from the region.

And to one group of Democrats in particular, who are concentrated in the South and who happen to be the most loyal Democratic voters in the country. I don’t think Sanders has a racist bone in his body, but is there not a certain racial tone-deafness in dismissing the votes of millions of black voters as distortions of reality? This is the one moment, their state’s presidential primary, when these African American voters have a chance to flex some actual political power in the national arena.

And then to write off Clinton’s Southern votes as “conservative” is just a lie intended to fool the gullible. Sure, the South is conservative at general-election time. But at Democratic primary time, it’s pretty darn liberal. It’s blacks and Latinos (where they exist in large numbers) and trial lawyers and college professors and school teachers and social workers and the like. They’re not conservative, any more than the people caucusing for Sanders in Idaho and Oklahoma are conservative, and he knows it.

The topic of Sanders’s own red state wins actually raises another point. He’s won seven states that both he and Clinton would/will lose by at least 15 points in November, and in many cases more like 30: Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, and Alaska, along with the aforementioned two. And he won them in caucuses, not primaries, which nearly everyone agrees are less democratic, less representative of the whole of the voting population.

Now let’s look at Clinton’s red-state wins. She’s won 10 red states: Texas, Arizona, Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina (I’m calling North Carolina purple, and of course Virginia and Florida and Ohio). Neither she nor Sanders would probably win in these states either, although a Clinton win over Donald Trump seems conceivable in a couple of them.

In any case, yes, they’ve both won states that are unwinnable in the fall. Yet do you hear Clinton going around saying that Sanders’s victories in these states are distortions of reality? I don’t. But Sanders goes around bragging, as he did at the debate, about winning eight of the last nine contests, “many of them by landslide” margins, referring to these very states where he or Clinton would get walloped in the fall, while denouncing her red-state wins as aberrational. What is it about his red states that count—or more to the point, perhaps, what is it about hers that makes them not count?

I try to set a limit on the number of times I use the “imagine if” device, because candidates have different histories, and those histories provide the context for our reactions to the things they do. But here goes. Imagine if the situation were reversed and Sanders had won the Southern states, and it was Clinton dismissing Southern Democratic votes as meaningless. The more sanctimonious among Sanders’s supporters would have tarred and feathered her as a racist weeks ago. Her very reputation among Democrats would likely be in tatters.

I’m not sure what the thinking is in Sanders land. Their collective back is against the wall, and they’re in a high-stress situation. But Sanders and his team—wife Jane, campaign manager Jeff Weaver—have been saying these things repeatedly now, for weeks. I guess it’s part of an electability argument. Even that is wrong—as I noted above, a couple of Clinton’s red states are possibly gettable in the fall, while none of Sanders’s states are. But insulting your own party’s—oh, wait. Ah. Maybe that has something to do with this too. Whatever the reasons—not a good look.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 16, 2016

April 17, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Demographics, Red States, The South | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Dems, It’s Time To Dump Dixie”: A Lost Cause, A Different Country

I don’t remember a much sadder sight in domestic politics in my lifetime than that of Mary Landrieu schlumpfing around these last few weeks trying to save a Senate seat that was obviously lost. It was like witnessing the last two weeks of the life of a blind and toothless dog you knew the vet was just itching to destroy. I know that sounds mean about her, but I don’t intend it that way. She did what she could and had, as far as I know, an honorable career. I do, however, intend it to sound mean about the reactionary, prejudice-infested place she comes from. A toothless dog is a figure of sympathy. A vet who takes pleasure in gassing it is not.

And that is what Louisiana, and almost the entire South, has become. The victims of the particular form of euthanasia it enforces with such glee are tolerance, compassion, civic decency, trans-racial community, the crucial secular values on which this country was founded… I could keep this list going. But I think you get the idea. Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment. A fact made even sadder because on the whole they’re such nice people! (I truly mean that.)

With Landrieu’s departure, the Democrats will have no more senators from the Deep South, and I say good. Forget about it. Forget about the whole fetid place. Write it off. Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise. The Democrats don’t need it anyway.

Actually, that’s not quite true. They need Florida, arguably, at least in Electoral College terms. Although they don’t even really quite need it—what happened in 2012 was representative: Barack Obama didn’t need Florida, but its 29 electoral votes provided a nice layer of icing on the cake, bumping him up to a gaudy 332 EVs, and besides, it’s nice to be able to say you won such a big state. But Florida is kind of an outlier, because culturally, only the northern half of Florida is Dixie. Ditto Virginia, but in reverse; culturally, northern Virginia is Yankee land (but with gun shops).

So Democrats still need to care about those two states, at least in presidential terms. And maybe you can throw in North Carolina under the right circumstances. And at some point in the near future, you’ll be able to talk about Georgia as a state a Democrat can capture. And eventually, Texas, too.

But that’s presidential politics. At the congressional level, and from there on down, the Democrats should just forget about the place. They should make no effort, except under extraordinary circumstances, to field competitive candidates. The national committees shouldn’t spend a red cent down there. This means every Senate seat will be Republican, and 80 percent of the House seats will be, too. The Democrats will retain their hold on the majority-black districts, and they’ll occasionally be competitive in a small number of other districts in cities and college towns. But they’re not going to win Southern seats (I include here with some sadness my native West Virginia, which was not a Southern state when I was growing up but culturally is one now). And they shouldn’t try.

My friend the political scientist Tom Schaller said all this back in 2008, in his book Whistling Past Dixie. I didn’t want to agree with Schaller then, but now I throw in the towel. He was a man ahead of his time. Look west, Schaller advised the Democrats. And he was right. Now it’s true that many states in the nation’s heartland aren’t winnable for Democrats, either. Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah will never come anywhere close to being purple. But Colorado already is. Arizona can be. Missouri, it’s not crazy to think so. And Montana and South Dakota are basically red, of course, but are both elect Democrats sometimes. (Did you know that both of Montana’s senators right now are Democrats?!) In sum, between the solid-blue states in the North and on the West Coast, and the pockets of opportunity that exist in the states just mentioned (and tossing in the black Southern seats), the Democrats can cobble together congressional majorities in both houses, under the right circumstances.

But it’s not just a question of numbers. The main point is this: Trying to win Southern seats is not worth the ideological cost for Democrats. As Memphis Rep. Steve Cohen recently told my colleague Ben Jacobs, the Democratic Party cannot (and I’d say should not) try to calibrate its positions to placate Southern mores: “It’s come to pass, and really a lot of white Southerners vote on gays and guns and God, and we’re not going to ever be too good on gays and guns and God.”

Cohen thinks maybe some economic populism could work, and that could be true in limited circumstances. But I think even that is out the window now. In the old days, drenched in racism as the South was, it was economically populist. Glass and Steagall, those eponymous bank regulators, were both Southern members of Congress. But today, as we learned in Sunday’s Times, state attorneys general, many in the South, are colluding with energy companies to fight federal regulation of energy plants.

It’s lost. It’s gone. A different country. And maybe someday it really should be. I’ll save that for another column. Until that day comes, the Democratic Party shouldn’t bother trying. If they get no votes from the region, they will in turn owe it nothing, and in time the South, which is the biggest welfare moocher in the world in terms of the largesse it gets from the more advanced and innovative states, will be on its own, which is what Southerners always say they want anyway.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 8, 2014

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Mary Landrieu, Politics, The South | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Mercy Me!”: This Is How Fox Reacts When Democrats Talk About Racism In The South

News Flash: The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans.

And now that some Democrats are daring to point that out, in ads and interviews, the media is grabbing its smelling salts.

Mercy me! they’re crying—it’s unseemly for Southern candidates to mention that black people face discrimination, voter suppression and even violence in the Old Confederacy.

In an interview yesterday, Chuck Todd asked Senator Mary Landrieu, now locked in a tight race in Louisiana, “Why does President Obama have a hard time in Louisiana?” Fossil-fuel hawk Landrieu first cited Obama’s moratorium on off-shore drilling after the BP disaster, which she said put a lot of people out of business. Then, she ventured:

I’ll be very, very honest with you. 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.

“Why is she talking like this?” Fox News host Bill Hemmer asked incredulously this morning. A guest came on to explain, “She is excusing her poor performance by blaming voters.”

It can’t be because it’s true.

Even the host of an Al Jazeera news show today, while not doubting the veracity of Landrieu’s comment, treated it like a gaffe, a bad one, and had an expert on to decide if Landrieu’s campaign was now doomed. (The verdict: maybe.)

More predictably, Republicans are shocked, shocked at Landrieu’s audacity. Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal called the remarks “remarkably divisive” and “a major insult” to Louisianans. “She appears to be living in a different century,” he said in a statement.

“Louisiana deserves better than a senator who denigrates her own people by questioning and projecting insidious motives on the very people she claims to represent,” State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere said in a statement. “Senator Landrieu and President Obama are unpopular for no other reason than the fact the policies they advance are wrong for Louisiana and wrong for America.” And of course there’ve been demands that Landrieu apologize. (Do not do this, Mary.)

It’s not that people, left or right, shouldn’t object to Obama’s policies. But the claim that whites in the South, or elsewhere, hate Obama’s policies (many of which are Republican-bred) and are color-blind to his race is ludicrous. But they can get away with it in part because of the persistent myth that this is a post-racial America, the one the Supreme Court decided was so enlightened that it gutted the civil rights voting law and has allowed the voter ID laws in Texas to stand.

Right after making her “inflammatory” remarks about African-Americans, Landrieu went out on another limb and said of the South, “It’s not always been a good place for women to present ourselves. It’s more of a conservative place.” But even if Landrieu were pandering to blacks and women to get them to the polls, so what? Her statements are true and obvious. And this is an election.

The media have been similarly timid in accepting what’s true and obvious when it comes to covering the get-out-the-black-vote ad campaigns that cite Trayvon Martin, Ferguson and GOP hopes to impeach Obama. A front-page story in Wednesday’s New York Times described the various flyers and radio ads targeting African-Americans, especially in the South:

The images and words they are using are striking for how overtly they play on fears of intimidation and repression….

In North Carolina, the “super PAC” started by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, ran an ad on black radio that accused the Republican candidate, Thom Tillis, of leading an effort to pass the kind of gun law that “caused the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.”

In Georgia, Democrats are circulating a flier warning that voting is the only way “to prevent another Ferguson.” It shows two black children holding cardboard signs that say “Don’t shoot.”….

In Arkansas, voters are opening mailboxes to find leaflets with images of the Ferguson protests and the words: “Enough! Republicans are targeting our kids, silencing our voices and even trying to impeach our president.” The group distributing them is Color of Change, a grass-roots civil rights organization.

In Georgia, the state Democratic Party is mixing themes of racial discrimination with appeals to rally behind the only black man elected president. “It’s up to us to vote to protect the legacy of the first African-American president,” one flier reads.

It’s not that the Times story necessarily agrees with conservatives that these ads are “race-baiting”—it’s the tone of strained, he-said/she-said “balance”:

That has led Republicans to accuse Democrats of turning to race-baiting in a desperate bid to win at the polls next Tuesday.

“They have been playing on this nerve in the black community that if you even so much as look at a Republican, churches will start to burn, your civil rights will be taken away and young black men like Trayvon Martin will die,” said Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican Party….

Democrats say Republicans need to own their record of passing laws hostile to African-American interests on issues like voting rights.

But the story doesn’t cut through the journalistic niceties until the very end.

For many African-Americans, feelings of persecution—from voter ID laws, aggressive police forces and a host of other social problems— are hard to overstate. And they see no hyperbole in the attacks.

“It’s not race-baiting; it’s actually happening,” said Jaymes Powell Jr., an official in the North Carolina Democratic Party’s African-American Caucus. “I can’t catch a fish unless there’s a worm on the hook.”

 

By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, October 31, 2014

November 2, 2014 Posted by | Fox News, Racism, The South | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Insidious Motives”: What? Racism In Louisiana? No! Apologize!

The ongoing effort by conservatives to define racism out of existence (if not to attribute it solely to people who worry about racism) reached a new low this week, per this AP story:

Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama’s deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.

In an interview with NBC News on Thursday, Landrieu was quoted as saying that the South “has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans.”

The comments came after an NBC reporter asked the senator why Obama has such low approval ratings in Louisiana. Landrieu’s first response was that the president’s energy policies are deeply disliked by residents of the oil and gas-rich state.

She then added, “I’ll be very, very honest with you. 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.”

Note that Landrieu didn’t describe racism as Obama’s biggest problem, much less suggest that anyone in particular who didn’t like him had racial motives. She simply said there’s a history of racism in the South that naturally was reflected in attitudes towards the first African-American president. I cannot imagine a less disputable contention, and the honorable thing for representatives of the Party of Lincoln to do would be to respond with a “yes, but” argument.

But no:

State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere issued a statement late Thursday calling Landrieu’s remarks “insulting to me and to every other Louisianian.”

“Louisiana deserves better than a senator who denigrates her own people by questioning and projecting insidious motives on the very people she claims to represent,” he said. “Senator Landrieu and President Obama are unpopular for no other reason than the fact the policies they advance are wrong for Louisiana and wrong for America.”

So it seems Landrieu’s job is to whitewash Louisiana history and deny any white people there have “insidious motives.” Do you suppose Villere never ascribes “insidious motives” to Louisiana’s African-Americans? Ha!

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, October 31, 2014

November 1, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Mary Landrieu, The South | , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: