Wednesday, September 30, 2020

BREAKING: Temporary Restraining Order to Stop ASU Student Union Early Voting Is DENIED


A Wake County Superior Court judge just denied t a temporary restraining order to halt early voting in the Appalachian State University Student Union. The TRO had been sought by two Republican members of the Watauga County Board of Elections, Eric Eller and Nancy Owen.

We Were Reminded Last Night: Trump Doesn't Own a Dog


Jerks don't like dogs.

If I were part of Joe Biden's team, I think I'd be arguing this morning that he shouldn't take part in any more events put on by the Commission on Presidential Debates. I'd probably lose that argument. The other side would say, "It'll look like he's running away. They'll say he's afraid of Trump. He's got to stand up to the abuse and remain calm." I actually also agree with those opinions, so I might end up being glad I lost the argument. But ... jeez!

Donald J. Trump isn't really running against Joe Biden. His insulting attack last night was aimed at the election itself, at the process of even having an election, for as he keeps telling us, any election that doesn't declare him a winner is illegitimate, rigged, a fraud. So last night he was trying to destroy the process itself, the very notion that there's any escape from his own chaos.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Send This Child to Camp


Dan Forest, running for governor of North Carolina against incumbent Roy Cooper, just earned a place in our list of The Dumbest Candidates in the History of the Universe. WRAL sent him and Gov. Cooper a list of six questions to answer for an on-line voters guide due to go live this Thursday. The Forest campaign curtly refused to answer the questions, alleging that the questions themselves "don't reflect reality." The questions themselves. Which leads in its own way to new questions about Forest's mental architecture.

Here are the six: 

If elected, what are your top 3 priorities?

Should all pandemic-related restrictions in North Carolina be lifted before a coronavirus vaccine is widely available? What would be the tipping point to scale them back or rescind them?

How would you handle the economic issues caused by the pandemic?

The pandemic has resulted in added expenses for public schools. Do you support a significant increase in K-12 spending to help districts, and if so, how would you pay for it?

Do you support expanding Medicaid to provide more North Carolinians with health coverage during the pandemic? If not, how do you propose caring for these people?

Do you believe there’s systemic racism in North Carolina? If so, what reforms are needed?

Three questions on COVID, and since Forest apparently thinks it's all a hoax, those questions don't reflect his reality, you bet, and one question on expanding Medicaid, and Forest wouldn't want to reflect his own reality on that issue, and that last question ... whooo boy!

I've worked on a Federal campaign and on many state of NC campaigns, and I can honestly tell you that candidates are constantly peppered with these types of questionnaires, from media outlets and pressure groups, and everyone on a campaign groans at the thought of answering another one. It takes lots of staff time to research, draft, edit, and approve, and it takes a focused candidate to make sure the answers really reflect his/her policy positions and don't give the opposition a huge coat-rack to hang attack ads on. Every campaign I've ever been associated with made value judgments about which questionnaires to spend a lot of time on and which questionnaires to blow off. 

I believe Forest picked the wrong questionnaire to blow off.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The NCGOP’s White Supremacy Problem


Guest Blogging: Blair Reeves, founder of The Long Leaf Pine Slate

Racial polarization is, and has always been, an unfortunate fixture of North Carolina politics. For an old Southern state whose history is more intertwined with slavery than perhaps any other state but Virginia, this is somewhat expected. From the 
Wilmington Coup of 1898 to the Greensboro sit-ins, North Carolina’s largely white power structure has always resisted the fullest measure of racial justice and equality.


It would be a comforting idea to believe that North Carolina has completely changed since then. And yet, all signs indicate that our state’s right-wing flank is still locked in resistance against the rights of non-white North Carolinians. Like a chemical agent, the Trump era has both emboldened and flared the slow burn of racism inside the modern North Carolina GOP. Through actions both symbolic and real, Republicans have responded by embracing the Trumpist strategy of white grievance politics with gusto. Indeed, the party seems increasingly comfortable with its role as, in the words of Gene Nichol, a “white people’s party.” This poses major challenges to our future as a pluralistic, modern democracy.


Let’s just put it bluntly: the North Carolina GOP has a white supremacy problem. And it’s not getting better. Indeed, it’s likely to only get worse. And we need to talk about it in the open.


The opportunity in white backlash


Since the North Carolina GOP hijacked our state government 9 years ago, their list of offenses has grown infamous: their hyperpartisan gerrymanders and voter disenfranchisement measures have been extremely well-documented, as well as their constant lying on both issues. The political logic behind this strategy is cold-blooded and obvious: Black North Carolinians vote overwhelmingly Democratic, and Republicans don’t want Democrats to vote. This is the essential reason why North Carolina Republicans - among whom there is not a single non-white legislator - made their assault on the electoral rights of voters of color their top legislative priority.


But this alone doesn’t fully explain the NCGOP’s enthusiastic embrace of white grievance symbolism.


To be sure, racism has always been an integral part of North Carolina politics. There’s been plenty of evidence of it in both parties, though the Democrats have done a much better job overall of expunging the worst elements from their ranks. 45% of the Democratic caucus in the General Assembly is made up of people of color today, including the party’s Senate leader. 


By contrast, Republicans haven’t just failed to make these efforts - they’ve done the opposite. The NCGOP has made few inroads among communities of color, largely because they haven’t tried. 91% of registered Republican voters are white in a state that is about 63% white, 22% Black and 10% Hispanic. There is, again, not a single non-white Republican legislator. Instead, the party increasingly welcomes open antagonisms of our state’s atrocious record on racial justice. North Carolina Republicans simply refuse to engage on fundamental questions of racial justice. Indeed, they increasingly see “racial justice” itself as a loaded concept. 


Far from discouraging racial division, Republican leaders have evidently seen more opportunity in exploiting it. Across the state, we’ve seen Republican leaders fall back to the Jesse Helms strategy of pandering to white racial grievance by “protecting” Confederate monuments while attacking BLM protesters in thinly-veiled coded terms like “thugs” and “criminals.” The North Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans even started their own PAC to support Republican candidates they saw as friendly to the so-called “Confederate cause,” including Phil Berger, Tim Moore, Steve Troxler, and, of course, Larry Pittman. Indeed, Confederate flags are nearly interchangeable with “Trump 2020” ones at these events, as protests in Chapel Hill, Pittsboro, and Graham have shown countless times.


The examples of the NCGOP’s embrace of racists are almost too many to count. Attendees at a big recent Republican rally in Alamance County - which was co-organized by the founder of a local hate group - screamed “White power!” at bystanders. Sitting Republican state representatives - Dennis Riddell and Stephen Ross - spoke at that same rally. Actions like these are an unambiguous message (and, for some, a threat) to a whole community. (If that’s what they yell at unknown passers-by, one can only imagine what they say among themselves.)


Was it inevitable that Republican leaders would embrace the racists in their party? After all, the dominant Republican opinion-leader in the country, Donald Trump, has made overt racism a hallmark of his presidency. It would’ve taken real political courage for Republican leaders - especially in the South - to resist that potent siren call from above. But as we know, political courage is in very short supply at the NCGOP. Instead, we’ve seen Republicans in Raleigh do the opposite. And this says volumes about where their party is headed.


Demographics is destiny


The data is clear: North Carolina is quickly becoming a more diverse and less rural state. Whites, while still a clear majority of voters, are continuing a long-term trend of decline as a percentage of the whole. White voters were a little over 70% of the total state electorate in 2016, and they are currently about 66.6% today, according to the State Board of Elections. They will likely drop below 60% of North Carolina’s total electorate by 2028, if not sooner. Instead, multiracial voters - particularly Hispanics - are becoming a larger share of the electorate.


This is a nightmare scenario if your party is overwhelmingly white and rural and relies on its base’s worst instincts of racism for power. But as the pool of white voters slowly shrinks, losing even a small proportion over insufficiently strong support for Lost Cause mythology could be decisive for them. But instead of broadening their appeal, we have instead seen the NCGOP double down on attempts to consolidate the white vote with grievance politics.


Ideally, we would have two (or more) parties that both tried to appeal to all constituencies in North Carolina. Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and other voters are just like white ones in the sense that each group contains a wide range of ideological and political preferences. Black conservatives very much exist - they’re not even uncommon! But the fact that so many feel demonstrably uncomfortable voting for Republicans should give us all reason to think truthfully about why. It is not, as Republican leaders like to claim, simply a “messaging” or “packaging” problem.


The Democratic Party is far from perfect itself. White Democrats in particular must be sensitive to how our party speaks to and includes non-white representation. For the large majority of its history, the state of North Carolina has been actively hostile to its non-white residents - and especially voters. And that’s when the state even considered them fully human at all. We are well within living memory of nonwhite residents not enjoying the full benefits of citizenship. And it was not the beneficence of white North Carolinians that won those basic civil rights for Black and non-white citizens; it was federal enforcement action. (It may yet be that way again.) It is incumbent on white Democrats to understand this history as a good reason for centering Black representation - both in our party and in our state as a whole. In a quickly diversifying state and nation, this strategy is not only how we will all win, but how we will make our government best serve its people.


And what about the Republicans? Well, it isn’t up to us to solve their problems for them. If Republican leaders simply lack the courage (or perhaps the interest) to lead their party into accepting North Carolina as a pluralistic, multiracial democracy, then that is their problem. Our job is not to help Republicans rehabilitate their own party - our job is to win. By winning, and building a strong progressive movement in our state, we can keep the other side out of power. We are, after all, a majority in North Carolina. Let’s act like it.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

NCGOP Gets On Board With Trump: Absentee Ballots in NC Are Now To Be Considered Fraudulent

We know that David Black and Ken Raymond, the two Republicans on the state Board of Elections (SBOE), resigned from the board barely 24 hours after agreeing to changes to absentee-by-mail balloting to resolve complaints in two law suits. Black and Raymond, in their resignation letters, alleged that they were essentially duped into agreeing to the settlement. In response to those claims, the SBOE released the minutes of the closed session showing pretty conclusively that both Black and Raymond were active and willing participants in the discussions and agreed to all the changes.

If a judge approves the lawsuit settlement — which will be up for debate in court Oct. 2 — the new rules would make it easier for voters to fix problems with absentee ballots by signing an affidavit to confirm their identity, instead of having to start over from scratch with a new ballot.

The changes would also extend the number of days after the election that mail-in ballots could arrive and still be counted, and would tweak the rules surrounding the process for people to get a mail-in ballot but then drop it off in person, either at their county elections office or during early voting at a polling place. (Will Doran et al.)

We of course suspected that Black and Raymond had been forced to resign (because we may have fallen off the turnip truck, but we didn't land on our head), and Black's wife Deb totally spilled the beans on Facebook and removed all doubt: “... these resignations were not voluntary. They were told to resign. Sad times when republicans are firing intelligent and trustworthy republicans.”

The subtext for the forced resignations appears to be this: Black and Raymond, by participating in and agreeing to the legal settlement, were messing with the Trumpist message taking shape across the country: The November elections will be invalid/fradulent because of absentee voting. Senate Republican boss Phil Berger took up the cry with gusto, alleging that the changes to absentee-by-mail voting "is inviting folks to do things to game an election.” Do things. Classic Trumpist innuendo minus evidence.

Berger was just falling in line with the narrative launched by Trump two days earlier: "Get rid of the ballots!" Echoed one day  after that by the eternally flip-flopping Sen. Thom Tillis who vowed he had "grave concerns." Just two days earlier he had said he had so much faith in the absentee system that he challenged his Democratic challenger, Cal Cunningham, to vote by mail.

It's a unified front of Republican office-holders trying to invalidate the election ahead of time for reasons we perfectly understand, and David Black and Ken Raymond were inconvenient to the narrative.

Enter Stage Right ... Four Eggers

Raleigh reporter Tim Boyum reported this morning that Stacy C. Eggers IV, the "Four" of local voter suppression fame, is one of the names being pushed forward by the NCGOP as a replacement member on the SBOE.

Oh goody!

Friday, September 25, 2020

Trump Depression. It's a Thing


I don't know what gets you down. If the daily dose of this guy Trump doesn't smite your cheeks, then you might be a fan and revel in the cruelty.

But depression? I've always worked jobs to vaccinate myself against it. Getting something done that needs doing, that's the ticket. But you get old and infirm and hunkered down to body blows and can't work in your garden, so you spend entirely too much time on screens. And because you're susceptible to hard news ("fake" to the fans), you absorb every new breach of ethics and morality and basic humanity like hammer blows, and because there is no chance that Trump can ever repent and become human, you slip a little into a spiritual malaise of your own making, a black hole. Why has god abandoned us?

Do you feel powerless, except for your vote? Your vote, which until this guy Trump came along seemed an inviolable right. Now it's endangered too. I've voted absentee by mail for several elections and have already sent in my ballot for 2020, and now I'm told by the authoritarian that he can probably eliminate my absentee ballot too and have his judges declare him a winner. 

As of today we have these stats on mail-in balloting in NC:

Absentee by-mail ballots cast in NC so far: 198,130

Absentee by-mail ballots cast in 2016 presidential election: 199,775

Absentee by-mail requests so far in 2020: 1,002,874

Bottomline: We're about to surpass absentee balloting in 2016, and there are still over 800,000 absentee ballots still out there and still waiting to be marked and delivered.

The developments of just the last 48 hours could reduce you to a pulp of impotent outrage (what a name for a oom-pah band!). 

“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster — .... Get rid of the ballots, and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful trans-, there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”

“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court. And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices,” Trump said. “It’s better if you go before the election, because I think this, this scam that the Democrats are pulling — it’s a scam — the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation.”

Rachel Maddow said last night that what we're going to do about this crisis is what we're doing right now, a penetrating and sobering insight. If we're sitting on the couch watching Netflix and worrying, that doesn't bode well for how we'll go into the looming constitutional crisis of 2021. We've got to stop giving in to hopelessness and do what we can. It's more than just believing in the resistance. We have to do, we have to stay aware, we have to contribute what we can or do what we must -- give money, make phone calls, knock doors, write letters, publish editorials, do the oppo research and keep our powder dry. Activism ain't depressed. It may be spooked by the whiff of Armageddon -- the effective end of the Republic -- but it doesn't lose sight of what's good: North Carolina boards of elections count the absentee-by-mail ballots first.

Don't let Trump depression warp the reality that there are signs of restoration all around us, from the flight from Trump by former Republican loyalists, to the flush of former military men running as liberal Democrats (documented on this site for months), to the wave theory of special elections in 2017 and the 2018 midterms, to the consistent polling showing advantage Democrats (the wave continues and grows). Our own good signs are evil omens for the other side, so I shouldn't wonder about a growing depression not in us but in the traditional rural Republicans all around us, whose own humbleness and religious faith and reverence for the law makes the embarrassing Mr. Trump a discouragement to civic activity, and the thought of actually defending him a hard option.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Both Republicans Resigned Last Night From the NC Board of Elections


Republican NCSBE members David Black and Ken Raymond submitted hurried (un-proofread) letters of resignation only hours after they had agreed -- along with the Democratic members -- to a legal settlement over certain problems with mail-in ballots ... fueling a rumor that they were forced to resign by NCGOP bosses unhappy that they had failed to make absentee voting harder in North Carolina.

The legal settlement that Black and Raymond had agreed to, "if approved by a judge, would create new rules to make it easier for people to fix mistakes on their mail-in ballots. It also would extend the amount of time after the election that absentee ballots could come in and still be counted" (Will Doran and Jessica Banov).

Black and Raymond said they were resigning "on principle," the principle apparently being that the NCGOP leadership is mad because North Carolina isn't suppressing the vote enough.

The NCGOP must now submit names to Gov. Roy Cooper for replacement appointments.

The forced resignation of Black and Raymond -- if they were forced -- seems part of an overall scheme by Trumpists everywhere to cloak absentee-by-mail balloting in a pall of "fraud" to make it easier for Twitterman to declare himself the winner even if he isn't and to complete the politicizing of the Supreme Court (conveniently equipped by November 3rd with a new Trump toady put there to protect his interests).

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

AppState College Republicans Split With Watauga GOP


Appalachian State College Republicans are pissed that the two Republican members of the Watauga Board of Elections are suing to prevent early voting in the ASU student union. The lawsuit filed by Republicans Eric Eller and Nancy Owen barely a month before early voting is scheduled to commence drew this response from River Collins, president of AppState College Republicans: “I’m not going to lie. To see my party here do that is very disappointing. I didn’t like it at all. It made me furious honestly.”

Even the president of the AppState chapter of Turning Point USA criticized Eller and Owen: “Attempting to move this polling precinct less than 30 days before the election will only result in a mess to the community during early voting and election day.” Turning Point USA is a pro-Trump conservative group which maintains a "Professor Watchlist" of teachers who, it alleges, discriminate against conservative students and advance what it considers to be left-wing propaganda in the classroom.

Once again, our congrats to Eller and Owen and their lawyer Nathan Miller for continuing to alienate young voters, especially those most likely to support their side. That takes real talent!

Monday, September 21, 2020

A Poem for Sen. Thom Tillis


Was A Man

by Philip Booth

Was a man, was a two-
faced man, pretended
he wasn't who he was,
who, in a men's room,
faced his hung-over
face in a mirror hung
over the towel rack.
The mirror was cracked.
Shaving close in that
looking glass, he nicked
his throat, bled blue
blood, grabbed a new
towel to patch the wrong
scratch, knocked off
the mirror and, facing 
himself, almost intact,
in final terror hung
the wrong face back.

Republicans Are Better at Party Discipline


I believe Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell waited a respectable one hour after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg before announcing that his statement made in February 2016 shortly after Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to SCOTUS was no longer operable: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice . . . . Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

Republican senators -- most of whom had loudly and piously agreed with McConnell's new doctrine in 2016 -- began falling in line. They'll vote -- the vast majority of them anyway -- to confirm whomever Trump nominates because they can and they must because "pretty much everybody is a hypocrite when their interests are on the line, and American politics have always been about the naked exercise of power. As Thucydides wrote 2,500 years ago, as the world’s first democracy was collapsing around him, the 'strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.' Mitch McConnell, like any politician, will do what the people let him get away with" (Michael Austin).

We're all calculating right now what McConnell can get away with. Still no word from Mitt Romney and Chuck Grassley about how they'll vote on the power-grab. If they joined Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, that would be the four to stop McConnell from getting Trump's third appointment to SCOTUS -- as doubtful as that scenario is -- because of the Republican long habit of strict party discipline, exacerbated now by a president with a mean Twitter-finger. Democrats, on the other hand, have no discipline and don't seem likely to develop any in my lifetime.

I heard ex-Senator Claire McCaskill talking this morning. She said she had been speaking over the weekend with some of her former colleagues in the Senate from both parties, and she floated the plausible scenario that McConnell might wait until the lame-duck period after the election to force a vote because having the fate of a new appointment to SCOTUS hanging in the precarious balance would do more for boosting Republican turnout than getting that person confirmed right away before November 3rd. 

It's an interesting theory, and I certainly hope it makes perfect sense to Mitch McConnell.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

9 Blackbirds Sitting in a Pie


"It's darkest before the dawn." 

Get outta my face with that shit! I totally appreciate the proverb and get it that the November 3rd election is "the dawn," and dawn is supposed to reestablish hope when so much seems lost, but in all honesty I don't feel better. This moment is more like a minute to midnight to me, than anywhere near 6 a.m. There are still some 44 days til we vote the bastard out, say. Or, say, McConnell fails to get Trump's nominee through before November 3rd because of defections in his caucus. Will that even matter? Because McConnell will still have another bite at the apple, starting on November 4th, as he strong-arms a lame duck session with still plenty of time to display the full measure of his corruption. 

Who are the potential Senate defectors from another McConnell power grab? The esteemed men and women who actually know right from wrong but who en masse gave up long ago objecting to wrong? The equivocators, the shrinkers, the shell-shocked. Which of these are the Senators most likely to resist? 

(Presented here in rank order of most likely to stand firm against McConnell hypocrisy to least likely to let out a peep):

Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) -- Told an interviewer on Friday, shortly before the announcement of Justice Ginsburg’s death, that she opposed confirming a new justice before Nov. 3. “I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee,” she said. “We are 50 some days away from an election.” Murkoski has shown steel in her spine before, especially as relates to displeasing Trump. I think the guys don't strong arm this chick.

Mitt Romney (Utah) -- Increasing defiance of Trump all year, so maybe he's actually grooving to the perception that he finally took his balls out of the lockbox. This might be another watershed moment for a revivified Mitt Romney.

Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) -- Previously the judiciary panel’s chairman, said in 2018 that if there were a vacancy in 2020, he would not bring a nomination before his committee until after the election if he were still in charge. But he surrendered his gavel to Lindsey Graham (see below). Grassley is perfectly capable of standing up for principle, in his Grandpa Simpson way, just as he's also perfectly capable, in his Grandpa Simpson way, of getting confused and wandering out of frame. He did not say last night how he would vote as an individual senator. At least he's thinking about it.

Ben Sasse (Nebraska) -- As recently as August 10 called Trump's attempts at power-wielding "unconstitutional slop." Trump immediately lashed his naked back: “RINO Ben Sasse, who needed my support and endorsement in order to get the Republican nomination for Senate from the GREAT State of Nebraska, has, now that he’s got it (Thank you President T), gone rogue, again, This foolishness plays right into the hands of the Radical Left Dems!” Trump has Ben Sasse's number. He's disciplined Sasse before, and Sasse obediently sat in the corner. But he also likes to think of himself as a virtuous warrior, and he might get a wild hair and impersonate a do-or-die Marine for Halloween. 

Cory Gardner (Colorado) -- Could the showdown over SCOTUS awaken Gardner's disgust with McConnell's hypocrisy, and might he attempt a "hail Mary" to turn around his fortunes in the Colorado Senate race? Hickenlooper looks likely to beat him. But Gardner's defection is a longshot. Gardner looks too cowed by the Trumpists, though maybe the independent vote in Colorado makes Gardner less predictably cowed than Susan Collins.

Susan Collins (Maine) -- The most endangered Republican incumbent (according to Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman). Collins told The New York Times this month that she would not favor voting on a new justice in October. “I think that’s too close,” she said. “I really do.” But it's a classic Susan Collins head-fake. She always caves. She really, really does.

Thom Tillis (North Carolina) -- Though he's shown rogue moments of independence, he's been whipped thoroughly into line, and he's gonna go for any SCOTUS nom Trump puts forward. Jumping ship would destroy him with much of the Republican base.

Martha McSally (Arizona) -- She knows she's losing to Democrat Mark Kelly in her reelection campaign. Losing means she's totally free to be as Trumpist as possible before she exits the scene.

Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) -- The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would consider any nominee, said in 2018 that if an opening occurred in the last year of Mr. Trump’s term, “we’ll wait to the next election,” but then hedged in July, telling CNN that “we’d have to see.” In a statement issued Friday night mourning Justice Ginsburg, Graham, who is in a competitive reelection race of his own (against Jaime Harrison), made no mention of when to fill the vacancy. So ... as you were. Graham would never buck Trump/McConnell.


Friday, September 18, 2020

So Now Rep. Ray Russell Is Antifa?


This is the kind of ridiculous attack piece that backfires on a Republican challenger like Ray Pickett.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Watauga GOP Breaks the Furniture in Its Charm Offensive To Win the Affection of AppState Voters

Eric Eller, far left, with Nancy Owen next to him
in the middle

First, Republican member of the Watauga Board of Elections, Eric Eller, addressed a letter to AppState Police Chief Andrew Stephenson last July 8th, raising the specter that Black Lives Matter activists might threaten voters at on-campus voting sites. 

When that letter became public on the AppState campus, an uproar ensued in which student government leaders demanded that Eller resign his seat on the BOE. Eller refused to resign. He also refused to apologize.

The other four members of the Watauga BOE, including the other Republican member Nancy Owen, sent a letter to AppState student government leaders apologizing for Eller's letter and disavowing that he spoke for them in expressing fear of Black students. The letter said in part:

... [Eller's] letter was not authorized by the Board of Elections. It was the action of one member acting on his own. The letter does reference “our board” and “our agenda” and is signed by the individual as “Member, Watauga County Board of Elections”. A reader could certainly infer that it was written on behalf of the Board. It was not.

Members of the Board of Elections are nominated by political parties, but we are then pledged to work in a non-partisan manner. When this letter was written, we were working together on plans for holding an election during a pandemic. To some of us, it seemed the better course not to publicize a letter with which we disagreed, but rather to move on. We knew that the writer did not speak for the Board, but we failed to make that clear to the public we serve. Avoiding conflict then has allowed for misunderstanding, suspicion and pain now. Our neglect was wrong, and we apologize....

Eller then doubled-down, herded fellow Republican Nancy Owen with him, and with the masterful lawyering of Nathan Miller, sued the State Board of Elections for approving a Watauga Early Voting Plan that put an early voting site in the AppState Student Union. How he and Owen have standing to sue is still an open question in this household, but the continued brilliance of the Watauga GOP in wooing the youth vote surpasses previous years of their feverish attempts to block, thwart, hobble, and otherwise discourage ballot access on the AppState campus.

Congratulations are in order.

The Body Count -- Michael Caputo


A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Off Luxury Liner Trump

Michael Caputo, the top spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services and a longtime ally of President Trump's, is taking a 60-day leave of absence after a social media tirade in which he falsely accused government scientists of engaging in "sedition."

HHS announced the leave in a news release yesterday, which said Caputo decided to take the two months off as the department's assistant secretary for public affairs "to focus on his health and the well-being of his family."

The leave of absence effectively removes Caputo from government operations through November's election. The statement also announced that Paul Alexander, whom Caputo had brought in as a scientific adviser, would be leaving the department altogether.

Last week, Caputo came under fire after reports that he and Alexander sought to edit and delay public health reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Emails from Alexander obtained by Politico complained to CDC Director Robert Redfield that the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report "hurt the President," and described data-based publications on the risk of the coronavirus in children as "hit pieces on the administration" that undermined Trump's school reopening plan.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

News Flash: Republican Members of Watauga Board of Elections Seek Injunction Against Early Voting Site in AppState's Student Union


Eric Eller and Nancy Owen, the Republican members of the Watauga County Board of Elections, have filed a complaint in the Wake County Superior Court seeking to block an early voting site in the Appalachian State University student union.

Eller and Owen are represented by Boone attorney Nathan Miller, who has a long history of bringing suits to suppress the student vote.

Eller and Owen are asking for an expedited hearing on their complaint. Early voting is due to begin October 15.

Would You Take a Hurried-Up Trump Vaccine?


Sen. Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham faced each other last night in the first of three scheduled debates. This morning, the News and Observer chose to headline Cunningham's expressed "hesitance" about taking a COVID-19 vaccine that was rushed through trials to serve the politics of a lying liar. Tillis said that Cunningham's suspicion that politics was trumping science was "irresponsible."

Irresponsible? It seems responsible in the extreme to be suspicious of having something injected into our bodies that hasn't been thoroughly tested and vetted and certified by public health professionals as not only safe but also effective for the intended purpose.

Right now this minute, Trump has installed a man cheerleading for armed rebellion into a key communications post at the Centers for Disease Control -- Michael Caputo, a close ally of convicted liar Roger Stone, "made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in 'sedition' in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election."

Sedition. That's a Trumpian set-up if I've ever seen one (and I've seen plenty). Any scientist who subsequently suggests that Trump's hurried-up vaccine is not safe, not effective, will be branded a traitor to the president. You can see that coming, right?

Cal Cunningham's hesitance is just good sense. Tillis's shock is more toadying to a strong man he's profoundly afraid of.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Joyce Elliott Looking Better To Flip a US House Seat in Arkansas

I warned you guys back on August 2nd that you should pay attention to Democrat Joyce Elliott, running for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of Arkansas. Arkansas. Elliott is one of those dynamic new Black women running for office all across the land, and new polling puts her essentially even right now with the Republican incumbent, French Hill.

“The congressional race is thoroughly tethered to the presidential race in the current polling with all the geographic, demographic, and political patterns from the presidential race essentially replicated. Thus, while the presidential race is a referendum on Trump, the congressional race — in which Hill has not attempted to separate himself from the top of the ticket — is driven by nationalized patterns. Elliott’s campaign has emphasized her public education credentials, including 30 years as a teacher, which serves her particularly well in suburbanized communities where public schools serve as the glue for communities like Conway, Bryant, and Benton.

 “Elliott does run just behind Biden in Pulaski County [Little Rock] and needs to close that gap to maximize her vote in the largest county. She does also underperform slightly with younger voters (who are more likely to be undecided) and college-educated voters. Otherwise, the Biden and Elliott coalitions look very much alike.

“With Elliott showing solid fundraising success, all signs point to a very close race in the district before early voting begins. Elliott relies upon Biden maintaining his strong position in the district. Hill either needs Trump to rejuvenate his standing nationally or he must figure out how to subtly separate himself from the President without alienating core Trump voters.”


Saturday, September 12, 2020

C.J. Cregg, You Rock Me


C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney

So we started watching "The West Wing" -- from the pilot episode, on -- to check our memories that it was the best TV of all time. Netflix obliged us. That old show -- which premiered in 1999 on NBC in the waning days of Bill Clinton's misadventures in Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac -- looks to me now like evergreen commentary on guts versus compromise and a culturally significant artifact from the sundowning of American liberalism. 

I don't believe I found the show until well into its 1st season of 22 episodes, in the late fall of 1999, as the buzz about it spread. I remember Stockard Channing vividly as Abigail Bartlet, but she didn't appear as a character until about four episodes into the run. So the earliest eps are new to me, but the whole production has made me laugh out loud, and moved me to tears, and reminded me of our naive hopes and unrealized fears about a president who is actually a good person. Cheating on his wife would never happen, nor cheating period. 

I try to remember what we were up to back when "The West Wing" captured our imaginations. We had recently been involved in the painful resurrection of a Democratic Party in our local county. Old Guard Democrats were not amused that we had organized insurgents in almost all 20 precincts and took control of the party at the 1997 county convention. Which split the party. Which took time to heal (and may not in fact be fully healed even yet). 

The new guys were activists and organizers, "liberals" in the parlance of the day. Bright-eyed optimists and pushy reformers who wanted to change stuff. They easily earned the resentment and opposition from a conservative old guard. But the new party -- better organized with each passing month -- nevertheless won two seats on the local county commission in 1998, and with the election of a third Democrat, very much an old guard type who eventually admitted that he was really a Republican and switched parties -- Democrats had taken control of county government for the first time in years. "Control," so to speak because while liberals ran the Party, conservatives ran the County Commission and were rooted among the business elite. During the election campaigns of 2000, the old guard actually opened its own rival "Democratic Party HDQs" and entertained its own constituency, especially among the legal community and various business interests. 

I had sort of forgotten that "The West Wing" was really about those same tectonic pressures and the strains and failures that can follow. President Josiah ("Jed") Bartlet's flaw is his hesitance, a caution about acting on his beliefs, and the great dramatic conflict of the first season seesaws between a desirable liberal menu of high-minded cultural causes, and the iron maiden of compromise ("betrayal"). The greatest threats to the stability of the universe is said to be the liberals who are too radical, refusing under any circumstances to compromise. The frustrations of the president's idealistic staff, that even with a liberal Democrat as president, liberals are always always forced to compromise away the marrow of their beliefs. But finally, in the episode titled "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet," number 19 of 22, the president and his chief of staff decide to stop the habit of pussyfooting and to make the appointments they want to, rather than the ones the party honchos in the Senate want. They gird for battle, the promised retaliation by a Congress in the hands of the opposition. You feel your pulse quicken when fictional characters take out the sword and throw away the scabbard.

C.J. Cregg, played by wonderful flamingo Allison Janney, provides stunningly fresh commentary from two decades ago on what a presidential Press Secretary ought not to be, a lying co-conspirator in a criminal enterprise. C.J. Cregg suffers torment when she inadvertently cites the law wrong on appointees to the Federal Election Commission -- an honest error of not reading the briefing paper -- and she agonizes like a repentant sinner in the hands of an angry God, even going to the president for forgiveness for something so inconsequential. She intends always to be accurate, to be honest, and anyone causing her to utter untruths in the daily briefing is in for hellfire. She has a powerful moral compass and can blast the president himself to stay out of something he has no business sticking his nose into. She's a rock and funny to boot. A sense of humor about herself, and honesty -- a combo missing from our world.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

The Woman Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

So today I found Angela Mayfield, a Democrat in Georgia running against a four-term incumbent Republican for a Georgia House seat. The incumbent doesn't even usually have an opponent, so Angela Mayfield is just what the doctor ordered -- a gutsy, no-nonsense, kick-ass woman unafraid to talk the way we talk. Also a progressive who's scaring the holy hell out of the white men.

"Anyway. I’m Angela Mayfield. I’m tired of tater tot legislators who care more about the health and welfare of Confederate statues, than Black mothers and babies. My mother follows me here, so everything I say, I say in front of my Mama. Underestimate me again."

She broke through to local fame when the managing editor of the Douglas County Sentinel scrolled through her Twitter feed for months past and found that she used the word "pussy" in reference to a sexual act which she said too many "babymen" were loath to perform. The editor sent Mayfield a question about that, being ever so careful not to use the p-word:

Mayfield was scornful of his squeamishness and began to have fun with him:

And then this, when the editor went suddenly mute:

The editor of the paper retaliated with a front-page article, above the fold (which I've not been able to read in its entirety because ... paywall ... but I'm not giving this rag any of my money):

So Angela Mayfield goes into my 2020 pantheon of strong women running for office and ruffling feathers. I've no insight into this district, its demographics, nor her prospects, but it's fair to note that the newspaper's hit piece on her helped her raise some $50,000 in contributions. Her Republican opponent is scared shitless.

The Way the Pendulum Swings in North Carolina


Am I going to read an article titled "Suburban Women Hold the Balance of Power in the Swingiest of Swing States" (meaning, yes, North Carolina)? You bet I am!

It opens with this profile of "a decisive voter," meaning a voter who hasn't decided yet but whose vote, once they do decide, will be decisive: 

She’s white, college-educated, unaffiliated and moved to a close-in suburb of Charlotte or Raleigh in the last decade or two — and as Election Day looms, she’s still making up her mind.

Some vital stats:

...of the 7,040,308 registered voters as of last month, 36 percent are Democrats and 30 percent are Republicans, but an ascendant 33 percent are unaffiliated — the fastest-growing group, clustered in the fastest-growing suburbs. And of that 33 percent, [Paul] Shumaker, a Tillis consultant, wrote in a recent memo to donors, 30 percent are “behavioral Republicans,” 30 percent are “behavioral Democrats,” and the remaining 40 percent are “pure swing voters.” These, both sides agree, are the voters that are most up for grabs — in the places that are most up for grabs.

One of those places most up for grabs? According to US Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, it's definitely “the urban ring around Charlotte.” Said Cal, “That is going to decide probably the presidential race and possibly the outcome of the United States Senate. And it’s ground zero for a marquee governor’s race.”

Good to know. We've been following several General Assembly races in Cabarrus County, part of that "urban ring around Charlotte," and we like the image of a confluence of irresistible forces there.

Republican operatives are thinking Trump can scare those suburban women into voting for him because antifa! ... BLM! ... invasive species threatening the suburbs! Democratic operatives are convinced that suburban women are not idiots -- they know who's been stirring the trouble and for what ends.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Iconoclasm Has Its Limits


A few days ago, a Washington, DeeCee, commission formed in response to Black Lives Matter issued a report recommending that the Mayor and city government "remove, relocate or contextualize" the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument because of the slave-holding history of those two presidential honorees. The report additionally "recommended renaming dozens of public schools, parks and government buildings in the nation’s capital — including those named for seven U.S. presidents — after studying the historical namesakes’ connections to slavery and oppression."

Conservatives lost their shit. They had not read past the word remove, which -- let's face it -- is both alarming and ridiculous, to get to the word contextualize, which ought always to be done for public art from the past meant to memorialize what certain elite groups were thinking about great personalities and great events at the time. 

I can't account for the brilliant minds that decided to list the options that way -- "remove, relocate or contextualize" -- since the failure to deal with reality in the first two options -- relocate the Jefferson Memorial? Seriously?) renders irrelevant the only sensible option, "contextualize," and we're left wondering, "Is this committee a ship of fools or just stampeding for survival with the herd?"

This is what gives liberalism and liberals a bad name. This is what Republicans mean when they screech about "cancel culture." Trump set the pace after Charlottesville: “So this week, it’s Robert E. Lee, I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

If ever Trump could think clearly for a change, or within any contextual frame, I might have to agree with him. I don't like the blunt force trauma of wiping out the history of our mistaken venerations. Civic monuments erected at particular points in our history recorded contemporary thinking about the various flawed individuals who defined our values at that particular time. Contextualizing "Silent Sam" at Chapel Hill would have been preferable to pushing his nose into the dirt. Imagine a new plaque in front of "Silent Sam": "Here stands the expression of white supremacy as it existed in 1890 North Carolina. This statue was meant to proclaim, 'Venerate the Confederacy to keep the Blacks in their place!' "

Southern monuments, in particular those erected between 1890 and 1920 (and most frequently on public property), were mainly reminders of Jim Crow. So I cannot grieve the removal of those set up at court houses, like the one removed from the Chatham County Courthouse in Pittsboro, or the ones on State Capitol grounds also recently removed to storage. Those were objectionable because their expressions of "Our White Heritage" looked, because of their overt placement near the benches of justice, not only sanctioned by government but part-and-parcel of government, with the power to segregate, harass, and execute.

The North Carolina monument    
at Gettysburg, sculpted by
Gutzon Borglum

I cherish the Gettysburg Battlefield which is littered with hundreds of statues -- some of them the size of WWI battleships. The Confederacy is amply and suitably represented. The North Carolina monument in particular haunts me. I had to get up close and study the faces of the soldiers, ordinary enlisted men -- the bravery, determination, and resignation that sculptor Gutzon Borglum, the creator of Mt. Rushmore, captured. Their tragic devotion to the cause of maintaining slavery humbles one's tendency to pass judgment too quickly on our ideological opponents.

Civil War battlefields or museums -- that's where the Confederate monuments and statues belong, within and because of an historical context. There they are no longer the pugnacious and threatening specters of white people lording it over black people to the point of violence. They are images of the brave and dedicated men who rebelled for the sake of maintaining an economy built on slavery, and who paid the ultimate price.

Some of the Southern generals were brilliant and cunning, and those qualities speak to pretty perennial American values. Whether generals or mega-businessmen, we've tended to elevate the most ruthless among us. It's a sad fact (read Jill Lepore's recent "These Truths: A History of the United States") that our Constitution was written essentially to protect property from certain Democratic urges that the elite feared, and especially the property of Southern plantation society. Realizing those flaws in our founding values, contextualizing them (and amending the damn Constitution!), is the best we can do with what we've been given. We can't remove our foundations, but we can understand them more profoundly.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Trump Bombshell Dropped on the Military: Will It Matter to the Congressional Race in NC-8?


The American military was already backing away from Trump -- carefully, to be sure (discussed more below) -- even before his contempt for military sacrifice became a bombshell revelation yesterday.

I immediately wondered how that totally credible news of Trump's betrayal would affect the Democratic insurgency of Patricia Timmons-Goodson down in the 8th Congressional District. She's from Fayetteville, in Cumberland County, which just happens to hold two large military parks: the US Army at Fort Bragg and the US Air Force at Pope, meaning, in short, that the military vote in Cumberland County could be a wildcard heavy thumb on the political scales of 2020. Being pissed at what Trump said could sway the election toward the Democrat. But are they pissed?

(NOTE: Used to be, in the old 8th district, only the northern, more rural parts of Cumberland were included, but that already included Fort Bragg and Pope. The new 8th adds all of Cumberland, including more urbanized and liberal Fayetteville. Which makes the 8th lean slightly more Democratic, though it's still stubbornly labeled "Lean Republican" by the Cook Report.)

I've been surfing this a.m. for any answer to how Trump is playing there this weekend. Can't find a thing specific to the populations of Bragg and Pope, and the Fayetteville Observer gives me nothing. What I did run into was background on how the military decided to ban all displays of Confederate battle flags without triggering Trump's wrath (he has very forcefully defended everything Confederate). Because Trump's also notorious for not reading, the Pentagon's order cleverly buried their ban by not using the word ban, nor the word Confederate, and by making their policy order sound wholly positive, not negative. Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed the order on Thursday night, listing all that's allowed, and so much is allowed (U.S. and state banners, flags of other allies and partners, the widely displayed POW/MIA flag, and official military unit flags). The Confederate flag is not listed. Oops. But it would take reading to understand what just happened. The Pentagon's wording was "a creative way to bar the flag’s display without openly contradicting or angering President Donald Trump" (Lolita C. Baldor, AP).

That significant attempt to deceive the Commander in Chief is what I was referring to in the lead graph above: "Military, backing away from Trump already," even before he characterized their sacrifice as sucker-hood. Not to put too fine a point on it, the freshest and most promising new federal Democratic candidates since 2016 have tended to be former military men and women. I'm not going to list them here now. Take my word for it: the new Democratic star is likely former military, fed up with Donald Trump. I've profiled a bunch of them here since 2017, in many different states.

Timmons-Goodson is a distinguished lawyer and jurist, with 30 years experience including a seat on the NC Supreme Court and nomination by Barack Obama to the US 4th Circuit. She's massively accomplished and Black. The "new 8th" still contains plenty of the "old 8th," the conservative White counties of Harnett, Moore, Montgomery, and Stanly. A Black woman in the race complicates the Deep South metrics -- the incumbent Republican is a White man, Richard Hudson, who's supposedly more moderate than most of his brethren. But her candidacy maybe also liberates a different voting bloc that hasn't been participating up to their potential. The new 8th is about 1/4th Black. It's more heavily urban in the far east -- Cumberland -- and also the far west, Cabarrus (with its big city of Concord), which is increasingly a suburb of Charlotte and where there are several other strong Democrats making energetic runs for the General Assembly. They all mutually benefit one another.

I have no -- zero -- information nor insight about how Trump's words are playing among the active duty in Cumberland County, just curiosity to know. Not just the active duty personnel but also the retired military community, which I've been led to believe is substantial. The military has always been considered a part of the Republican base, hasn't it? Trump's been reportedly popular with the troops, and he's certainly courted their approval, which just makes his reported opinions about the Service all the more a betrayal.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

What the Hell R U Talking About, Virginia Foxx?


Virginia Foxx, autograph hound

The Appalachian's political editor Moss Brennan reported
something that Virginia Foxx said at a meet-the-candidates event at Hollar and Greene on Sunday (August 30):

“You know, the Democrats cannot win at the ballot box. They just can’t,” Foxx told the crowd.

What? What species of Trumpist lying bullshit is that? 

Here are the facts of how Virginia Foxx has fared at the effing ballot box in Watauga County, her home county, since her first run for the US House in 2004:

2004 Foxx beat Democrat Jim Harrell with 54.62 percent of the vote

2006 Democrat Roger Sharpe beat Foxx, who took only 46.42 percent of the vote

2008 Democrat Roy Carter beat Foxx, who took only 46.33 percent of the vote

2010 Foxx beat Democrat Billy Kennedy barely, with 51.16 percent of the vote

2012 Democrat Elisabeth Motsinger beat Foxx, who took 49.96 percent of the vote

2014 Democrat Josh Brannon beat Foxx, who took 49.04 percent of the vote

2016 Democrat Josh Brannon again beat Foxx, who took 49.04 percent of the vote

2018 Democrat D.D. Adams beat Foxx, who took 43.63 percent of the vote

That's what the ballot box has done to Virginia Foxx in her home county. She won her very first race here in 2004, and she edged out Billy Kennedy in the Tea Party year of 2010. But she's been beaten every other election at the ballot box in her home county. But. yeah, you tell your lie, Madam, that Democrats can't win at the ballot box.

Not making predictions here, but your track record in your home county suggests that you'll lose Watauga again in 2020 to David Wilson Brown. At the effing ballot box, which I personally can't wait to reach in order to send you my biennial message of disgust.