Sunday, February 28, 2021

Did the UNC Board of Governors Pull a Fast One at Fayetteville State University?


Darrell Allison.
Photo by CriShaun Hardy, DTH

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors -- Republicans all, aligned with the stink weeds in the leadership at the General Assembly -- has apparently ignored the chancellor search committee's recommendation at Fayetteville State University (an HBCU institution) and put in their own guy, Darrell Allison, a former member of the BOG who allegedly resigned from the BOG so he could become chancellor.

The switch was actually pulled off by UNC President Peter Hans. Back last September, about the time Allison was stepping down from the BOG, the BOG instituted a new policy that allows the UNC System president (Hans) to overrule the search committee and designate up to two individual candidates for system chancellor positions. Hans chose Allison and the BOG agreed, making him chancellor-elect of FSU on February 18.

According to The Daily Tarheel (DTH),

Through a fall 2019 executive action by the BOG chairperson, Allison was one of the five BOG members tasked with finding a solution for the Silent Sam monument. Allison was also one of the five signatories on the December 2019 op-ed for the News and Observer explaining the Silent Sam settlement with the N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans, which was overturned this month.

The settlement of the DTH Media Corp. v. UNC System lawsuit over alleged Open Meetings Law violations during this deal revealed that this op-ed was not written by the five committee members, but by then-UNC System Vice President for Communications Earl Whipple.

With Allison's departure from the BOG, concerns were raised about representation. At the time, he was one of only three Black BOG members, but Black students make up over one-fifth of total enrollment at UNC System schools, including five historically Black institutions.

How upset are FSU students and faculty about the appointment of Darrell Allison? The Faculty Senate met on Friday and passed a series of resolutions declaring that Allison's appointment needs to be rescinded immediately for violating every tenet of fair academic governance and alleging that Allison is wholly unqualified and was picked because of his conservative political affiliations.

An FSU alumnus created an on-line petition calling for the removal of Allison and gets explicit about his lack of qualifications:

Darrell Allison, without one day of experience in teaching, serving as a Dean, being a provost, or any other capacity building or training in Higher Education, is given the responsibility of educating students and leading them in an Academic Institution of Higher Learning. Allison lacks the Education, Knowledge and Experience that one is assumed to have before becoming the Chancellor of an institution. Darrell Allison additionally has a history of scandals involving Financial Mismanagement, Tampering with Leadership and Steering Vendor Contracts. FSU doesn't desire or deserve Darrell Allison.

Don't you even dare suggest that the UNCBOG is determined to turn higher education in this state to their own ends.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Sacrificial Lambs


Democrats willing to put themselves forward in 2022 against some of the most notorious Republicans in the US Congress. Bless them, Saint Simeon, patron saint of ships of fools.


Holly McCormack

She's declared herself a candidate against the Republican poster child of Trumpist insurrection and all-around junkyard snarler, Marjorie Taylor Greene in the 14th CD of Georgia.

Holly McCormack sells insurance in Ringgold, Georgia, and has never held office before nor run for any office. Her launch video emphasizes economic opportunity: "Once thriving communities are now hanging by a thread. There’s real frustration walking these streets. Our towns aren’t what they used to be. We are hardworking people that just want a shot at the American dream. But for the people of northwest Georgia, the American dream seems out of reach."

On her Twitter feed, she refers to Taylor Greene as "Marge": "Marge is all stunts, and no substance. I’m here to talk about the REAL ISSUES impacting Georgians. She can take her circus somewhere else, because we’re going to take her seat."

McCormack has an ActBlue page, if you want to come to her side. She'll raise some serious money, but the 14th CD of Georgia is ominously red. They like Marjorie Taylor Greene because she's a roaring braggart and bully. 

Kerry Donovan

Kerry Donovan
She's a well known Colorado state senator who's filed paperwork declaring her candidacy against pistol-packing Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert in the 3rd CD of Colorado. Boebert was insurrection-adjacent on January 6th, has posed for photographs with notorious militia types, and has insisted on her right to wear a sidearm into the US House chamber.

Donovan also makes an issue of the sagging economic prospects of rural America: “Our part of Colorado has big problems we need to solve. We have a huge drought on our hands. We need to have a robust economic recovery. These are big problems that need serious and big solutions, and I think that this district deserves to have someone fighting for them in Congress."

Donovan grew up in Colorado’s mountains and first won election to the state senate in 2014. She runs her family’s Cooper Bar Ranch near the town of Edwards and previously served as a member of the Vail Town Council.

She's @KerryDonovanCO on Twitter and she too has an ActBlue account.

She also already has at least two fellow Democrats who'll compete in a primary for the privilege to take on Boebert -- ex-Marine Gregg Smith, an ex-employee of Erik Prince of Blackwater fame who says he blew the whistle on Prince; and lawyer Colin Wilhelm, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Colorado House. But I'm from West Texas and naturally susceptible to a woman in a cowboy hat.

As Yet Unrecruited Democrat

Mo Brooks at the
Insurrection Rally
on Jan. 6th
Democrats in the 5th CD of Alabama are reportedly working hard to recruit a credible candidate to challenge Rep. Mo Brooks, who has made himself an avatar of Trumpist insurrection both before and after January 6th. “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?” Brooks yelled into the microphone at the Ellipse rally which came directly before the Capitol siege.

Three days after the riot, Brooks was publicly proud of helping to incite it: “I make no apology for doing my absolute best to inspire patriotic Americans to not give up on our country and to fight back against anti-Christian socialists in the 2022 and 2024 elections,” Mr. Brooks told a local newspaper. “I encourage EVERY citizen to watch my entire rally speech and decide for themselves what kind of America they want: One based on freedom and liberty or one based on godless dictatorial power.”

Brooks has always operated on the Republican far-right and at the specific instrux of his God, but he seems to have tripped a wire this time among Alabama Democrats (both of them?). “I plan to use whatever small influence I have to see that Mo is defeated,’’ said former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb. “We don’t need an ideologue representing Alabama.’’

Maybe the experience of defeating Roy Moore and winning the Senate seat for Doug Jones -- however short-lived it was, and it was short-lived -- has sparked new life in Alabama Democrats.

In recent election cycles, the Alabama Democratic Party hasn't even bothered to recruit a candidate in the 5th CD, but following Brooks' performance as a "Stop the Steal" promoter, the state party began raising money via two online solicitations. “We cannot allow Mo Brooks to win re-election and continue embarrassing the state of Alabama,’’ said one, titled “The No Mo Bull**** Fund .... These funds will be used to hold Mo accountable and recruit and support the next congressperson from the 5th Congressional District — a Democrat.’’ They reportedly have an ActBlue page set up, but I haven't found it.

Bruno Amato

A professional Hollywood bit actor, with some 109 film credits on, who has announced that he will challenge Rep. Kevin McCarthy in 2022. McCarthy you know as the harried Republican minority leader and ideologically The Weakest Link. But McCarthy represents the 23rd CD in California, home to Bakersfield and valley agriculture where Trumpists grow faster than artichokes, which is exactly the reason McCarthy took back (in a Bakersfield minute) his statement blaming Trump for the insurrection. Following that fuck-up, McCarthy quickly got himself to Mar-a-Lago to kiss ass and never say a discouraging word to Marjorie Taylor Greene.

McCarthy took 62% of the vote in the 23rd last November. He'll probably take 62% in 2022, or even more.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Rural Broadband Is a Bad Joke

By Blair Reeves, Executive Director, Carolina Forward

With the kickoff of the legislative season in Raleigh, the North Carolina public is being treated to an performance of high theater.

The annual ritual of politicians feigning sincere interest about rural broadband has only gotten more elaborate over the years. Politicians from both parties constantly talk about how expanding rural broadband is one of their top priorities. There is a task force. Senator Paul Newton says he’s considering forming a “stakeholder group,” so you know things are getting quite serious.


But don’t be fooled -- what we’re witnessing here is theatrical politics, specifically an absurdist dark comedy. None of it is to be taken seriously. While some of these leaders’ concerns are sincere, many are plainly not. In reality, lots of those loudly pretending to care about rural broadband are the same ones who stand, and have voted, against the easiest, cheapest, and most efficient way to expand access across our state: municipal broadband.

In short, many of North Carolina’s leaders, far from trying to expand broadband access, have actually deliberately blocked it and continue to do so today. Their concern-trolling over the issue over the last decade has mostly served to enrich cable companies at taxpayer expense. This is bad public policy from almost every angle, and poorly serves our state.

Don’t Be Fooled

In 2011, right after taking control of the General Assembly, Republican leaders passed a law (HB 129) that prohibited local governments from using existing infrastructure to offer broadband service as a public utility to their residents -- a system otherwise known as municipal broadband. The “anti-muni broadband” bill made national news at the time.

Municipal (“muni”) broadband systems are widespread in the United States and extremely popular. Take the City of Chattanooga as an example. Its municipal utility provides electrical power, as many do, but theirs offers broadband internet too. They’ve operated for over a decade, and their prices would make most North Carolina broadband customers weep. Literally hundreds of communities across the country have done the same, with many variations. (You know it’s bad when the Tennesseeans are out ahead of us.)

Voters love “muni” broadband, but there are two important groups that do not: cable companies and right-wing politicians. Republican opposition to muni broadband boils down to protecting cable companies’ monopoly power -- and by extension, the resulting campaign contributions. There is a great deal of FUD and double-speak on this issue: the Art Pope-John Locke Foundation, for example, talks in evident earnestness about “open markets and competition” and a “government takeover” in their heated opposition to municipal broadband. This is puzzling language, since what they’re actually advocating for is prohibiting competition. What North Carolinians need is more competition, which muni broadband would provide. 

Cable companies hate muni broadband plans precisely because it provides competition. They have bankrolled legal bans or restrictions in 22 states, including ours in North Carolina. For more on this topic, here’s some in-depth background on how the cable company lobby killed muni broadband in North Carolina with 2011’s HB 129. Cable companies are quite pleased, thank you very much, with having virtual or literal monopolies over captive customers who must pay whatever they charge.

“If the big telecoms are going to rule the day [in the legislature], I don’t think people should waste their time on this anymore, and North Carolina can suffer the economic consequences.” - Scott Mooneyham, N.C. League of Municipalities

Municipal broadband systems are not a silver bullet for this issue and will not work for every corner of North Carolina. (Not every single corner has electrical power service, either.) But they are a locally based, taxpayer-friendly, and highly efficient solution to a big market failure. Municipal broadband may not be the whole solution, but it is definitely a big part of one.

The GREAT Boondoggle

After slamming the door on municipal broadband, in 2018 the state’s Republican leadership came up with a new answer to the rural broadband issue: the GREAT grant program

To summarize, GREAT provides matching grants to private companies to deploy (i.e., bury) new fiber lines in underserved areas. In other words, the state forks over money to pay Spectrum, CenturyLink, or AT&T (smaller ISPs find GREAT ludicrously difficult to realistically use) to dig new fiber. This approach not only amounts to major savings on capital expenditures for those companies, but also leads to future revenue, because the GREAT grant recipient now gets access to lots of new paying customers. GREAT is not applicable in most counties, even in those with real need. There are no restrictions, either, on how much the cable companies get to charge the customers they get access to with taxpayer assistance. That, presumably, would be too much “interference” with the free market.

You may not be surprised to learn that cable companies love this program. It amounts to a big giveaway transfer of public dollars to their capex budget and delivers to them net-new customers -- all at taxpayer expense.

For the North Carolina taxpayer, on the other hand, this is a raw deal. It’s an incredibly inefficient way to expand access to broadband and very expensive. By contrast, most muni broadband projects are financed by federal or state dollars that don’t have a profit margin added, or by floating a bond, as the town of Wilson did in their (in)famous muni broadband saga. (When originally approached by the mayor about expanding their broadband network in Wilson, Time Warner reportedly laughed in his face.) These mechanisms are much more cost-effective means to pay for an essential utility.

The GREAT program amounts to a large, centrally planned, “Rube Goldberg machine-approach” to broadband that somehow manages to be both expensive and inefficient.

Better Is Possible

The FIBER Act, first introduced in the 2019 legislative session, is a first step forward in fixing this awful and broken system. It is not perfect, and does not go far enough to make it simpler and easier for local governments to set up municipal broadband networks. But it’s a big step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, Republican leadership killed the FIBER act in 2019, and the bill’s prospects in 2021 don’t look much better. Democrats are very supportive, but they hold no power in the General Assembly.

Voters should pay attention to who actually cares about this issue, and who is just pretending.

A lot of state leaders work hard to jealously protect cable companies’ monopoly power behind fig-leaf rhetoric about the “role of government.” Broadband access to the internet is the essential utility of the 21st century. It may not be as essential to life as clean water, but it’s arguably on par with electricity. It’s hard to overstate how fundamental a link good internet access is to educational, professional, socio-cultural, and the basic informational resources of modern life. A big part of the modern world happens on the internet. And if you’re not there, you’re simply shut out of it.

Serious policymakers should learn from our state’s history with rural electrification and embrace muni broadband. It’s smart policy, it’s good for North Carolinians, and great for our economy. It’s a boon to rural areas, many of which struggle economically and have atrocious internet service. And for those concerned, AT&T and Spectrum will be just fine. (One imagines the CEO of AT&T simply quaking in his shoes at the prospect of little Franklin, NC, launching a muni broadband project.) If leaders actually want to work for North Carolinians instead of the cable lobby, their choice is clear.


Blair Reeves is Executive Director of Carolina Forward, a progressive policy organization dedicated to building a more just, democratic and prosperous North Carolina. Learn more at

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Who Will Be the Next Governor of Virginia?


Virginia is a weirdo state in so many ways, going from Old Confederacy red to progressive blue in just a handful of election cycles. Both senators are Democrats. Both houses of their state lege, ditto. Governor, lieutenant guv, attorney general -- all Democrats. And the state went decisively for Joe Biden last fall.

Virginia is also weird in that its major state elections are in odd-numbered years, like this one, when it will elect a new governor (and the rest of its statewide officers and members of the state lege). So there's a scrum of candidates for governor on both sides. The Trumpists are predicting a MAGA resurgence; the Democrats are hoping for continued forward momentum. It's kind of a circus with lots of clowns.

The Democrats

The Democratic nominee for Governor of Virginia will be decided in a June 8 primary election. It's gonna be something to watch.

Terry McAuliffe

Yes, that Terry McAuliffe, the former govenor (2013-2017). Another weirdness: Virginia allows only a single 4-year term for its governors but allows them to come back for a 2nd go after someone else holds the job. McAuliffe is an old pal of the Clintons and served as their pick to head the Democratic National Committee, so he has a fat rolodex of potential donors. He's raised the most money so far, some $6 million just since last year. A slick operator, McAuliffe spent his years out of office raising big money for other Democrats running in the state, so he's got plenty of friends. He's been endorsed by many in the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, ironic considering the next candidate down this list. From all I can discern, he was a popular governor, free of major scandal, but he's now a pain in the ass to younger, more progressive Democrats for returning for a second dip in the pool.

Jennifer Carroll Foy

Elected in the first blue wave of 2017 to the Virginia House of Delegates. She resigned her seat in December to concentrate on her race for governor. She's raised a respectable $1.9 million. She received her bachelor's degree from the Virginia Military Institute (and thereby hangs a tale of tough perseverance, surviving the hazing of all those white boys who didn't think she belonged). She earned her law degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. Her professional experience includes working as an attorney and public defender, serving as an adjunct professor of criminal law at Northern Virginia Community College, and serving as a magistrate. She also founded a nonprofit organization called the Foundation for Foster and Orphan Children. She's gotten lots of national attention as another potential Stacey Abrams.

Justin Fairfax

Currently the lieutenant governor of Virginia, Fairfax might have been considered "next in line" for the top job, but a sexual assault scandal has hurt him. Two women came forward and accused him of separate incidents of sexual assault from the early 2000s. Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor, has repeatedly denied the charges and called for law enforcement to investigate. Lawyers for both women have said they would rather participate in legislative hearings, a prospect Fairfax’s team has called a “show trial.” Probably as a result of this cloud, Fairfax's fundraising has been noticeably anemic.


Jennifer McClellan

The other Black woman in the race. A long serving member of the House of Delegates, she was elected to a Virginia Senate seat in the same 2017 wave that put Carolyn Foy in office. McClellan's law degree is from the University of Virginia School of Law, a pedigree that propelled her into a prominent career as a corporate lawyer. She's currently third in the money race with $1.1 million. She's considered "steady and cerebral," and she opted to keep her seat in the senate while campaigning for governor.  She highlights her work on significant legislation, such as sponsoring the first Voting Rights Act to be approved by a Southern state. She could split the Black vote with Carolyn Foy, thus advantaging Terry McAuliffe.

Lee J. Carter

Currently a member of the House of Delegates, Carter proudly dons the mantle of Bernie Sanders and calls himself a socialist. He's raised little money. But he's described as a "red-headed fiery populist" on the liberal, pro-worker-rights spectrum. He's an ex-Marine, which adds a little punch to his gospel of the "have-nots" needing to rise up against the "haves." 
“For too long, we’ve listened to career politicians and pundits tell us that there is no other way,” Carter said in his launch video. “But no more. In this primary we can finally pick a governor that will fight for the rest of us.”

The Republicans

The Virginia Republican Party is split and fighting right now over how to even select their candidate for governor. The non-Trumpists are trying to force the nomination into a convention, while the Trumpists want a bare-knuckles primary. Here's background on that.

Amanda F. Chase  

Currently the pistol-packing "Trump in high heels" who occupies a seat in the state senate (a seat recently encased in a plastic shield -- no, really -- because Chase refuses to wear a mask) who earned herself a bipartisan censure from her fellow senators for praising the Capitol insurrectionists as "patriots." She's the principal reason Republican Party leaders are desperate to keep this race out of a primary. They're terrified she could win a primary and go on to crash the whole party in November. As of the end of 2020, Chase had about $235,000, cash on hand.


Kirk Cox

He's been in the Virginia House of Delegates for three decades, and in his party's salad days, he served as majority leader and then as Speaker of the House. His voting record is not that different from Amanda Chase's, but Cox tries to project a non-Trumpist and "sane conservative" image. His one striking departure from Republican orthodoxy: He swerved on the issue of expanding Medicaid in the state under the Affordable Care Act, so to the Trumpists he's a traitor. As of Dec. 31, Cox had about $691,000 cash on hand. Cox and Chase are the only two of the six Republicans running who've ever held public office before. 

Glenn Youngkin
Youngkin is the former co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group, a global private equity giant. Worth an estimated $254  million, the political newcomer highlights his up-by-the-bootstraps biography, including a stint in his teens washing dishes at a Virginia Beach diner to help support his family. Youngkin claimed that he had raised $1 million from supporters in the first 10 days of his campaign.


Pete Snyder
Snyder is a pioneer in social media marketing who unsuccessfully sought his party’s nomination for lieutenant governor in 2013. The establishment favorite then, Snyder now touts endorsements from hard-right figures including former state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli. A multimillionaire, Snyder has the ability and willingness to self-fund.

 Peter Doran

Doran is the former president of the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, where he says he helped former Soviet bloc countries rebuild after “the ravages of socialism.” He’s promising to phase out the state’s income tax.

 Sergio de la Peña

De la Peña, a retired Army colonel, was born into poverty in Mexico and rose to a Pentagon post under Trump as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs.

 Note: Characterizations of some candidates, particularly the last four Republicans, taken from WashPost.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Democrats Plan a Postmortem

When Democrats conduct an autopsy of a bad election, there's every possibility that they'll open the chest cavity last.

News arrives this morning that some four Democratic "interest groups" -- Third Way, End Citizens United,  the Latino Victory Fund, and Collective PAC -- have "quietly launched" a review and numerical analysis of why Democrats did so poorly down-ballot in 2020. How poorly, you ask? In North Carolina, Democrats lost ground in the NC House and Senate, failing to take the majority in either chamber, and they couldn't take any Council of State seats they didn't already hold (though they came close across the board). Nationally, Democrats lost 14 seats in the US House, a dozen of which had only just been won in 2018. My eyes water at those statistics.

Third Way, a conservative Democratic interest group and a part of the quartet investigating these losses, wants the word "socialism" banned from the vocabulary and expunged from Democratic DNA. They'll also target the "Defund Police" motto as a culprit for causing the shakes among rural and exurban voters. Maybe they're right. I don't know, but I squint hard at solutions that seem philosophically allied most strongly with Wall Street self-interest.

The NYTimes article notes this: "The review is probing tactical and strategic choices across the map, including Democratic messaging on the economy and the coronavirus pandemic, as well as organizational decisions like eschewing in-person canvassing." I highlight that last phrase because I blame the absence of a ground game across much of North Carolina as a contributing factor to our losses. A major contributing factor. The excuse, naturally -- and it's a valid if convenient excuse -- was COVID fear, but some county parties managed canvassing anyway with masking and social distancing. (Not naming any counties, but I live in one of them.)

Maybe I believe too much in the "Trump effect," especially as it influenced the turnout in North Carolina, but the surge in Republican numbers in non-metropolitan counties last fall might focus the apocalyptic mind. I hate to say it, and I hope I'm wrong for the long run, but the man Trump is almost a supernatural force for disaffected citizens who often don't even vote but who hate pretty much everyone in government but especially Democrats who love "multiculturalism" more than them. The economic radicalism of Bernie Sanders gets to many of those folks in ways the Third Way Democrats might want to notice. In fact, for many white rural Trump voters, they thought Trump was going to bring that same economic radicalism to benefit them personally, but low-information voters never caught on to the fraud.

Trump intends to provide the magic going forward, you bet. But he himself won't be on the ballot again before 2024 -- if then -- and it remains to be seen if he can pump up the vote for others, including for his own unqualified carpet-bagging daughter-in-law.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Sylva Man Becomes 4th in North Carolina Charged in the Capitol Insurrection

Lewis Easton Cantwell, 35, was arrested by the FBI in Sylva and appeared in federal court yesterday in Asheville for storming the capitol, destroying property, refusing to leave, and interfering with police. The judge told him he could face up to a combined 28 years for all the charges, and if he was found to be in possession of a weapon while storming the Capitol last month, that maximum time could be increased.

Because he has no criminal record, Cantwell was released on a $25,000 bond with a host of conditions, including that he cannot travel outside of western N.C. other than to travel to his court appearance. He also can't break any laws, isn't allowed to carry a weapon, and he had to hand over his passport to officials.

Cantwell is part-owner of a tea shop, Sip' Sum, in downtown Sylva.

His trial will take place in Federal court in Washington, D.C.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Could Win The Presidency In 2024


Drayton Aldridge, guest blogging:

Like her or hate her, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a transformational politician. Since first appearing on the national stage in June of 2018, she has grown into arguably the most formidable political talent since Barack Obama. The 31-year-old congresswoman is a progressive hero, a feminist icon, a social media sensation, and the fifth most admired womanaccording to a recent Gallup survey (tied with Queen Elizabeth, Angela Merkel, and Hillary Clinton). More importantly, she has the brains and the political chops to make use of all the attention. Despite only being in Washington for a little over two years, she has emerged as the de facto leader of America’s left-wing.  


AOC has not to my knowledge made any statements about a future presidential campaign, but I will speculate freely. As a general rule I assume that most talented young political leaders have an interest in being president. And with President Biden in his late 70s and unlikely to seek a second term, the Bronx congresswoman could have a real shot at the Democratic nomination as soon as 2024. 


The conventional wisdom is that AOC, despite her obvious talents, is too young, too inexperienced, and too radical to be a serious contender for national office anytime soon. But this is the sort of short-sighted punditry that couldn’t fathom a Donald Trump presidency, that underestimated the historic candidacy of Barack Obama, and that promised us Bernie Sanders could never catch on as a serious primary contender. It’s lazy analysis that assumes that if something hasn’t happened in the past, then surely it can’t happen now. Considering just in the past year we have lived through a global pandemic, an insurrection, and a coup attempt carried out by the President of the United States, I suggest it’s time to think a little more imaginatively about what is and isn’t possible. 


If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decides to run for the presidency, you can bet that her age and inexperience will be used against her. She would be the youngest president in U.S. history by several years were she to assume office in 2025.  Coming directly after the country’s two oldest presidents, however, I tend to think youth will be more of an asset than a detriment in the next campaign. She could point to the example of our two youngest presidents -- John F. Kennedy and Teddy Roosevelt -- as visionary leaders whose relative youth served them well.  


As for inexperience, AOC has already been in Washington as long as Barack Obama had been there when he announced his 2008 campaign. While old ideas about requisite political experience persist among Washington insiders, voters don’t seem to harbor the same feelings. Afterall, presidents Trump, Obama, and George W. Bush all had limited traditional experience yet proved victorious over more experienced opponents. 


Is AOC too radical to be elected president?  Ever since the George McGovern fiasco of 1972, the commonly accepted narrative is that Democrats can only win by running non-controversial, moderate candidates. But in this era of hyper-polarization, rapidly disappearing swing voters, and perpetually competitive presidential elections, such assumptions seem increasingly outdated. That’s not to say AOC would be an ideal general election candidate, but rather that just about anyone the Democrats or Republicans nominate has a legitimate shot at winning the presidency in this environment. Moreover there are many factors other than ideology that contribute to electability. AOC’s personal magnetism, ability to excite the Democratic base, and potential to reach out to new and infrequent voters could offset the disadvantages of her candidacy.  


Ocasio-Cortez may be polarizing, but she’s not decidedly unpopular. According to the Economist/Yougov’s weekly tracking poll, her net favorability rating currently stands at -2%. While this is not a stellar favorability rating, it is a totally respectable one. It’s higher than Joe Biden’s was for most of the 2020 Democratic Primary and higher than Donald Trump’s at any point in his presidency. She’ll have to put in some work to win over Independents if she decides to run, but she starts out in a totally plausible position.


More importantly, she would begin with a large and devoted base of support. Her primary campaign would likely pick up where Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign left off, with a solid chunk of the left-wing of the party behind her. But I suspect her appeal could be much broader than Bernie’s ever was. As potentially the first Latinx and first woman president, she is well positioned to fire up the beating heart of the Democratic base while also reaching out to a diverse coalition of voters. And as a young outsider who just a few years ago was working as a bartender, her candidacy could help to bring a new generation of working-class millennials and gen Zers into the political arena.  


While the betting money is against an AOC win in 2024, I would argue that her chances of winning the next election are no worse than Barack Obama’s in 2005 or Donald Trump’s in 2013. She enters the political stage at a time of realignment in which the old rules and norms that have governed our politics for over a generation are breaking down. These are the moments that propelled transformative politicians like Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan into the presidency, all of whom would have been unimaginable a decade earlier. In our fast-paced world we can be sure that a lot will happen before 2024. Until then, it would be foolish to count out the Democratic Party’s most gifted young leader.   


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Thom Tillis Said What?


After Senator Thom Tillis's not guilty vote, I brushed him aside to get a clearer view of Senator Richard Burr's guilty vote and subsequent censuring by the NCGOP. Only later did I notice that Tillis said this after Trump's acquittal:

It is important to note that a not guilty verdict is not the same as being declared innocent. President Trump is most certainly not the victim here; his words and actions were reckless and he shares responsibility for the disgrace that occurred on January 6.

Those two (scant) sentences were buried near the end of a much longer defense of his vote. The shade he threw on Trump is weak, but it's there, a statement of waning loyalty if not outright heresy.

The rest of Tillis's statement is a lot of yadda yadda yadda about how it's unconstitutional to impeach someone out of office (boilerplate argument) and about how the House Democrats rushed to judgment without proper process and about how Democrats are anyway just as bad as Trump at inciting their base. Tillis does put his tongue in one other crack in his loyalty oath to Trump:

The ultimate accountability is through our criminal justice system where political passions are checked and due process is constitutionally mandated. No president is above the law or immune from criminal prosecution, and that includes former President Trump.

He was copying Leader McConnell, wasn't he? Everyone knows Tillis would love to be free of the former president, if only it could be done while the senator was looking the other way.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Carolina Forward


Blair Reeves, who was the visionary behind last year's Long Leaf Pine Slate, proved himself an adept at raising independent money for a slate of some 19 Democratic candidates running for the NC Senate and House. Reeves vetted those candidates and shared their stories with an expanding base of progressives.

Because of the Trump effect, only two of those 19 made it to the General Assembly. Blair Reeves is determined to do better. The fight is still very much in him. So he's rolled over his experiment in fundraising into a 501(c)4, "a progressive policy non-profit" he's calling Carolina Forward. Here's the new website, where you can also donate (which I just did).

In his announcement email this morning, Reeves writes:

Let us not mince words: the 2010s were a disaster for North Carolina families, schools, workers, its environment, and (especially) vulnerable communities. If we are to avoid a second decade of more of the same, we must expand, and redouble, our fight. Most importantly, we must change tactics. The same old, tired approaches and strategies and playbooks simply will no longer do. They are not working. It’s time for something different.

We need new ideas, as well as better ways to distribute them. We must develop a deeper bench of younger leaders across the state who understand that the old rules of the game have changed and that partisan politics have evolved. There is generational change happening all over our country, and it’s time that wave came to North Carolina politics. Carolina Forward will invest in these priorities so that when the next election cycle comes around, our dollars can go even further in winning hearts, minds, and most importantly, votes.

We saw in 2020 some outstanding young candidates emerge all over the state, and Reeves intends to nurture more of them, so we expect that Carolina Forward will be participating in candidate recruitment as much as candidate fundraising.

White Like Me


I'm a white man -- a Southern white man -- reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' "Between the World and Me." The author is one of the most famous Black critics in the US today. His book is tiny, only 152 pages of text. I read it quickly in two sittings. I'm reading it again, more slowly.

Coates frames the book as a letter to his 15-year-old son. The message is stark. You're being hunted, Coates tells his son, and the hunt can end -- often does -- in the destruction of your body, death in a New York minute. Who are the hunters? People who "believe they are white," when whiteness means power through superiority:

...the belief in being white was not achieved through wine tastings and ice cream socials, but rather through the pillaging of life, liberty, labor, and land; through the flaying of backs; the chaining of limbs; the strangling of dissidents, the destruction of families; the rape of mothers; the sale of children; and various other acts meant, first and foremost, to deny you and me the right to secure and govern our own bodies.

Indisputably, the threat of destruction comes most swiftly now and perennially from men wearing uniforms, carrying badges, with unlimited caches of ammunition -- law enforcement, standing in for us white folks and for the civic dream of American exceptionalism. Coats warns his son that any encounter is a roll of dice. Snake eyes can bring death, "the result of an unfortunate overreaction":

It does not matter if it originates in a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction springs from a foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without the proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be destroyed. Turn into a dark stairwell and your body can be destroyed. The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions. And destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include friskings, detainings, beatings, and humiliations. All of this is common to black people. And all of this is old for black people. No one is held responsible.

(This is where I want to start whining, secure my escape from complicity -- the impulse to catalog my innocence, my personal disgust with police killings. "That's not me! I wasn't raised that way." But put a lid on that shit! Ta-Nehisi Coates is not my occasion to play pharisee.)

Coates writes frankly of his fear. He says he's always been afraid, all his life. He feared his tough father's belt. He feared the mean streets of West Baltimore where he grew up and where a boy as young as him once pointed a gun square in his face. As a student at Howard University, he feared the Prince William County police department, who trailed and shot to death a fellow student in a case of perverse mistaken identity. As a father now, he fears for his son, who has been raised in relative ease and privilege, which makes him maybe more prone to blunder into one of the multitude of mistakes that a young Black man can make in the presence of cops.

Coates admits he doesn't believe in God, doesn't even have the protective armor of religion that nurtured and reassured so many others in the face of slavery. If you don't have a God who'll always protect you (in theory) and lift you up to heaven (if only in fiction and gospel songs), you've lost a communion that might blunt the fear and the pain. I can identify with Coates in that absence of faith.

You can live the life of a Black man in America, but not everyone can communicate its sinew, sweat, confusion, humanity like Coates the writer. He doesn't sugarcoat the future for his son. He doesn't offer the trapdoor of hope. After all, American history weighs tons and can't be heaved off the chest as easily as a mere anvil. It sits down heavy on all of us, even the fantasy versions concocted by white supremacists who want to make it great again. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Disloyalty Like Burr's Requires Emergency Action


This is how hollowed out the North Carolina Republican Party has become because of Trump: the Central Committee of Party pooh-bahs have called an emergency teleconference this evening for the sole purpose of censuring their senior senator ... because you just can't let an outbreak of personal integrity and conscience fester.

Will anyone on the Central Committee support Burr's independence from Trumpism? Will we know?

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Sen. Burr Votes 'Guilty' and Opens a Rift


Senator Richard Burr's conscience in his vote of "guilty" yesterday earned him no respect from the NCGOP. Republican Party Chair Michael Whatley quickly issued a statement saying Burr's guilty vote was "shocking and disappointing." He stopped at that. Rep. Dan Bishop of the 9th District went further. He immediately joined in a call for a Party censure of Burr. Meanwhile, former Rep. Mark Walker, who's running for Burr's seat, used the Burr vote to fundraise for himself: “Wrong vote, Sen. Burr. I am running to replace Richard Burr because North Carolina needs a true conservative champion as their next senator.”

On the other side of the Republican Party, the side that still wants to put country before the perverse itches of one man, Judge Bob Orr announced that he'll be submitting his change of party registration this coming week, and he did it with all caps: "I CAN'T WAIT TO LEAVE THE GOP."

Even though Chair Whatley's statement -- all things considered -- was very short and perfunctory, more than it was scalding, he may not be able to hold his party back from an open split when Trumpists outnumber the Judge Orrs. If they intend to enforce loyalty to one man who mainly golfs, it can't be good for the future of traditional Republicanism in North Carolina. Can it?