Carolina Forward email blast: Feb. 27, 2023
I have occasional reasons to cross the state line into Tennessee. Lotsa North Carolinians do business in Johnson County. But after catching up on the craziness right now out our back door, I'm thinking of going cold turkey on the entire Volunteer State. Their leaders are currently volunteering to be the worst public dicks in the nation. Economic reaction is the only pressure that works. (See how NC suffered after the "Bathroom Bill" passed.)passed joint legislation to create a new felony offense for anyone engaging in an "adult cabaret performance" on public property or in any location where the performance "could be viewed by a person who is not an adult." The criminalization of these "performances" would presumably extend to costumed dancers in Pride parades and to off-color jokes told by a trans comedian (there are plenty such professionals; check Netflix).
On the very same day, Thursday, February 23, Tennessee House Republicans also overwhelmingly passed a ban on gender-transition health care, including hormone therapy and surgery, for anyone under the age of 18. That's telling those "confused" teenagers! "You're going to be what I say you are. And you're grounded."
The Drag Show Bill (H6/S3), "An Act to Amend Tennessee Code," lists its favorite erotic fantasies -- topless, go-go, and all "exotic" dancers, plus strippers and "male or female impersonators who provide entertainment." That capaciousness for criminalizing sexy displays actually deploys the adjective pruient, a little used relic from an earlier era of shocked Victorian prudery. Any of the "entertainers" listed above who arouse pruient thoughts will be subject to prosecution.
Pruient comes from Latin pruiens, originally meaning an itching (no lie!). For Roman soldiers, beset by fleas and lice and armor-rash, pruiens meant a physical itching but quickly took on a metaphorical meaning, itching for sex. In other words, it's ancient and obscure enough to become the standard for criminal intent in a new felony class in the State of Tennessee.
The Tennessee legislators worry about the itch because they by God have the itch, feel the itch, and by-'n'-by scratch the itch (like all God's creatures). Their denial is a confession but also a power play. The Puritan tyrant is always covering for his own sin. Accounts for the obsession:
"Republicans are troubled by homosexuality and can't figure out how not to think about it."
Democrats hold a dismissible minority of seats in the two chambers of the Tennessee legislature. Republicans have a veto-proof majority in both houses and a Republican governor to boot, willing to sign whatever they want. One of the minority Democrats in the House, Rep. Justin Jones (who goes under the handle @BrotherJones on Twitter) stood up during the debate on the Drag Show Bill and delivered one blistering takedown of Republican hypocrisy (video can be seen here). “If we want to address the issue of obscenity and what’s harmful to minors, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle don’t need a bill — they need a MIRROR.”
If there's still a shred of justice at any level of power in this country, the Courts will see that the State of Tennessee is legally persecuting an identifiable group, and you simply cannot do that in our Republic.
lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s Ag-Gag law, ruling that undercover investigations and whistleblowing are considered newsgathering activities protected by the First Amendment.
Yesterday the NC House passed HB76 "Access to Healthcare Options" (Medicaid expansion under Obamacare) with both men representing Watauga County voting yes -- Ray Pickett, who represents most of the county and Destin Hall, who carved out Blue Ridge Precinct for his Caldwell District.
The bill passed 92-22 on its final reading. All Democrats voted for it and a bunch of majority Republicans too.
The bill goes now to the Senate. And that's where the trouble will begin.
|Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk|
Most all troubles come from having standards.
--Thomas Berger, Little Big Man
We Democrats are deciduous. We fade, lose heart, become torpid, languish, then the sap rises again and we are passionate.
--Garrison Keillor, Homegrown Democrat
Democrats are always characterized by their gene for unrequited conciliation.
--Jeffrey Toobin, Too Close To Call
|Jerry Meek, 2007|
I pay attention to Thomas Mills, even when he makes me wince. He's a righteous Democrat, gives off the aura of a scrappy street-fighter, but generally speaking, he's moderate to the point of caution. Mills helped recruit Dan McCready to run for Congress in 2017 and worked as a paid consultant on that 2018 campaign. McCready wrote the definitive book on caution. He's not currently in Congress.
Mills remembers the last insurgency that took over the state party differently from me, the administration of Jerry Meek, but Mills was in a better position to observe and knew the insiders better than I, so I don't discount his recitation of facts:
While he was popular with the party base, Meek never established much of a working relationship with Easley. Not much really changed within party headquarters. The executive director, who oversees the day-to-day operation of the party, stayed the same and kept his working relationship with the governor, which in turn kept the funds necessary to keep the party operational. The state house and state senate caucuses continued to operate as if nothing had happened. Meek was able to tamp down the restlessness among the party faithful, but he couldn’t change the fundamental reality of politics: it takes money, and lots of it.
One correction: Our "restlessness" with the state party in Watauga was more than "tamped down" during those Jerry Meek years. From our perspective, we had a much more open road, paved with cooperation from Raleigh, leading directly to the total sweep of president, governor, and US Senator in 2008 because we had tested and perfected an intense, data-driven field operation (Meek himself came to one of our canvasses to learn). I give Jerry Meek credit for turning several county parties around between 2004 and 2008, because he was deliberately pursuing a "hundred-county strategy" inspired by Howard Dean's "fifty-state strategy."
Yet Mills doesn't think his impact amounted to much. Maybe he's right. But I'm pretty dug in with my lived experience.
Mills's downer post isn't just about seeing political history differently. It's also about declaring that the current enthusiasm for change in the party is doomed from the get-go, that "not much is going to change regardless of who is state party chair" because of the stranglehold of a self-interested Establishment. The money grip is iron -- eternal, ineluctable, and insidious.
Much of the dissatisfaction of the party is far beyond anybody’s control. Those who believe Democrats need a year-round organizing operation have never said how they plan to fund it. The state Democratic Party is dependent on the support of the governor or from some organizational component of the national party. There’s no independent funding base for the North Carolina Democratic Party itself.
[Current party chair Bobbie] Richardson is getting blamed for not implementing a robust statewide field program during the 2022 cycle, but that’s not her fault. All of those operations are funded by national money and have been for decades. In 2022, those folks largely took a pass on North Carolina. Field programs are expensive and take millions of dollars to implement in a state the size of North Carolina.
Money, of course, but also whatcha gonna do with money once you get it?
If I believed that no amount of reform, even reform mixed with a widespread willingness to spend sweat equity, was bound to fail, even as it was being born, how the hell could I go on as a party activist? Hell, how could I go on paying the bills as a simple functioning member of a community held together by a social contract?
Yeah, I'm a fucking idealist.
Subscriptions are more than reasonable and worth it.)
Jeffrey Billman has produced for The Assembly the most revealing investigation of the current fight for the chairmanship of the NCDP, between a 73-year-old incumbent blamed by many grassroots activists for the 2022 debacle and a 25-year-old upstart with proven skills for winning unlikely campaigns. (I've written extensively about both Bobbie Richardson and Anderson Clayton and don't intend to write more. Use the search function up top, if you don't believe me.)
For his article on the Democrats, "Tangled Up in Blue," Billman interviewed a lot of people, but the interview he landed with Morgan Jackson is by far the most diagnostic of what's gone wrong with the Democrats. Morgan Jackson is Chief Political Strategist for Governor Cooper and also for Josh Stein ("Governor in '24!"), and the state Party has traditionally spent money the way the chief political strategist for the governor wanted it spent. So in the current struggle for the chairmanship, you don't get any more establishment than Morgan Jackson. Jackson has his own consulting firm, Nexus Strategies. He has a clear financial stake in the status quo, which happens to be the reelection of Bobbie Richardson. for it's in his interest and in the collective interests of his guys to make sure the gears are turning correctly down at the state Democratic Party HDQs.
"It all begins and ends with money," Jackson told Billman. Which ... no kidding!
So the big establishment doubt about Anderson Clayton, the insurgent, is pecuniary. Can a 25-year-old upstart be able to raise the money? Billman says the party under Richardson's management raised a record $29 million in the '21-'22 cycle. Can Anderson Clayton do as well? Or even rake in a more average $20 million? She'll actually need more than that to mount a sustenance plan for activist organizing in the rural counties.
You betcha the money will come for Anderson Clayton! I feel it myself. I don't think I've ever given anything directly to the state Dems (except my sweat and my blood), but with a new leader who has both a vision and a clue, I would be generous. Others would too. The fecklessness of the Raleigh apparatus frankly caused me to resent the county party's assessment for "the sustaining fund," which all county parties are required to pay to the central office. What's the money going to?
Clayton doesn't lack for confidence in herself. She forecast to Billman that "donors will open their wallets if there’s a clear vision for how to make North Carolina a beacon of the South.” I agree.
“I know from being in conversations with donors, mainly in the context of resourcing legislative campaigns, but also as chair of the Orange County Democrats, that there are a number of donors in state and out of state who would love to fund and feel a part of aggressive, on-the-ground field operations,” he said. “But you just need a strong, credible vehicle for building out strategies and executing plans.”
"Aggressive, on-the-ground field operations."
Orange County Senator Graig Meyer agreed that the state party has lacked a taste for blood, shying away from aggressive politics and "too dependent on outside groups to attack Republicans instead of doing it themselves." For example, Ted Budd never got successfully tagged as the good ole boy extremist he was.
Anderson Clayton gets the last word: "This party needs bite again."
We'll find out Saturday.
Paige Masten put together a good article focusing on the current fight for the leadership of the NC Democratic Party, "After string of losses, some NC Democrats are seeking a new direction," to which a chorus in my immediate vicinity said, "No kidding!" The vote by the Democratic State Executive Committee (SEC) will be this Saturday in a virtual meeting.I've already written (and cheered) and for whom I feel some grasping hope for the future of the NCDP. The race between Clayton and current chair Bobbie Richardson has certainly turned into Establishment vs. Grassroots Activist, with all the big establishment dogs lining up behind Richardson -- Gov. Cooper, Josh Stein, Cheri Beasley, Jeff Jackson (a particularly disappointing endorsement, because it signals that the congressman is very comfortable with how elections are currently managed in North Carolina, off-brand for Jackson). I wrote it earlier: Richardson has shown little discernible introspection about what's not working in the Party's current iteration. When asked at the Progressive Dems candidate forum what ideas she found useful coming from her competitors, she couldn't think of a thing.editorial, "Are NC Democrats Ready for a Reckoning?" in which he complains about "the party’s low-energy, battleplan-by-faculty-committee approach." It's all an implicit attack on Bobbie Richardson's administration, though he never mentions her name, and he never comes out and endorses Anderson Clayton (maybe he supports one of the other candidates. There are now four, I believe. There had been five. One of them, Eva Lee of Raleigh, ran as an insurgent progressive with bold ideas for reform but announced on Facebook on January 31 that she was dropping out and endorsing Richardson. Lee included a lengthy explanation for her change of heart in which she admits that she was conclusively swayed by Roy Cooper and the other bigwigs. So much for The Crusade. That Facebook post appears to have disappeared.
I'm clearly a partisan in this race, though I have no vote. Watauga County as a whole has four SEC votes. But it's the big counties of Wake and Mecklenburg and Forsyth and Guilford that have the majority of the 800 SEC votes, because county allotments are made on the basis of total number of votes for governor in the last election. (You see how this pie is baked.) In other words, if delegates are unwilling to buck the Establishment, like Eva Lee, Richardson wins.
Anderson Clayton deserves to win. She's traveled to county parties all over the state, gathering intel on what the more rural counties think and what they want and what they've learned, and through very effective social media she's energized Gen Z with a fire for doing the hard work. I worry actively about where all that new energy goes if Clayton doesn't win. Who wants the same old thing, the top-down (and trickle-down) distribution of party assets? Who wants more of the same? We stand to lose volunteers. Without volunteers, there's no ground game. People will leave not out of spite and anger (oh some will be spiteful and angry) but out of depressive hopelessness that anything is gonna come from the effort.
In a text message to The Assembly, Walker confirmed he’s taking meetings about a possible gubernatorial run. Two close advisers said the Republican will be in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss his potential candidacy with members of the Republican Governors Association.
Walker used to be a pastor of a church and casts a mild aura, but doesn't he know that his own political party doesn't cotton to "mild" or "moderate" or "pleasant" in the post-Trump times? No, the contemporary GOP likes acid and mean and intemperate, and North Carolina Republicans have already found their preferred candidate for governor, the acidic, mean, and intemperate Mark Robinson, the loud-mouth meat-shield that white Republicans are tickled to applaud preaching the gospel of "owning the libs." Robinson's happy to be exploited in that manner.
Wheeler was claiming damaging defamation by Boebert which caused his political org, American Muckrakers, to lose money.
It took Judge Gavenus until the end of last week to throw the suit out, without prejudice, for the rather simple reason that it was filed in the wrong jurisdiction. Judge Gavenus said, "Go West, young man, and sue in Colorado, where your alleged bad actor actually does business." Words to that effect.
In a development, Wheeler is now fundraising on that qualified defeat, but also impressing supporters with his stick-toitiveness. He's promising to pursue Bobert in Colorado, if he can raise the money. The pitch:
Imagine the damaging information we could glean from a video deposition, under oath, of Lauren Boebert.
You can help us make this a reality by donating today.
We will get Boebert into a deposition if we can raise $5,000 this week. We are re-filing our defamation lawsuit against Boebert in Colorado. Your donation will be used against Boebert.
The funds will be used to pay the videographer, court reporter, transcription of the deposition, and other legal costs.
|Chief Justice Paul Newby,|
doing his happy dance
The five Republican operatives will rehear those cases quickly, next month, because they need for people to forget about this naked abuse of power before 2024.
The majority’s order fails to acknowledge the radical break with 205 years of history that the decision to rehear this case represents. It has long been the practice of this Court to respect precedent and the principle that once the Court has ruled, that ruling will not be disturbed merely because of a change in the Court’s composition.
That what Justice Anita Earls wrote in her dissent.
When the same law was introduced last year, it was quickly compared to Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law, and if anything, the new version this year has become more expansive. (Not that every provision is bad on the face of it, but some of it reads like a police state's wet dream for keeping children and teachers in a state of fear, like “The right to review all available records of materials their child has borrowed from a school library.”)
Good Lord! Do you think Mom and Dad will find out I was reading The Decameron Tales?!?!
A law so on-brand for the party that's all about freeeeeedom.