Tag Archive: the south


Democrats are now in real danger of becoming extinct in the South – The Washington Post 12/31/15, 9:35 AM

The Fix

Democrats are now in real danger of becoming extinct in the South

By Amber Phillips December 30 at 10:20 AM

Kentucky Democrats have a problem. They just lost the governor’s mansion last month and now there’s a very real chance that their control of the state House is slipping away. That’s significant not just in Kentucky but nationally too; if Democrats lose control of the Kentucky state House, they will control a total of zero legislative chamber in the entire south.

The latest bad news for Kentucky Democrats came this week when Democratic state Rep. Jim Gooch switched parties, the second Democrat to turn Republican since the GOP’s gains in November. Gooch follows his colleague, Rep. Denny Butler as party switchers; two Democratic state representatives have resigned to accept appointments from Kentucky’s new Republican governor, Matt Bevin.

That means when the state legislature convenes in January, there will be 50 Democrats and 46 Republicans in the House — with four vacancies to fill in special elections that could well go to Republicans.

In short, Kentucky is no longer Democrats’ last stronghold of electoral hope in the south. It’s now better described as one of the last states to realign with America’s decades-old north-south political reality: Republicans rule down South; Democrats up North.

The signs this was coming have been around for a while now, notes University of Louisville political science professor Jasmine Farrier. Even though Bill Clinton won the state twice, Mitt Romney won the state in the 2012 presidential election, and GOP candidates triumphed in the 2014 Senate election and the 2015 governor races — often by wide margins. Kentucky’s balance of power finally shifted in November’s statewide elections. Statewide offices, which until November were mostly held by Democrats, are now mostly held by Republicans. The GOP wave was led by Bevin, a businessman whose outside appeal and flare has been likened to GOP front-runner Donald Trump, came from behind to become only the second Republican to lead the state in four decades.

Kentucky’s House is now the lone holdout in a state that you could argue is no longer a holdout from the post- Civil Rights era political realignment. And it didn’t take long after November to watch Democrats’ control of the

Democrats are now in real danger of becoming extinct in the South – The Washington Post 12/31/15, 9:35 AM

House start to crumble as well.
“We used to be more of an outlier,” Farrier said. “Now we’re more normal.”

Inevitable realignment or not, there’s probably some blame for Democrats to go around. Farrier says she thinks all this should be a wake up call for the Democratic Party, which has struggled to bridge the urban-rural divide in heavily rural states like Kentucky and hasn’t really found a way to reach across the cultural divides that
separate former Southern Democrats with today’s Northern ones.

“What has the Democratic Party done for poor, conservative Evangelical white people?” Farrier said. “And the answer is not much. On God, guns and gays, poor, white Evangelical conservatives would say the Democratic Party walked away from them, and not the other way around.”

Democrats’ fading grip on Kentucky politics may be unique, but it probably didn’t help that Democrats are having trouble holding onto state offices across the country.

During President Obama’s tenure, Republicans clinched more and more control of statehouse and governor’s mansions to the point where The Fix’s Chris Cillizza writes they “an absolute stranglehold” on governor’s seats (64 percent).

After the November 2014 midterms, Republicans have control of an all-time high 68 of 98 state chambers.

Republicans say their dominance at the state level is a result of hard work. They’ve invested heavily in state legislative races this past decade as part of a strategy to control state chambers that will take on congressional redistricting in 2020. It certainly worked for them in 2010.

As a result of much of this, America is increasingly divided into two different countries that rarely touch each other, politically or geographically.

Yet another factor in Democrats’ struggles in the south: Obama’s unpopularity outside those East Coast Democratic enclaves. A Kentucky Democrat is no Massachusetts Democrat, and Obama isn’t particularly liked in some Kentucky Democratic circles.

In announcing his switch to the Republican Party, Rep. Gooch cited the president’s “radical agenda” on

Democrats are now in real danger of becoming extinct in the South – The Washington Post 12/31/15, 9:35 AM

environmental regulations and gun control as reason to leave.
The president is arguably in line with the rest of the Democratic Party on these issues, but for more conservative

Kentucky Democrats, it may have been a step too far.
“There is this hatred of the president,” Farrier said. “It is very real, and it’s hard to imagine that it will be easily

recoverable.”
One thing’s for certain: Democratic control of Kentucky won’t be easily recoverable, at least not until the next

major political realignment.

Amber Phillips writes about politics for The Fix. She was previously the one-woman D.C. bureau for the Las Vegas Sun and has reported from Boston and Taiwan.

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February 27, 2013

Conservative Justices Voice Skepticism on Voting Law

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WASHINGTON — A central provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 may be in peril, judging from tough questioning on Wednesday from the Supreme Court’s more conservative members.

Justice Antonin Scalia called the provision, which requires nine states, mostly in the South, to get federal permission before changing voting procedures, a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked a skeptical question about whether people in the South are more racist than those in the North. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked how much longer Alabama must live “under the trusteeship of the United States government.”

The court’s more liberal members, citing data and history, said Congress remained entitled to make the judgment that the provision was still needed in the covered jurisdictions.

“It’s an old disease,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said of efforts to thwart minority voting. “It’s gotten a lot better. A lot better. But it’s still there.”

Four of the nine-member court’s five more conservative members asked largely skeptical questions about the law. The fifth, Justice Clarence Thomas, did not ask a question, as is typical.

The law, a landmark achievement of the civil rights era was challenged by Shelby County, Ala., which said that the requirement had outlived its usefulness and that it imposed an unwarranted badge of shame on the affected jurisdictions.

The county’s lawyer, Bert W. Rein, said that the “problem to which the Voting Rights Act was addressed is solved.”

In reauthorizing the provision for 25 years in 2006, Congress did nothing to change the criteria for inclusion under the provision, relying instead on a formula based on historic practices and voting data from elections held decades ago. Much of the argument concerned that coverage formula.

Should the court strike down the coverage formula, Congress would be free to take a fresh look at what jurisdictions should be covered. But making distinctions among the states based on new criteria may not be politically feasible.

Four years ago, the court signaled that the law may need revision to withstand constitutional scrutiny, hinting that Congress might want to take a fresh look at the places subject to the preclearance provision, called Section 5. Congress failed to act.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said Congress had made a considered and cautious decision in extending the act.

Debo P. Adegbile, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said that “our right to vote is what the United States Constitution is about.”

Section 5, originally set to expire five years after the law was enacted, was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1966 as a rational response to the often flagrantly lawless conduct of some Southern officials then.

Congress repeatedly extended the requirement: for 5 years in 1970, 7 years in 1975, and 25 years in 1982. Congress renewed the act in 2006 after holding extensive hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination at the polls, again extending the preclearance requirement for 25 years.

But it made no changes to the list of jurisdictions covered by Section 5, relying instead on a formula based on historical practices and voting data from elections held decades ago. It applies to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states.

Last May, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the law. Judge David S. Tatel, writing for the majority, acknowledged that “the extraordinary federalism costs imposed by Section 5 raise substantial constitutional concerns,” and he added that the record compiled by Congress to justify the law’s renewal was “by no means unambiguous.”

“But Congress drew reasonable conclusions from the extensive evidence it gathered,” he went on. The constitutional amendments ratified after the Civil War, he said, “entrust Congress with ensuring that the right to vote — surely among the most important guarantees of political liberty in the Constitution — is not abridged on account of race.”

“In this context,” he wrote, “we owe much deference to the considered judgment of the people’s elected representatives.”

The dissenting member of the panel, Judge Stephen F. Williams, surveyed recent evidence concerning registration and turnout, the election of black officials, the use of federal election observers and suits under another part of the law. Some of that evidence, he said, “suggests that the coverage formula completely lacks any rational connection to current levels of voter discrimination,” while other evidence indicates that the formula, “though not completely perverse, is a remarkably bad fit with Congress’s concerns.”

“Given the drastic remedy imposed on covered jurisdictions by Section 5,” he wrote, “I do not believe that such equivocal evidence can sustain the scheme.”

The Supreme Court last considered the constitutionality of the 2006 extension of the law in a 2009 decision, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. But it avoided answering the central question and ruled instead on a narrow statutory ground, saying the utility district in Austin, Texas, that had challenged the constitutionality of the law might be eligible to “bail out” from being covered by it. Still, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, was skeptical about the continued need for Section 5.

“The historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable,” he wrote. But “things have changed in the South.”

He said: “Voter turnout and registration rates now approach parity. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.”

“The statute’s coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old,” he added, “and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions.”

But the chief justice said the court should avoid deciding hard constitutional questions when it could. “Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today,” he wrote.

Wednesday’s argument in Shelby County v. Holder, No. 12-96, indicated that the justices are now prepared to provide an answer to the question they left open four years ago.

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Bitter Clingers Again

The bigotry behind the push for gun control.

By JAMES TARANTO

Presidential frenemy Bill Clinton was at it again over the weekend, Politico reports:

Clinton warned a group of top Democratic donors at a private Saturday meeting not to underestimate the passions that gun control stirs among many Americans.

“Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,” Clinton said.

“A lot of these people live in a world very different from the world lived in by the people proposing these things,” Clinton said. “I know because I come from this world.” . . .

He said that he understands the culture that permeates a state like Arkansas–where guns are a longstanding part of local culture.

“A lot of these people . . . all they’ve got is their hunting and their fishing,” he told the Democratic financiers. “Or they’re living in a place where they don’t have much police presence. Or they’ve been listening to this stuff for so long that they believe it all.”

Oh, these people, these poor misguided hicks! All they’ve got is their hunting and their fishing! Clinton isn’t doing a very good job of following his own advice not to “look down your nose at them,” is he?

It’s strikingly reminiscent of Barack Obama’s notorious 2008 musings on “some of these small towns in Pennsylvania and . . . the Midwest”: “It’s not surprising . . . that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Like Clinton on Saturday, Obama thought he was speaking privately to a group of well-heeled donors, but it turned out a journalist was present. It’s possible that, like Obama in 2008, Clinton is insufficiently self-aware to recognize his own condescension. Or perhaps he’s being mischievous and trying to undermine Obama’s gun-control efforts. Either way, it’s not as if he has anything to lose.

An even sharper display of urban leftist bigotry against gun owners comes in a pair of posts by Josh Marshall, proprietor of TalkingPointsMemo.com. In the first, titled “Speaking for My Tribe,” Marshall divides the world into two “tribes,” which he calls “gun people” and “non-gun people.” He proclaims himself a spokesman for the latter:

I’m not a gun owner and, as I think as is the case for the more than half the people in the country who also aren’t gun owners, that means that for me guns are alien. And I have my own set of rights not to have gun culture run roughshod over me. . . .

A huge amount of the current gun debate, the argument for the gun-owning tribe, amounts to the gun culture invading my area, my culture, my part of the country. . . .

[An email from a “gun person”] captured a mentality that does seem pervasive among many more determined gun rights advocates–basically that us [sic] non-gun people need to be held down as it were and made to learn that it’s okay being around people carrying loaded weapons.

Well, I don’t want to learn. That doesn’t work where I live–geographically or metaphorically.

Marshall’s objection is not merely to guns but to a “tribe” of people with an “alien” culture that is “invading” places that belong to his own kind. Is he unaware of how this sounds, or is he deliberately employing the language of bigotry in order to be provocative?

Marshall tells a personal story by way of explaining his aversion to guns and gun people. He’s 4 or 5, and he and his parents (also non-gun people) visit a family who turn out to be gun people. Marshall is playing unsupervised with a girl his age when he spots a long gun. “I pick it up, aim at the little girl and jokingly go “pow!” . . . All the blood ran out of this little girl’s face at once, which was totally weird to me. And she said in something like shock, that’s a real gun.”

That story prompted a second post, titled “I Have No Words.” It consists of an email from a reader who has a similar yet much more harrowing story to tell:

I accidentally killed my best friend when I was 15. Shot my best friend of eight years a week before we started high school. I was sitting in his room holding his rifle across my legs as he talked about how he had looked it up in some collectors guide and it was worth more than when he got it (Christmas or birthday or something). All the sudden there was a gigantic explosion and the rifle flew off my legs and I looked over as my friend fell over holding his gut and the whole world was tinted a hazy red.

The reader goes on to agree with Marshall that he doesn’t “want to be surrounded by people carrying guns” (quoting verbatim):

And it isn’t just that I had a terrible experience with guns. I also don’t want them around because I grew up with the Gun “Tribe”. Many of the loudest, baddest, sharpshot, ninja, gun-owners (and part-time Constitutional Scholars) I know are the biggest knuckleheads of my past:

• There is the Facebook “friend” from high school who huffed a lot of gas and never got higher than a C in any class (especially history/social studies)? Yep, he is now an (unofficial) sniper in the anti-fascist militia and a legal expert. He changed his avatar to an AR-15. Now watch this Sandy Hook Truther video he just posted!

• There is the uncle who has held like 80 different jobs, thought that removing lead from gasoline was Communism, and used to send me every paranoid conspiracy theory chain-email ever made until my mocking responses finally made him stop? Yep, finally got an (unpaid) job as Constitutional Scholar, varmit-destroyer, and protector of free society.

• There is the cousin-in-law who got a job as a cop and then was quietly let go like two weeks later for reasons no one will tell me, and who now plays shoot-em up video games all day. His new milita-member duty is mocking people who call a “magazine” a “clip” and informing them that if they can’t name all the parts of weapon correctly, they have no business having opinions about it.

We notice two things these three men have in common. First, there is no indication any of them have ever misused a gun, either accidentally or deliberately–in contrast to Marshall’s correspondent, who nonetheless evinces a smug sense of his own superiority over them.

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Second, they all have eccentric political views, which Marshall’s correspondent seems to think is an argument for taking away their guns. Never mind the Second Amendment, do these guys even respect the First?

As for Marshall’s childhood brush with tragedy, the grown-ups whose house he was visiting were clearly at fault for leaving a firearm where a small child could get to it. On the other hand, at least the girl respected guns enough to recognize the danger.

Here’s what little Josh should have known, and what every kid should know: “If you see a gun: STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult.” This message has been brought to you by the National Rifle Association.