^ sparking the change that threatens the GOP South : Michelle Nunn of Georgia

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Recent polls of US Senate races in Georgia and Kentucky show that the Democrats stand a fair chance of picking up both seats. In Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell polls a mere 1 point ahead of his challenger, Alson Lundergan Grimes. In Georgia, Michelle Nunn no polls ahead — by 3 to 6 points — of each of her two possible Republican rivals for the open seat left by retiring Saxby Chambliss.

This is significant change. Granted that it’s only two Southern states and that in two others — Louisiana and North Carolina — Democratic incumbents poll behind or barely ahead of Republican challengers; yet another Southern Democratic incumbent, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, thought to be in trouble, now looks comfortably ahead of his Republican opponent.

Six, ten, twelve years ago, these races would not have been close. Each of the 5 states mentioned were then trending strongly to the GOP, and as recently as the 2012 Presidential election, three of them (LA, KY, AR) continued to be so. But not now. Anecdotal evidence suggests, too, that throughout the South the GOP message is wearing out its welcome.

So what is going on, as I see it ? Many factors :

1.the old Southern voters of 1968 – 2012 are aging, and the South’s younger voters — growing in number — have a very different view of things. In the South, absolutes have tended to rule. Good versus bad has been the region’s norm for a long long time, be it racism, religious fundamentalism, or absolutism on gun rights. This is the picture we from outside the South have of the region : and this picture has carried the day in Southern politics ever since the Civil rights revolution of the early 1960s.

But that was then. Today’s Southern voters have grown up in the internet era, friends to technology, confronted with all kinds of activities and styles utterly subversive of the steely absolutes that have riled Southern politics. as always, the people are ahead of the politicians. Southern people have made their peace with gay family members, neighbors, friends. Transgender kids are accommodated in the South’s schools. Race is barely a factor at all. And religion, strong as ever in this region, has begun to change its message from damnation to inclusion.

So far this is happening at street level. No Southern politician — certainly no Southern Republican — would dare to be the public voice of the South’s growing diversity. But the voters know the difference. For 40 years, the Democratic party in the South was the party of Blacks (and a few fighting progressives, always present in the South even in the worst of seasons). No longer. This year Democratic candidates are gaining White voters in numbers not often seen in our lifetime. Women voters especially are moving.

This trend can only grow. If the South’s GOP doesn’t change its tune, and fast, it will find itself losing races more often than not. And if Hillary Clinton runs for President in 2016, watch out.

2.the South is no longer uniformly Black or Caucasian and of multi-generation American birth.

Hispanic people are moving up from Florida into Georgia, Alabama, even South Carolina — a trend first noted as long ago as 2004. They’re a presence in Mississippi and Louisiana. They’re at least 40 % of Texas population. Their numbers can only increase. And they are, on balance, heavily Democratic in their voting choice.

3.City voters almost everywhere in America are democratic, usually by overwhelming margins. it’s true of the South, too. In the technology innovation era that we now inhabit, the young techies live in center city. they live there, shop there, socialize there, work there. Southern cities can no more opt out of this social dynamic than they can rewind the clock. And these voters, too, overwhelmingly vote Democratic.

In Georgia, the votes of greater Atlanta, Athens University of Georgia), Savannah, and Augusta, added to Hispanic votes in south Georgia and black votes in the Cotton belt look ready to claim a majority, and not only in the senate race.

In North Carolina, serious overreach by a radical Republican legislature may well spell doom for the state’s GOP candidate for US Senate and almost certainly portends a Democratic victory in the state in 2016.

In Mississippi, in 2012, Barack Obama lost the state by only 10 points — much less than he lost all surrounding states by. Yes, Mississippi voters are 37% Black. But Obama got 45%. He won 15% of the White vote in the South’s most racially polarized state. White Democrats are running for US Senate and for Congress, in numbers not seen in Mississippi in two decades. Will they win ? probably not. But no longer can the GOP take Mississippi for granted.

In Arkansas, the Clintons remain hugely popular, and their popularity, plus the prospect of Hillary Clinton as President, seems to have yanked the state back, from assured¬†20 to 30 point GOP victories, toward 50-50 status. Tom Cotton, the GOP Congressman running against senator Pryor, must wonder what’s happening. Only four years ago, Arkansas voters defeated a Democratic Senate incumbent by 20 points. Now Cotton finds Pryor polling ahead by 6 to 10 points.

What’s happening is that the South is changing — rapidly, decisively. And as the current GOP has wedded itself and its prospects lock stock and barrel to the South, the change portends disaster, even irrelevance for the GOP, or, at least, for what it has been.

Frankly, I couldn’t be gladder. The GOP has spent 40 years prolonging the life of long discredited, socially destructive, economically corrupt ways — the boot-heel patriotism, the guns in your face, the clinging to lost wars, the taste for dining and shunning, the glorification of rural hardscrabble — ways which we in the 1960s had every right to think we had put to rest. And which would have been put aside had not the GOP given the old ways a new home and a temporary legitimacy they never deserved.

Now it looks ready to be over, this time for real, because the change is coming from Southerners themselves rather than by outside imposition.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



On August 28, 1963, speaking to half a million of his fellow Americans and more, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke words that every American since that day has known by heart. “I have a dream,” King said, “that my children one day will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Every phrase in it counts; but today, perhaps, the phrase most poignant is that first part : “I have a dream.” A dream : in other words, a vision, a hope, not yet present but still to come.

America’s very existence arises from the dreams of men and women, for a life better than the one handed to them. America never gets to the finish line. we always have more work to do, progress to bring, as we move always forward toward social justice and civil rights and dignity for all. We may never get all the way there ? Perhaps; but every generation of Americans must keep on keeping on. We live in the future, and it is ours to make.

That is what America is. And we are all in it, all of us.

And yet ….. the progress forward is not unbroken. Often we as a nation stop moving forward; sometimes we even step backwards. Because there are some of us who do NOT believe in the dream. Oh the fine words, yes; the reality, not so much.

And so we struggle. Today we struggle. 50 years after Dr. king spoke calling us to move forward boldly, many parts of America are moving resolutely backward.

If there was any civil right that Dr. King cared for most of all, first of all, it was the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was as much his doing as it was President Johnson’s. Yet today, 48 years after the VRA was enacted, there are several states that have legislated — or are trying to legislate — making it much more difficult for many of us to vote. Especially the poor and the isolated among us. Those who need the right to vote most of all — because it is the one thing that people disadvantaged can do as well as people with all advantages — are to have a “voted ID” — often next to impossible to get, and costly, or they will not be registered to vote. Those who live far from a polling place, or who work two or three jobs all day long and so cannot vote on polling day, will have early voting hours cut down. Anything to keep those who most need the vote from voting.

Nothing legislative could be more immoral, not to mention un-American, than efforts to impede any American from voting. Yet that is what we see going on in NC, in TX, in KS and, to a less rigorous extent, in several other states. We abhor the “vote suppression” movement.

The Department of justice is moving to block Texas’s vote-suppression laws. It has signaled that it will soon sue to block North Carolina’s even more onerous vote-suppression laws. his we thoroughly applaud. Nonetheless, it is a shame that it has come to this, 50 years after Dr. King spoke his dream, 48 years after our Congress and President enacted the most all-encompassing Voting Rights act ever adopted by our nation.

We cannot turn back. We dare not allow the nation to turn back. We must not stand by and watch any state turn us back. Our destiny as a nation demands we move forward, always forward, until every one of us has the civil rights, the respect, and the protection that our nation has always, on its truest days, promised to all.

—- The Editors / Here and Sphere




^ Attorney General Eric Holder : sues to protect Texas voters

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Any worry we may have had, that the Supreme Court’s recent decision to throw out the 40-year-old criteria supporting Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act might interrupt Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department from protecting Americans’ voting rights, has proved wrong. The Justice Department has moved right ahead anyway, under Section 4 of the act — which requires a finding of actual discriminatory inhtent — to block Texas from so discriminating.

We approve the DOJ’s move. Fully approve it.

No right, other than that of life itself, is more basic to everyone’s equality in our democracy than voting rights. Texas has sought for quite some time now to undermine the voting power of voters its dominant Republican party does not like. This must be fought every step of the way. It is wrong, it is immoral.

The Department of Justice is now moving in Federal Court to enjoin the Texas legislature’s newly drawn State House and State Senate districts — maps that shove voters the Republicans want no part of into districts such voters cannot win. Specifically, the Attorney General Holder asserts that the Texas Republican party is discriminating against Hispanic voters in favor of White voters. Not one week after the Supreme Court ruling, the Texas GOP pushed its manoeuvered map through the legislature and into law. The intent is plain.

If the Federal Court agrees, the GOP map will be blocked. That is the first step. The next step is to get the Court to set up its own panel to draw such legislative districts as will treat all voters fairly. It has been done before, in other states, and not only under the Voting Rights Act.

Holder and his law staff have many issues they can take up with Texas. The state’s radical new abortion restriction law is one; the state’s refusal to offer health insurance to 25 % of Texans is another. School curricula, pay equity for women, and the nation’s most harshly administered criminal law all demand Federal intervention wherever legal means can be found to do so. The first step, though, is to protect every Texan’s equal vote. The DOJ is taking that step. We hail its doing so. ¬†

The need for DOJ intervention may also arise in North Carolina, where a regressive new legislature is repealing some civil rights gains that took half a century to achieve. We support the DOJ for the North Carolina mission as well, if needed — indeed we support the DOJ’s protection of voters’ equality wherever such protection is put at risk by backward powers.

—- The Editors / Here and Sphere