America Has Always Been At War With Itself. Now, Even the Privileged Are Aware Of It.

It’s hard to believe, but last week began with a major civil rights victory.

Late last Sunday, a judge in Florida ruled again that the Jim Crow poll tax law passed by Republicans in 2019 is largely unconstitutional. Voters in 2018 explicitly and overwhelmingly chose to restore the voting rights of 1.4 million former felons who had served their time, so the GOP’s effort to block them from the ballot with fees that were impossible to deduce, let alone pay, violates the 24th amendment, the judge ruled.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis will appeal the ruling, this made hundreds of thousands of Floridians immediately eligible to vote and gave critical assistance to everyone else impacted. And remember, we’re supporting the Democratic challenger to the author of the Florida Jim Crow law.

Any celebration of that victory was short-lived, however, interrupted by the cruel intruding reality that the battle for racial justice in this country is an ongoing struggle. The most shocking part of the nauseating, cold-blooded murder of George Floyd was that it wasn’t shocking at all.

Police violence against black and brown people is an epidemic across the country, enabled by the protection that cops receive from lawmakers — even Democrats. Protests have broken out in response to incidents for decades and decades, including the recent murders of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and Tamir Rice, but something about what’s happening now feels different. The national protests come at a boiling point, a backdrop of Trump’s malignant racism, the backdrop of 100,000+ Americans dead of coronavirus, and more than 40 million unemployed. Something has to change.

Forget the media obsession with some looting — I’m not condoning looters at all, but it’s just a tiny percentage of what’s happening; as a member of the media myself, I can tell you that a TV newsroom is much more interested in going down to Macy’s and playing on the superficial fears of its comfortable white viewership than spending too much time showing the chaos that the viewers really want to avoid. It’s like crime fiction vs. an actual documentary.

The police have been behind much of the pandemonium, and when cops can literally kill you for no reason without consequence — as is the case when there is no video — why bother staying peaceful? I hope the Democrats who run these cities and states and are owned by the police unions (hello Bill de Blasio) are taking notes — they won’t be in office for long if they don’t take action to help their people.

I’m not the person to discuss these things in depth. I’m a white guy who, no matter how politically progressive, cannot possibly understand what people of color are going through at any moment, let alone this one. So today, I’m going to let the real leaders do their work and just do my best to help them. Here are two fundraising links, to a list of organizations working to make change in Minneapolis and nationwide for black Americans and a list of bail funds to help protestors deal with ridiculous cash bail.

CLICK HERE to donate grassroots organizations working for racial justice and justice for George Floyd.

CLICK HERE to donate to bail funds across the country.

Alex Morse is taking on Rep. Richard Neal, Trump’s Favorite Democrat

Most of the time, this newsletter focuses on flipping Republican seats blue and retaking legislatures from the GOP. But if you really want to enact progressive change, it’s not always enough to just have a Democrat in office — in seats that are comfortably blue, we’ve got to have Democrats who actually listen to voters. 

The dynamic playing out in Massachusetts provides a perfect example: Congressman Richard Neal, who represents the state’s 1st district, has time and time again blocked popular progressive priorities as the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. He’s received more lobbyist money and enjoyed more lavish parties than anyone in Congress and has more than returned the favor, blocking everything from the Paycheck Guarantee Act during this pandemic to Medicare expansion. He also deliberately slow-walked the request for Donald Trump’s tax returns and did not support impeachment until it became an inevitability — all while representing a district that Hillary Clinton won by 20 points and he has “represented” for 30 years.

This year, he finally faces a real primary challenge from a dynamic progressive who could not be any more different than the 70-year-old Congressman, who hasn’t held a town hall in years. And if you’re skeptical, all you have to do is compare their records.

When Alex Morse unseated a long-serving local politician to become mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, he vowed to revive the struggling former mill town where he’d grown up. He faced long odds and internal resistance, but he was determined to restore a community that had spent decades reeling from the same factors that hollowed out small cities across the United States between the 1970s and early 2000s. When he took office at City Hall, he was immediately faced with a decision that would set the tone for how he planned to govern.

Morse’s predecessor as mayor had requested that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development clear the way for the demolition of Lyman Terrace, one of the city’s largest public housing properties. The complex was located right in the center of downtown Holyoke, so the plan was to knock Lyman down and bring in some shiny new apartments, displacing the 167 mostly Latino residents who had no real options for relocation. When Morse took the reins at City Hall, he called HUD and told them to hold off on the required review.

“This was a community of people who lived there for generations, with ties to the local economy, and friends and family,” Morse tells Progressives Everywhere. “We called off that demolition and got a lot of pushback from city councilors from the business community that just wanted to raze the property and give it to the developer with the highest bid.”

Meet Kayser Enneking, the doctor trying to save Florida

Few governors have been as publicly ineffective during the coronavirus crisis than Florida’s Ron Desantis. He’s kept beaches open, continues to hide death numbers, kowtows to the state’s ravenous right-wing, and has opened up businesses even as the tragic numbers there continue to climb. DeSantis has been able to do all this because Republicans own the entire state government in Florida — they’ve dominated the legislature for a full two decades — and he therefore feels zero pressure to actually make an effort to save lives.

We’ve focused a lot of Florida this year because Democrats are in a position to finally flip the legislature there and force DeSantis to at least pretend he cares about anyone who isn’t a rich white donor. This week, I spoke with Kayser Enneking, a candidate for the State House of Representatives in District 21, in Gainesville. She’s a long-time doctor at the University of Florida who ran for State Senate in 2018 — her first political run of any kind — and came within a single point of winning. The 21st House district was decided by fewer than three points last cycle, so it’s a very juicy flip opportunity, especially with such a great candidate.

Coronavirus has hit different parts of Florida very differently. You’re in Northern Florida, in Gainesville. How are things there?

In my hospital we were certainly prepared for the worst. It was just incredibly weird to go to work for a couple of weeks. The panic about it seems to have subsided now that we’ve got more testing, because before we had no clue who had it and who didn’t. But even here in very liberal Alachua County, it is kind unbelievable to me how quickly this has gotten divided along political lines. It’s just a shame that that’s where we are in America today.

As both a doctor and someone now working in public policy, what is your response to what we’re seeing here? 

This is a novel virus. We know a little bit about what the symptoms look like. We know that it is devastating when it occurs and we know that it can overwhelm a healthcare system, as it did in New York, and as it did in other places around the world. And that we all have to be respectful of it. We may not have in many cases over here right now, but that does not mean that we won’t.

I have tried not to scare people. But I’ve tried to give them what I know to be truthful information. We’ve been doing these Facebook and zoom things every Friday, where we’ve talked about exactly what we do know and what we don’t know. And people have been really responsive to it. And so we’ve talked about the effects of this on our health care system. We’ve talked about it in terms of what it means for education. We’ve talked about it in terms of what it means for the agricultural community, why are we having this food imbalance. Now we’re calling for a special session of legislature.

Continue reading “Meet Kayser Enneking, the doctor trying to save Florida”

Christine Morse is running to flip Michigan blue. She doesn’t have time for whiny, right-wing anti-government goons.

You wouldn’t know it from the news coverage of those gun-toting, mouth-breathing, Nazi-loving GI Joe cosplayers marching around the Capitol Building with guns in Lansing, but Michigan is on the verge of turning blue once again.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has become a star thanks to her handling of the coronavirus. Progressive ballot initiatives — including independent redistricting — passed with overwhelming majorities in 2018. And Dems are just a few seats away from flipping the gerrymandered State House of Representatives.

And yet, because national media can’t get enough of the domestic terrorism schtick, we’re often given a very different impression. As a result, a parade of far-right degenerates wind up setting the national agenda. Progressives tend to focus on the far-right fringe as well, but the smarter move is to point out their irrelevance and move on. During a conversation this weekend with Christine Morse, the Democrat running for State House in the very flippable 61st district in Michigan, I was guilty of pushing for her thoughts on the protests — fortunately, she was very smartly unwilling to cede the narrative to these fringe fear-mongers.

“There’s a lot of talk about these protests, which are actually organized by national groups,” Morse said, referring to the dark money from billionaires fueling the rallies. “They have the appearance of being this grassroots effort, but it’s 200 people. The polling is showing that the governor still has quite high levels of support. People take it personally when it impacts their life, so you can’t blame everybody, but I don’t feel like the protests really reflect what’s going on.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Christine Morse’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue Page!

That quote really says it all. Morse is empathetic and focused on achievable goals, unwilling to get distracted by peripheral clown shows or relentless right-wing attacks. And because she’s going to face a former Trump administration and Mitch McConnell campaign official with literally no mention of any issues on her campaign website, she’s likely to face a lot of right-wing attacks over the next six months.

Continue reading “Christine Morse is running to flip Michigan blue. She doesn’t have time for whiny, right-wing anti-government goons.”

Georgia can be flipped blue… if Shea Roberts wins her race.

A red state that could turn blue. A Republican incumbent that previously went unchallenged. A first-time candidate who nearly won an unlikely uphill race in 2018, now back to finish the job… if the GOP doesn’t away with massive voter suppression once again.

Does that sound familiar? As we’re seeing, a lot of the most crucial legislative races we’re looking at across the country fit the same profile. Last week we spoke with Jessica Harrington in Florida (who is running against Jim Crow 2.0 in khakis) and earlier this year, it was Luisa Wakeman in Georgia. Now, we’re focusing on another candidate in Georgia who is running a campaign we absolutely have to win if we want any chance of ending the state’s rampant voter suppressionattacks on women, and deadly mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic.

The moment you start talking with Shea Roberts, the Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives in Georgia’s 52nd district, you know that she’s going to be an effective, badass legislator from day one. Roberts is a land use and small business lawyer, so she’s long been enmeshed in the community in and around Sandy Springs. Working every single day with people and small businesses in her district has provided her a deep understanding of the issues its residents face and the relationships required to begin solving its long-lingering and newly emergent problems. I know this because it took approximately one minute into our conversation last month for us to get down to the nitty-gritty issues.

Continue reading “Georgia can be flipped blue… if Shea Roberts wins her race.”