Month: June 2017

ENDORSEMENT: Randy Bryce for the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin

I proudly endorse ironworker, U.S. Army veteran, and cancer survivor Randy Bryce for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin, which is currently held by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. Normally, when I endorse a political candidate, I mention the candidate’s background and/or political ideology, as well as criticize his or her political opponents. However, I’m simply going to share this web video from the Bryce campaign instead, since it’s one of the best web videos I’ve ever seen a campaign for public office in the United States produce:

Why Nancy Pelosi won’t step down, at least for now

Yesterday, Democrats lost the 6th Congressional District of Georgia special election runoff, with far-right Republican candidate Karen Handel defeating Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff by slightly less than 10,000 votes in an election where both major parties spent millions of dollars of money. On the same day, Democrats also lost the 5th Congressional District of South Carolina special election, with far-right Republican candidate Ralph Norman defeating Democratic candidate Archie Parnell by slightly more than 2,800 votes, even though Democrats didn’t invest a lot of resources into Parnell’s campaign. In other words, Democrats lost by a higher raw vote margin (not percentage-wise) when they actually invested the full resources of groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the U.S. House Democrats’ fundraising arm, than when they didn’t do so.

Already, a lot of people on the left, and even at least one Democratic U.S. House member, Kathleen Rice of New York, who voted for Tim Ryan over Pelosi in the House Democratic leadership race earlier this year (which Pelosi won), are calling for Pelosi to give up the position of House Minority Leader. Jackie Kucinich, the Washington bureau chief for The Daily Beast, said this on Twitter about calls for Pelosi to step down:

Regarding Kucinich’s first point, it is more correct to say that Democrats had an opportunity to replace Pelosi, but decided not to. As I mentioned before, Pelosi defeated Tim Ryan earlier this year to retain the leadership of the House Democratic Caucus.

Regarding Kucinich’s second point, such an internal anti-Pelosi coalition within the House Democratic Caucus, if one were to form, would mostly overlap with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which, although home of some of the most progressive Democratic members of Congress, doesn’t consider removing Pelosi from the House Dems’ leadership to be of any priority, at least for now.

Any movement to force Democrats in either house of Congress to change their campaign strategies or force party leaders like Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to step aside would almost certainly come from outside of Congress and the Beltway, and almost certainly from the anti-establishment left. In fact, Republicans on the right fringe of their party (i.e., the Tea Party movement) have had past success going this route, forcing a group of Republican members of Congress to successfully push for the ouster of then-House Speaker John Boehner in 2015 over perceived apostasies of parts of the far-right agenda. However, unlike the GOP circa 2015, when they controlled both houses of Congress, Democrats are currently completely out of power at the federal level, and forcing Pelosi to step aside would not do anything whatsoever to address serious underlying problems with Democratic campaign strategies, one of which is the bizarre email strategy that a lot of Democratic campaigns, and, most infamously, the DCCC itself, have used. The Democratic email strategy comes across as a bizarre form of mind control of Democratic voters and donors. The second problem is a lack of any kind of a coordinated campaign platform for Democrats running in U.S. House and U.S. Senate races in 2018, which would probably be similar to the British Labour Party’s manifesto from the British House of Commons elections earlier this year.

Tom Perriello is a fighter for Virginia. Period.

Today, Virginians will go to the polls to vote on major-party nominees for Governor of Virginia and other state offices. The most intriguing race on the Virginia ballot today is the Democratic primary for governor, in which Lieutenant Governor Ralph Shearer Northam is seeking a promotion against Thomas Stuart Price “Tom” Perriello, a former U.S. Representative and U.S. State Department official.

At first glance, the Virginia Democrats’ gubernatorial primary might seem to an internet observer of Virginia politics, such as me, like a rerun of the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries/caucuses, where Hillary Clinton easily won the Virginia primary against Bernie Sanders. However, Ralph Northam is no Hillary Clinton, and Tom Perriello is no Bernie Sanders.

Jamelle Bouie, the chief political correspondent for Slate magazine, wrote this primer piece about the Virginia Democrats’ gubernatorial primary, and here is how he described the candidates:

Likewise, the contest isn’t a race between a liberal or a moderate, or between heterodoxy and orthodoxy. Both (Ralph) Northam and (Tom) Perriello have blemishes on their records that render them imperfect avatars of the progressive movement. Northam backed George W. Bush for president in 2004, and Perriello voted for an anti-abortion amendment to the Affordable Care Act. Both have apologized for their respective apostasy. Both, if elected, would be among the most liberal governors in the state’s history, having campaigned on free community college, a $15 minimum wage, and extensive job training.

Where they differ is in their larger view of where the state’s problems lie. Northam roots Virginia’s ills in gridlock and bills himself as the candidate best able to break that gridlock. “The politics of getting things done in Richmond can be very complicated, and it takes someone who has spent the time to know the issues and develop the relationships with key members of both parties to make progress,” said the lieutenant governor in a Washington Post interview.

Perriello, however, takes a broader view, seeking to change a political culture that is beholden to corporate interests and monopolistic power. “We have a crazy system in Virginia, where we allow unlimited corporate contributions,” said Perriello in a March interview with the American Prospect magazine (full disclosure: (Bouie) worked there from 2010 to 2013). “In an era of deep partisanship in Richmond, the only truly bipartisan consensus is taking money from Dominion Power.” Perriello has positioned himself against entrenched interests and for the small towns, rural enclaves, and inner cities that encompass the state’s landscape. It’s a variation on the populism of Bernie’s campaign, one that captures the spirit of Sanders’ appeal even if it doesn’t match the particulars.

(added context mine)

Again, you do see common themes of the 2016 presidential primaries/caucuses at play, but one thing that Perriello has done that Sanders completely failed at was actually trying to win over a diverse coalition of Democratic voters, which is necessary in Virginia, since a significant majority of Virginia Democratic primary voters are female and people of color are typically around one-third of the Virginia Democratic primary electorate and could be as much as 40% of the Virginia Democratic primary electorate this year. Very early on in his campaign, and unusually for a candidate who has also tried to win over white rural voters, Perriello wrote a Medium post about the strong correlation between income inequality and racial inequality in Virginia. Even if you are, like me, not from Virginia, I strongly recommend reading Perriello’s post, because it’s an important lesson for progressive outreach to people of color.

I encourage Virginia voters who have not already cast an absentee ballot to vote in the Democratic primary for Tom Perriello today!

Puerto Rico statehood could give the U.S. more trouble than anything else

Tomorrow, Puerto Ricans will go to the polls to vote on whether Puerto Rico should continue with an undemocratic status quo regarding Puerto Rico’s political status, become a sovereign country independent from the United States, or become a U.S. state. While statehood is likely to get the most votes by far, Puerto Rican statehood would cause the U.S. more trouble than anything, and it has absolutely nothing to do with race or language.

Long story short, the Puerto Rican independence movement isn’t going to go away, even if Puerto Ricans choose statehood in a landslide. I worry that Puerto Rico, if it were to become a state, would become the U.S.’s version of Quebec politically. Quebec is a Canadian province with a significant independence movement, with a pro-Quebec independence party, often playing a potential spoiler role in Canadian parliamentary elections (and, for a period in the mid-1990’s, was the official opposition party in the Canadian House of Commons). If Puerto Rico were to become a U.S. state, it would be apportioned, if I’m not mistaken, 5 U.S. House seats (and, because Puerto Rico were to be able to vote in U.S. presidential elections if it were to become a state, 7 electoral college votes), although I’m not sure of the actual apportionment math. However, the pro-independence movement in Puerto Rico would likely run their own candidate in the first U.S. presidential election following statehood, with the pro-independence candidate receiving enough votes that would otherwise go to the Democratic presidential candidate to potentially allow President Donald Trump, whose approval rating in Puerto Rico is probably extremely low, to win Puerto Rico’s electoral votes with a small plurality of the Puerto Rican popular vote, and, in a close election, Puerto Rico’s electoral votes could decide the entire presidential election. It would be an embarrassment to America for a separatist movement to potentially wield the balance of power in a U.S. presidential election.

While Puerto Ricans will vote on their political future tomorrow, the U.S. Congress will have the final say on any actual measure to grant Puerto Rico either statehood or independence. While the current status quo in Puerto Rico is completely unacceptable, Puerto Rican statehood is not worth the risk of a second Trump term in the White House. It would be best if Congress passed a Puerto Rican independence bill and granted Puerto Rico full independence from the United States, regardless of the outcome of the Puerto Rican referendum tomorrow, and I support all non-violent efforts with the ultimate goal of full independence for the Puerto Rican people.

Thoughts on Trump’s Paris Accord exit from an isolationist redneck in a coal town in Illinois

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post was originally published at DailyKos, and this blog post has been republished to The Progressive Midwestern by its original author.


Given the fact that I am a staunch isolationist when it comes to foreign policy, as well as the fact that I live in Westville, Illinois, which, while there hasn’t been large-scale coal mining around here in many years, was originally built up around coal mining, you may be surprised to find that I’m actually opposed to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement.

Even though I firmly believe that Trump just won re-election in 2020 (unless the planet becomes uninhabitable before November 2020, that is) with his decision, there are a large number of reasons why I fundamentally disagree with Trump on his decision to pull the U.S. out of the primary instrument of international law to combat global warming. There are four reasons why I believe that Trump will politically benefit from his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement:

  • Many Americans either believe that global warming isn’t occurring and/or believe that global warming is not caused by human activity.
  • Many Americans have a negative view of the concept of international law and don’t like the idea of the U.S. being told by other countries what to do.
  • Many Americans believe that Trump is trying to save the U.S. coal industry.
  • Many Americans believe that Trump is trying to save automobile racing in the United States.

I’ll counter each of those arguments in this article.

Global warming is legitimately occurring, and human activity is causing global warming

The above headline contains two indisputable facts. I don’t need to explain further.

No country can address climate change by itself

Normally, I’m staunchly opposed to multilateral international agreements of any kind, and of course I, like many Americans, revere popular sovereignty, our country’s independence, and the U.S. Constitution’s status as the Supreme Law of the Land within the jurisdiction of the United States. However, climate change is an issue that affects all of Earth, not just the U.S. or any other single country. A well-implemented agreement between as many countries as possible is necessary to reduce the rate of, if not halt or reverse, global warming. The Paris agreement is similar to the U.S. Constitution in a way: it’s a legal framework. The U.S. Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land that establishes the U.S. federal government’s form of government, but is not every single federal law applicable to the United States. The Paris agreement is a framework for a global strategy to combat global warming, but it’s up to sovereign and non-sovereign governments around the world to, if they have the power(s) to do so, implement policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within their jurisdiction in order to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.

Coal isn’t coming back

There hasn’t been a large amount of coal mining activity in the area around my hometown for many, many years. In fact, a coal-fired power plant northwest of my hometown closed permanently several years ago. There are other, cleaner ways of generating electricity than via coal. The decline of coal in the U.S. is due to, among other factors, technological advances leaving fewer and fewer viable and necessary uses for coal, not due to international law or environmental regulations. Instead of pulling out of the Paris agreement, the federal government should create an economic development bank to provide loans to new businesses operating in economically-depressed areas, such as rural America and former mining and manufacturing areas. Coal isn’t coming back, and Trump is trying to destroy the planet to save a dying industry, which simply won’t work for anybody.

It’s not a threat to automobile racing

NASCAR’s fan base might be 80-90% Republican, but I’m a big fan of NASCAR despite being very progressive politically. I’m not as big of a fan of other forms of automobile racing, although I do watch at least one IndyCar race and at least one Formula One race per year on television. The Paris climate agreement wouldn’t hurt automobile racing. If automobile racing were threatened by the Paris accord, Monaco, a tiny European country which hosts the most important Formula One race on that form of auto racing’s calendar each year, wouldn’t have signed the Paris agreement (they did).