Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Trump Regime's War on Public Health

Science and fact based policy decisions pose a problem for the Trump/Pence regime in its effort to roll back public health protections and destroy clean air and clean water regulations.  Why?  Because they support the regulations that Trump/Pence seeks to gut to aid big business, especially the fossil fuel industry. What's the solution when one wants to aid polluters and industry dangerous to public health?  One limits the use of science in setting regulatory policies. While the results may line corporate pockets, it will not be a win for the public and long term safety standards.   Between universal health care and an embrace, rather than a rejection of science, are among the reasons Europeans increasingly enjoy longer life spans than Americans, not that any of this matters to Trump and the vulture capitalists he champions.   The latest assault on public health care policy comes in efforts to limit the role of science in the EPA's policy making process.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at this aspect of the Trump/Pence regimes effort to restore the worse aspects of the Gilded Age.  Here are excerpts which also suggests that opposing these efforts should be part of the Democrats' 2020 agenda:
There are essentially two fronts in the Trump administration’s long battle to dismantle EPA protections and deregulate industry to allow increased pollution in the pursuit of short-term profit: the rolling back of specific laws that ensure access to clean air and water, and an attack on the science that informs the Environmental Protection Agency’s policy decisions.
On that second front, the White House has undermined individual targets, like the 2017 establishment of veto power over scientific studies produced by the EPA, and the recent massaging of information to suggest pollution from coal plants kill less Americans every year than is the case. But a new draft of an EPA proposal published Monday suggests that the Trump administration is preparing a comprehensive assault on the ability for scientists funded by the agency to suggest policy with accurate data. Under the guise of transparency, the proposal will allow the EPA to reject any academic findings unless all raw data from the study — including confidential medical records — is handed over.
As the New York Times notes, the inclusion of confidential records will severely hinder the ability of researchers to propose new clean air and water legislation, as “many studies detailing the links between pollution and disease rely on personal health information gathered under confidentiality agreements.” The proposal would also apply retroactively, meaning that a practice that has been built into public health research could nullify current policies built off of established studies — including findings proving that mercury discharge from power plants affects brain development, and that lead in paint dust is associated with childhood behavioral disorders. “This means the E.P.A. can justify rolling back rules or failing to update rules based on the best information to protect public health and the environment, which means more dirty air and more premature deaths,” Paul Billings, a senior vice president at the American Lung Association, told the Times. Other advocacy groups to condemn a previous draft of the proposal — which was less exacting than the current one — include the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Medical Library Association, the Association of Academic Health Science Libraries, and the National Center for Science Education, which claimed that the policy “would send a deeply misleading message, ignoring the thoughtful processes that scientists use to ensure that all relevant evidence is considered.” [I]t’s strange that 2020 Democrats have yet to push Trump’s failure to ensure Americans’ access to clean air and water — concerns that are broadly supported across the political spectrum. In a recent analysis on the popularity of strong anti-pollution enforcement, New York’s Eric Levitz argued that “it would be in the Democratic Party’s interest to increase the salience of environmental issues even if Trump hadn’t spent the past two years letting Big Coal and Dow Chemical run the EPA.”
Put another way, if Democrats aren’t able to leverage the popularity of environmental protections, Trump could be able to undermine the research underpinning the EPA for close to a decade.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, November 11, 2019

What Thomas Jefferson Could Not Teach at UVA

A view of Thomas Jefferson's "Academical Village."

As a double graduate of the University of Virginia (both as an undergraduate and law school) I have a strong allegiance to what Thomas Jefferson envisioned as his "academical village" - a village that on the 200th anniversary of its founding has grown beyond Jefferson's wildest dreams and gained the stature that he had so hoped for.  Thus, it was with great interest that I read a long article in The Atlantic that looks at Jefferson's efforts to found the University of Virginia ("UVA") and how in the shorter term it failed to achieve his goals of equaling the North's leading universities and educating a future generation that would do what Jefferson's generation had failed to do: end slavery. There are a number of ironies, not the least of which is that it was slave labor that built UVA - and most colleges in the South - and that many of the university's graduates took up the cause of the Confederacy to protect the institution of slavery.  Nonetheless, the article is an interesting read (okay, perhaps not for some Virginia Tech alumni such as one "RL" who knows who he is and seemingly resents UVA with a passion - my reply: an inferiority complex can be such sad thing to witness) and give further insights to the always intriguing and very contradictory Jefferson.  Here are article highlights:
Thomas Jefferson had a severe case of New England envy. Though that region had formed the most consistent bloc of opposition to him and his political party, almost from the beginning of his time on the national stage, he admired many things about the place. First and foremost, he looked with longing toward New England’s system of town meetings, which gathered citizens together to discuss and make decisions about their local communities. Jefferson considered this form of participatory democracy crucial to building and maintaining a healthy republican society.
 And then there was the region’s profusion of educational institutions. Jefferson admired those as well—even if he did not always agree with what was being taught there. The hard work of democracy, including well-ordered community decision making, required an educated populace. That is why he waged a campaign for a system of publicly supported education in Virginia for many years. The Revolution and the creation of the United States of America broadened Jefferson’s vision in many ways, and by his mid-40s, he had taken to insisting that the job of reforming Virginia—above all, ending slavery, a system in which he participated—would fall to “the rising generation.” He and his fellows in the revolutionary generation had done their service by founding a new country. It was now up to the young people who inherited that legacy to carry the torch and continue the advancement of what he considered Enlightenment values. But Jefferson could not totally bow out of the quest to transform the place he was born and had long thought of as his “country.” Improving Virginia’s system of education, Jefferson believed, was the foundation upon which progress would be built, and the foundation had to be laid properly. If publicly supported primary and secondary schooling was not possible, he would shift his focus. He filled his time in retirement writing and answering letters, and playing host to the hordes of visitors who came up the mountain to see him. But his main mission was planning for a university that would rival the great universities in the North. In Thomas Jefferson’s Education, Alan Taylor—the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia—probes that ambitious mission in clear prose and with great insight and erudition. He explains why Jefferson found those educational choices so intolerable, what he planned to do about the situation, and how his concerns and plans mapped onto a growing sectional conflict that would eventually lead to the breakup of the Union that Jefferson had helped create. Taylor demonstrates that Jefferson, who had begged to enroll at “the College” at age 16, nurtured an ambivalence about William & Mary that eventually hardened into distaste. His late-in-life accounts of his time there almost invariably cast the school in a negative light. The campus was full of rowdy and haughty young men who looked down on the townspeople of Williamsburg and were given to drink, debauchery, and violence. Jefferson, elected governor of Virginia in 1779, included improving William & Mary in his plans for reform. At first, he was optimistic that the college could “train a new generation of young men better than their elders, who had grown up under British rule,” Taylor writes. Animated by the new spirit of republicanism and by Enlightenment values, the young men would see the importance of science, question orthodoxies—even religious ones—and work for greater participation by white men of all classes in the governance of Virginia.  . . . When his law teacher and friend, George Wythe, resigned from his post at the college in 1789, Jefferson declared the place dead to him: “It is over with the college.” Only a new university could carry out the plans he had for Virginia. Taylor suggests that Jefferson may have wanted not simply to replace William & Mary, but to destroy it. Jefferson’s sense of urgency about creating a progressive institution of higher education in Virginia—one free from religious orthodoxy and steeped in republican principles—grew stronger as a deep political divide in the country formed along regional lines in the 1790s. The Federalists, who endorsed a strong central government, were largely from the North. Jefferson’s Republicans, defenders of states’ rights and yeoman farmers against what they saw as monarchical centralizers and predatory banking practices, were largely from the South. Northern universities, in Jefferson’s view, were hotbeds of Federalist influence. He wanted Virginia in the vanguard of the new American nation.
 Jefferson’s pursuit of his educational vision was intensified and complicated by the heightening tensions over western expansion in the first two decades of the 19th century. Northerners, in the main, thought that any new states entering the Union should be free states, while Southerners fully expected to move west with their system of plantation-based slavery fully intact. This conflict posed a dilemma for Jefferson, whose self-identity and reputation included being ardently antislavery. . . . Northerners’ charge that Southerners were “hypocrites who preached democracy, while keeping slaves,” hit the author of the Declaration of Independence and the master of Monticello particularly hard. The volatile topic had to be left to some point in the future when the bulk of the white population could muster the will to do away with it. That outsiders would deign to tell Virginians what to do about this “domestic” institution was a bridge too far, even for a well-known critic of slavery. The young men trained at his university would help prepare their fellow Virginians to do what needed to be done.
Fearing that a dynamic North would eventually overtake his home state, which had been the most populous and powerful in the Union but began to slip in the 19th century, Jefferson was convinced that he was the perfect model for the new-age republican citizen needed to preserve its ascendancy.
What he believed, one day every enlightened person would believe: that republicanism was inherently good, that organized religion should be viewed with skepticism, that Jesus was not divine, that slavery was wrong. Given access to education, people could learn to embrace all these views, thanks to their powers of rationality and openness to new discoveries. As he explained to a correspondent, his university would “be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind, for here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.” It was a Jeffersonian project all the way. He designed the buildings of what he called the “Academical Village” and determined the curriculum. The idea was audacious—that a great university could be built in a rural location, drawing professors from across the United States and Europe. “Mine, after all, may be an Utopian dream,” he wrote, but it was one that he would “indulge in till I go to the land of dreams, and sleep there with the dreamers of all past and future times.” The University of Virginia, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, was controversial from the start. Was it really needed? Should the state pay money for what was, at base, an elitist enterprise? Many were also upset that the university embodied what they saw as Jefferson’s hostility to religion. It employed no professor of religion or divinity. Where a chapel would normally stand was a rotunda, a showcase of classical architecture, leading some to refer to the school as Jefferson’s “infidel” university.
 There was a problem. A revolution had taken place since he had attended college, but the students who came to Jefferson’s new university were just as violent, lazy, and contemptuous of their supposed inferiors as his college peers had been. Jefferson said that the institution would be based on the “illimitable freedom of the human mind,” but his everyone-should-be-like-me approach did not take into account the upbringings of the young men who would attend the university. In Notes on the State of Virginia, he had written of slavery as a school for “despotism” for white people, and he later blamed slavery for the social and intellectual backwardness of Virginia. But the Revolution had left slavery in place. It remained a training ground for despots. Jefferson apparently believed that taking these young men out of their homes and placing them away from a town or city, with professors as mentors, would turn them into open-minded citizens—just what he thought had happened to him in his college days. In reality, gathering a group of young despots in one place brought a predictable outcome: They became obstreperous and used their power to hurt the most vulnerable people in their midst. Taylor is superb on the mistreatment of the enslaved who worked at the university. Enslaved people had helped build the school. Once it opened, they maintained the physical structures—repairing and cleaning them—and served the professors, some of whom bought or hired their own slaves from local slave owners. Jefferson forbade the students to do so. But the young men had internalized the idea that they were “masters” and should be able to hit or punish black people at will, whether or not those people “belonged” to them. In the end, the elite among the generation on which Jefferson pinned so much hope were as impervious to their professors’ teachings as many of Jefferson’s classmates had been. The lack of a chapel did not make them religious skeptics. . . . . nstead of viewing slavery as a necessary evil that would die out, they came to openly espouse the belief that slavery was a positive good, as the prices of slaves rose with the nascent increase in cotton production in the South. In these and other ways, the young men deviated far from the direction in which Jefferson was certain “progress” inevitably would take them. Only after many years, and much struggle, did the institution Jefferson created take its place among the great universities of the nation and of the world. Much had to be broken to get there: the slaveholders’ Union that existed before 1865; the institution of slavery; the regime of Jim Crow, which kept black students out of the school; and the principle of sex-segregated education. Ironically, given Jefferson’s hopes for a regional resurgence, the transformation of the nation at large was what helped his state-based dream of educational excellence come true.

200 years after the University's founding, Virginia is again ascendant; it is once again among the wealthier states; and as of last week, it went "blue" and embraced progressive government and leadership and rejected the racism and religious extremism (in the form of the Virginia GOP) Jefferson so disliked.  As for the University itself, it has made much progress in facing its past history entwined with slavery and then Jim Crow and is making sure this less than flattering legacy is not swept under the rug.  Jefferson would likely be pleased. As for myself, I count myself lucky to have experienced UVA.  Thus I quote - to the horror of Hokie friends such as RL the last part of the 1903 poem, The Honor Men:
If you live a long time and, keeping the faith in all these things hours by hour, still see that the sun gilds your path with real gold and that the moon floats in dream silver; Then…Remembering the purple shadows of the lawn, the majesty of the colonnades, and the dream of your youth, you may say in your reverence and thankfulness:  “I have worn the honors of Honors. I graduated from Virginia.” 

Trump Cranks Religion to 11 As Impeachment Looms

No segment of American society has been more loyal to the morally bankrupt Donald Trump than evangelical Christians.  Having followed the so-called "Christian Right" - which is neither Christian nor right about anything - it's of little surprise.  Among evangelical leaders - I refer to them as "professional Christians" - it has never been about spreading the gospel message, especially how one is to care for the less fortunate, but rather all about self-enrichment and worldly power.  Their followers are similarly toxic inasmuch as their main motivations are based on animus to others rather than an embrace of Christ's message. In may ways, they and Donald Trump were made for each other: they, like Trump are frauds and their leaders little more than snake oil merchants and con-artists.  Trump seemingly saw these folks for what they are and has used promises of special rights and policies harmful to those they dislike to cement an unholy alliance.  Now, with the impeachment process intensifying, Trump has turned up his shameless courting of these morally deficit individuals.  A piece in Rewire looks at Trump's actions which are reminiscent of those of Richard Nixon when faced with the specter of impeachment.  Here are excerpts:

As Trump’s impeachment fears intensify and the House formalizes its impeachment process, the White House has cranked the religion up to eleven. On Tuesday, twenty-five evangelical megachurch leaders prayed for and with Trump in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in a grand spectacle. So much for Jesus’s condemnation of public prayer as hypocrisy in his Sermon on the Mount. 
Then, on Thursday night, the White House announced that one of those preachers, Paula White, a televangelist, is joining the White House staff on the Faith and Opportunity Initiative. Earlier in October, Mike Pompeo and Bill Barr delivered now infamous speeches tying the administration to Christian nationalism.
This religious revival is all about impeachment. The hour-long prayer session included a standing ovation and was widely covered by Fox News and other conservative outlets, who explicitly characterized the prayers as a pushback against impeachment.
Nixon turned to religion as the Watergate wave broke over his administration. His first address to the nation about “the Watergate affair” announced the resignations of three senior staffers and the firing of White House Counsel John Dean. It was the first time a president ended a speech with the phrase “God bless America.” The phrase was not merely an offhand religious remark, but part of an overt appeal to Chrisitans all over the nation, a reminder that Nixon was one of them: “I ask for your prayers to help me in everything that I do throughout the days of my presidency. God bless America and God bless each and every one of you.” Nixon also managed to mention “Christmas”—in April—and work in the phrase “God-given rights.”
Eleven months after the first Watergate/’God Bless America’ address, Nixon’s popularity plummeted and the noose of impeachment tightened, so he set off on a public relations tour to woo southern members of the House committee in charge of that impeachment. His first stop was the Grand Ole Opry, where he closed the evening by playing “God Bless America” on the piano so that the crowd would sing along.
Nixon used religion as a political tool throughout his career. Scholars credit him with bringing evangelicals into the GOP. He and Billy Graham used each other in a toxic relationship of religion, politics, and, as tapes later showed, anti-Semitism. Like Trump, Nixon invited evangelicals into the White House and the halls of power in ways previously unseen in a country that adopted the separation of state and church as a founding principle. However, even with that baseline piety, Nixon’s public displays of religion seemed to get more ostentatious as impeachment heated up.
But why? First, there’s a realpolitik element. Trump, like Nixon, is shoring up his base of evangelical support. “Don’t worry. Your leaders still support me. I even gave one a White House salary,” he seems to be saying. This is both un-American and irreligious. When religion is used as a political weapon, it becomes weakened and tainted
The separation of state and church is regularly used to keep religion out of government. But it’s also meant to allow religion to remain free of the taint of the day-to-day political power struggle. This is why Madison wrote that “religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” Politicians taint religion by using it as a political tool. Indeed, Madison’s writing is a prescient warning about Donald Trump. 
The second reason Trump is cranking up the religion is, as I explain in The Founding Myth, to distract the masses and cloak a criminal in the mantle of religion. Religion can be simple shorthand for tribal allegiance, but it also has the power to distract from important issues that actually affect governance and to serve as a rhetorical substitute for genuine morality.
Nixon asked people to pray for him and ended with “God bless America” to remind the nation that he was religious and therefore moral, and thus either innocent or deserving of forgiveness. Trump is doing the same with his gaggle of evangelical bootlickers. The only difference is that with Trump, evangelicals seem content to concede that he is not moral, but an “imperfect vessel” doing their god’s will. We’ll have to wait and see, as Trump continues his campaign of religious pandering, whether he’s done enough to earn the “deserving of forgiveness” label. One thing is certain, more public piety is in our future.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

The Demographic Revolution in Virginia

The husband and I spent part of yesterday morning at the Executive Mansion in Richmond where a celebratory air reigned in the wake of last week's Virginia elections and where the governor said it was time to be bold and move Virginia forward with the passage of progressive legislation long blocked by Republican control of the General Assembly.  It was part of a mindset that embraces Virginia's demographic changes and a much more diverse population that is increasingly highly educated and is powering Virginia to new levels of wealth not seen since before the Civil War when Virginia ranked among the wealthiest states,  In sharp contrast to this embrace of change and diversity, nothing is more frightening to the Republican Party of Virginia and its base that educated and non-white voters - two groups in particular who find Donald Trump and today's GOP's agenda of division repulsive. Nowhere is this sharp contrast more pronounced than in Virginia's booming suburban areas where those new to the state or who fled rural areas of the state - causing a significant brain drain and driving up the average age of residents in rural regions - have settled.  A lengthy piece in the New York Times looks at the demographic revolution in Virginia that is also occurring in some other Southern states  and even Texas.   The take away is that until the Virginia GOP ceases to be a party of tacit white supremacists and right wing Christian zealots, ts future prospects in Virginia are bleak.  Here are article highlights:

Once the heart of the confederacy, Virginia is now the land of Indian grocery stores, Korean churches and Diwali festivals. The state population has boomed — up by 38 percent since 1990, with the biggest growth in densely settled suburban areas like South Riding. One in 10 people eligible to vote in the state were born outside the United States, up from one in 28 in 1990. It is also significantly less white. In 1990, the census tracts that make up Mr. Katkuri’s Senate district were home to about 35,000 people — 91 percent of them white. Today, its population of 225,000 is just 64 percent white.
“It’s a totally different world,” said Charles Poland, 85, a retired history professor whose family has lived in Loudoun County for four generations. His family farm is now dotted with subdivisions filled with four and five-bedroom homes that sell for $750,000. The family legacy is a road named Poland. “If my parents came back today, they wouldn’t recognize the place. The changes came like a tidal wave.”
It’s not just Virginia. From Atlanta to Houston, this pattern is repeating itself — a new kind of suburbanization that is sweeping through politics. The densely populated inner ring suburbs are turning blue, while the mostly white exurban outer ring is redder than ever. Elections are won and lost along that suburban line, and in some places — like Atlanta, Denver, and Riverside County, Calif. — Democrats have begun to breach Republicans’ firewalls.
Democrats took control of the House and elevated Nancy Pelosi to speaker in 2018 because of victories in these fast-changing parts of America, and both parties are preparing for battle over these voters in 2020.
“What was interesting about 2018 was not just that Democrats succeeded in places where they didn’t in 2006, but also that they did as well in places that 10 years ago we never would have considered competitive,” said Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report, which provides analysis of elections and races.
In Virginia, the political pendulum has swung several times in the statehouse over the past decade. Large swaths of Virginia are still very conservative and Mr. Trump is popular in those places. In 2016, he won 93 of Virginia’s 133 counties, but it wasn’t enough to take the state.
The influx of immigrants and their U.S.-born children, the spread of high-density suburbia and the growth of higher education all tilt the field toward the Democrats. Still, that doesn’t give them a lock on the state, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
As Virginia’s population has grown it has also gotten wealthier. Households earning at least $150,000 have grown at three times the rate of the population over all.
But when he got his citizenship in March and started talking with his friends about whom to vote for in the first election of his life, he realized it had to be Democrats. Mr. Trump helped him decide.  “The way he speaks, you get the feeling that you are separate,” Mr. Katkuri said. “This is not what we signed up for in America.”
Of the 10 metro areas that had the largest South Asian growth, five are in the South, said Ms. Sridaran, who was born in Atlanta, after her father took a teaching job at Morehouse School of Medicine in the early 1980s.  One of them was Richmond.
In Centreville on Thursday — smack in the middle of House District 40, where the nonwhite population has jumped by more than fivefold since 1990, driven by immigrants from South Korea — several people said Mr. Trump was the reason they voted this week.
“People are just sick and appalled at this president,” said Dr. Charles Huh, a gastroenterologist, as he waited for takeout at the food court in Lotte Plaza Market, a Korean grocery store. “He’s the best thing Republicans have done for Democrats in a long time.”
“It is literally a new day in Virginia,” he said, a table of snacks set up in the back. He explained that demographic changes meant the people in the room were now in a position to help shape policy. “Come to Richmond,” he said. “This is really our chance.”
Thank goodness it is a new day in Virginia and, for the LGBT community the next legislative session will see passage of non-discrimination protections long blocked by Virginia Republicans.   A more welcoming state may, in fact further accelerate the demographic changes that have brought Virginia to this point. 

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Why Trump's Impeachment and Removal Is Necessary

The book "Mortal Republic" one is presented with the fall of the Roman Republic and its descent into a dictatorship under Augustus Caesar and his successors.  The fall did not happen over night, but it involved and undermining of the institutions, norms, and practices and practices of the Republic, a move towards calling for violence against political opponents, and a division of the populace into hostile factions.  These are precisely the things we are witnessing under Donald Trump and Senate Republicans who bear sharp parallels with members of the Roman Senate who closed their eyes to abuses of power and office in order to further short term interests (many latter would lose their lives and or property as autocratic rule grew).  At a number of stages, the collapse of the Roman Republic could have been averted had principle and political courage won out.  A piece in New York Magazine makes the case of why Trump's impeachment and removal from office is essential to stop the collapse of the American Republic. Here are  article highlights:

This is not just an impeachment. It’s the endgame for Trump’s relentless assault on the institutions, norms, and practices of America’s liberal democracy for the past three years. It’s also a deeper reckoning. It’s about whether the legitimacy of our entire system can last much longer without this man being removed from office.
I’m talking about what political scientists call “regime cleavage” — a decline in democratic life so severe the country’s very institutions could lose legitimacy as a result of it. It is described by one political scientist as follows: “a division within the population marked by conflict about the foundations of the governing system itself — in the American case, our constitutional democracy. In societies facing a regime cleavage, a growing number of citizens and officials believe that norms, institutions, and laws may be ignored, subverted, or replaced.” A full-on regime cleavage is, indeed, an extinction-level event for our liberal democratic system. And it is one precipitated by the man who is supposed to be the guardian of that system, the president.
In the current scandal over Ukraine, Trump is insisting that he did “nothing wrong” in demanding that Ukraine announce investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden, or forfeit desperately needed military aid. If that is the president’s position — that he can constitutionally ask any other country to intervene on his behalf in a U.S. election — it represents a view of executive power that is the equivalent of a mob boss’s. It is best summed up in Trump’s own words: Article 2 of the Constitution permits him to do “anything I want.”
We have become so used to these attacks on our constitutional order that we fail to be shocked by Trump’s insistence that a constitutional impeachment inquiry is a “coup.” By any measure, this is an extraordinary statement, and itself an impeachable offense as a form of “contempt for Congress.” We barely blink anymore when a president refuses to cooperate in any way, demands his underlings refuse to testify and break the law by flouting subpoenas, threatens to out the first whistle-blower’s identity (in violation of the law), or assaults and tries to intimidate witnesses, like Colonel Alexander Vindman.
He seems to think in the Ukraine context that l’├ętat c’est moi is the core American truth, rather than a French monarch’s claims to absolute power. He believes in the kind of executive power the Founders designed the U.S. Constitution to prevent.
There are valid criticisms and defenses of Trump’s policy choices, but his policies are irrelevant for an impeachment. I actually support a humane crackdown on undocumented immigration, a tougher trade stance toward China, and an attempt, at least, to end America’s endless wars. But what matters, and what makes this such a vital moment in American history, is that it has nothing to do with policy. This is simply about Trump’s abuse of power. He lies and misleads the American public constantly, in an outright attempt to so confuse Americans that they forget or reject the concept of truth altogether. Lies are part of politics, but we have never before seen such a fire hose of often contradictory or inflammatory bald-faced lies from the Oval Office. He has obstructed justice countless times, by witness tampering, forbidding his subordinates from complying with legal subpoenas, and by “using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct” both the Mueller and now the Ukraine investigations. (I quote from Article 1 of Nixon’s impeachment.) Trump has also “failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives … and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas.” (I quote from Article III of Nixon’s impeachment.) He has declared legal processes illegitimate if they interfere with or constrain his whims and impulses. These are not old-fashioned battles with a bureaucracy over policy; that’s fine. They are assaults on the legitimacy of the bureaucracy, and the laws they are required to uphold. These are definitional impeachable offenses, and they are part and parcel of Trump’s abuse of power from the day he was elected.
And most important of all, Trump has turned the GOP — one of our two major parties with a long and distinguished history — into an accomplice in his crimes. Senator Lindsey Graham, perhaps the most contemptible figure of the last couple of years, even says he will not read witness transcripts or follow the proceedings in the House or consider the evidence in a legal impeachment inquiry, because he regards the whole impeachment process as “BS” and a “sham.” This is a senator calling the constitutional right of the House of Representatives to impeach a president illegitimate.
And the GOP as a whole has consistently backed Trump rather than the Constitution. Sixty-two percent of Republican supporters have said that there is nothing Trump could do, no crime or war crime, no high crime or misdemeanor, that would lead them to vote against him in 2020. There is only one way to describe this, and that is a cult, completely resistant to reason or debate. The cult is so strong that Trump feels invulnerable. If Trump survives impeachment, and loses the 2020 election, he may declare it another coup, rigged, and illegitimate. He may refuse to concede. And it is possible the GOP will follow his lead. That this is even thinkable reveals the full extent of our constitutional rot.
Trump has fast-forwarded “regime cleavage.” He is appealing to the people to render him immune from constitutional constraints imposed by the representatives of the people. He has opened up not a divide between right and left so much as a divide over whether the American system of government is legitimate or illegitimate. And that is why I don’t want to defeat Trump in an election, because that would suggest that his assault on the truth, on the Constitution, and on the rule of law is just a set of policy decisions that we can, in time, reject. It creates a precedent for future presidents to assault the legitimacy of the American government, constrained only by their ability to win the next election. In fact, the only proper constitutional response to this abuse of executive power is impeachment. I know I’ve said this before. But on the eve of public hearings, it is vital to remember it.

More Saturday Male Beauty

Pete Buttigieg's Democratic Rivals: A Case of Sour Grapes?

Buttigieg at the Blue Commonwealth Gala.
Of the Democrat presidential candidates, I have only heard two speak in person: Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg when we attended the Blue Commonwealth Gala in Richmond back in June.  Klobuchar gave an impressive speech - or at least it was impressive until Buttigieg spoke after her.  Buttigieg is simply a phenomenal speaker.  This, combined with his more moderate approach to health care reform and other issues, explains, in my view, his popularity and fund raising ability (the Gala attendance in June was reportedly more than 25% higher than usual largely due to people wanting to see Buttigieg).  

All of Buttigieg's success is causing angst and annoyance among Buttigieg's rivals who feel they are more experienced and have "paid their dues."  Where all of this goes is anyone's guess, especially with the entry of Michael Bloomberg into the contest.  I believe there is a longing for change in the electorate, but one non-quantifiable element is charisma - something Bernie Sanders, for instance, lacks.  

Buttigieg also has an impressive digital campaign machine as I have seen personally since the husband and I seemingly are on every Democrat donor list known to mankind.  Of any of the campaigns, I get regular, if not daily communications from the Buttigieg campaign.  I've received NOTHING from the Biden campaign and little from most of the other candidates other than Warren and Sanders who I do not view as electable and who burned bridges with many Virginia Democrats in 2017.  

A piece in the New York Times looks at the griping of Buttigieg's rivals and how he is doing far better in the contest than some would ever have expected.  Here are excerpts:
In the still-crowded Democratic presidential field, one man has triggered an outpouring of resentment and angst. It’s not Donald Trump. As Mr. Buttigieg, the millennial mayor of a town smaller than a New York City Council district, rises in the polls, he has struck a nerve with his Democratic rivals.
Many of their campaigns have griped privately about the attention and cash directed toward Mr. Buttigieg. They say he is too inexperienced to be electable and that his accomplishments don’t merit the outsize appeal he has with elite donors and voters. His public punditry about the race has prompted eye rolls from older rivals who view him as a know-it-all.
And in a field where most candidates find themselves strapped for cash, they snipe at his ability to raise more than anyone else in the primary field except for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
More than a dozen participants in the Democratic campaign — including rival candidates and campaign aides — spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss their views about Mr. Buttigieg candidly. They conveyed an annoyance at the McKinsey consultant certitude with which Mr. Buttigieg analyzes and makes pronouncements about the primary.
Recently, though, some of the aggravation has spilled out into the public.
Campaign aides acknowledge privately that Mr. Buttigieg triggers some of his rivals. But they dismiss the criticism as little more than sour grapes. Over last weekend in Iowa, he drew crowds of several hundred people in towns that numbered just a few thousand.
“This is not a contest for who is the most established, it’s a contest for who is the most convincing,” Mr. Buttigieg said during an interview aboard his campaign bus in Waverly. “The better we do, I imagine the more we’ll feel some heat, but that just means we’re doing well.”
Mr. Buttigieg emerged from near-political obscurity to become a leader in the race, surpassing a flotilla of far more experienced governors and senators in the process. He now holds a commanding position in Iowa, one of the biggest bank accounts in the primary race and a string of field offices in the early voting states that is among the most of any candidate in the field. Even if Mr. Buttigieg fails to capture the nomination, he’s already won himself a coveted place in the political universe — as even those supporting other candidates acknowledge. . . . That’s part of what infuriates his rivals, who acknowledge Mr. Buttigieg’s political talent but also see him as benefiting from certain advantages.
Over the summer, a simple mention of Mr. Buttigieg’s name during a conversation in the Senate chamber between Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ms. Klobuchar was enough to make Ms. Klobuchar extremely agitated, according to witnesses.
Ms. Klobuchar, during an interview last weekend in Iowa, declined to answer when asked if Mr. Buttigieg is qualified to be president. Instead she pointed to his electoral record, which she said shows no signs he could beat President Trump in a general election.
It’s not unheard-of for one candidate in a large presidential field to become unpopular with the others. In 2004, established Democrats made no secret about their dislike for Howard Dean, the relatively unknown governor of Vermont who said he represented “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” During the 2008 Republican primary, Mitt Romney was so disliked by his rivals that only Ron Paul would speak with him backstage before debates. Barack Obama wasn’t popular among his rivals at the beginning of his 2008 race.
“It is a natural thing when a young candidate comes along and has success for other candidates who feel like they’ve toiled in the vineyards to resent it,” said David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Mr. Obama in 2008. “I think they’d like him better if he weren’t doing as well.”
As he’s increased his national profile, Mr. Buttigieg has taken care to cultivate important Democratic donors, party officials and strategists, an effort helped by his failed bid for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee in 2017. Many former Obama staffers, including Mr. Axelrod, have heaped praise on Mr. Buttigieg. Some donors and strategists who are backing Mr. Biden say they’re keeping a close eye on Mr. Buttigieg, as well.
In recent weeks Mr. Buttigieg has grown more aggressive in his attacks on his rivals, further angering them. Around Labor Day, he began defining himself as the centrist alternative to Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders. Then during the October debate in Ohio, he attacked Ms. Warren on health care, Mr. O’Rourke on gun control and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii on foreign policy.
His supporters said it was about time Mr. Buttigieg adopted a more aggressive posture.
On the bus in Waverly, Mr. Buttigieg said his rivals had been unfailingly polite to him in their private interactions, though he acknowledged that his success may have irked those who have seen years of presidential campaign planning tossed aside by his rise.
“I’m not going to comment,” he said, “on the emotions of my competitors.”
As a member of the LGBT community - and one who was once fired for being gay - I will say that it continues to amaze me to see an openly gay candidate do as well as Buttigieg is doing.  In the age of Trump when my community is under open attack by the Trump/Pence regime, Buttigieg's success provides hope for the future.

Federal Court Strikes Down Trump/Pence "Conscience Rule" Allowing Discrimination

One consistent trend of the Trump/Pence regime has been the effort to grant Christofascists special privileges and dispensation from complying with non-discrimination laws using a warped and toxic version of "religious freedom" to justify outright bigotry and discrimination.  One such example is the so-called "conscience rule" that would allow health care workers to refuse to treat anyone they disliked or disapproved so long as they could invoke the smoke screen of "religious belief."  The exemption is so broad that in theory even racial discrimination  - not to mention anti-LGBT animus - could be green lighted. The entire argument is an utter distortion of the Founders' view of religious freedom as written in the First Amendment and, as NPR pointed out, the Court noted, based on "false evidence" presented by the Trump/Pence regime:
. . . .that increase in the number of complaints is "demonstrably false," according to Engelmayer's ruling. Nearly 80% of all the complaints given to the court were about vaccinations — unrelated to health care workers and their religious beliefs in providing care. The judge writes that only 21 — or 6% — of the complaints that the government provided the court are even potentially related to providers' moral or religious objections. During oral arguments, the government's attorney conceded that the real number of complaints was "in that ballpark." "This conceded fact is fatal to HHS's stated justification for the Rule," Engelmayer writes. "Even assuming that all 20 or 21 complaints implicated the Conscience Provisions, those 20 or 21 are a far cry from the 343 that the Rule declared represented a 'significant increase' in complaints."

The rule was always about green lighting discrimination with the supposed justification fabricated after the fact. A piece in Mother Jones looks further at the Court's ruling and the insidious discrimination that the rule sought to allow (the Virginia GOP tried similar stunts that help lead to its historic defeat on Tuesday).  Here are article highlights:
The Trump administration’s “conscience rule,” which would have allowed health care providers to refuse to offer services such as abortions, contraceptive care, and vaccinations that they disagree with on religious or moral grounds, was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge on Wednesday. 
The rule, which was set to go into effect later this month, was voided by US District Court Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan. In a 147-page opinion, Engelmayer stated that the administration did not have the authority to enact major portions of the rule change and that several parts of the Department of Health and Human Services’ argument in favor of the change were factually inaccurate. 
Had the rule, also known as the refusal-of-care rule, gone into effect, it would have enabled providers, pharmacists, and potentially employers to deny health care services, information, or referrals to patients on moral or religious grounds, even in emergencies. Hospitals that forced their employees to provide care over their personal objections would have been subject to penalties such as losing federal funding. The rule would also have allowed providers to decline to refer a patient to another provider in order to receive care based on personal objections to the service. 
The lawsuit that resulted in Wednesday’s ruling was brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, nearly two dozen other states and cities, and two reproductive rights groups. “Once again, the courts have blocked the Trump administration from implementing a discriminatory rule that would only hurt Americans,” James said in a statement following the ruling. “The refusal of care rule was an unlawful attempt to allow health care providers to openly discriminate.”
Critics of the the rule argued that it would disproportionately affect the LGBTQ population by giving further protection to providers to deny care to patients based on their identities. 
“Today, the Trump administration was blocked from providing legal cover for discrimination,” Alexis McGill, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement. “As the federal district court made clear, the administration acted outside its authority and made false claims to try to justify this rule. This rule put patients’ needs last and threatened their ability to access potentially lifesaving health care.” 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, November 08, 2019

The Suburban Backlash Against the GOP Is Growing

I recently wrote about the Virginia Republican Party's slow suicide in Virginia where the population of the urban/suburban areas is surging while the number of rural voters is either stagnant or declining sharply. In statewide races, the Virginia GOP now finds it near impossible to win and losses in redrawn districts will pile up further following the 2021 redistricting which will reflect the population shifts. What the GOP is selling may win the hearts of racists and religious extremist in rural areas, but it is simply repulsive to more and more urban/suburban residents.  As a quote of a former NRCC chair in The Atlantic indicates, the GOP’s transformation from "a party of the country club to the country” does not add up to long-term success.  All indications are that Donald Trump's 2020 campaign effort may accelerate the process across the country and, even if Trump pulls of another Electoral College win while losing the popular vote, the long term trend is clear as urban/suburban populations soar in even states like Texas where sooner or later, the rural vote will not be enough to win statewide elections - or carry states in presidential elections.  Here are some article highlights:

The shift of metro areas away from the Republican Party under President Donald Trump rumbled on in yesterday’s elections, threatening the fundamental calculation of his 2020 reelection plan.
Amid all the various local factors that shaped GOP losses—from Kentucky to Virginia, from suburban Philadelphia to Wichita, Kansas—the clearest pattern was a continuing erosion of the party’s position in the largest metropolitan areas. Across the highest-profile races, Democrats benefited from two trends favoring them in metro areas: high turnout in urban cores that have long been the party’s strongholds, and improved performance in white-collar suburban areas that previously leaned Republican.

“When Trump was elected, there was an initial rejection of him in the suburbs,” says Jesse Ferguson, a Virginia-based Democratic strategist. “We are now seeing a full-on realignment.”
In that way, the GOP’s losses again raised the stakes for Republicans heading into 2020. In both message and agenda, Trump has reoriented the Republican Party toward the priorities and grievances of non-college-educated, evangelical, and nonurban white voters. His campaign has already signaled that it will focus its 2020 efforts primarily on turning out more working-class and rural white voters who did not participate in 2016.
But yesterday’s results again suggested that the costs of that intensely polarizing strategy may exceed the benefits. Republicans again suffered resounding repudiations in urban centers and inner suburbs, which contain many of the nonwhite, young-adult, and white-collar white voters who polls show are most resistant to Trump. If the metropolitan movement away from the Trump-era GOP “is permanent, there’s not much of a path for Republican victories nationally,” former Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee about two decades ago, told me. Trump’s effort to mobilize his nonurban base around white identity politics is having the offsetting effect of turbocharging Democratic turnout in metropolitan areas, which are growing faster than Trump’s rural strongholds. Unique local conditions contributed to each of yesterday’s most disappointing results for Republicans. . . . . But looming over all these local factors was the consistency of the metropolitan movement away from the GOP. Not only in urban centers, but also in suburban and even some exurban communities, Democrats reaped a double benefit: They increased their share of the vote even as turnout surged. The legislative elections in Virginia show the same pattern of the suburban erosion for the GOP in the Trump era. Democrats overthrew narrow Republican majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly by capturing at least five state House seats (while leading narrowly in a sixth) and two in the state Senate. They included seats in the Washington, D.C., suburbs of Northern Virginia and near the state capital of Richmond. But those new gains were probably less telling than what didn’t change: Democrats didn’t lose any of the previously Republican seats that they captured in suburban areas—particularly Northern Virginia and Richmond—in their landslide win in the state in 2017, which foreshadowed Democrats’ gains in the 2018 midterms. That widening separation between the GOP’s strength outside of metro areas and an intensifying tilt toward Democrats inside of them continues the underlying pattern of geographic polarization that has defined politics in the Trump era. Rather than looking to court urban areas, Trump has more frequently denounced places such as Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in an attempt to energize his mostly nonurban base. He continues to aim his message preponderantly at culturally conservative whites, and his campaign has signaled that it considers increasing turnout among such voters central to his reelection hopes.
Few in either party dispute that such a strategy could allow Trump to squeeze out another Electoral College victory, even if he loses the popular vote . . . But yesterday’s results underscore how narrow a wire [Trump] the president is walking with that strategy. Even taking into account Bevin’s personal unpopularity, Bitecofer says the Kentucky result should caution Republicans about a plan that accepts metropolitan losses to maximize rural and small-town gains. “If it can’t work in Kentucky … you cannot do it in Wisconsin or Michigan,” she says. Beyond Trump, the urban/nonurban divisions evident in this week’s elections “should scare the ever-loving bejesus” out of 2020 Republican Senate candidates in states with large metropolitan populations, including Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina. In 2016, the strategist noted, Trump benefited not only because rural and non-college-educated white voters turned out in big numbers, but because turnout was weak among minorities and mediocre among young people. But in 2018—and again last night—large turnout in metropolitan areas swamped strong showings for the GOP in rural communities, the strategist noted. That raises the question of whether even big turnout in nonmetro areas will suffice for Trump if the metropolitan areas moving away from him continue to vote at the elevated levels evident in 2018 and 2019. Davis, the former NRCC chair, likewise believes that the GOP’s transformation from a party of “the country club to the country” does not add up to long-term success. “What’s happening is that the fast-growing areas [are] where the Democrats are doing better,” he told me. “There aren’t enough white rural voters to make up the difference.” Despite the GOP’s recent metropolitan losses, Trump’s approach has generated astonishingly little dissent inside the party. Yesterday’s results are unlikely to break that silence. But Weaver, like other GOP strategists dubious of Trump, says the party cannot indefinitely ignore the implications of prioritizing rural strength at the price of losing ground in the urban centers, which more and more are driving the nation’s economic innovation and its growth in population and jobs.
“Politics is a free-market enterprise. You have to sell a product,” Weaver says. “And Republicans are going to find themselves, by their own decision making, eliminated as an option for many, many voters, many, many demographic groups for generations to come.”

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, November 07, 2019

The Virginia GOP's Slow Suicide

As a former Republican and Republican activist - I held a City Committee seat in Virginia Beach for eight years roughly two decades ago - watching the Virginia GOP's slide from power has been watching a form of slow moving suicide, a process which, as I have said before, began when Republicans foolishly began embracing far right Christians and, worse yet, voting them onto city and county committees. To my mind, that move that focused on short term advantage set the stage for the exodus of moderates and educated suburban voters from a party that became increasingly defined by an embrace of ignorance, rejection of science and knowledge and hatred to anyone deemed "other" - a category that includes basically anyone who is not a white right wing Christian.  The move also ushered in the beginning of the GOP's embrace of white supremacy since so may evangelicals in my experience are racist as exemplified by The Family Foundation which traces its roots to supporters of "Massive Resistance" when confronted with school desegregation.  As Virginia's urban and suburban areas have grown, a critical mass was reached where these regions can out vote the racist, knuckle dragging rural regions.  This new reality is not going to change and unless the Virginia GOP can reform itself - something not likely in my view given the grip the Christofascists have on the party even as Millennials exit religion entirely - Virginia will be a "blue state" for the foreseeable future (a view confirmed by Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball).  A Washington Post editorial looks at this new reality.  Here are highlights: 
IN POLITICAL terms, Virginia is no longer a Southern state; it’s an Eastern one that tilts heavily Democratic. That transformation, affirmed in Tuesday’s watershed elections that flipped both state legislative chambers to the Democrats’ control, was long in the making and helped by Republicans who fell radically out of step with the increasingly diverse voters who populate the state’s booming suburbs.
Long before anyone imagined Donald Trump in the White House, Republicans such as Corey A. Stewart, last year’s failed GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate and the soon-to-be-former top official in Prince William County, rose to prominence as right-wing culture warriors. Mr. Stewart, assessing this week’s Democratic gains, said Republicans would be “toast” in Virginia for 10 years. That may be right; if it is, Mr. Stewart himself was a prominent toaster.
Mr. Stewart’s brand of Republicanism — immigrant-bashing, Confederate-monument-revering, gun-loving, abortion-blocking, trash-talking and, lately, Trump-lionizing — has been ascendant in Richmond and elsewhere. It has methodically alienated moderate and swing voters, especially in the vote-rich suburbs of Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads. In a state that won the competition for Amazon’s second corporate headquarters partly on the strength of a well-educated, multicultural workforce, Republicans who threw red meat to their base by attacking undocumented immigrants found their appeal waning.
[T]he GOP’s problems have deep roots. No Virginia Republican has won a statewide election in a decade. And in Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties — Washington suburban localities that together comprise nearly a quarter of Virginia’s population of 8.5 million — elected Republicans at any level are now an all-but-vanished breed.
The party’s enfeeblement was accelerated by its rejection of moderate, substantive GOP officeholders such as former lieutenant governor Bill Bolling and former congressman Thomas M. Davis III. And it signed its political death warrant by blowing up the summer’s special legislative session on gun safety after just 90 minutes, without considering a single bill. That act of cluelessness and arrogance came weeks after a mass shooting in Virginia Beach left 12 people dead.
Virginia Republicans are at a defining moment. If they reverse course and tack to the center, they may again become a force in a state that would benefit from a vibrant two-party competition. If not — if they double down by continuing down the Trumpian path blazed by Mr. Stewart and his like — they might become “toast” not for a decade but for a generation.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

What Democrats Nationally Can Learn From Virginia Democrats' Trifecta

An op-ed in the New York Times by the director of New Virginia Majority looks at how Virginia Democrats were able to win an amazing trifecta that has placed them in total control of this state's government.  As the author notes, this huge victory did not happen overnight - it was years in coming and required steady work at building the Democrat grass roots across the state (especially in the vote rich urban and suburban areas of the state) and across varied demographic groups.  With its off year state elections, Virginia has one advantage over other states: with an election every year - which gets exhausting - organizing and building bridges do not see the lulls that other states routinely see. The other ingredients that helped with yesterday's big win were (i)  the marshaling of financial resources from national organizations and (ii) a mindset that recognized that the path to ultimate victor could take multiple election cycles.  Here are op-ed highlights:
On Tuesday night, Virginia Democrats won their most consequential election in decades. After obtaining a majority in both chambers of the General Assembly, Democrats now have a governing trifecta for the first time since 1993. This is no accident. It comes in the midst of a generational political shift that was put in motion years ago. Virginia’s Democrats got where they are today as a result of year-round community organizing and voter engagement.
For decades, Democrats allowed the prize of an Electoral College victory to blind them to electoral opportunities elsewhere, staving off funding and failing to provide meaningful support for candidates, campaigns and local parties in places they had written off as unwinnable. The national Democratic Party spent millions in Virginia this year, but the state wasn’t always such a priority. From its position in the South to its prominent role in America’s legacy of oppression, Virginia was long considered reliably conservative — unbreakable.
Local organizations like mine understood the political potential of Virginia when we got started 12 years ago. We are winning because we recognize the power of an electorate that includes and reflects the diversity of our state. We don’t talk to voters only when campaign season rolls around. We try to reach voters of all colors, women, low-income workers and young people where they are, which has made it possible for us to develop a robust base of support along Virginia’s so-called Urban Crescent, from Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads. Long before Election Day, we registered more than 300,000 voters, knocked on more than 2.5 million doors, and organized within communities of color to help win significant policy changes like Medicaid expansion, which covered nearly 400,000 people. . . . this type of year-round organizing can pave the way for victory nationally.
Part of the failure of the Democratic Party and many mainstream political organizations in the past has come out of their belief that these communities weren’t worth investing in. But trust is not built overnight. We don’t just sweep in and register voters before an election; we are registering people every day. That work is ingrained in our organization’s DNA. And we talk to people, all year, about issues that are important to them: affordable health care, access to a good education, reforming the criminal justice system, protecting voting rights and making sure our communities have clean air, water and public lands. That is what voters responded to this fall.
[C]hanges in the shape of the electorate and rising enthusiasm among voters can only go so far, without campaign architecture that channels those changes into tangible political outcomes. Democrats can’t view these communities as a means to an end, without building authentic relationships with the people who live there.
Engaging meaningfully with voters of color means talking to tens of thousands of voters to make sure they have the information they need to cast their ballots even after receiving racist Republican campaign communications. . . . . They just needed to be convinced that their vote mattered. To give one example of how this works in practical terms, in precincts in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, turnout this year increased by 24 percent over 2017.
The lesson here is that Democrats must not write off entire geographies or communities. It took years of organizing and multiple election cycles that resulted in incremental progress for Virginia to reach the point where a Democratic sweep was possible. The same arguments once used to justify chronic underinvestment in Virginia’s progressive potential have been used to undermine the potential of similar states in the South, including other states that saw important shifts Tuesday night, like Kentucky, where the Democratic candidate for governor, Andy Beshear, appeared to beat the Trump-endorsed incumbent, Matt Bevin, in a state the president won by 30 percentage points in 2016.
States don’t become battlegrounds overnight. Democrats and national progressive organizations have the resources to take their case to the people and win, but they have to start early and organize relentlessly. When they lose, they have to stay in place and keep fighting for every political inch they can get. No place is unwinnable forever. 
NOTE:  The blue areas on the map are deceiving since they contain much higher concentrations of population that the rural, red, thinly populated areas.