The Consequences of Zero

Ah, those were the days: back when Republican Anh "Joseph" Cao upset corrupt incumbent Democrat William Jefferson in LA-02 -- a D+28 district, by the way -- leading John Boehner to declare "The Future is Cao."

My, how quickly things can change (h/t brownsox):

Congressman Joseph "Anh"Cao, a Republican, who defeated William "Bill" Jefferson is facing a recall petition because of his vote on the Barack Obama stimulus package.  The recall has been initiated by a group of ministers. [...]

Papers have been filed with the Office of the Louisiana Secretary of State which started the process requiring sufficient signatures to force a recall election for the office held by Representative Cao.

Cao had originally announced his intention to vote for the stimulus package but then Eric Cantor got his hooks into him and whipped him into a 'No.' After all, without Cao's 'No' vote, Cantor never could have boasted about the GOP's being "back in the saddle" after delivering the big Zero votes for the stimulus. The GOP's branding strategy is literally dependent on being the party of No and Cantor was not going to let Cao, who probably wouldn't have survived 2010 anyway, derail that. Now, thanks to Cantor, Cao may not even make it TO 2010.

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Racial Politics This Week -- A Roundup

I saw Borat last night. The movie has its defenders and its detractors. I think that Borat is one of the most subversive movies since Farenheit 9/11. Two different movies to be sure. But like Michael Moore, Sacha Baron Cohen seeks to expose the truth behind the lies we tell ourselves about our country. Borat uncomfortably rips the lid off of what many Americans, unfortunately, really think. There's a lot of humanity and kindness. There is also a lot of racism and anti-Semitism that is casually thrown around. When the frat boys openly wish slavery still existed in America and bemoan the fact that in their minds, minorities actually "have more power", we all know: those drunk jerks speak for far too many. We don't really have the "upper hand" just yet, dipwads, but we're working on it. Like F 9/11, I've got some problems with the movie. But any movie that exposes the dark racist and homophobic underbelly of America and gets people talking about it is ok with me. Also, it's really funny. And just in case you're not sure of Cohen's intentions, know that he has a long history as an civil rights activist (Props: Racialicious). His dissertation at Cambridge, "A Case of Mistaking Identities - the Jewish Black Alliance" focused in part on the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi. (Photo: Sepia Mutiny)

But who cares what I think! See it for yourself or tell me what you think in the comments. For what's happening this week at the crossroads of race and politics, check out these quick links:

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MyDD Announcement: Tagaris to LA-02


Last week, we asked you for money to keep us accountable to you, and to keep us paying our rent.  Originally I wanted to get 100 donors giving $100 apiece, so I put up a blog post on a Friday evening, thinking we'd have to go through the weekend fundraising.  My experience with fundraising is largely with big donors, and big donors are, to put it delicately, uninterested in helping progressives.  Look no further than Prop 87 in California, a proposition to tax oil companies funded by Steven Bing and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla that was embarrassingly defeated by the voters.  Bing himself put in $40 million.  With basically no grassroots organizing, Bing and his ilk essentially gave tens of millions of media consultants and TV stations with nothing to show for it.  The proposition also had support from Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts, showing that celebrity liberals and large donors are largely unable and unwilling to wield power.

As Chris suggested in last post, on a state level, it looks like Democrats might have performed better in the last two elections than we did on higher levels.  Based on what I can read from spending patterns, genius operative Rahm Emanuel actually represented a subtle undertow that prevented Democrats from making even further gains in the House given the environment.  The big media top-down nature of our political elite is a serious problem, and nowhere does this become more apparent with large donors.  This isn't something that anyone wants to talk about because there's a sense that one just might be able to get money from big donors, but the reality is that the large donor universe and the foundation communities are the single most dysfunctional and unaccountable pieces of the progressive movement.

Rather than investing in voter registration for single women and Latinos, which would build the base and is the single least expensive way of generating votes, they put tens of millions into a useless, annoying, and failed airwar.  Rather than investing in a California blogosphere and organizing efforts, they let California governance lapse because it's a blue state already for Presidential so who cares.  This is of course antithetical to the 50 state strategy, and we will see how California suffers as a result of this neglect.  There is a takeover underway by activists in that state, but it's slower than it could be if progressive elites were on board.

Small dollar donors are actually a very different, much more dependable, and much more realistic group.  And I don't just say this because I am one.  The relatively small amount of money that went to Blue America or the Netroots page had a huge outsized impact.  I'm struck by the parallels between charitable giving by class.  Typically, the wealthier you are, the less you give by percentage of income to charity.  Middle class people are just more generous.  This apparently carries over to the political world; activsts are just more serious about politics than their wealthy and famous counterparts.  The progressive elite don't know it, because everyone around them largely panders, but that's the reality.  

So anyway, back to what you all did.  I was looking for $100 from 100 people over a weekend.  What we got was $11,557.94 from 142 of you.  That's incredible.  It's a validation of the work we do, and it's a recognition that we must all pay for public spaces, we must all pay a little bit for honest dialogue.  We must all pay a little bit to have a stable society, and a stable and honest media.  If it shows us anything, the conservative revolution shows that tax cuts are incredibly expensive.  And with the money you gave us we intend to show, in detail, just how true this maxim really is.

So anyway, thank you.  We got a little more than we expected, we are political junkies, and so we're going to do something really really cool with the money.  We're hiring Tim Tagaris from the Lamont campaign to head down to New Orleans and cover the LA-02 race for MyDD, somewhat as he did for Paul Hackett in OH-02 though with more of a journalistic focus and with a video camera.  Corruption in the Democratic Party has its roots in local machines, and there's no more colorful or weird machine than that of William Jefferson, a DLC Congressman caught with $90k in cash in his freezer.  A progressive Democrat, Karen Carter, is challenging him, and we've already endorsed her.  But there are two other important themes that Tim is going to cover when he's down there.  One is race, which is inescapable in Louisiana and in this election.  The second is Katrina, which is also inescapable in this election.

We are committed to progressive change and to a progressive agenda.  A post-Katrina New Orleans is the domestic symbol of the conservative movement.  Not only did underinvestment in a poor and largely black city lead to a devastating disaster, but the promises of the Republican Congress and Bush, the promises they made in our names as American citizens, the promises to rebuild the city, these are promises that we have not kept.  Tim is going to New Orleans to remind us of the compact we have as citizens, and as a country.  He's going to cover an election because that is how our political dialogue takes place.  And he's going to do it because you were generous and civically-minded enough to provide the resources.  There's no need to chip in now, but if you want to be a part of this adventure and for some reason wasn't reading MyDD last Friday evening when we asked, you can still give here. We promise we'll keep investing in cool, interesting, and impactful activism/journalism work with the money you give.  And if you know of or have a New Orleans blog, please put it in the comments.

Thank you for what you do.

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Outstanding House Races

In the order of possibility of Democrats getting the seat, here are my ratings of the House elections still undecided:

LA-02:  100%. Easy one.  Will go to a Democrat.  I presume it will be Carter, but wouldn't be stunned if Jefferson is re-elected.

CT-02:  75%.  With all votes in, Courtney leads by 167 votes.  I believe Courtney will prevail.  The race will be recounted.

GA-12:  75%.  889 votes separate the candidates.  Some votes to be counted.  Again, a likely recount.  I trust Georgia less than Connecticut to be accurate, but Barrow has a larger lead.

OH-15:  20%.  There are plenty of provisional ballots that could lift Kilroy over Pryce.  I think it will be less than 1000 votes, but Pryce prevails.

TX-23:  20%.  If Republican fatigue sets in with the voters there, Rodriquez could squeak in.  Bonilla has lost his power since his party lost the House.

NC-08:  15%. Again, there are enough provisional votes to swing an extremely close race.  There will probably be a recount and making up 456 votes is possible in NC.

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Racial Politics This Week -- A Mid-Term Election Roundup

Those who know how to win are much more numerous than those who know how to make proper use of their victories.

Polybius (205 BC - 118 BC), The Histories

This week, race and politics came to a head in the 2006 elections. Chris Bowers has already written about the changing political alliances shaping up in American culture. At the crossroads of race, politics and the blogs, George Allen found his senate career cut short after his "macaca""joke" was blasted across progressive blogs. His presidential ambitions have gone up in smoke after the video found its way into the mainstream media. The macaca joke provided an perfect opportunity to remind voters about Allen's racist history and offer voters a new alternative in Senator-elect Jim Webb.

As America diversifies and the majority becomes just another minority (at least in some locations), understanding what minority voter priorities and expectations are -- and meeting at least some of them -- will be important to maintaining and building their loyalty over time.

Howard Dean knows it. Here's what he said post-election:

Yesterday was a historic night as well in the African American community. When presented with a choice, the African American community chose Democrats, because the Democratic Party respects the African American community and creates greater opportunities. We are honored that the African American community has again put their faith in the Democratic Party, and proud that Democrats continue to earn their trust. Democrats like Deval Patrick in Massachusetts and Keith Ellison in Minnesota are making history."(Source: Oliver Willis)

Minority voters aren't stupid. Every major black Republican candidate who ran lost. White voters aren't stupid either.

But It's Not Over Yet

We know from the exit polls that concern about corruption was a major motivation driving voters this season. Americans will be watching to see how Democratic leadership distinguishing itself from the lying, cheating, bigoted criminals who just got ejected. There are still a few races being decided. One of them deserves national attention for its symbolism.

There's a run-off election in a district of Louisiana that might look familiar to folks. Remember Katrina? All those black people in New Orleans and selected areas desperate for help from someone. Anyone. Maybe even one of their elected representatives, for instance. Bill Jefferson (D-LA) is the incumbent from this area:LA-02.

Bill Jefferson is a bad man:

Five days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, on September 2, 2005, Rep. Jefferson allegedly used National Guard troops to check in on his home and collect a few belongings - a laptop computer, three suitcases and a large box. By using the National Guard to visit his home and retrieve property -- at a time when the citizens of New Orleans had no such similar opportunities -- Rep. Jefferson appears to have violated House rules.

DavidNYC at the DailyKos:
Jefferson's behavior was so outrageous that the Democratic caucus, in an extremely rare move, stripped him of his committee assignment. An indictment of Jefferson looks very likely. And as one New Orleans native put it, "You find $100,000 in your freezer, I ain't voting for you." Seventy percent of the voters in Louisiana's second Congressional district apparently agree, because Jefferson carried just 30% of the vote yesterday.

Fortunately for us, Louisiana's unusual electoral system mandates a run-off between the top two finishers whenever the winner fails to reach 50%. That means we can give Jefferson the boot he so richly deserves by supporting the second-place finisher, Karen Carter.

DavidNYC puts it best:

This race matters because we need to send a strong message, a message that the Democratic Party won't tolerate corruption on either side of the aisle. Come January, we're finally going to take back the House. But before we do, we need to clean house first. And that's why the Swing State Project, DailyKos and MyDD are officially endorsing Karen Carter in her runoff on Dec. 9th.

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