Thursday, November 08, 2018

Never Concede While Votes Still Count

If we really cared about American democracy as much as we all say we do, it would be perfectly normal for a political campaign not to concede electoral defeat until all the votes were actually counted. Instead, a refusal to concede quickly is almost always controversial. This is part of the cultural sickness that infects American political life: we'd rather bullshit each other than actually do the work to count the damn votes and figure out who won. Waiting until the votes are verified is considered bad sportsmanship, despite the fact that in the face of all our machines and broken processes, we don't actually know the final counts for days after an election.

But we're so socially obsessed with the perception of winners and losers, we want to see an immediate result, and we want to see it even if we know the process we used to get there was pure garbage. In order to pretend that garbage doesn't exist, our toxic culture bullies people into giving up early even if the score could be close. We would never accept that kind of behavior in sports, but we do it all the time in politics. That's because our society views sports as more comfortable competition than politics, and despite the hours of political news we see every day, that news is a mile wide and an inch deep.

One reason I am thankful for the transformative Stacey Abrams campaign: every election cycle we see endless examples of our badly managed voting process from state to state. Just like clockwork, once every election cycle is over, the news rolls right past those critically important stories about our democracy breaking down. That sort of mass media amnesia helps give an impression of legitimacy to what are essentially preliminary election results, and generally keeps citizens from correctly identifying - and then fixing - those problems.

Not this time.

Even if Republican Brian Kemp ends up moving in to the Georgia governor's mansion eventually, the whole of his campaign - orchestrated from the Secretary of State's office that manages elections - casts a lasting shadow over the supposedly democratic process of electing leaders at the ballot box. It is tough to take the election day faux pas trophy any time Florida goes to the polls, but Kemp pulled it off. Not to take anything away from him on that matter: Kemp has been dedicated to destabilizing Georgia elections for a long time.

Promoting civic participation in voting should be the core mission of civil government, but Georgia under Kemp failed that test very badly. From the byzantine voter registration rules that allow citizens to be thrown off the voting rolls, to the voting purges that somehow started in the states of the So-Called Confederacy as soon as the Voting Rights Act was sunset, to leaving voting machines in the warehouse to ensure long lines in population centers and predominantly minority neighborhoods, to suspiciously forgetting to include power cords with voting machines that were actually delivered to population centers and predominantly minority neighborhoods, so many things contributed to put obstacles in the way of voter participation it strains credulity to believe these were accidents. This wasn't a new fight, either, as Kemp has spent years accusing Abrams of encouraging too many citizens to vote. He even threw up a Hail Mary in the last days of the campaign, accusing Democratic Party members of hacking voting machines in a howler of a political attack so unsubstantiated it may have well been an interview for a job at Fox News.

Still, despite all of those structural advantages, Kemp is only the "apparent" winner of the Georgia governor's election. The decision itself was such a razor-thin margin, there are enough outstanding votes, provisionally cast votes, and absentee votes still uncounted, there's little faith in the actual outcome of the election at this point. And what happens when your Secretary of State has already vaporized his own credibility? How do you even trust the folks who are counting the ballots?

And that was Abrams' next big move: she refused to concede until every vote was counted.

A refusal to concede a razor thin election until every vote is counted is such an important stand for a Democratic candidate to take, it bears mentioning that Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum initially conceded his election chances before he even realized the margin was so thin, Florida law requires an automatic recount. It is almost as if every Democratic candidate has been more scared of being called a "Sore Loserman" than they were interested in actually winning elections. That's not a good look for the political party that should be making a bigger deal of counting every vote, encouraging more people to engage in American civic life, and investing policy solutions to address widespread structural voting obstacles.

Abrams is changing the culture on this point with her refusal to concede, and her affirmation that every vote must be counted. This is a critical stand to take, and a critical time to take it. With so many eyes on Georgia, she is focusing the lens on an issue our American public life would prefer to ignore. I hope future candidates and campaign workers are paying attention. Especially on the Democratic side of politics.


Monday, February 19, 2018

In the Mail: Opposition to New Orleans Power Plant

Usually, when I send a letter to my elected officials, I feel calmer at the end of the process, because I have participated in my democratic institutions. For this one, I was angrier by the end of the letter than I was when I sat down to write it. 

Sent to the Utility, Cable, Telecommunications, and Technology Committee (UCTTC) of the New Orleans City Council:

As someone who works and lives and pays a power bill in Orleans Parish, I would would like to go on record in opposition to the proposed New Orleans Power Station in New Orleans East. My opposition is founded in the unjustified higher cost of living approving the power plant will create for residents, a lack of demonstrated need for this power plant, and the environmental concerns made plain by the July 22 and August 5 flooding in my neighborhood.

One of the biggest issues of last year’s election cycle was the ever-increasing cost of living in Orleans Parish, and how these increasing costs are constantly squeezing residents. Despite our already-high power bills, residents and businesses also endure an unacceptable number of power outages every year. Entergy blames a shortage of local power generation, but the truth is that our power transmission infrastructure is simply not up to the standards of most American cities of New Orleans’ size.

I’ve lived here long enough to remember the Storm Restoration Charges that were supposed to assist recovery from damage done by Hurricanes Gustav and Isaac and improve our transmission lines, but those additional charges to consumers never seemed to translate into more resilient infrastructure. Looking forward, how much will rate-payers be asked to increase their bill in the inevitable event that a power plant in New Orleans East floods due to storm surge or a rain event? Rate payers will be stuck with the triple cost of Storm Restoration Charges, paying for the new power plant, and then paying additional money to repair future damage to the power plant. That’s a whole lot of money ratepayers could be stuck with, without a whole lot to show for it.

When it comes to this civic decision-making process, Entergy is a regulated monopoly. Rate payers like me do not have another option to choose when it comes to electricity delivery, and the only recourse we have is for our elected officials to hold the company to the highest possible standards. I have been following the issue as closely as I can in my free time, and I feel that Entergy has not made convincing case for this power plant. As my elected representative, I ask that you consider our needs and research in making this decision.

I also believe the decision is moving forward without adequate civic notice or understanding of the issue. While you may feel this is being done by holding the minimum required number of public meetings before Council committees – I’ve read various media reports that the process has been going on for over a year – many of my neighbors do not understand what decision is being made and how it will impact their cost of living. This feels like yet another public decision where the New Orleans City Council serves as a final arbiter of whether Entergy gets to stick us with a higher bill for this power plant, while few New Orleanians even know this issue is being discussed.

Workers in this city should not have to arrange to take time off work to attend the few hosted meetings while attempting to understand intricate impacts of a new power plant, especially when we are the ones being asked to foot the bill for a wealthy corporation. For a capital expenditure of this nature, Entergy should be required to make presentations to citizens across the city, and the City Council and Mayor’s Office should help facilitate those meetings. We know Entergy has the time and money for such meetings, as we can see their endless advertising on social media. I got yet another email from them today. It’s insulting to see Entergy use our hard-earned money to advertise a project with a guaranteed return on investment of 11% (from

My savings account doesn’t get that good of a rate.

Finally, there are numerous environmental concerns with the project. For a city that strives for resiliency in policy making, I’m not sure how the City can justify the location of a new power plant in the environmentally fragile area of New Orleans East, which is experiencing the highest rate of ground subsidence in the Parish. Power plants are major users of groundwater, a use that is unregulated in our state but that we know contributes to subsidence. We should be seeking to keep as much water in the ground as we can, not extract millions of gallons for a fossil fuel-dependent plant that will exacerbate climate change and relative sea level rise.

 City leaders constantly refer to New Orleans as the “tip of the spear” when it comes to both our environmental risks and our innovations in sustainability; our risks from climate change and global warming, today and in the future, are existential crises. To green light a new fossil fuel-dependent power plant—to ask New Orleanians to pay out of their pockets for increased environmental risks—is unacceptable.

Thank you for your consideration,

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Brunch Scene

A Democratic representative and  Republican representative who have known each other for years meet for brunch one day...

Dem: "Let's order some eggs for breakfast."

GOP: "I'm not ordering food until you get folks at the next table to eat some Tide Pods. Those things look delicious."

Dem: "No way. Tide Pods aren't food."

GOP: "Well I guess you don't really want eggs, then."


Dem: "You said to get eggs, we'd have to make the folks at that table eat Tide Pods." (points)

Folks at the Next Table: "We don't want to eat Tide Pods, that's dangerous!"

GOP: "But they look delicious!"

Dem: "Tide Pods may look delicious, but they're really laundry detergent. You can't eat them, you use them to wash clothes."

GOP: "Why can't we do both? You're taking away Real Americans' God-given freedom to eat Tide Pods!"

Dem (incredulous) "What?"


Dem (aside, exasperated): "This happens EVERY time we try to hang out."

Guy in MAGA Hat from Another Table: "One of my friends back home ate a Tide Pod once and he was fine. Said it was way better than bath salts."

(A NYT reporter suddenly appears and asks to interview Guy in MAGA Hat.)

Dem (loudly, to room): "OK folks I've looked up the list of ingredients in Tide Pods."

(Dem reads long list of complicated sounding ingredients in monotone voice. Adds emphasis to a word no one has ever heard of.)


(Dem finished reading list of Tide Pod ingredients.)

Dem: "And that's why you shouldn't eat Tide Pods." (Sits)

Guy in MAGA Hat (to GOP and NYT reporter): "Is she still talking?"

GOP: "Too focused on ingredient politics."

NYT reporter (writes) ::Tide Pods divide hurts Dems in Heartland::

Dem: "OK maybe we can work across the aisle and come up with a bipartisan solution. How about we compromise an a la carte Tide Pod with every order of eggs?"

GOP: "Nope. The Folks at That Table have to eat the Tide Pods, or we're not getting any eggs for brunch."

Dem: "The Folks at the Next Table don't want to eat Tide Pods for brunch! But maybe they'd agree to Tide Pods on their plate."

Folks at the Next Table: "No, actually we don't want Tide Pods anywhere near our food, thanks." 

Dem: "Sorry. The American people want bipartisan solutions."

GOP: "Well, actually, the American People want the Folks at the Next Table to eat some Tide Pods, and they want Democrats like you to stop obstructing the rest of us from eating eggs."

Guy in MAGA Hat: "Yeah!"

 NYT reporter (writes) ::Are Dem Policies Creating Egg Shortage?::

-Scene zooms out to restaurant kitchen-

Server Working the F***ing Brunch Shift: "They. Are. Arguing. About. Eating. F***ing. Tide. Pods."

Line Cook Working the F***"ing Brunch Shift: "Those are the same ass****s who couldn't tell the difference between a s***hole & a s***house last week?"