Today’s Edition (Vol. 2, No. 63) Small Acts of Democracy
For those of you who are feeling despair over the seemingly unstoppable wave of GOP voter suppression efforts at the state level, I want to share an email I received from a reader on Wednesday. The reader lives in the City of Washington, Georgia, which is a suburb of Atlanta. About 60% of the city’s residents are Black. Like many municipalities not large enough to employ full-time legal staff, the City of Washington hires an outside lawyer to serve as the “City Attorney.” For the last sixteen years, the “for-hire” City Attorney for Washington has been Barry Fleming, who is both an attorney and a member of the Georgia Legislature. Mr. Fleming is the principal author of Georgia’s voter suppression law. The residents of the City of Washington were understandably upset that their City Attorney authored a bill designed to disenfranchise Black voters in their city.
On Monday of this week, the Washington City Council held a regularly scheduled meeting. The reader and a dozen friends showed up at the meeting with signs demanding that the city fire Mr. Fleming. After a contentious meeting, the City Council voted to demand Mr. Fleming’s resignation. See the picture of the band of protesters in the Georgia Recorder, “Ga. voting law controversy follows overhaul's point man to Washington.” The reader noted that the actions of the City of Washington have started a “ripple effect.” As noted in the Georgia Recorder, “several voting groups say they plan to protest against Fleming remaining as the Burke County attorney.” Fleming also serves as outside counsel for the cities of Harlem, Lincolnton, and Greensboro, and the counties of Putnam and Glascock. In March, Hancock County fired Mr. Fleming’s law firm as its outside counsel, a lucrative engagement that generated nearly $400,000 over the last three years for Fleming’s firm.
Note that Fleming has only been “asked to resign” by the City of Washington because his firm has a one-year contract through December 2021. While Mr. Fleming can refuse the request, it is never good when a client asks a lawyer to resign. Prospects for renewal of the contract in December seem dim if Fleming refuses to resign voluntarily. Mr. Fleming is free to make policy choices in his role as a legislator. His clients are free to make choices about whether they want to employ him as their attorney.
Georgia has a part-time legislature. Many other Georgia legislators are likely employed by cities, counties, businesses, and public companies who can make the same choice about continuing their association with those legislators as the City of Washington made about Fleming.
This week, in the City of Washington, Georgia, a handful of motivated citizens engaged in a small act of democracy that made a big difference. Mr. Fleming is undoubtedly reflecting on his life choices and wondering whether the personal cost to him was worth passing a voter suppression bill. But Fleming is not unique. Part-time legislatures are the norm in America; only five states have full-time legislatures. See National Conference of State Legislatures, “Full- and Part-Time Legislatures.” As another 40 states contemplate voter suppression legislation, you should consider whether your legislators have relationships with businesses, industries, and government entities that might take a dim view of someone leveraging the Big Lie to disenfranchise Black voters. As the reader’s experience proved, you never know when a small act of democracy will make a big difference.
Another example of an individual making a big difference is Judd Legum of Popular Information, (“A newsletter for people who give a damn.”) Mr. Legum single-handedly created a list of corporations that were contributing to members of the Sedition Caucus. His list went viral and ushered in a new wave of corporate accountability and awareness regarding corporate contributions. See Austin Ratner in Forward, “How Judd Legum accomplished what millions couldn’t.” Mr. Legum’s efforts were likely partially responsible for the two-page ad in the New York Times and Washington Post signed by hundreds of corporate executives from America’s largest corporations. See NYTimes, Hundreds of Companies Unite to Oppose Voting Rights Limits.”
A reader has noted that Stacey Abrams has been urging Americans to pressure corporations to withhold contributions from anti-voter politicians and to support H.R.1 as an alternative to boycotting Georgia businesses. See Stacey Abrams op-ed in USA Today, “Voting rights are under attack across America but corporations can help.” I understand Stacey Abrams’ argument and recommend her op-ed for your review. As I have noted before, I believe that direct economic actions will bring about change more quickly than indirect action, but Ms. Abrams’ has an important voice on this topic.
The most important point is that we do not lose faith in the power of individual and collective actions. They have made a difference in the past and they can make a difference today. Engage in small acts of democracy!
We can’t sit on the sidelines in the fight for the House.
A reader sent a link to an article that touches on a point I had been meaning to discuss: The small and shrinking Democratic majority in the House. If you are like me, you have been under the impression that Democrats have an eleven-vote margin in the House. That was the case immediately after the 2020 election, but vacancies due to deaths and appointments to the Biden administration have reduced that margin to six (218 to 212), leaving fivevacanciesthat are currently subject to special elections. See Political Charge, “Hanging On to the Democrats’ Slim Majority in the House.”
Only one of the five vacancies gives Democrats the opportunity to flip a seat previously held by a Republican—in Texas’ 6th District. (Republican Ron Wright died of Covid-19). I previously promoted Democratic candidate Shawn Lassiter in the open primary to replace Wright. Several readers attended the kickoff event for Ms. Lassiter’s campaign and were impressed. Ms. Lassiter is holding a virtual fundraising event on voting rights (a timely topic) on Monday, April 19th at 8:00 PM Eastern. The link is here: shawnlassiterforcongress.com/vote.
After I mentioned Ms. Lassiter in the newsletter, several readers reached out to say that they were supporting another Democrat in the open primary, Jana Lynne Sanchez. Should you support Ms. Lassiter or Ms. Sanchez or another Democrat in the primary? Yes! The special election is only 21 days away and the two leading Republican candidates are running television ads. No Democrat is yet running television ads (because of funding constraints). In an open primary, it is possible for the two run-off candidates to be Republicans. We cannot let that happen! We cannot sit on the sidelines debating which Democratic candidate to support. If you can, get involved in helping to flip the only seat that can increase the Democratic majority in the House before 2022.
Tucker Carlson Is Exhibit A for the Rot of the Republican Party.
Over the last two weeks, Tucker Carlson of Fox News has been espousing the theory that the Democratic “secret plan” is to “replace” white Americans through immigration. Carlson has said, for example,
Let’s say that again for emphasis because it is the secret to the entire immigration debate . . . . In order to win and maintain power, Democrats plan to change the population of the country. . . .Their goal is to make you irrelevant.
If that sounds vaguely familiar, think back to the white supremacist protests at Charlottesville, where torch-bearing neo-Nazis chanted, “Jews will not replace us!” Tucker Carlson is espousing “replacement theory” with a wink-and-a-nod, claiming shock and surprise that his comments about “voting rights” would be interpreted as promoting white nationalism. There is one group that clearly understands Carlson’s rhetoric as a call to arms for white nationalists: white nationalists themselves. See Vanity Fair, “White Nationalists Sure Don’t Think Tucker Carlson’s “Replacement” Segment Is About Voting Rights.”
As described in the Vanity Fair article, message boards for white nationalists and neo-Nazis lit up with praise for Carlson. One prominent site praised Carlson for espousing “the great Replacement theory.” One user exclaimed with glee, “Heil Tucker!” Another user praised Carlson for “calling out the Jew.” It is vile stuff. But the CEO of Fox Corp., Lachlan Murdoch praised Carlson and claimed that his statements related to voting rights, not replacement theory. Mr. Murdoch should pull his head out of his Aston Martin™ to see what white nationalists are saying about Carlson’s diatribe. Fox is allowing an anchor to promote a theory that is a direct descendent of the ugliest genocidal conspiracy theories of the last century.
Carlson compounded his white nationalist rhetoric by suggesting to his viewers on Tuesday that the Covid-19 vaccines were not effective and were, in effect, an elaborate hoax. See The Daily Beast, Tucker Carlson Goes Full Tinfoil Hat: Maybe the Vaccine 'Doesn't Work' and ‘They’re Not Telling You That'.” Dr. Fauci immediately rejected Carlson’s comments, saying “That’s just a typical crazy conspiracy theory.” See Newsweek, “Dr. Fauci Says Tucker Carlson Spreading 'Crazy Conspiracy Theory' With COVID Vaccine Claim.”
Tucker Carlson is a threat to democracy and a danger to public health. Fox News should remove him from the air immediately. Let Fox know how you feel. Oh, wait! Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch doesn’t care what you think. Perhaps you should let the FCC know how you feel: FCC Complaints. And while you are at it, let advertisers on Fox programs know how you feel about their support for a network that allows a “news” program to promote white supremacy.
The nation is once again on edge as the legacy of slavery haunts the streets of America. As I watch sickening scenes of violence visited on unarmed Black men and the understandable anger and despair in the streets, it is easy to feel helpless. We are not helpless. Those of us who are able to change political outcomes have a moral obligation to do so. During a moment in our history when the GOP believes its very existence depends on suppressing the civil rights of Black Americans, there is no room for silence. We must fight every battle, but we do not need to win them all. We need only win enough to make a difference—just like the small group of protesters in the city of Washington, Georgia. The future of our nation depends on small acts of democracy performed by millions of Americans on a daily basis. We can do that.
Talk to you tomorrow!