Time to Lend a Hand in Mississippi?

New Orleans     The midterm elections in the United States are almost over, but there’s one race still pending.  It’s a longshot, but cries out for people of conscience, regardless of their politics, to take a stand and be counted.  There’s a cry for help, but it’s unclear how many will hear it.

Mississippi to many is a lost cause.  What’s the chance that Mike Espy, an African-American former Congressman from the state and Secretary of Agriculture during the Clinton Administration could be elected in this deep red state facing Cindy Hyde-Smith, the Republican Senator appointed recently to the seat?  He managed to make it to the runoff coming up on Tuesday, November 27th, so that’s something, but most wrote him off.

Maybe he still doesn’t have a chance, but recent polls have him only 5% behind with a week left before the election.  Maybe it shouldn’t matter?

The race has tightened up because of scandalously racist comment made by his opponent at a rally recently.  As the Washington Post describes the situation:

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith stumbled recently when, in praise of a supporter, she spoke of her willingness to sit in the front row of a public hanging if he invited her — words that, in the South, evoked images of lynchings. She has struggled to grapple with the fallout, baffling members of her party and causing even faithful Republicans to consider voting for her opponent, former congressman Mike Espy.

She can’t seem to bring herself to apologize and has spent the time since the remark not making amends, but trying to shore up her support with donors and traditionalists, who are perhaps the people who understood her dog whistle message the best over the threat of an African-American in the US Senate from Mississippi.  President Trump certainly heard it loud and clear and is now going to hold two rallies to support her on the eve of the election.

Maybe it’s time for us to step up and go to Mississippi to stand at the front row condemning her comment?  Maybe we should get ourselves over to Mississippi, not at a Trump rally, but on the doors talking to people about why their votes matter and the importance of opposing attempts to bring back the old Mississippi.

We might not win, but if you remember Doug Jones being elected in Alabama, despite Trump and an army of opponents, then we also know anything is possible.

Win, lose, or draw, I can remember how people crossed the border to help us defeat David Duke in Louisiana, and that was for Edwin Edwards, who was a harder swallow for many that Mike Espy.  Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Alabama are all hugging the borders of Mississippi.  It wouldn’t be a long haul to get on the ground.

Nancy Griffith has a famous song, “Come on Up, Mississippi,” asking the state to rise from the bottom.  Here’s a chance to sing with her, lend a hand up, and provide some push from the grassroots against the racism of the past.

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Too Close to Call Brings on the Dread

New Orleans   For all of us who lived through the 2016 election, seeing headlines in the paper the day before the midterm elections warning that it is “too close to call,” brings forward feelings somewhere between dread and total depression, along with quick mental notes on how to prepare for the apocalypse.  The major pollsters, perhaps chastened by missing the boat by a mile in 2016, could just be involved in some major league efforts to cover their backsides, but the skinny seems to be that some of the critical races in the House are within a 1% margin meaning that it could easily go either way.  The number of times in my lifetime of voting where “either way,” really translates into “no way it will be my way,” I would rather not have to list.  You don’t have the time, and I don’t have the energy.

Driving last week, I listened to Nate Cohn, the New York Times pollster on many of these issues.  He defended the validity and the practice of polling extensively.  His revisionism in some ways on 2016 is that vast legions of us don’t really understand that polling is an exercise in understanding probabilities.  Even when a Clinton might have a 90% plus chance of winning, a Trump still could have a 50% or better chance as well.  Interestingly, he also argued something that we often have found in union representation elections:  there are few close elections.  Even with the polls this tight, the momentum swings could mean the Democrats taking forty seats as easily as taking only ten, and vice versa.  Little comfort there, if you were planning on praying the polling gods.

Of course, it’s not just polling or momentum.  Hard core gerrymandering after the Republican takeover of the House and numerous state legislatures and governors’ seats, meant that they were able to build some pretty steep walls against voting and voting access after the 2010 census during redistricting.  The frequent court decisions in North Carolina that have held that the state legislature unconstitutionally tilted the balance there are simply one good example.  A Democratic surge in the House would allow some rebalancing of course.

As we read daily about the huge fight in Georgia where the Republican Secretary of State is also a candidate for governor – and in Kansas where Kris Kobach is doing the same thing – being able to attempt to disqualify up to 50,000 voters and new registrants is a powerful tool in conservative strategy.   The motto for these candidates is “preach democracy, don’t practice it.”  A federal judge may have stepped in to allow these folks to vote in Georgia, but these efforts have been embedded in one state after another.  Only four states have NOT restricted voter access in the last eight years.

The only thing certain, win, lose, or draw, is that from the day after the midterms everything will then focus on 2020 and the next round from Trump down.

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