Voting rights, the Virginia elections, and The Great Resignation


Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager, and Amy Gardner of The Washington Post write that voting rights advocates would like President Joe Biden to act with an increased sense of urgency when it comes to the right to vote.

Trump, meanwhile, frequently proclaims — with much fury but no evidence — that the last election was stolen, and some Republicans routinely assert that upcoming votes will be rigged as well. Many in Trump’s camp have taken to lauding the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which was aimed at violently overturning the last election, as a heroic act.

Activists want Biden to provide a loud, clear voice against these moves, from prime-time speeches to regular denunciations of especially egregious actions. Beyond that, they say he should throw himself into passing voting rights legislation and more aggressively go after states that are politicizing their election systems.

Gaby Goldstein, also of The Post, cautions Democratic voters in Virginia about an enthusiam gap …

Looking to 2022, we know that midterm performance is a reflection of the out-party’s enthusiasm and motivation. And generally, the out-party is more motivated and more enthusiastic than the president’s party. That is why the out-party tends to do better in midterm elections. Next year, Democrats will need to out-motivate and out-enthusiasm the GOP to buck the historical trend, hold the House and Senate, and make appreciable gains in state legislatures.

Throughout the Trump years, Virginia’s elections served as important partisan barometers. The 2017 gubernatorial and House of Delegates races were seen as an early and emphatic referendum on Trump. Democrat Ralph Northam won the governorship by 9 percentage points, and Democrats picked up a colossal 15 seats in the House of Delegates. The next year, three Democratic women flipped U.S. House seats. In 2019, Democrats flipped both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in a generation, completing a blue trifecta. And in 2020, Biden carried the state by 10 percentage points. But any assumption that Virginia is now solidly blue would be very wrong.

Importantly, Virginia voters tend to elect governors from the presidential out-party, and Democratic voters tend to turn out less than Republicans in odd-year elections. As with congressional midterms next year, it would take historic levels of Democratic engagement this year to buck the trend. Some signs are positive: Legislative Democrats are fundraising well. But many Democrats feel a lack of urgency and complacency. On the Republican side, there is strong investment in campaign and field operations up and down the ballot and a lot of enthusiasm.

… but Julian Zellzer of CNN doesn’t think that the off-year gubernatorial and legislative elections in Virginia will be particularly indicative of potential national trends for 2022.

… news reports are already calling the Virginia race a warning sign for Democrats. Regardless of what happens, however, it is important to remember that the outcome will only give us a limited window into the political state of play. Off-year and special elections are not always the best way to predict how elections will play out elsewhere in the country.

Even if McAuliffe were to lose, it is highly likely that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy — who has supported the national Democrats on most issues and stood by controversial Covid mandates — will defeat Republican Jack Ciattareli in the Garden State’s gubernatorial contest on November 2. It would therefore be a mistake to read too much into the results and what they mean for the 2022 midterm elections.


History shows that off-year and special elections don’t necessarily reflect the state of national politics. When McAuliffe won Virginia’s gubernatorial race in 2013, for instance, that win was not indicative of the wreckage Democrats would suffer in the 2014 midterm election and the 2016 general election. It is dangerous to take the results of a gubernatorial or congressional election and draw conclusions about the country at large.

Will Bunch of The Philadelphia Inquirer wonders if the “white and educated” composition of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests ultimately resulted in little change in policing and public-safety legislation.

To be sure, some cities — including Philadelphia — enacted some of the lower-hanging fruit of policing reforms, such as banning chokeholds or indiscriminate use of tear gas on protesters, and there are promising pilot programs aimed replacing armed cops with civilians responded to traffic violations or mental-health crises.

But the sweeping public-safety changes sought by activist leaders of the protests seem just as elusive as they were the day before Floyd was murdered. In Washington, a modest yet significant package of federal police reforms — which would have curbed the “qualified immunity” that shields officers from the consequences of brutality — collapsed as the din of the protest marches faded. And in cities across the nation, as the New York Times reported last week in a piece headlined “A Year After ‘Defund,’ Police Departments Get Their Money Back,” budgets for traditional policing are actually increasing — the opposite of what most marchers sought.

It’s too early in the struggle to say the Black Lives Matter protests inspired by Floyd’s murder were a flop. But the results so far stand in contrast to the civil rights victories of the 1960s — most notably, the 1965 Selma marches that led directly to the landmark federal Voting Rights Act — and this begs the question: Was the size and diversity of the 2020 marches more of a bug than a feature? Were the protests 3,000 miles wide, but only an inch deep?

Meanwhile April Ryan’s exclusive reporting at TheGrio indicates that the Biden administration may be preparing to use executive orders to push through some changes in policing.

The White House is trying to pick up the broken pieces of the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which failed in negotiations on Capitol Hill, by exploring ways President Joe Biden can mend together some type of police reform through presidential executive orders.

TheGrio has exclusively learned that White House officials this week, including senior-level Black members of the administration Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and the head of public engagement Cedric Richmond, met with civil rights attorneys and families of Black men and women killed by police. Those represented on the call were the families of George Floyd, Atatiana Jefferson, Ronald Green and Ahmaud [Arbery].


Sources on this week’s initial police reform call contend the civil rights lawyers had submitted to the Biden transition team a list of executive actions that could be taken on Biden’s first day and or first week in office. The families and leaders resubmitted the paper during the impromptu virtual meeting. The submission included increased funding for the civil rights division of the Justice Department, and federal review for police-involved deadly and violent incidents.

Renée Graham of The Boston Globe emphatically states that trans lives should matter a lot more than comedian Dave Chappelle’s notions of “cancel culture.”

In a just nation, trans lives would be more than some rich comedian’s ugly punchline. They would matter.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, which tracks anti-LGBTQ violence, Kartier is at least the fifth trans woman murdered in Texas this year and one of at least 38 transgender or gender nonconforming people killed in the United States and Puerto Rico so far in 2021. At that alarming pace, the total is expected to surpass last year’s 44 deaths. And like Kartier, most of the victims were Black trans women, including Tierramarie Lewis and Diamond Kyree Sanders, who lived in Ohio, Chappelle’s home state.


More than 100 bills restricting trans rights have been introduced this year. As LGBTQ Pride Month began in June, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a law banning trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams in schools. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas has compared gender-affirming surgery for trans youth to “child abuse.” Arkansas tried to stop gender-affirming health care for trans children until a judge issued a temporary ban on the law’s implementation.

When laws are specifically enacted to deprive people of their civil rights, it’s easier to dehumanize them. They are deemed unworthy of respect or empathy, making them more susceptible to harsh and ruthless treatment. That’s also true of hate speech whether it’s delivered in a politician’s soundbite or a comedian’s stand-up routine.

Over at The Atlantic, Derek Thompson has no problem with “The Great Resignation.”

“Quits,” as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls them, are rising in almost every industry. For those in leisure and hospitality, especially, the workplace must feel like one giant revolving door. Nearly 7 percent of employees in the “accommodations and food services” sector left their job in August. That means one in 14 hotel clerks, restaurant servers, and barbacks said sayonara in a single month. Thanks to several pandemic-relief checks, a rent moratorium, and student-loan forgiveness, everybody, particularly if they are young and have a low income, has more freedom to quit jobs they hate and hop to something else.

As I wrote in the spring, quitting is a concept typically associated with losers and loafers. But this level of quitting is really an expression of optimism that says, We can do better. You may have heard the story that in the golden age of American labor, 20th-century workers stayed in one job for 40 years and retired with a gold watch. But that’s a total myth. The truth is people in the 1960s and ’70s quit their jobs more often than they have in the past 20 years, and the economy was better off for it. Since the 1980s, Americans have quit less, and many have clung to crappy jobs for fear that the safety net wouldn’t support them while they looked for a new one. But Americans seem to be done with sticking it out. And they’re being rewarded for their lack of patience: Wages for low-income workers are rising at their fastest rate since the Great Recession. The Great Resignation is, literally, great.

Paul Krugman of The New York Times doesn’t have much of a problem with The Great Resignation, either.

Given these realities, it’s not surprising that many workers are either quitting or reluctant to return to their old jobs. The harder question is, why now? Many Americans hated their jobs two years ago, but they didn’t act on those feelings as much as they are now. What changed?

Well, it’s only speculation, but it seems quite possible that the pandemic, by upending many Americans’ lives, also caused some of them to reconsider their life choices. Not everyone can afford to quit a hated job, but a significant number of workers seem ready to accept the risk of trying something different — retiring earlier despite the monetary cost, looking for a less unpleasant job in a different industry, and so on.

And while this new choosiness by workers who feel empowered is making consumers’ and business owners’ lives more difficult, let’s be clear: Overall, it’s a good thing. American workers are insisting on a better deal, and it’s in the nation’s interest that they get it.

Sarah Jones of New York magazine looks at why it seems that ‘tis the season for unions to strike.

Why so many strikes at once? Let’s explore the meaning of the season. Strikes don’t happen overnight. A successful strike requires years of groundwork by organizers and activist workers alike. That’s because strikes demand much of workers: Although a union’s strike fund is there to help workers keep their lights on while they’re off the job, it typically doesn’t replace their full pay. On the picket line, workers often have to endure hostile conditions, such as rain or snow, or confrontations with scabs. Workers strike because they have exhausted all other options and when the hardships of striking are overshadowed by the hardships of working.

Examine the demands made by workers in each current or pending strike and certain common themes emerge across industries. At Kellogg’s, workers represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International (which represented strikers at a Kansas Frito-Lay factory this summer) are protesting the proposed expansion of a two-tier wage and benefit system that, as Alex Press recently explained in Jacobin magazine, “created a ‘transitional’ class of employees with lower pay and benefits.” John Deere workers want wages that reflect the company’s profit margin — and to achieve this, they rejected the first contract the United Auto Workers put to them for a vote. At Kaiser, nurses and others represented by the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals cite staffing shortages their employer has done little to remedy, along with another two-tier wage and benefit system that would disadvantage a class of workers. (The authorization vote doesn’t necessarily mean Kaiser workers will eventually go on strike, but it’s a strong sign they’re prepared to walk if Kaiser doesn’t come to the table with an acceptable contract.) The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees is ready to strike and bring huge swaths of the entertainment industry to a standstill for enhanced rest periods and better wages and benefits.

Urban studies professor Pascale Joassart-Marcelli writes for The Conversation, noting that low-income neighborhoods that develop more food options are a magnet for developers and, ultimately, gentrification.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city’s low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided. […]

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can’t easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They’ve become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn’t just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, New York’s Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because “ethnic,” “authentic” and “exotic” foods are seen as cultural assets, they’ve become magnets for development.

Sara Luterman reports for The 19th News that many LGBTQ+ seniors in New York state fear “re-closeting” in order to access resources such as senior housing and long-term care.

It is difficult to know exactly how widespread the problem is. According to a new report from AARP New York and SAGE, a third of LGBTQ+ seniors in New York worry they will have to re-closet themselves to access senior housing and long-term care. This was a particular concern among transgender and gender-nonconforming seniors. Over half reported fear of having to reenter the closet when they seek new housing settings. The issue may be more severe in parts of the country more conservative than New York.

SAGE has been working on multiple fronts to address danger to LGBTQ+ seniors as they enter long-term care.


Re-closeting is an issue in both home care and residential settings. Adams expressed particular concern about care agencies and facilities operated by faith traditions hostile to LGBTQ+ people. But secular elder care agencies and facilities still carry risks. “Most agencies have no training and no policies regarding fair, non-discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ elders. So basically, employees are left to their own devices about how they interact with [LGBTQ] elder folk… And the results aren’t pretty.”

The New York Times defines “The Blob” as “members of the mainstream foreign-policy establishment—government officials, academics, Council on Foreign Relations panelists, television talking heads and the like—who share a collective belief in the obligation of the United States to pursue an aggressive, interventionist policy in the post-9/11 world.” Nick Danforth writes for Foreign Policy that the American public is as complicit in the failures of American foreign policy as The Blob.

U.S. voters have always been clear about what they want from foreign policy: to have their cake and eat it too. They want maximum power, prestige, and protection at minimal cost. The Blob, to its dubious credit, is committed to realizing this understandable but impossible dream. Rather than blaming the Blob for it, Americans should confront the paradox they—we—are all complicit in.

When Americans want a war, they want a military that can fight it and win it. When they don’t want a war, they want a military that can end it without losing it. When they’re angry about an attack on the nation or its values, they want to hit back—they just don’t want that to lead to a fight that goes on too long or hurts too much. Ideally, they’d just like other countries to do what America wants without having to be told twice. After all, they don’t want to be the world’s policeman.

I’ve said before that one of the wild cards if China militarily intervenes in Taiwan will be Japan. Mirna Galic writes for the War on the Rocks blog about Japan’s possible options in the event of Chinese military action against Taiwan.

Article 9 of Japan’s constitution renounces war and the use or threat of force to settle international disputes. The use of force in self-defense is permitted in response to an armed attack against Japan (we’ll place an asterisk here and come back to it), but only if an armed attack is initiated, not merely if there is a likelihood or threat of attack. If a Chinese attack on Taiwan involved any attack on Japanese territory, from individual islands to U.S. bases, Japan could respond with force in self-defense using a spectrum of military operations. However, Japan’s use of force would be permitted only in the absence of other “appropriate means” and to the “minimum necessary extent.”

Absent a direct attack on Japan, Japanese action can take various forms, depending on the circumstances. Perhaps most pertinently, Japan would have the option to allow the United States to use U.S. bases in Japan for a military response to a Taiwan attack, based on prior consultation requirements relating to “the use of facilities and areas in Japan as bases for military combat operations to be undertaken from Japan.” Historically, Japan has maintained public ambiguity about its willingness to provide acquiescence for such a request in relation to Taiwan.

Japan can also respond to an important influence situation, which comprises contingencies short of armed attack on Japan that, if left unaddressed, could develop to threaten Japan’s peace and security. In such a situation, Japan can provide support for U.S. and other forces responding to the contingency. Japanese support may include search and rescue activities, ship inspections, and logistics support, with the last encompassing such elements as use of facilities, supply chains, transportation, communication, and repair and maintenance.

Finally today, I see Danté Stewart, author of Shoutin’ in the Fire: An American Epistle, all over the place.The New York Times adapted Stewart’s guest essay from his new book.

It started in college at Clemson University, where I played on the nationally ranked football team. Many young Black athletes like me left home and quickly found ourselves around white Christians because they were the ones who had greatest access to us. Between Bible studies and church outings, our worlds became white, our Jesus became a blond-haired and blue-eyed savior. This Jesus cared about touchdowns and Bible verses written in white letters underneath our eyes over the black paint.

As the weeks and months and years went by, I found myself closer and closer to white people. After graduating from college, I joined a white evangelical church and entered seminary in the hopes of becoming a pastor there. In my pursuit to be a better person and a better athlete and a better Christian, I viewed Black sermons and Black songs and Black buildings and Black shouting and Black loving with skepticism, and white sermons and white songs and white buildings and white clapping with sacredness.

But before long, images of Black people dying started appearing all over our televisions and newspapers and newsfeeds. And too many of the nice white people around me just didn’t seem to care. And I knew: I had to find a way to get free and survive.

Stewart was also interviewed by Josiah R. Daniels of Soujourners.

You can’t really change how people read your book, but you can try as best you can to write a certain way. And I didn’t want my book to fit neatly within the genre of “anti-racism.” I wanted my book to be Black literature. I didn’t want my book to be centered on white people. I wanted my book to help you explore and imagine the possibilities for the beauty of what we know of ourselves — the beauty of Blackness.

What is the world that you have inherited? And how can you explore that world? Don’t just set out to prove your humanity to white people or assimilate to whiteness, set out to love yourself deeply and embrace your humanity. Because I believe as the Bible teaches us that our humanity is our gift, and that God wants us to embrace and explore it.

Everyone have a great day!

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