Tuesday, November 8, 2016

With only one qualified presidential candidate on the ballot, the abominable 2016 race ends today, leaving behind plenty of "Good," "Bad," and "Ugly" to ponder

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
Americans will go to the polls today -- finally -- after what many experts have called the most bizarre and sophomoric campaign in U.S. history. (That last description, in my view, is an insult to sophomores everywhere.) Who could have imagined one year ago that candidates in a nationally televised debate would compare the supposed correlation between hand size and penis size in men? Who could have imagined that a candidate would be caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women, and his poll numbers actually have improved since then? Who could have imagined that one of the two major parties would put forth a candidate who won mainly because he was better than anyone else at lobbing verbal spitballs, a skill most of us perfect in the third grade and then go on to more productive pursuits -- like making fart sounds with our armpits?

Hillary Clinton, the only remotely qualified candidate running, is expected to win the presidency -- and let's pray to God she does, or we are likely to wake up soon to an American many of us don't recognize, and I don't mean that in a good way. Clinton, in fact, probably has the most solid credentials (on paper) of any candidate since George H. W. Bush, and yet Donald Trump -- whose only qualification is that he makes for compelling reality TV -- is turning it into a real race, according to most polls.

That reminds us you could call this "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly campaign," with emphasis on the last two categories. And yes, Clint Eastwood piped up just the other day to say something ignorant about politics. (How could a man who has directed and acted in so many top-notch motion pictures, be such a political putz? How could a man known for going almost entire movies without saying a word now open his yap regularly to reveal that, in terms of national governance, he makes you root for the serial killers in those old Dirty Harry movies?)

With Eastwood in mind, let's consider three lessons that likely are to come from this election -- and they all involve the South:

The Ugly

I've probably said this on the blog before, but it bears repeating: Alabama has the most unrealized potential of any state in the country. It has extraordinary beauty, with majestic mountains to the north and the Gulf of Mexico (with some of the world's most gorgeous beaches) to the south; it has ample natural resources, from coal to fertile crop land to stunning rivers and streams (plus an ocean, did we mention an ocean?); it's got one of the nation's most prime locations, roughly between New Orleans to the south, Memphis to the west, Nashville to the north, Atlanta to the east, and Jacksonville/Tampa/Orlando/Miami to the south.

So why does Alabama rank in the bottom 10 of almost every quality-of-life survey taken in the past 30 to 40 years? Why does Alabama rank high when it's good to rank low, and low when it's good to rank high? Only one answer comes to mind -- Alabama is home to too many stupid people.

To be fair, Alabama is home to some of the finest, brightest people I've known. But they seem to be offset by yahoos who jump out from behind every magnolia and pine tree at voting time. That's how we end up with a former Speaker of the House, former chief justice of the Supreme Court, and a governor (who hopefully will be former soon) who have been convicted, suspended, and investigated for a variety of improper/unlawful acts. And that doesn't even count the most corrupt former official in the modern era -- Governor Bob Riley, with assistance from his son, Rob "Uday" Riley.

Some polls have shown that Alabama is likely to go stronger for Trump than any other state. The "thinking" among many in "The Heart of Dixie" seems to be; "He's the most unqualified and dangerous presidential candidate in American history -- with ties to Russia that make even me nervous -- but he plays to my white nationalistic pride, so by God, he's my man!"

Historians will spend years trying to figure out how any individual American could vote for Donald Trump -- and how any state could go for him overwhelmingly. Look for historians to be spending a lot of time on the back roads of Alabama, posing a question that has only one answer: Alabama would be one of our top 10 states in all meaningful categories, except it is home to a disproportionate share of stupid people; that's why Donald Trump will cruise to victory there today.

The Bad

A report just four days ago shows that we have 868 fewer polling places since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in a June 2013 case called Shelby County v. Holder. Almost half of counties that once had to approve voting changes with the federal government have cut polling places.

The Shelby County in the court case's title is in Alabama. In fact, it's the place my wife, Carol, and I called home for roughly 25 years -- until deputies beat me and threw me in jail and forced us into a bogus foreclosure, all because I unmasked legal and political corruption on this blog. Yes, I was thrown in jail for blogging -- a story that always made my fellow inmates howl with laughter -- but that's the kind of place Shelby County can be. Just south of Birmingham, it generally is considered the fastest growing county in the state, and one of the fastest growing in the country. But its government base is in a backwoods town called Columbiana, and it is so right-leaning that many local elections don't have a single Democratic candidate.

Shelby County is the place where white nationalism and race-based political fears have come to thrive. It's also the place where almost all white officials -- and many white residents -- cannot tell (or even see) the truth, no matter the circumstances. For example, veteran Shelby County attorney Frank "Butch" Ellis (or his surrogates) argued key provisions of the Voting Rights Act no longer were needed because people in places like Shelby County had grown up enough to finally eat at the adults table come election time, giving everyone a fair chance to vote for the candidate of their choice. Butch Ellis, unfortunately, has family ties to the segregationist Dixiecrats of the late 1940s and notoriously racist Birmingham public safety commissioner Bull Connor.

No one should be surprised that Ellis' words were a lie. It's clear now the goal was to suppress voting opportunities, especially for minorities. From an article at The Nation, focusing largely on Texas:

Texas has closed more than 400 polling places, more than any other state in the study. “Almost half of all Texas counties in our sample closed polling places since Shelby, resulting in 403 fewer voting locations for the 2016 election than in past years,” according to the Leadership Conference.

Medina County, a heavily Republican area in South Texas, closed a polling place in the town of Natalia, which is 75 percent Latino and the only Democratic-leaning part of the county. “We’ve had a polling place for at least the last six decades,” Emilio Flores, a local activist and registered Republican, told me. When Flores asked the county elections administrator, Patricia Barton, how low-income and disabled Latino voters were supposed to vote without a polling place in their town, he said she told him, “If you think it’s such a big issue, why don’t you shuttle them yourself?” Last week the county commission approved a polling place in Natalia for Election Day after local activists like Flores raised alarms, but Medina County will have only eight polling places in 2016, down from 14 in 2012.

That clearly is the result right-wingers in Shelby County, Alabama, wanted. It might be the most important issue to come out of the 2016 election, and it likely will require Congressional action to override the U.S. Supreme Court. Butch Ellis and his ilk have proven they still have the mindset of children when it comes to voting rights.

The Good

Could the GOP's stranglehold on the South be loosening? A report yesterday from ThinkProgress suggests the answer is yes -- and the right-wing's vice-like grip might even take a slight hit today.

Demographic shifts -- especially in North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas -- indicate the South might be moving, oh so slowly, to the political left, or at least toward the center. ThinkProgress notes that Barack Obama and his supporters had to wait almost two days in 2008 to learn they had held off John McCain in North Carolina, by less than half a percentage point.

In 2012, Obama lost the South by a resounding 7 points. Hillary Clinton heads into today's elections trailing in polls by 1 point across the region. From ThinkProgress:

Now, in the final days of the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are virtually tied in North Carolina. But what began as a “moment” has, since the 2008 race, matured into a movement.Trump still has an overall lead in the South, but his polling advantage is shockingly slim compared to those of prior Republican candidates. Whereas Obama lost the region by a solid seven points in 2012, Clinton is behind by just a single percentage point, and conservative states long thought to be GOP strongholds are now securely in the “toss-up” column.

Naysayers will dismiss this year as a fluke, brought on by the unprecedented weakness of the current Republican nominee. But although Trump’s unpopularity has no doubt helped to put more of the South in play, deeper structural forces are also driving the region’s political evolution. Demographic trends and grassroots organizing have been nudging the South left for years. The same forces that turned Virginia into a reliably Democratic state and delivered North Carolina to Barack Obama in 2008 carried then-Texas State Senator Wendy Davis through a now legendary 11 hour abortion rights filibuster in 2013.They also drove scores of Southern racial justice activists to rally against white-on-black violence; in Charlotte, North Carolina, following the killing of a black man by police, and in Charleston, South Carolina, after the murder of black churchgoers by a white supremacist.

As dreadful as this election season has been -- and it's been plenty dreadful -- perhaps it will bring positive change in its wake. Perhaps Congress will reinstate the guts of the Voting Rights Act that were decimated by Shelby v. Holder. Perhaps today's results will add to the signs that the GOP no longer holds a complete lock on the South.

It's clearly too much to ask that Alabama lead any kind of progressive change in the South. But North Carolina, Georgia, or Texas might do it; if just one of them goes blue, that would signal progress -- and maybe it will be the kind that not even James Comey and his dubious FBI can stop.


Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis, Schnauzer. One of the best I've read. Made me laugh, too.

Anonymous said...

Let's pray that we don't wake up to a "President Trump" tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

While I have spent much of my adult life in the South (mostly in more affluent areas of large cities), and recognize that there are more than a few "educated" people with provincial mindsets regarding people that may be different, this election has exposed a much larger than anticipated minority (I hope) of people that lack empathy and/or critical thinking skills. Trump is simply a beast. The level of support for his "nationalistic" message is an indictment of our education system. When reviewing Trump's campaign, he is literally using a fascist playbook. I am a conservative-leaning independent but I have never been so disappointed and simultaneously disgusted that Trump is considered a viable candidate and a leader by many. The tag "deplorables" seems to fit way too many.

legalschnauzer said...

Very well stated, @11:45. I couldn't say it better myself; in fact, you probably said it better. I don't like to use the word "stupid," as I did, to describe certain Alabama voters. I think your term -- " more than a few "educated" people with provincial mindsets regarding people that may be different" -- is better.

Anonymous said...

Hillary's the only qualified candidate running?

So there is no love for the Combover Crested Orange Shitgibbon?

Anonymous said...

I still like to make fart noises with my armpits. Drives the wife crazy.

Anonymous said...

Butch Ellis is a racist old f----r who has had too much power in Shelby County, for way too long.

Anonymous said...

Here is a question for Alabama voters who have not yet voted? How did we wind up with a totally immoral, corrupt governor like Robert Bentley? It came from people clicking the GOP button without giving any thought to the matter.

Is that what you want to come out of the presidential election?

Anonymous said...



legalschnauzer said...

You make a great point, @12:42. Voting without thinking is dangerous; it gave us Bentley, Mike Hubbard, Roy Moore, and Bob Riley -- and Trump might be more unfit for office than all of them combined.

Are lessons never learned?

Anonymous said...

<< How did we wind up with a totally immoral, corrupt governor like Robert Bentley?>>

Google "Don Siegelman"...

Anonymous said...

The biggest "ugly" in all this to me is that, for the first time in my 36 years of voting, I literally can't stand either candidate. Do I vote for a pompous ass or, potentially, a lying b$tch? What has this country come to when neither party can nominate a candidate who can be trusted? Forgive the venting!!

legalschnauzer said...

Got to share this classic on voting from the late, great George Carlin:


"If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you are going to get selfish, ignorant politicians."

Anonymous said...

Alabamians should go to the polls with two words resounding in their brains -- Robert Bentley . . . Robert Bentley . . . Robert Bentley . . .

What's that old saying: "Trying the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity?"

Too many voters in our state are insane. They reflexively voted for Bentley because he's a white, "good Christian," and he turned into the most embarrassing governor in the country. They reflexively vote for Trump because he's a "white businessman" who wants to build a wall to keep out brown people. He likely would be the worst president in our history, and that's saying something when you consider the Dubya Debacle.

Are we too wrapped up in our prejudices to notice all of the dismal electoral mistakes we've made in the past?

Anonymous said...

Please, every Governor in AL history has been corrupt...politics aside...get a grip!

Anonymous said...

Sarah Palin tells Bill O’Reilly: Donald Trump will win on Tuesday because ‘polls are for strippers’

legalschnauzer said...

We've have corrupt leaders before, but the Rileys represent true evil. Having a political opponent thrown in jail, almost certain theft of the 2002 election, evidence that strongly points to political murders on their watch. It can't get much uglier than that.

Anonymous said...

Agree, but there's a trail of bodies behind many a party

Anonymous said...

LS, I enjoy many of your writings, but disagree with you about a new president. We need Trump ! Another 4 to 8 years of the same and we're doomed . Go Trump !

e.a.f. said...

Good post. Most politicians have a fleeting relationship with the truth However there are things which are truly frightening about Trump. He is no fit for the job. Should he be elected their will be ramifications

Canada is following the election closely. If we had been a state Clinton would win in a land slide. As the election results are now cing in we can only hope