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This is what happens when you live in a racialized house of mirrors. A presidential hopeful, in order to defuse the specter of black anger hovering over his campaign

July 31, 2010 - Posted by Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. in Race


Since the news broke that Alvin Greene won the South Carolina Democratic Party Primary Election for US Senate, countless media and political elites, have filled several rounds of the news cycle looking down their noses at the unlikely winner. But more important than questioning where he got the $10,400 filing fee and feigning outrage in response to the obscenity charge, those who claim to love democracy should be asking this: 'why are freedom-loving political insiders asking Greene to step aside?' The same folks leading the charge against Greene, in part suggesting that he's not smart enough to have really won, are the same public servants unable to protect us from banks smart enough to rip us off, but too dumb to fail, and oversized multinational corporations smart enough to drill, but clueless about how to stop the greatest oil spill in American history. So until said elected officials have figured out a solution to these pressing issues, alongside the unemployment crisis, the budget crises, and recurring voting irregularities in national elections that nurture a climate for more of the same, I'm rooting for Alvin Greene. Here are five reasons why: First, if Alvin Greene is the legitimate winner, and I think politicians should find that out with a fair investigation before asking him to step aside (as Congressman James Clyburn and Democratic Party State leader Carol Fowler have done), his win reinforces the notion that grassroots everyday people can still win elections in America--that the country, imagine this, still actually belongs to the people. Political elites reveal how far removed they are from this idea when central to their criticism of Greene is the notion that Senate primary wins are impossible without big bucks and establishment support. I'm also rooting for Alvin Greene because he's an underdog, the quintessential outsider, so much so, his own party claims they never heard of him. That plus the fact that any non-millionaire deserves our support when he proves he can ruffle the feathers of the mainstream political establishment--those same politicians who get sent to Washington to represent the interest of the people back at home, but fail to support the majority will on pressing issues of the day. Third, Green deserves our support because he is a candidate who went for broke and did the unthinkable: he put his money where his mouth is. If indeed his filing fee was his own money--which is as plausible to me as his win--then it's a compelling story about the will of everyday people in search of democracy. This is the type of inspirational narrative all Americans should be embracing--not imaginary populous movements that run politically connected candidates (Rand Paul are u listening?) and pass them off as a revolution. Greene wants to do something to save the country sans name-calling, racial slurs or spitting on politicians he disagrees with. Instead, the 32-year-old college grad truly believes in public service--if his military record is any indication. Which leads me to my final two points: Greene's a military veteran and a post baby-boomer, two groups underrepresented in the Senate. Sure, Washington insiders spend a lot of time giving lip service to the troops when it's politically expedient. However, when a 13-year military veteran runs for office, these 'support the troops' cheerleaders are focused on discrediting him. According to the Department of Defense, over 75 percent of the armed forces is comprised of Americans under 30 years old. Likewise, young voters 18-29 years old in the last three national elections have been steadily increasing their engagement. It's time their numbers are more significantly represented in Washington. It may be revealed in the days ahead that Alvin Greene's win was no win at all. If so, the culprit will likely be something far more plausible than a 'Republican plant.' Although an electronic voting machine glitch, diabolical voting machine tampering, or massive crossover voting lead my list, I'm hoping that won't be the case. But whether Alvin Greene is manufactured, an accident or for real, those crying foul should see his entry on the political scene as an opportunity to re-evaluate their commitment to the nation's ideals--rather than to continue to dismantle them.

June 14, 2010 - in Democracy


According to some of the media I have read lately, I do not exist. Yet I live, breathe, and pen these words in support of Elena Kagan

May 14, 2010 - Posted by Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. in Culture


I recently watched a television show about standards of beauty around the world. I sat in awe as little Chinese girls went ga-ga for White Barbie, and their mothers and sisters stood in a drive-thru line to have a surgeon slice away the fat from their eyelids to make them more Euro-chic. On one level, it felt good to know that African-American women are not alone in the emotional struggle to love ourselves enough to call ourselves pretty. But that feeling quickly vanished as the show then focused on Nigerian women who loathed their natural locks, opting for lye to straighten them out and a needle and thread to weave in wigs of women

March 24, 2010 - Posted by Charisse Carney-Nunes in Democracy


The recent education reforms to No Child Left Behind proposed by the Obama Administration sadly perpetuate a flawed testing policy that will continue to leave our children behind. I have no problem with tests. Testing, when employed effectively, can be an appropriate way of gauging knowledge, reinforcing lessons and diagnosing learning deficiencies. Unfortunately, these admirable goals have been sacrificed over the past decade for a more superficial

March 24, 2010 - Posted by Stephanie Robinson in Democracy


National parties mediate the differences between their regional bases. The Democrats, for example, must negotiate between the interests of their constituencies in the northeast, the upper midwest, and the west coast. What an autoworker in Detroit sees as a critical political issue from a taxi driver in New York City, and both would likely disagree with a barista in San Francisco, or a farmer in North Dakota. The result is often a mishmash of both policies and politicians: Byron Dorgan, Democratic Senator of North Dakota, holds substantially different views than Barbara Boxer, Democratic Senator of California. This is a good thing in electoral terms, as it enables political parties to contest and win national elections. Regional parties, by contrast, are usually much more consistent (though not entirely) in their ideology, policies, and politicians. This gives them a stranglehold on their particular region. But it becomes a reinforcing cycle: the politicians that emerge from a regional party are the ones that are successful in that region. Politicians who do not adhere to the ideological template are marginalized or forcibly evicted from the party. And with each success and each eviction, the party regionalizes itself further and begins the cycle all over again. This is a bad thing for political parties, as it makes it difficult for them to contest national elections and weakens them everywhere but their particular region. This syndrome is currently at play in Pennsylvania, where Republican Senator Arlen Spector is in danger from his own party. Specter's relative moderation no longer seems to fit within the increasingly conservative and increasingly Southern GOP, and so he will be challenged in the Republican primary by Pat Toomey, who's social conservatism fits much more closely with the current template. If Toomey wins, and it seems likely that he will, it is extremely difficult to see him winning against any reasonable Democratic candidate in a state that went for Barack Obama in 2008 by over 10 percentage points. Even if Specter wins, it will be by moving to the right, something that will weaken him in the general election. The likely flip of the second Senate seat in Pennsylvania to the Democrats will continue the regionalization of the Republicans, which will in turn make it more unlikely that Specter-like figures can survive in the party. The big tent is a useful electoral tool, diversity helps win elections. If the Republicans' tent continues to shrink, there will be less and less room for actual voters.

April 16, 2009 - Posted by David Silbey in Politics


GOP Senators effectively scuttled the initial automakers bailout bill. That was an electoral disaster waiting to happen for the Republicans in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania. That should have been clear to GOP leaders back in February, it should be even clearer to them today, when a Michigan dealership starting using that vote to sell cars by going after Southern GOP Senators:

A Michigan car dealership is using Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and southern Republicans as boogeymen in a new ad campaign. Les Stanford Chevrolet Cadillac in Dearborn, owned by brothers Paul and Gary Sanford, has released commercials showing Shelby, a fierce opponent of bailouts for U.S. automakers, warning of the industry's inevitable decline.

April 15, 2009 - Posted by David Silbey in Politics


As a followup to this post. The Republican Party continues to hold its base in the South and not much else. From a recent poll:

Republican Party: Northeast: 8% favorable, 82% unfavorable Midwest: 22% favorable, 68% unfavorable West: 20% favorable, 70% unfavorable South: 43% favorable, 47% unfavorable
Hat-tip to Steve Benen

April 07, 2009 - Posted by David Silbey in Politics


[A follow-up to this post] In counterinsurgencies, military effort can create the conditions for ending the war, but it (usually) can't end the war by itself. That depends on the political accommodation of enough of the constituencies supporting the insurgents to undercut their military effort. Without that, the insurgency is likely to start again. In the Philippines in 1899-1902, the US was careful to recruit insurgents and their supporters to the American side through a variety of methods. A number of local warlords 'surrendered' to American forces and then were immediately appointed governors of their areas. At a lower level, insurgent soldiers who surrendered were given amnesty and sent back to their homes. The result was that the Filipino insurgency was defeated not only militarily, but had the oxygen of support sucked away from them. In Iraq, the political tensions have largely been between the Shi'ite majority, which dominates the Iraqi government, and the Sunni minority, which had held power in Hussein's government. The Anbar Awakening was a reconciliation between American forces and the Sunni militias which had been fighting against them. The U.S. recruited the militias over to our side, with generous payments to leaders and militia members alike. The Sunnis, for their part, saw this as an opportunity to have influence in the larger polity. The Awakening, and the effectiveness of renewed counterinsurgency efforts in Baghdad essentially brought the insurgency down to a manageable level in 2007-2008. But the thorn on the rose was always how the Shi'ite government would handle incorporating the Sunni militias and the people they represent into the larger government. Without an effective and good faith effort on the part of Maliki's government to integrate the militias into the Iraqi military and give the Sunnis some form of reasonable political voice, there was no reason that the violence in Iraq could not spiral again. That's why this is not a good sign:

But the Shiite-dominated Baghdad government never really liked the idea. Indeed, the first deals were cut by U.S. officials behind the back of the Iraqi government. So Maliki's guys are:
  • Arresting some leaders of the 'Sons of Iraq' (the American term for Awakening forces)
  • Attacking others
  • Bringing only 5,000 of the ex-insurgents into the Iraqi security forces
  • And stiffing others on pay, with some complaining they haven't been paid in weeks or even months
I think Maliki's gambit is to crack down on the Sunnis while American forces are still available in sufficient numbers to back him up. This is a turning into a test of strength, Sunni vs. Shiite.
Counterinsurgency operations succeed when they can co-opt the nationalism of the country in which the insurgency is being fought. But they have to co-opt the entirety (or as as near as makes no difference) of that nationalism, not just the attractive parts. In Iraq, that means Sunni as well as Shi'ite nationalism needs to be brought in out of the cold. Having said this, it's not clear that the Americans can do anything useful any more. Long-term, the Sunnis and Shi'ites have to figure out a way to live with each other. Any kind of realistic solution has to come from them. Unfortunately, a 'realistic' solution might include an all-out civil war which ends with one side or the other emerging on top. Winning the counterinsurgency doesn't stop Iraq's ethnic, cultural, or political divisions, it only creates the opportunity to resolve them.

March 31, 2009 - Posted by David Silbey in Democracy


At the end of a reasonable analysis of the situation in Afghanistan, Robert Kaplan asks the wrong question. It's not a big surprise, as the question he does ask fits nicely into the post-Vietnam perception of American military action. It is, nonetheless, wrong:

To that end, significant numbers of American officers and civilian contractors will be embedded in Afghan government ministries for years to come, helping to run things. But does the home front have the stomach for it?
Ignoring the prejudicial phrasing used ('stomach for it'), the question that Kaplan should have asked was not 'does the home front' but 'should the home front.' Deciding that a multi-year military effort in a failed state far from home is not worth the cost in blood and lives is not an unreasonable one.

March 30, 2009 - Posted by David Silbey in Democracy

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