Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Frank Roosevelt" asks "Do GA Dems Have the Courage to Fight?"

From my in-box this morning, "Frank Roosevelt" has this to say, and I expect the discussion will be aplenty!
Do GA Dems Have the Courage to Fight?

On the final day of the legislative session, Georgia suffered another enormous blow dealt by the Republican-led legislature. Gov. Deal's likely signature on the AZ on steroids immigration bill, HB 87, will lead to an international boycott of GA, and GA's farmers will suffer without vital migrant labor. This legislative battle, like all others this session, sheds light on Democratic Party strategy- strategy that must change if the party hopes to win major legislative battles in the future or elections.

An AZ on steroids law will do irreparable harm to GA. Conventions scheduled in AZ immediately canceled their plans upon passage of that’s state immigration law, costing the state an estimated $141 million dollars. The legal fees spent defending the law coupled with the tourism boycott, will likely end up costing AZ tax-payers in the hundred millions. If these reasons were not enough to fight an even more punitive immigration bill here in GA, the issue also presented a compelling political opportunity for Democrats to reconnect with rural Georgians. The GA Farm Bureau took a strong stand against the bill, rightly claiming it will scare away vital migrant labor and impose over-burdensome E-Verify requirements on Georgia farmers. The hospitality, tourism, restaurant, landscape, and convention industries similarly weighed in strongly against passage. Large business interests, rural advocacy groups, and a latino population that doubled in the past 10 years joined to demand that GA Republicans back off. How did GA Democrats respond?

The utter silence from some quarters of the GA Democratic establishment regarding immigration was deafening. An elected Dem first commented on immigration after Republican B.J. Pak offered an amendment gutting the English-only drivers licence bill. House Democratic Caucus chair Rep. Brian Thomas opined: “We recognize that there is a segment of our population that may be uncomfortable with people who come from a very different cultural background.” On 3/2/11, the day HB 87 first passed the House, the House Dem Caucus issued a release that said “While bill authors claimed the intent of the [sic] HB 87 is designed to improve Georgia, the intent may not match the outcome.” Beyond that, the House Democratic Caucus, the Senate Democratic Caucus, nor any Democratic member of the House or Senate issued one press release or official statement that I can find online about the havoc an AZ on steroids law will wreak on our state. Stephanie Benfield made her case in an email: “Many have said the federal government has failed to act on immigration and Democrats agreed.

The Senate Democratic Caucus has no website or Facebook page, so no one outside the Capitol can learn what they’re doing. I do salute the Senate Democratic Caucus for going on a listening tour around the state. However, there’s no record of that tour in online Democratic materials that I can find. I must point out that Sen. Curt Thompson lives in a 45% latino district and actively opposed HB 87 through Facebook, a blog in Spanish, and appearances at events around the state. His work against HB 87 was exceptional.

Other elected Democrats made appearances at public rallies. A comprehensive Democratic strategy for posting video footage of these appearances, however, would do wonders. A video of a speech by John Lewis at a rally against HB 87 made serious waves state-wide. Rep. Marin gave a stirring speech in Spanish that was uploaded online by an Atlanta human rights advocate. Concerted outreach to the public means more work, but it is necessary to make a continuous case to the public that Democrats are ready to lead.

What did Democrats do inside the chamber to stop HB 87? From the outset, GA Republicans pushed to pass HB 87 out of disgust with federal inaction on immigration. Unfortunately, as seen in Rep. Benfield’s remarks above, many Demcrats mistakenly adopted that argument as truth, even though President Obama oversaw the deportation of a record 400,000 people last year. Rep. Pedro Marin opened his remarks in the House against HB 87 with “For the record, allow me to say that yes, the United States has not adequately and sufficiently addressed the issue of immigration.” Other Dems followed Marin but opened slightly differently. Leader Stacey Abrams led with “As my colleagues have stated, there’s not a single person in this chamber who supports illegal immigration.” Calvin Smyre continued: “at the outset, let me say that I for one do not support illegal immigration.” Unfortunately, Abrams, Smyre, and most others who spoke in the house also gave voice to a Republican attack that Democrats support illegal immigration by meekly disputing the claim at the beginning of their remarks.

Overall, there seems to be a lack of courage from GA’s elected Democrats. They speak against a bill within the chamber, but they too often make Republican arguments. They send out press releases, but they too often attack bills that have already passed. This session proves those actions do little to no good. The failure of the GA Democratic establishment to publicly fight the passage of HB 87 was another opportunity squandered to do the right thing for GA and win future elections. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that many of the currently elected Democrats (especially those in the House leadership) simply don’t know how, or don’t have the stomach to fight for the people of Georgia. By taking a strong stand on issues once they present themselves and publicly fighting legislation before it passes, GA Democrats will once again earn the respect of Georgians as a party willing to fight.

Frank Roosevelt


Unknown said...

*swoon* - I love everything about this.

Thank you, Frank, for pointing out that the folks we worked so hard to elect in November are abandoning us just months into their tenure. Where is Stacey Abrams on this issue? Where is Dar'Shun Kendrick and Yasmin Neal?

If you don't have the stomach to speak up for Democratic values, then step aside and we'll elect someone else. Period.

Anonymous said...

"Overall, there seems to be a lack of courage from GA’s elected Democrats."

Hell yeah there seems to be a lack of courage from our Dems - a lack of courage, a lack of leadership, a lack of basic political strategy.

Where is the Old Guard that we've depended on for so long? Where is Kathy Ashe and Vincent Fort and DuBose Porter and Stephanie Benfield? While none of these fine Dems ever seemingly figured out how to get much accomplished while in the minority, we used to be able to count on them to at least throw the occasional bomb.

Apparently not anymore.

And I'm still so pissed about 22 Dems voting to cut HOPE that I can't see straight. And now they're all also silent on this bill. It's sad. It's sad and stupid and dangerous and is costing us our reputations, convention money, good people, good jobs - it's all stupid.

And I can't wait until the next person calls me asking for money or to come to an event. You didn't show up to the Capitol for me. I'm not showing up for you next time. And that's a promise.

Amy Morton said...

One of the things missing on "our side" is a good policy-legislative shop to balance the myriad of right wing groups that load legislators with white paper and craft the legislation that suits the national agenda for Republicans. It would have been great if , prior to session, we'd had an alternative to the awful HOPE legislation ready to go, for instance. That would have prevented some of the problems that occurred. The only thing close on the progressive or even moderate side in Georgia is Georgia Budget and Policy, and they do great work. They can't do it all.

Frank Roosevelt said...

I'm sure folks will point out how House Dems defeated the tax bill. However, did a tax bill ever exist for them defeat? The supposed bill was only a series of cobbled-together proposals that never garnered enough Republican support to be a bill.

Amy Morton said...

We have to learn that there is more than one way to define "majority." When the majority of voters agree with you, the "minority" becomes the majority. Republicans do this more effectively for a number of reasons, not the least of which is their active, national and state-level policy and polling operations. It's easy to be on the same page when there actually is a "page." ALEC is a powerful, influential organization, and we have no counter. We need a counter.

Fall Line Dem said...

I am troubled by the comment by a Democrat "recognizing" that there is a section of Georgia's population uncomfortable with people of different cultural background. Isn't that really another way of saying racism? Hasn't the same sentiment supported legislative and other measures discriminating against African-Americans, Jews, Asians, etc.? Why are Democrats condoning such views?

A fighting Democrat said...

It's a prime example of the weak, Republican-lite language that has come out of the House Democratic press office all session long. Not very inspiring to the minority communities that a future Dem majority will depend on.

Unknown said...

I agree with A Fighting Democrat - the press releases, the overall strategy, the fundraising, the leadership - all of it has been crap the last cycle. When did we lose our backbone?

Former DPG Communications Director Emil Runge used to throw some GREAT bombs in press releases. And we were in the minority then. What happened to us?

I know with smaller and smaller budgets (could we please hire a real fundraiser for the party at some point? please?) I know we're getting younger and less experienced staffers - but at the point that it is hurting us strategically because our communications director hasn't been taught how to throw a punch, it's time to make a change.

Anonymous said...

"It’s becoming increasingly obvious that many of the currently elected Democrats (especially those in the House leadership) simply don’t know how, or don’t have the stomach to fight for the people of Georgia."

Here ye, here ye.

They're talking to you, Rep. Abrams, Rep. Randall, et. all. Your constituents want you to stand up. On ALL Democratic issues. Not just the ones you've negotiated with Republican leadership to get a "pass" on.

That means immigration. That means protecting HOPE. We are Democrats. Start acting like it.

A fighting Democrat said...

I think DPG's Communications Director, Eric Gray does the best job he can under the circumstances. I hear that Stacey Abrams and Calvin Smyre are constantly telling him to back off on the attacks.

The real problem with communications lies with Abrams' top advisor Liz Flowers. Flowers' signature is on the House Caucus press releases- most of which are riddled with grammatical mistakes and don't even go to most papers outside the metro area.

Amy Morton said...

Again, we are running about like chickens with our heads cut off - and if you are from the rural south like I am that metaphor should produce an apt image - because we lack not only the infrastructure to deliver the "punch" but also the policy underpinning to make it stick. Not all the work for progressive can be done by the DPG or the caucuses. We have to look to how the broader progressive community can be organized around these critical issues to produce policy and help craft legislation. If we want to drive the debate, we need both a vehicle and the fuel to go the distance.

Frank Roosevelt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank Roosevelt said...

A policy-based infrastructure outside the party will require the buy-in from the large progressive stakeholders in the state.

Who can organize a meeting with Arthur Blank, Ted Turner, Jim Butler, and others to pitch them on investing a small portion of their wealth towards a small group of wonks who can provide policy, legislation, talking points and ideas to our elected leaders?

Amy Morton said...

It would be an investment in the future of the State. It's interesting that during the last week of session, I heard from two mainstream Republicans who called me, independently, to express that when we do not have a strong two-party system, we do not have strong government. I agree that a strong minority voice, whether Democrat or Republican makes for better policy. It's time we found ours.

I do need to say this, on HOPE, I believe Jason Carter found that voice in the Senate. He addressed that issue effectively from both the policy and political perspective. On the steps of the Capitol with students is exactly where we all should have been standing. One of the reasons he could do that is because he, or someone, had done the research and knew exactly what the impact of the bill would be on students, district by district. Very effective. That's the kind of leadership I'm looking for.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Amy on Jason Carter and HOPE, and Rep. Stacey Evans as well. Those two lone Democrats took the loss delivered to them by Rep. Stacey Abrams and the other 21 House Democrats who voted to gut HOPE and found a way to reclaim the issue. They both did a great job in the statewide listening tour they did on the issue.

And Frank is right about needing a new progressive voice in GA. The Party is largely dead, and that makes me as sad as anyone. I don't care if it's Liz Flowers muzzling Abrams or Abrams' statewide ambitions making her sell out to Republicans or Eric Gray's lack of experience making him unable to write a press release or Tim Alborg's inability to raise money to fund a real staff or Mike Berlon being unwilling and unable to clean house. The end result is the same.

We have a party that is ineffective at best. We have Democratic elected officials who are impotent or who have deserted our values.

It's time for a total game changer in Georgia.

James Dustin Baker said...

Brett and I started a PAC called GAProgress. We just filed about a week ago, so we haven't raised any money yet. We intend to catch all the money and support the Stacey Abrams and C. Smyre are losing for us. We are going to support people like Jason Carter and Stacy Evans... and anyone who alines with our values (as listed below). I will let you all know when we get it up and running:

GAProgress PAC

Mission: The mission of GAProgress is to support progressive candidates and issues in state and local political campaigns.

Issues: GAProgress will focus on issues including, but not limited to:

Supporting the Middle and Lower Class
Restoring the HOPE Scholarship
Protecting Georgia’s Environmental Resources
Increasing Representation for Underrepresented Groups
Ensuring Full and Adequate Funding for Public Education
Promoting Fair, Transparent, and Ethical Government

Vision: We envision a Georgia where all citizens have a say in their government. A collaboration of the best ideas from rural, suburban, and urban environments. We strive for a future where all Georgians will earn fair pay for a full day or work. We believe all Georgians have a right to a free, public, and adequately funded education. We will stand up for fully restoring the HOPE Scholarship. We seek to strike a balance between the economic interest of our citizenry and the security of our environmental resources. We believe that the government of the state should representing the rich diversity in our state.

Action: GAProgress will engage in the following actions

Support candidates for local and state office
Engage in issue advocacy through targeted methods
Create and develop educational media
Support and develop grassroot leaders
Register and educate new voters

A fighting Democrat said...

The HOPE Scholarship cuts proposed by Gov. Deal this session was a golden opportunity for Democrats to take a strong stand and make the case that they can govern better than Republicans. Unfortunately, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams sent out a press release announcing her support and co-sponsorship of Gov. Deal’s framework to cut the HOPE Scholarship and Pre-Kindergarten before the Republicans even released the bill to the public. Not satisfied after securing lightning-fast passage in the House, Abrams further made the case to support the Governor’s HOPE cuts on the AJC’s editorial page the very same day Sen. Jason Carter wrote to the AJC to rally his colleagues’ support for his superior, Democratic proposal.

Let’s take just a moment to discuss Abrams’ alleged “concessions” she won through these tactics.

Those at proprietary schools can continue to receive the Tuition Equalization Grant. (At a time of shortfalls, Abrams fought to send HOPE dollars to for-profit schools that have been found to mislead students to get government dollars.

Creation of a 1 percent loan program funded at $20 million. (This program was created in the past and never received appropriations from the legislature to function. Assuming the Republican legislature funds a government-run, low interest loan program for students this go-round at the full amount (Which will honestly shock me), $20 million would only make up the shortfall for 10,000 students’ who owe an extra $2,000 for school (a conservative estimate owed considering book fees, student fees, and part of tuition are no longer covered by HOPE).

Technical college students requiring remedial classes will now be able to take them.

Overall, I believe the House Minority Leader squandered a phenomenal opportunity to lead her chamber back to the majority by not joining with the masses of GA students to fight for HOPE. She chose not to rock the boat and allegedly won some largely insignificant concessions. Unfortunately, now basically all the students in Georgia (a once vibrant Democratic constituency) feel betrayed. The Senate Democratic Caucus commendably fought hard against the HOPE cuts, but are undeniably hamstrung from campaigning on the issue since Abrams co-sponsored the legislation. Abrams and Calvin Smyre provided bi-partisan cover for Republican HOPE cuts instead of taking a stand to fight for the good of the people.

Madelyn Clare Powell said...

Hey, I think a think-policy tank is a great idea. I love GBPI, but they can't do our messaging for us- we need a Democratic org. I am sticking my toe into these comments to say that I think Eric does a fantastic job. I am also very proud of Jason Carter. I am as confused and upset by some of the behavior of our folks as everyone else is but don't think Ted Turner, or anyone else with big bucks, is going to spend money on a group of folks from GA. I'm just sayin'...

SweetPea said...

I share some of the concerns regarding Leader Abrams and the lackluster communication coming from her office. However, it's puzzling that after being elected by her colleagues, many broke rank at the first opportunity. If Leader Abrams doesn't have the support and confidence of House Dems, then they should elect someone who does. Otherwise, party leadership and membership are stymied by the mixed messages. Democratic House and Senate Leadership sets the tone for the party. This year, the tone has been a cacophony.

JMPrince said...

What we've got here is a lack of communication & a clear lack of understanding.

Of the central issue involved, of the mood of our core voters, and a misapprehension about the larger effects on the economy.

1.) I agree with the statements by in large by Rep. Marin & Abrams & Smyre. NO ONE should be supporting illegal immigration. It benefits very few permanent Democratic constituents OR common Georgians.

It Does clearly benefit very wealthy GOP constituents who own businesses dependent upon cheap labor. From farming interests, to chicken processing, to carpet manufacturing to even restaurateurs, they've all made a handsome living off the sweat of the brows of mostly Mexican migrants that provide them with cheaper labor than they'd otherwise have to pay to engage labor to do the jobs they seek.

That's the central issue here. It does not poll well ANYWHERE. It's marginally Nationally popular, but with several provisos Noted by our leaders.

So firstly we desperately need to understand the problem, then formulate a plan to address it, keeping in mind that we need to bring along our traditional constituents while doing so. We've clearly not done this. Not nationally, certainly not locally.

2.) Uncontrolled migration is the end result of several severe disruptions in the host country (US) and primarily Mexico, the 'sending' nation. Around the world? Uncontrolled migration is seen as a universal problem, and a problem always in desperate need of governmental action.

In Mexico, this means solving several persistent problems of many decades of duration. Not the least of which is rampant corruption and anarchy so severe & disruptive that our military can not trust theirs to actually protect American's while in country.

In the US, this means a virtual stalemate for almost as long from the Chamber of Commerce and the powerful business interests that run Washington to put real & effective enforcement of our immigration laws into a sort of 'deep freeze'. The US Government is certainly not allowed to ever interfere seriously with the business & interests of these powerful corporations.

3.) Bottom line? US Business has been addicted to cheap labor since, well, slavery times. And all those migrants are just a newer form of virtual slavery. Where once poor uneducated tenant farmers were the blight on Southern landscape, now we've got poor, uneducated migrants who now comprise a surprising and growing proportion of our population. Many do not want and never will become citizens. An unknown number of these folks Do want to become citizens, but this is a decades long process of slow integration. Only a fraction of them will be voting anytime soon.

4.) So once again we're presented with those impossible choices the Repug's just Love to set us up for. Either we stand for 'law & order' and 'sell out' out our native born, law abiding constituents (hey, only about 70%+ of the Democratic base in Ga.), Or we stand with yes, the human rights of Mexican migrants and fight for a process of quicker integration into US society, and make it more of a National Priority. Because the States can only do so much.

So how about instead of the patented Dem 'circular firing squad' on each & every 'hot button issue' presented with back and forth mindless recriminations, we start to begin to understand the transnational dimensions of the problem here and try and be an advocate for Both strong & effective law enforcement AND easier integration and a faster fair process towards citizenship for those that seek this path?

That may have not been possible here given the numbers and the facts on the ground. With HB87 it certainly is clear that the motives are politically motivated & misbegotten, but explaining that though to the mass of Georgian's who want to see the immigration laws fairly enforced is another matter entirely.

Something to think about. JMP

JMPrince said...

[I had to finish up my comment here]:

We've got to start that comprehensive dialog soon and engage in it often, because it's one of the most pressing issues in our state today. To try to begin to address it fairly for everyone will involve everyone's best efforts, from the Prez on down. And it's been waiting to be done for the last 10-15 years at least.

But make no mistake about it. The reason migrants come here, is that something has gone awfully wrong in their home country for them. And you don't get millions of migrants from one region without that being true for years.

And for the record? I'm FOR immigration reform too. JMP

JMPrince said...

Data on this issue:


"The Latino Non-Voting Problem

Good report from Pew:

" This gap is driven by two demographic factors—youth and non-citizenship. More than one third of Latinos (34.9%) are younger than the voting age of 18. And an additional 22.4% are of voting age, but are not U.S. citizens. As a result, the share of the Latino population eligible to vote is smaller than it is among any other group. Just 42.7% of the nation’s Latino population is eligible to vote, while more than three-in-four (77.7%) of whites, two-thirds of blacks (67.2%) and more than half of Asians (52.8%) are eligible to vote.

Yet, even among eligible voters, Latino participation rates lag those of other groups. In 2010, 31.2% of Latino eligible voters say they voted, while nearly half (48.6%) of white eligible voters and 44.0% of black eligible voters said the same."

As I said. Complexity. JMP

JMPrince said...

More thoughts & data on the issue here from professional economists:

I'll save you reading even this very short paper and go directly to their conclusions which originally apply to Europe, but work just as well for the US also:

"In a nutshell, governments face stark incentives: the rhetoric of closed border helps them gain in popularity among the electorate; the reality of lax enforcement (through insufficient enforcement or ineffective use of enforcement activities) responds to the interests of sectors who gain from employing foreign workers. As the mantra of closed borders is climbing high in the discourse of many European governments, whereas many sectors remain dependent on foreign work, the gap between “rhetoric” and reality can only grow bigger. Illegal immigration is largely a tale of political failure."


Burroughston Broch said...

I am an independent and this is my opinion.

If the State Democratic party does not articulate issues and a platform that are meaningful to Georgia voters before the 2012 elections, the State Democratic party may be beyond all redemption afterwards. That means abandoning racial politics as practiced in Metro Atlanta, particularly in the City of Atlanta. That means focusing on Georgians and not the National Democratic party agenda.

I hope that you can do it. Being a one party state is no good.

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