Larry Taylor of Dallas, Texas, sends this grab from his local TV news. It shows WFAA asking viewers if they would vote for Senator Ted Cruz, now a Republican Senator, for president in 2016.
Not scientific, just interesting.
You can see that the results in progress do not favor a President Cruz. Taylor, a blue dot himself, points out that Dallas County went for Barack Obama twice. If it's true that Texas is going from red to purple, his part of the state is already blue.
Richard Matthews, pictured at right above, grew up in a devout Mormon family in Idaho. That's his late brother, Jonathan, on the left, and below, using the shooting range their grandfather built for them in the basement. The other day, going through old papers, Richard found a copy of a letter written by his young brother to the U.S. Congress asking them to protect hunting guns but ban the sale of military guns. The letter is dated December 22, 1993; the assault weapons ban passed nine months later.
Richard lives in North Dakota now, where he might be the bluest dot in the entire oil patch (more on that another day). He writes:
My brother, Jonathan, died at the age of 20 after a life long battle with kidney disease. He was a true product of the west. He loved guns more than anything. Even though he never weighed more than 80 pounds, he owned many guns and shotguns. He could not fire them without assistance. He continued to buy guns after he became too sick to fire them at all.
Jonathan believed strongly that there should be a ban on military assault weapons. He felt so strongly about it, that he wrote a letter to congress about it as a child, as well as to the NRA, an organization in which he held a lifetime membership. His letter is posted here. I got a great laugh out of it. It begins: "Dear Congress, I hope you're having a good time..." LOL, oh Jon, I assure you congress is having a VERY good time.
*Jonathan's mom, Kathryn Matthews, remembers him also writing to the NRA. She says that her family's concern has always been only with military weapons. She says her son learned marksmanship from his maternal grandfather, a national rifle champion, an avid deer hunter and a World War II veteran. Jonathan "dearly loved to go roadside hunting for sage hens and other small game with his dad who wisely let him shoot with a .22.," she writes. "Jonathan passed away at the age of 20, a very tiny but strong-willed little individual." You can see a draft of Jonathan's letter after the jump.
The handwritten draft reads:
I hope you are having a good time. There's one thing I don't agree with. I don't agree on letting military guns be legal for sitizens to buy. But I like hunting with hunting Rifels. I don't know if They should suppport the military weapons. I think they ought to ban military guns.
Because there is so much killing. Too much people are buying them to kill people. I think hunting gun are fun. Please protect them.
You can send us stuff like letters and pictures and tips here and here. It makes our whole day, promise.
*After I first posted this, Kathryn Matthews contacted me and said she wanted to make sure her family's views were clear. The post has been updated to reflect her followup.
A couple of weeks ago, following reports that Democrats are making a concerted effort to make Texas a more competitive electoral battleground, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said, "Over our dead bodies are we going to let this state turn blue."
That sounded a bit extreme under the circumstances. Dewhurst probably wasn't being literal, but the notion that someone would rather die than let a state go Democratic is just a little over the top.
But Dewhurst isn't the only Texan talking this way. Take state Attorney General Greg Abbott, for example.
"One thing that requires ongoing vigilance is the reality that the state of Texas is coming under a new assault, an assault far more dangerous than what the leader of North Korea threatened when he said he was going to add Austin, Texas, as one of the recipients of his nuclear weapons," Abbott said. "The threat that we're getting is the threat from the Obama administration and his political machine."
Insofar as North Korea couldn't possibly threaten Austin, I suppose there's some truth to that, though comparing the Obama administration and its "political machine" to a rogue, authoritarian nuclear state seems a bit excessive.
But the fact that we're hearing such rhetoric at all reinforces the fact that Democrats really are taking a look at Texas, they're seeing an opportunity, and they're making Republican leaders in the Lone Star State a little antsy. The Wall Street Journal recently ran an interesting item on the "Battleground Texas" effort, led by former Obama field director Jeremy Bird.
Wiry and bespectacled, Mr. Bird likes to describe how the past two Obama campaigns were littered with foot soldiers from Texas laboring in other states. Texas volunteers made more than 400,000 calls into Florida in the final weeks of the 2012 campaign, he said.
"For years you have been giving to the national campaign," he told a packed ballroom of 300 or so Texas Democratic volunteers in San Antonio recently on his first public swing through the state. "Now it's time the national campaign gave back to you."
The last time North Carolina Republican Robert Brawley served in the state House, lawmakers could accept gifts from lobbyists. That was in the 1980s and '90s. Years later, after a scandal in their own party, North Carolina Democrats passed a ban on lobbyist gifts. Now Representative Brawley is back, his Republican Party is in charge, and he'd like the gifts again, please. WRAL notes:
He's currently a member of House leadership, serving as chairman of the Finance committee, an influential post that would almost certainly attract lobbyists' interest.
Brawley did not immediately respond to requests for an explanation of his proposal.*
Yesterday North Carolina citizens got a chance to visit their Capitol and make their opinions heard. The Raleigh News and Observer reports that House Speaker Thom Tillis slipped out rather than talk to the state NAACP leader, the Reverend William Barber. It's hard to know what to make of the video posted by the NAACP, except to say that the outnumbered liberals of the state do not seem to be giving up.
The sponsor of the iced bill to give North Carolina an official state religion got asked, over email, if she'd be OK with opening a legislative session with an Islamic prayer. She responded:
"No, I do not condone terrorism."
ADDING: Brawley tells WRAL that the reason he wants to do away with the ban on lobbyist gifts is that the ban and ethics laws in general just get in the way. "What makes you think a person without ethics is going to obey a law anyway?" he said.
North Carolina will not, after, establish an official state religion or declare the state immune from the First Amendment, now that the state's Republican House speaker has decided to let that one go. On that other stuff, like taxing families if the kids register to vote at college, North Carolina Republicans are going for it.
Yesterday we heard from a raft of blue dots in the red sea of North Carolina, most of them wondering what in the world has happened to their state.
@tradebait: "I live in North Carolina. The state is now a great big tea party experiment."
@swerver: "yeah, I'm in Raleigh. Traditionally NC kinda maintained their progressive leanings while other southern red states did not. But all that has changed now. We have disappeared down the rabbit hole."
@mlenox: "I wonder how this would work for me...my parents live in NC, but I go to college in NY. Still, I've about given up on defending my home state to people. Clearly we're not all crazy, but it seems the small portion of us that have maintained our sanity are starting to get out QUICK."
@KtWard: "This is frustrating news, to be sure, but I'm not even remotely surprised by it. . . . Obama's 2012 loss in NC -- despite the DNC's best efforts to exploit his '08 win by hosting their convention in Charlotte -- also came as no surprise to me. NC has a Blue pocket or two, but all in all the state is every bit as Red as the rest of the deep south. I'm sure the folks in Asheville will have a thing or two to say, but otherwise this will go largely unnoticed."
@Russ_Haddad: "As a constituent of Sen. Bill Cook's in rural northeast North Carolina, I am appalled by the moves made by him and his cronies that are making the Tar Heel state regressive rather than progressive. He is a buffoon, but this is what the voters wanted. Unfortunately, by the time they realize their mistakes it will take decades to fix what they leave behind."
(Image: @taberandrew/Flickr/Creative Commons. Video below: North Carolina Republicans want tax hike for student voting.)
After seeing last night's A block (video) about opponents of gun reform displaying guns to intimidate the other side, Donna sends these pics from Columbus, Ohio. She writes:
I took my 9 year old neighbor to a "Demand a Plan" at the City Hall here in Columbus, OH on February 23, 2013. When I arrived, I noticed a man carrying a flag while walking up and down the sidewalk beside the area where the rally was being held. It was not until about half way through that I noticed that the man had a gun slung across his shoulder. Then I looked at a group of men standing on the sidewalk by the rally and saw that they too had guns visibly displayed on them. After seeing your program about another gun safety rally with armed men roaming around, I thought I would send you these three photos. This display of force is not an isolated incidence.
But in Arizona, where Republicans have full control of the legislature, the push is going the other way. In bright-red Arizona, Republicans have been working on a bill (pdf) that would ban police from destroying the guns turned in during gun buybacks, even when the owners ask that the weapons be destroyed. Instead, they'd have to sell the guns, putting them back into circulation and thus defeating the purpose of a buyback.
With no ability to stop the law from going forward, the Democratic minority this week tried attaching 18 different amendments -- putting their colleagues across the aisle on the record over measures like universal background checks and a ban on armor-piercing bullets. From the Casa Grande Dispatch:
At one point, after Republicans rejected the ban on high-capacity magazines, a tearful Sen. Linda Lopez addressed the Senate about the mass shooting in Tucson two years ago.
"In less than 20 seconds, the shooter with a high-capacity magazine with 30 shots killed 6 and wounded 13, including my good friend Gabrielle Giffords," Lopez said. "How long does this have to go on?"
Among the amendments offered by Senator Lopez was one that would have given Arizona towns and cities the authority to decide how best to get rid of guns. Like the other 17, that move for greater home rule was rejected. The anti-buyback bill now needs one more vote in the Senate. (H/t Blog for Arizona)
Remember when: After the Tucson shooting, Arizona Republicans moved for looser guns laws.
Legislative leaders in Connecticut yesterday announced that they had reached a bipartisan agreement on gun reform. The package includes universal background checks for buying guns and a ban on using high-capacity magazines outside of your home or a licensed shooting range. Connecticut State Senate President Donald Williams told us last night that even though his Democratic majority could push through legislation on party lines, they wanted to work with Republicans to get consensus. "If we can do it in Connecticut, this ought to move across the country, and they ought to hear that loud and clear in Washington, D.C.," Williams said.
Now comes the question of whether Connecticut's approach will engender the same level of backlash now happening inColorado and New York, the first states to put new restrictions on guns after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School -- and the follow-up question of whether any backlash carries real political consequences.
In New York the uproar has taken the form of Upstate counties, far more rural than the counties in and around New York City, passing symbolic resolutions that call for repealing or amending the gun reform law. Those votes continue, with Tompkins County, in blue on the map below, possibly taking one tonight. Tompkins County has a population of 101,564, the size of a single Brooklyn neighborhood. Lacking in numbers, opponents of the law are making as much racket about it as they can. The Republican minority in the New York State Assembly, for example, posted this clip of Representative Bill Nojay pledging last week that Upstaters will not enforce the law:
Notice that Nojay defines the issues in clear geographic terms, and not in terms of party:
Let me state what the reaction has been to this act once the people north of the Bronx, and with the exception of the People's Republic and certain other little hotspots of Upstate, the rest of us have demanded that our elected county clerks will not administer this law. Our sheriffs, elected by the people, will not enforce this law. Our juries, who are the people, will not convict under this law. And our citizens, being free citizens and not subjects, will not obey this law.
New York's legislation may have moved through in a hurry -- that's how power moves here, at all once -- and it may have come up for revision, but it moved with support from several Senate Republicans, many of them from Downstate.
The New York law has remained broadly popular: A poll last month found 61 percent of New York residents say they support it, but that includes just 43 percent of New Yorkers who live Upstate. The map below, by a website opposing the law, gives you a good sense of where counties have come out against the New York measure.
I've been thinking a lot about the phenomenon of what you folks first started calling Blue Dots, progressives living in conservative states. The other day, Rachel pointed out that Red Dots in blue states are generally more like Red Swathes, since progressives tend to clump together in cities, while conservatives tend to dominate wide tracts with far fewer people. That is what we see now in New York, a blue state with a lot of angry rural counties. (In the map below, red is where more people are.)
Census Bureau map by way of the Albany Times-Union
In 2000, then Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, signed a bill into law that banned same-sex couples from adopting kids in his state. Now, in 2013, Musgrove says he regrets that decision, citing Republican Senator Rob Portman along the way:
Like Sen. Portman, my evolution on LGBT adoption came from intensely personal reflections on my own life. What is sad to me is that my understanding of this issue did not come until after I had left office and no longer had the power to right this wrong. This reality weighs heavily on me to this day.
In every decision I made as Governor, I always tried hard to view the profound personal and individual impact of the laws I signed and policies I enacted on every Mississippian. Had I vetoed the law denying LGBT adoption, the Legislature had more than enough votes to override my veto. Nonetheless, this decision that all of us made together has made it harder for an untold number of children to grow up in happy, healthy homes in Mississippi -- and that breaks my heart.
Musgrove goes on to say that marriage is a basic civil right for all. The year he left office, Mississippi voters approved a constitutional amendment on marriage equality, with 86 percent of the voters signing on. That was largest majority for a marriage ban in the entire nation. In 2011, 78 percent of Mississippians still said same-sex marriage should be illegal. (For that matter, 23 percent of the state still opposes interracial marriage.) If anyone has seen more recent polling in Mississippi, please sing out in the comments. As @Lewbowsky_Dude noted yesterday, we're in the middle of a phenomenally fast turnaround in public opinion -- maybe even everywhere.
Not living in bright red Mississippi anymore, I'm one surprised blue dot. But I'll bet the blue dots now living in the Deep South are not shocked by this at all.
(Image: Former Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove at the 2005 unveiling of his portrait, with the artist Frank Norfleet/AP photo by Rogelio Solis )
Debating the idea of a reality TV show in Vicco last night.
Last month little 300-person Vicco, Kentucky, became the smallest town in America to pass an ordinance banningdiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Vicco town council passed the "fairness" measure a short while after voters elected Johnny Cummings, an openly gay resident, as mayor.
With a crew from Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" filming from the audience Monday evening, the Vicco city council gave its blessing for negotiations to continue on a possible reality television series...
Five production companies have been in contact about the possibility of filming a reality series in Vicco. The leading candidate seems to be the ABC network, Ashley said, adding during Monday’s regular meeting of the city council that ABC is interested in an unscripted series that depicts everyday life in Vicco.