2 to the Power of 20

gillibrand warren gabbard

20 days ago…

I began a project to rank the top 20 Presidential Candidates for the 2020 Presidential Election, which will be released 20 times, every 20 days until the 2020 Iowa Caucus.

Again, this is a “power ranking” and not a list of my favorites in the order I’d like them. But looking at polling data, expert opinions, and also the current news cycle, this ranking is just a snapshot of where I think the candidates are and where the voters are in their likelihood to select them as the Democratic Nominee for the 2020 Presidential Race.

If you would like to view the last 20 from 20, take a look here at the first Power of 20 ranking…

But without further adieu…

20.  Eric Garcetti – Mayor, California – 47 (Last 20: #19)

19.  John Delaney – Congressman, Maryland – 55 (Last 20: #20)

18.  Steve Bullock – Governor, Montana – 52 (Last 20: #15)

17.  Terry McAuliffe – Former Governor, Virginia – 61 (Last 20: #16)

16.  Jay Inslee – Governor, Washington – 67 (Last 20: #17)

15.  Tulsi Gabbard – Congresswoman, Hawaii – 37(Last 20: Unranked)

14.  Eric Holder – Former Attorney General, New York – 67 (Last 20: #13)

13.  John Hickenlooper – Governor, Colorado – 66 (Last 20: #12)

12.  John Kerry – Former Secretary of State, Massachusetts – 75 (Last 20: #9)

11.  Sherrod Brown – Senator, Ohio – 66 (Last 20: #10)

10.  Julian Castro – Former HUD Secretary, Texas – 44 (Last 20: #14)

9.   Michael Bloomberg – Former Mayor, New York – 76 (Last 20: #7)

8.   Amy Klobuchar – Senator Minnesota – 58 (Last 20: #8)

7.   Cory Booker – Senator, New Jersey – 49 (Last 20: #6)

6.   Kirsten Gillibrand – Senator, New York – 52 (Last 20: #11)

5.   Bernie Sanders – Senator, Vermont – 77 (Last 20: #2)
Bernie Sanders has hit a bump in the road with the latest news of sexual misconduct claims in his campaign, which he effectively plead ignorance on. What’s worse, as a high profile 2016 candidate, 2020 looks to be a year with other candidates with a similar platform without his baggage.

4.   Beto O’Rourke – Former Congressman, Texas – 46 (Last 20: #3)
Still fairly popular, but yet noncommittal about announcing a run. He has filled his days since the election with random(and frankly weird) social media videos of a “road trip” across America that’s keeping him in the public eye, for better or worse.

3.   Kamala Harris – Senator, California – 54 (Last 20: #5)
Making daytime and late night talk show visits to publicize her new book, “The Truths We Hold” is a telltale sign of a potential candidate’s intentions to run for President. Which was proceeded with the news that an announcement of her intentions is imminent, likely within the next few days…

2.   Elizabeth Warren – Senator, Massachusetts – 69 (Last 20: #4)
Although many have questioned the news surrounding her video regarding her Native American ancestry, she is still a very popular senator, with a populist message and the national media has given her the privilege of being the “first household name” to officially announce her candidacy.

1.    Joe Biden – Former Vice President, Delaware –  76 (Last 20: #1)
With each passing day, there are more stories of those close to him that are certain that not only his he moving to announce a decision, but that decision will indeed be a confirmation that he will be a candidate in 2020. And as was the case 20 days ago, his universe name identification and the most popular president of the last few generations still will make him extremely hard to beat… right now.


How Did We Go From “Tear Down This Wall” to “Build That Wall”?

trump reagan pic

In the closing weeks of World War II, on Friday, April 20th, 1945, Adolf Hitler celebrated his 56th and last birthday. The only known gift he received that day was from the Soviet Union’s Red Army, who began an intense and sustained bombing of Berlin which would last that entire weekend. By the following Monday, the Red Army had successfully surrounded the city and sealed the fate of Hitler’s Third Reich. Two weeks later, the war would be ended and the Soviet Union would control the city while the other Allied nations, the United States, Great Britain and France controlled most of the country. Initially, Soviet leader, Josef Stalin wanted to keep Berlin as Russian territory gained through conquest. However, it was soon negotiated that Berlin, as well as the entire country of Germany separately, would be equally divided into four sectors, administered by the four Allies. Of course by 1949, the western sectors would stay intact and eventually be known as West Germany by the world at large and in the east, East Germany. However, Stalin and the subsequent Soviet leadership,  who were never really pleased with the arrangement, sought ways to change this dynamic. And the one thing that intensified this desire was the quality of life between the East and the West, and specifically the split of East and West Berlin.

But it was that very sort of quality of life dilemma that forced the issue between the two German states. As Communist Russia slowly begin to influence East Berlin and East Germany, economic opportunity for thousands of East Germans became restricted. They had no choice but to leave. And they did. Fast. Over the next 12 years, hundreds of thousands of East Germans immigrated to West Berlin for permanent relocation, but over that time, Berlin was effectively still one city. That changed practically overnight in the Summer of 1961. At the insistence of Communist Party leader Walter Ulbricht, East Germany quickly put together a barrier of cinder blocks and barbed wire around West Berlin, which Ulbricht insisted would be paid for by West Germany(I’m kidding… sorta). And day by day, month by month and year by year, the four foot cinder block barrier would morph into a 12 foot reinforced concrete wall with accompany guard towers, electric fencing, a bed of nails, trenches, automatic machine guns, mine fields and patrol dogs all with the purpose of keeping East Germans from immigrating to the economically prosperous West. Most modern prisons do have as much fortification.

This is the story of the Berlin Wall. And in case you can’t see the parallels of the border crisis between East and West German with the border crisis of the United States and Mexico, then it’s probably because there’s one significant difference: the situation between the German states could have lead to a third World War while the United States and Mexico are allies… or supposed to be.

But now, of course, the President of the United States, for the last three years has insisted on furthering the parallels in history and constructing a border wall, not unlike what was constructed in Berlin and ostensibly for very similar reasons. The President believes that constructing such a wall isn’t just the best way to stem the tide of illegal immigration to the United States, but he obviously believes it’s the only way. Mexico, along with other Latin American nations, which like East Germany, has faced economic hardship and decline is filled with citizens that are attempting to flee a desperate economic situation to a place with more economic opportunity and to improve the outlook of life for themselves and their families. But the President, like the Soviet Premier at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, has decided a wall is the best way to protect his nation and to stop border crossings.

Unfortunately, there’s just one small problem: It didn’t really work.

Within days of construction of the Berlin Wall, citizens were escaping. While the fortifications of the wall grew, so did the resolve of thousands of Germans who were willing to leave their families and all that they knew behind just to risk their lives to live a better life in the West. And the means of escape weren’t simply legal or overt. Over the 30 years that the Berlin Wall existed, hundreds of tunnels were built allowing for the immigration of hundreds of families. Some Germans were smuggled out by car or made mad dashes across a particular barrier. There are even stories of Germans using hot-air balloons, gliders, flagging down subway trains, tight-rope walking and ziplining via bow and arrow(not even kidding a little bit on this one) to get across the border. The results were not universal however. For every three that attempted escape, two would not make it and face arrest. But some preferred jail over the living conditions in East Germany.

This all ended 30 years ago this November. In 1989, after intense political pressure from within and outside of Germany, the East German government announced that they would implement a new regulation that would allow any East German citizen to travel through any of the border crossings immediately. This rather impromptu breaking news alert was reason enough for a flood of East Germans to join West Germans at the Berlin Wall and for the first time in decades cross without a guard or landmine, barbed wire, concrete barrier or attack dog in sight to stop them. And literally over night, just as it was initially constructed, the Berlin Wall would come down.

And that political pressure, which lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall, while it had been cooking for a while from within East Germany, outside the nation, it was a different story. The earliest perceptions of the Berlin Wall from U.S. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, they were anywhere from okay with the barrier to thankful that it was there. It was better a wall than a war, they thought.  Successive presidents did not think to challenge this dynamic mostly believing in the strength of the Soviet Union and the cloud of the Cold War. But by 1987, President reagan encouraged by reform-minded Soviet Union Premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, didn’t think the Cold War would last forever. And because ronald reagan was a Republican, he believed, like many in his party still believe, in the promotion of free enterprise and economic liberty. So in June of 1987, in front of the Brandenburg Gate, he decided to extend that same promotion and famously demanded to Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall”, which is probably one of the more famous declarations in World History.

And 30 years later, our current Republican president announces to a chanting crowd of supporters to “Build that wall” that has now lead to the shut down of our government, which he insist could last months, if not years. I, for one, can’t help but to wonder how the Republican Party can have such a swift shift in tone, policy and principle to believe a physical barrier can and should prevent someone from living their best economic life.

It’s slightly amazing when you stop and think about it. We are now living in a time where the Berlin Wall has been gone longer than the length of time it ever existed. The overall cost of construction and maintenance landed north of half a billion dollars a year. In today’s dollars such a construction would be astronomically expensive to undertake and maintain. And that was actually slightly less than 100 miles. Comparatively speaking, the U.S. border with Mexico stretches for nearly 2,000 miles. And while the Berlin Wall was constructed to prevent the flow of illegal immigration(emigration I guess to be technical), those who were determined to leave a desperate situation would not be denied. While Nikita Khrushchev and Walter Ulbricht desired a wall to end a brain drain of talent and skill from East Germany, it was their very own social shortcomings that caused such a situation to begin with. Likewise, today, the President doesn’t recognize the true root causes of immigration. He doesn’t realize the flow of migrants are to escape economic and social situations that we’ve done a lot to inspire with our own policies and shortcomings. We sign agreements to bypass economic hubs that wrecks small town job markets. We refuse to address and quite frankly allow for the demand of illicit drugs in our cities, which only intensifies Mexican and South American elements desire to supply our demand.  These are the type of root problems we hardly recognize on a policy level. If he thinks a wall will stop any of it, then he probably should look at where his predecessor was 30 years prior facing a similar circumstance. And if tens of thousands of East Germans decades ago could find their way across a far more guarded and fortified Berlin Wall to freedom, how could anyone seriously believe that his impossibly less fortified wall is in the position to stop anyone just as willing to live their best life today?

1. Power of 20: Presidential Candidates

Beto Biden Castro

Tomorrow is the last day of 2018. And the day after that will be 2019, the last year before 2020, which includes highly anticipated 2020 Presidential Election. Of course the 2020 Presidential Election cycle will start with the Iowa Caucus, as it does every cycle. The date of the Caucuses will be February 3, 2020.

And in case you can’t do the quick math, that is exactly 400 days away from today.

The Republican Party has their likely nominee. But the Democratic Party will more than likely have a very hotly contested Primary season with a multitude of candidates seeking the nomination. How many is to be determined. But over the course of the next 400 days leading up to the Iowa Caucus, candidates will rise and some will fall. And over these 400 days, for the uninitiated, I’ll present a Power Ranking of the Top 20 Democratic Candidates for the 2020 Presidential Election and to have more fun with this number, with it being in 400 days time, I’ll build such a ranking 20 Times, Every 20th Day ultimately culminating on February 3, 2020.

Just to clarify, this is my list but it is also based on an aggregate of potential candidate favorability, expert opinion and polling data. So while I have my own opinions of who I might think will win the nomination, I am not the only voter and I will be using such evidence to back up my opinion. And of course, due to the variation of opinion, the list of 20 from the first list will very likely differ greatly from the list of 20 on the 20th iteration of the list. It’s a Power Ranking and since the University of Alabama isn’t running for president, the list will change.

So without further adieu, The Power of 20: 20 2020 Democratic Candidates.

20.  John Delaney – Congressman, Maryland – 55

19.  Eric Garcetti – Mayor, California – 47

18.  Tom Steyer – Philanthropist, New York – 61

17.  Jay Inslee – Governor, Washington – 67

16.  Terry McAuliffe – Former Governor, Virginia – 61

15.  Steve Bullock – Governor, Montana – 52

14.  Julian Castro – Former HUD Secretary, Texas – 44

13.  Eric Holder – Former Attorney General, New York – 67

12.  John Hickenlooper – Governor, Colorado – 66

11.  Kirsten Gillibrand – Senator, New York – 52

10.  Sherrod Brown – Senator, Ohio – 66

9.    John Kerry – Former Secretary of State, Massachusetts – 75

8.    Amy Klobuchar – Senator, Minnesota –  58

7.    Michael Bloomberg – Former Mayor, New York – 76

6.    Cory Booker – Senator, New Jersey – 49

5.    Kamala Harris – Senator, California – 54.  Kamala Harris has been a rising star for a few months now. And considering she is from California, where she has higher name identification and favorability than most candidates, has moved their primary to Super Tuesday, she will likely be a top favorite for the next 13 months.

4.    Elizabeth Warren – Senator, Massachusetts – 69.  Very popular among activist and Democratic voters. She’s been very vocal on issues primary voters like and as a senator with a national profile voters are already familiar with her, which might help- or hurt her down the road.

3.    Beto O’Rourke – Congressman, Texas – 46.  If this list was made a one or two months ago, Beto O’Rourke would not be on it. But since his Texas Senate election loss, his popularity has not diminished. He’s younger, unabashedly progressive and was able to compete for votes in a place where Democrats typically have not.

2.    Bernie Sanders – Senator, Vermont – 77.  The one candidate that is as progressive and has a larger national profile than almost any other candidate on the list, Bernie Sanders has a built in campaign apparatus and a base of support that will make him hard to beat, regardless of how anyone on the left or right feels about him.

1.    Joe Biden – Former Vice President, Delaware –  76.  Clearly with near universal name ID that no other potential candidate has, Joe Biden also has the legacy of the most popular president in the last few generations to run with.  Joe Biden is well liked, a great campaigner and has the ability to communicate that again, coupled with the fact that he is a known quantity, he has the inside track to win the Democratic Nomination… until he doesn’t.


Party Hard-ly

d-r city

Anyone who has paid any attention to our national politics should be quite familiar with the scene by now. Even for those hardly initiated, you know where to start: Democrats vs Republicans. These are the two sides of the same coin of American politics, which has been the way it has for most of our nation’s history.

But 2016 has put a new spin on that coin. Democrats know their 2016 story. After failing to beat and then serving with President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton was poised to run for president herself and had every reason to believe it would be quite easy to win not just the party’s nomination, but the presidency itself. Until of course a frumpy senator from Vermont thought he might give it a shot. Bernie Sanders, who comes from the liberal utopian-esque northeast entered the Democratic Primary with those northeastern ideas that were not only popular, but successful in the northeast and thought why not apply those same ideas nationally? We can debate the whys and why-nots all the live-long day and have, which was what defined the Democratic Party of 2016.

The Republican Party, on the other side of that coin didn’t fair much better. After nominating two fiscally-minded and safe Republicans in 2008 and 2012, the 2016 candidates were a mixed bag of where the party was. Primary voters could have went the safe route with those same types of fiscal conservatives that they have in the past like Jeb Bush or Chris Christie. They could have went the more risky route with social conservatives like Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum. They could have even gone with candidates that could have possibly expanded their base like Marco Rubio or John Kasich or interesting ideologues like Rand Paul or Lindsey Graham. The Republicans pretty much had a “fielder’s choice” of where to go with their party. But instead of throwing the ball to first, second, third or homeplate, they did the unexpected and chucked the ball in deep right field and picked Donald Trump(and some how won the game????).

That’s our national politics. We’ve effectively gone from flipping a Democrat/Republican coin to rolling dice. And not just any dice, some mean, loaded, multi-sided, Dungeon & Dragons dice and get the kind of results too. However, no matter how much we want to pay attention to the national funhouse that grabs headlines, the addage “all politics is local” is what my concern is today. Whenever the president moves a muscle, we all are quick to eat off his plate, but what really sets the table and preps the meal are our local elections and local politicians. And as much as we want them to be a part from the national circus, often we find them being the very essence of it all completely.

Take my home city, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Our mayor of 10 years, Will Sessoms has stepped down to go back to the private sector leaving a pretty sizable hole in our local politics. Sessoms wasn’t the most offensive of politicians. Although, he did come to my attention with a rather offensive and racially loaded campaign tactic to win the office to begin with, he was a really business-minded, fiscal conservative at heart. As a fiscal conservative he wanted to promote businesses and help them make money. To do that, you need two very basic elements: (1)Businesses and (2)Customers. The latter of the two was what made Sessoms somewhat progressively appealing. Bringing in customers meant giving them the ability to be here, which translated to better housing options, expanding transportation options and bringing more opportunity to work. It’s that last part that leads back to that first element, business opportunity and the one thing Beach residents are all too familiar with, development.

This also bring me to our 2018 Mayoral Election between City Councilmen Ben Davenport and Bobby Dyer. The two candidates are separated by a generation, not just in age, but in politics as well. Bob Dyer, who is not only an admitted ideological conservative, has been supportive of the President, supportive of the Senate candidate, Corey Stewart and as importantly, supportive of his fellow councilman, John Moss. Moss, who also faces re-election, has gained a reputation in the city as being fiercely and aggressively resistant to almost any progress the city has made over the years. He has opposed paying our public safety officers. He has opposed paying our teachers. He has opposed bringing opportunities to the city like a sports arena and expanding entertainment and city life that Town Center has given us. He’s also opposed expanding transportation and Light Rail, which would have certainly diversified our city in a number of ways by connecting us to the region and making it easier for people to get to work and spend money, again something those “fiscal republicans” actually like. He’s pretty much been opposed to any sort of diversity in general. And Bob Dyer has been right along side John Moss, lock-step, every step of the way.

His opponent, Ben Davenport is on the other end of that generational gap. Thirty years his junior, Ben Davenport is a local guy. He’s worked for his family’s real estate business for almost as long as Bob Dyer has been on city council. Initially running for office in 2014, Ben committed to listening to our teachers, improving public transportation by expanding light rail and continue to make this city better by working with the regional and national partners to bring 21st century jobs and technology to Virginia Beach. He has lead the way on keeping this city and economy vibrant and able to attract a diverse population to go along with it. On city council, Ben Davenport has been the polar opposite of John Moss is every single way. Which also means the polar opposite of Bob Dyer.

So it is of no surprise that those on the far right have been supportive of Bob Dyer. However that support has not been universal. Some very prominent Republicans including former State Senator Jeff McWaters and the former mayor himself, Will Sessoms, are supporting his opponent Ben Davenport. Davenport, for his part, is being supported not just by those prominent Republicans, but prominent local Democrats like former congressional candidates Paul Hirschbiel, Phil Kellam and David Ashe, but also Norfolk Democrats like Andria McCellan and Mayor Kenny Alexander. And while progressive organizations like the Virginia Beach Education Association has also endorsed Ben Davenport, the one organization that has resisted supporting the one and only progressive in the race is the Virginia Beach Democratic Committee. And oddly enough the reason for this isn’t simply because Ben Davenport isn’t progressive enough. It’s because some of these Democrats are supporting far right candidate, Bob Dyer.

And this is when our national political circus comes to our local town. Politically speaking, our local elections, like many others, are supposed to be nonpartisan, where candidates for office do not declare a party or go through such a nomination process to be on the ballot. So while we’re not supposed to know what party either of these individuals align themselves with, political philosophies, alliances and messaging often makes it very clear where candidates fall on the ideological spectrum. Moreover, often they will seek out the local parties to help them do what political parties do: spread their message, increase their name identification and to give them a solid base of support. We often chide partisanship but it serves a purpose, which makes them very useful knowing which candidates are supportive or antithetical to your personal political agenda. They fill in the gaps and tell us more about the candidates and whether they will ultimately have our backs when it counts.

But this is where things get murky.

When you roll that multi-sided Dungeons & Dragons dice, you’re likely to have any number of those political factions supporting any number of candidates. But there are a couple of outstanding questions some may want an answer to. Like why are such prominent Republicans supporting Ben Davenport? Why are they not supporting Bob Dyer? Why has the local Democratic Party, which was initially supportive of Ben Davenport, changed their minds and not? But the most outstanding question, I would like to have answered is what self-proclaimed liberal in their right or left-mind would ever willingly support Bob Dyer?

In case you want the TL:DR of it all, Bob Dyer is a Trump-supporting, far right conservative and has conducted himself on city council in that way. Ben Davenport is not and has not. Where as Bob Dyer and John Moss has opposed progress and diversity in Virginia Beach, Ben Davenport has supported it. There is no real debate about this. But some have looked at his endorsement by those prominent Republicans and his connection to the developers in the area and have marked him as someone beholden to other interest and not his own. I can only assume. I haven’t gotten a clear answer. But I do know that when Ben Davenport ran in 2014, he also received similar support from progressives and conservatives alike. Why? Because then he was actually running against John Moss and Moss was and is the kind of candidate no one on either side of the political dice should be supporting. But that was before 2016. We are now post-2016 and those national political debates have literally come full-circle. Because there are actual Democrats, i.e. LIBERALS from the far left supporting Bob Dyer AND John Moss on the far right.

And so, as I’m to understand the reasons for this is because Ben Davenport is supportive of the “status quo”. That Ben Davenport is part of the Virginia Beach Developer crowd lead by super-developer Bruce Thompson and will kowtow to whatever’s good for their business and bad for Virginia Beach. And chief among these reasons is that Ben Davenport is supportive of the kind of cronyism and favoritism that often rules politics of looking out for certain interest more than others, which is what why I am to assume certain Democrats have found in support of Bob Dyer, thinking he and John Moss will end it all. Nevermind the fact that Virginia Beach is by any reasonable metric one of the best run city’s in the state, despite Moss and Dyer’s resistance. Not that we can’t get better, we can and we will. But asking Bob Dyer and John Moss to do that isn’t simply a bad idea. It shows and unwillingness to consider where the city and the country is going and we can’t be penalized for anyone’s lack of vision.

Don’t get me wrong. Ben Davenport isn’t for everyone. I get it. If you can’t support him for whatever reason, have your reasons. And I do completely get the desire to end the city favoritism and cronyism that restrains progress. But why in the world would you support forces that have repeatedly shown to absolutely resist progress? Sadly, I don’t know what more of a wake-up call to give these Democrats that they are planning to vote for a Trump-supporting ultra-conservative right-wing ideologue that has also show to repeatedly govern like it, but he won’t stop the cronyism they cravenly desire to see ended. He’ll only re-brand it. You don’t protect the hen-house by turning over from the farmer to the foxes. If you know need to wash the dishes and take out the trash, you don’t sell your house to do it. Expecting and John Moss to end that kind of activity is the same expectation Trump voters had voting for him because he would “fight for the little guy” when he’s done nothing of the sort and had never intended. But to roll the dice and vote against your own interest to vote for candidates ideologically opposed to you in every way, that just sounds like you want to crap out. You’re not playing to win. You’re playing to lose.

Play to win the game.


Public Offender

stephanie morales campaign

Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane. I’m from Virginia.  More specifically, the eastern part of the state known as Tidewater or colloquially Hampton Roads. I tend to claim the entire region as home more than a single city. I was raised and lived most of my life in Virginia Beach. I’m from, where my parents lived upon my birth, the city of Norfolk.  However, the actual place of my birth, where I was physically born was in Portsmouth.

Portsmouth is a bit of a curious city. It’s pre-history is quite the story. Goes back to one of our state’s earliest settlers, Nathaniel Bacon, who was in a dispute with the loyalist governor, William Berkeley,  because he ruled against the settlers in a dispute with local Indian tribes. He, along with hundreds of other settlers from Tidewater took up arms against the governor and lead  a revolt known to history as Bacon’s Rebellion, which Thomas Jefferson considers a prelude to the American Revolution itself. In it’s aftermath, one of Bacon’s lieutenants, a landowner named William Carver, was arrested and hanged. Years later, the land he owned was given to local politician, William Craford, who had it surveyed and convinced the General Assembly to establish the city as Portsmouth, Virginia.

That’s it’s pre-history. The modern history is no less rambunctious. Small, with a tightly compact population, Portsmouth is notable in the region for the urban decay. Growing up, the city was known for it’s high crime, rampant poverty and political dysfunction. However, over the last few years, much of that has changed. Businesses have slowly been coming back, crime(or the reputation of it) has receded, and this has come with a new brand of political leaders as well. Among them is the city’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, Stephanie Morales.

Stephanie is a Hampton Roads native. She graduated from Norfolk State University and attended William & Mary for law school. Initially elected in 2015, Stephanie gained prominence in 2016 when she prosecuted a white police officer for killing a black man, which was only the 5th time there was such a prosecution of over 10,000 such shootings in the last 10 years. And this should have been her story. An enterprising Commonwealth’s Attorney daring to make Black Lives Matter in a field where it’s typically seen that they matter less.

Unfortunately, this week has seen many across Portsmouth call for her to be recalled from office. Why? Prosecutorial misconduct? No. Corruption or abuse of power? No. Believe it or not, her egregious error was to be in a rap video. Yes, she is being shamed and pressed to be removed from her office because she decided to support her kid’s interest in music production and get her family involved in making a video. The video itself could be described anywhere from, at worse, cheesy to light-hearted fun and even creatively entertaining. Looking at the video myself, there’s a interlude where Stephanie raps to a beat. Another where she and her husband dance together, in what could just as easily be a ballroom waltz. The rest of the video is of her husband and kids enjoying the summer weather.

There is absolutely nothing threatening, sensational or otherwise salacious about the video or her behavior in it. Yet, there have been segments of the community that has saw fit to question her ability to be a role model to her kids and other kids who see her in a (gasp, clutch my pearls) rap video(oh dear heavens!!!!). And, yes, there are others who are attempting to have her removed from office for it.

Now, far be it for me to tell anyone who should or should not be their role model. But Stephanie Morales is one of the more impressive persons I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Not only does she has a delightful personality, but she’s CLEARLY dedicated to her job and to her community. More than that, she has a beautiful family, which is the one thing that is visibly shown in the video, but as evident of the video itself, she cares about her family and supporting her children, which is exactly what we ask of our mothers. But when that mother is also a city’s top law enforcement officer barely into her 30’s, there’s is nothing but commendation she should be given.

Nevermind her kids, Stephanie Morales is MY role model. And I’m older than she is.

The real debate should be whether or not she has bars. Not whether she should be behind bars. Or anything remotely close to it. But to question her sincerity, dedication, motherhood and womanhood because she danced in a video is, well, let’s call it what it actually is: slut-shaming. People are trying to censor and harass and demean her for doing nothing more than what we’ve all watched local police do dozens of time through the summer with their lip-synch challenge videos, singing and dancing in recorded videos. But when Stephanie Morales does a video with her family she’s somehow worse than they are? A nation full of police can sing and dance in rap, rock, pop, country, grunge and folk music, but somehow it’s not okay for a dark-skinned black woman to do the exact same thing with her family? Because you know if this was Stephen Morales instead of Stephanie Morales, no one would care.

The blatant reactionary hypocrisy is only out matched by the dogged yet imbecilic sexism.

There has been a lot of wrong in the history of Portsmouth, Virginia. Hopefully, one of these days, years, decades or centuries, we’ll learn to appreciate when our local leaders that are just right as they are.


It’s Labor Day, Virginia… Where Were They?

davenport and rouse

It’s Labor Day in Hampton Roads and we are in Virginia.  The Commonwealth where political campaigning is practically a year-round sport.  We are unlike most states, where we have pretty significant elections every, single year.  Of course, the even numbered years there are congressional elections and the attention-grabbing presidential race.  But in the odd numbered years, we don’t just have random special elections every once and then, but we elect our governors, state senators and House of Delegates on those years.  So with that in mind, our state’s longest serving member of Congress, Bobby Scott has held an annual Labor Day Cookout in Newport News and he’s held this event, successfully since the mid-1970s.

For 42 years, this cookout, which is held by one of our state’s most prominent politicians, months before our annual election day, you can imagine is attended by an insane number of political leaders, activist, volunteers, staffers and candidates for office and they have come from across the commonwealth, and sometimes across the nation.  Yes, the event is held in the deep reaches of the 3rd Congressional District, but it is extraordinarily uncommon not to see candidates from across the entire region in attendance.  Even if your district or constituencies or prospective voters that could vote for you are not in the district, the event is so well attended by the party-faithful that candidates still come to be seen, to be heard, if not to have their voters, who do attend, see them and greet them, but to possibly meet donors, supporters who will work for the campaign and volunteers who will commit time.  It’s almost a one-stop shop for progressive campaigning.

So, I can’t help but to wonder where were some of Virginia Beach’s most prominent candidates?  Granted, again, I know this not in Virginia Beach and I’ll readily accept the fact that it’s very possible that with the hundreds of people there, I could have just missed them.  It’s possible that they were there and had further commitments and left early.  But if I’m not wrong, these two candidates skipped out of one of the biggest and most well attended political events of the state, then I could not have been the only one to have noticed.

And I can’t help but to wonder why.

Admittedly, I have my suspicions and my ego is well enough for me to assume why.  It’s possibly they did not know, which would be troubling.  That tells me they’re rather strongly disconnected from local progressive politics or disconnected from certain communities that drive such an event.  Or both.  But putting the cards on the table, Bobby Scott, who is the most prominent African American politician in Virginia, represents a heavily black district with a event that is deep in the heavily black district.  I can see how such optics and surroundings can make certain folks uncomfortable and less likely to attend.  It’s to be expected.  But while that may be a valid reason for typical guest(it really shouldn’t be), that reason fails for a candidate for public office.

So to put it bluntly, if Ben Davenport does not have at least one black voice around him or in his campaign to tell him, “hey, you might want to attend this” then that is a problem.  It’s the same sort of problem of privilege of being able to ignore minority voices at your convenience.  Whether it’s purposefully or as a matter of happenstance, if you can’t filter in voices to tell you things like this to keep your ear connected to groups you are not a part of but still have to represent, then you’re doing yourself as big of a disservice as you will be the rest of us if you get elected.

This goes double for Aaron Rouse.  Ben Davenport may have the convenient excuse of being disconnected from the minority community.  Aaron Rouse is a African American.  How he could miss out at the largest gathering of African American political activist in the state is jarring to say the least.  Now, unlike Ben who’s run for office before, Rouse is new.  But I know he doesn’t have “new” voices around him working on his campaign.  If they don’t know better to have their African American candidate at events like this, then I can’t help but to question his sincerity.  If not his awareness.  Both of them.

Now, I just want to reiterate again, that I’m not saying they weren’t there, or that they even had to be there.  I was not there for the entire event, but I was there when most of the other recognized candidates, elected officials and party leaders were.  The organizer in me is okay with them not being at events outside of their district.  Particular if there are events in their district with voters that will certainly be voting for them. But with two candidate, where there are already plenty of progressive voters validly questioning whether or not each of these candidates actually care about progressive issues, it sure would have gone a long way to assuage our fears.

So do they know there are those questioning their sincerity?  Or do they not care?

Thanks to their lack of presence, the question deserves to be asked.

I Know What You Did On Twitter

I know what you did on twitter

Anyone remember that late 90s movie I Know What You Did Last Summer? It’s a “slasher film”, which had their heyday in the 1980s with franchises like Halloween and  Friday the 13th, but this was during a time when slashers tried to make a comeback with the “it” celebs of the late 1990s. Like literally, the guy who made Dawson’s Creek decided to make horror movies all of sudden. Anyway, it was largely forgettable. Had a plot that centered around a group of teenagers partying one night and they accidentally kill a man. Instead of owning up to the mistake or calling the authorities, they decide to cover it up and forget it ever happened, but of course, as the movie unfolds, their lack of judgement comes back to bite them when they least expect it.

Well, flash-forward to today and let’s adapt such a tale in the age of social media we live in now.  Last week, Atlanta Braves pitcher, Sean Newcomb was in the mist of one of the greatest games of his career. With just two outs to go in the ninth inning, after retiring every batter that has stepped up to the plate that game, he was on the verge of doing what every major league pitcher dreams of doing in their career and throwing a No-Hitter, clearly one of the best moments of his young career.  Unfortunately, with one out to go, the No-Hitter was broken up and he came up short of his attempt, but was able to record the resounding win for his team.  And unfortunately for him, his night was not over.  Later that night, Twitter user @NatsSquid(“Nats” being the nickname of Atlanta Braves rival Washington Nationals) uncovered older tweets sent out by Newcomb when he was in high school.  These tweets contained very inflammatory and derogatory language that is offensive to African-Americans and the LGBTQ community.

Within hours, and almost as a response to, the revelation of Newcomb’s high school Twitter activity, it was uncovered that Washington National’s shortstop, Trea Turner was also found to have sent out homophobic and racially insensitive tweets during his high school years as well.  These were the latest incidents, which include another Major League ball player, Josh Hader, who tweeted a litany of racist, misogynistic and homophobic tweets, again while he was in high school, that was uncovered during his first MLB All-Star appearance.  Also, not to mention, earlier this year, Villanova guard, Donte Di Vincenzo who also got into trouble after a sensational game and NCAA Basketball Final Four appearance with his high school twitter activity causing him to delete his account. And rounding out the list is Wyoming quaterback, Josh Allen, who also tweeted racially insensitive language that was revealed days before he was to be drafted in the 2018 NFL Draft.

If you haven’t noticed a bit of a trend in each of the cases: A athlete having a memorable moment of their career, which is being overshadowed by something they posted on Twitter when they were in high school, virtually coming back to haunt them and stealing the thunder and acclaim in what would otherwise be a defining moment of their lives. Now, as it would happen, there has been push-back from fans and commentators from the sports-world who, while they may be sympathetic to those who might be offended, are also bothered by what has to be targeted and purposeful attempts to knock someone down after a deserved victory.  It’d be one thing if this stuff was uncovered before the season started or earlier or later in their career, or hell, perhaps even the night after the occasion of their personal achievement, but these revelations are often coming the day of their moment. So it almost seems it’s being done to purposely attack someone and not being done as a matter of social awareness in the betterment of our society.

Usually, for those of us who like living in a civil society, knowing who the racist are or the homophobes that still believe the most silliest and archaic shit about gay folks, pointing them out is like putting a thumb-tack on a map of where not to go. You see it, it’s there and you can deal with it accordingly.  But defenders of these athletes insist that these athletes should not be judged as harshly because of something they said in high school, as a teenager, a time where everyone knows their decision-making minds are invariably at its worst.  And to be honest, I have to agree.  Teenagers are notorious for their bad decisions they tend to make.  But here’s the problem: these teenagers, that get the excuse of not knowing any better, they didn’t put themselves on earth.  They were all raised by parents who do or should know better.  And because of that, they are the ones ultimately responsible.  Of course, it is not their twitter accounts and they are not the ones sending out the tweets, but they are the ones responsible for teaching their children the social awareness of other cultures and being accountable for the things they say.  They’ve been around long enough and lived in this society enough to know better and teach their kids how the world will view them based on the things they say.  But they don’t do that.  Ultimately, I’m not certain they feel that responsibility.

Let me close this out with an incident that’s been in the news lately. A few years ago, 19-year old Pravin Varughese was murdered by 19-year old Gaege Bethune. Bethune, who will be sentenced later this month defended himself in his trial by initially blaming Varughese for his own murder and made a claim of self-defense. Fortunately his claim, was dismissed by the revelation of, you guessed it, his twitter account, where used racially derogatory language while bragging about him attacking Varughese. Of course no one would believe him now. And while I’d like to say he has no one but himself to blame, his parents have tried to blame everyone else including the police, prosecutor and media for not giving their son a fair trial. They claimed that the media made their son out to be the kind of human being that they did not raise. Well, they did raise him. And they did not raise him to respect those that are not of his race.

The Bethunes, like the Newcombs, the Turners, the Haders, Di Vincenzos and Allens all are probably(possibly really, I don’t know them) not at all prejudice and assumed that their lack of prejudice would simply transfer to their children and be reflected in their social media habits. They probably taught their children good from bad, right from wrong and lessons of equality and justice. Possibly. Now, far be it from me to assume what they weren’t taught by their parents, I’m not white, nor do I have children. But I do know, that my upbringing, just like practically every other non-white kid growing up in America, included repeated and forceful lessons of what it means to grow up in a society where you are the minority. Unfortunately gay folks almost always have to learn the hard way about the society we live in. And given their incendiary social media proclivities, it exposes a level of comfort that I just can’t imagine any rational parent affording to their children. However, many parents do not fully realize the position they’re in, where they can get away with the benefit of not teaching their kid about the dynamics of social awareness. Some would call it a privilege.

So, if you’re raising a white kid in America anywhere from about 1787 to about now, let me be clear: it is not enough to assume your children have the wherewithal to not be racially or culturally insensitive.  You have to realize, like my parents did, that we live in a nation that actively teaches us that black and brown people are rather bad or lesser than and those who identify as LGBTQ lack humanity. And with that, you have to continuously teach your children of what to do, what to say and what not to say. Just like my parents did. Please teach your kids what racism is and to not do it. Stop letting White Privilege raise your kids. Because it can come back and bit them when they least expected it.  Now, I don’t want to come off preachy. Again, I don’t have any kids myself and couldn’t possibly know what you do or do not teach your kids.

But just think of this as your friendly neighborhood reminder.