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Blue Wave? I Think So… But I Don’t Want To Jinx It

So… Kenahora

We don’t have to worry about shedim— not when we have millions of MAGAts running around, armed, self-righteous, aggrieved and insane. Warren County, Iowa, just south of Des Moines, is just over 91% white… and pretty damned red. Trump won the county both times he ran— with 54.3% in 2016 and 57.3% in 2020. (FDR didn’t win the county even once, only one of two Iowa counties that can say that, the other being Marshall.) Last year the county went for Sen. Grassley with 59%, for Gov. Reynolds with 61% and in the battle between Democratic incumbent Cindy Axne and Republican Zach Nunn, Nunn won with a thumping 75%.

On Tuesday, though, Democrat Kimberly Sheets did what FDR was never able to do. In a special election for county audtor, Sheets ousted Republican David Whipple— and it wasn’t close: 67% to 33%.

After the long-time previous auditor, Traci VanderLinden, retired, the Board of Supervisors appointed crackpot election-denying MAGAt Whipple to the job, a job that oversees local elections. Sheets had been VanderLinden’s deputy and knows how to run an election. Whipple, who had been posting election-denying posts on social media, doesn’t have a clue. But the 3-member board was all Republican. So they picked Whipple anyway. The county rebelled and a petition drive forced the special election. But is it another example of a 2024 blue wave forming? Or just a special circumstance?

On Thursday, I had a long talk with Ted Lieu. He's the only one I know who has also mentioned the term "blue wave" so far this cycle. "Last year, before the midterms," he told me, "I traveled around the country campaigning for my House colleagues. One issue that I heard about with great regularity and intensity was abortion. I heard first-hand from people in every corner of our country how important access to safe reproductive healthcare was to them. And the issue has not gone away-- if anything its significance has grown as red states continue to attempt to chip away at women's rights. At the same time, conservative federal courts are making it more difficult to access abortion pills, which affects all states. Abortion will continue to be a major issue for American voters next November. Most Americans are opposed to the Supreme Court's ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and they are opposed to the draconian laws being proposed and implemented in Republican-controlled jurisdictions across the U.S. The issue is going to drive turnout and I hope more Americans stand up and speak out to say enough is enough to this extreme Republican anti-choice agenda."

In 2021 Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham removed books from the main library that he found offensive. He also ordered librarians to pause buying new material that offend him and demanded they find other books that might offend his delicate sensibilities and get rid of them too. Llano County commissioners dissolved the library board the following year and replaced it with a bunch of far right yahoos who voted unanimously to close its meetings to the public. It continued banning books.

How did Llano County in the Texas Hill Country get so extreme? I’m not sure but from 2000 on, the voters in what went from a red-leaning swing county started a trend where around three-quarters voted Republican. Obama lost both times— with less than 20% in 2012. Hillary took just 17.5% of the vote and Biden just 19.5%. It’s a MAGA hellhole where men have a median income of $30,839 and women have a $21,126 median income. Less than 100 Black people live in the county. It takes just an hour and a half along State Highway 71 to drive from Llano, the county seat, to Austin, 75 miles to the southeast. People in Llano probably wouldn’t feel all that comfortable in Austin; it’s another world.

I’m not sure if Margaret Atwood’s book, The Handmaid’s Tale, was one of the banned books. Llano, though, seems determined to turn itself into the fictional Republic of Gilead, where women's reproductive freedoms are entirely controlled by the state and religious authorities and where women are subjugated, stripped of their agency and autonomy, and forced into roles as childbearers, serving the state's interests.

Alan Grayson doesn’t live in Texas. He lives in one of the other states where a blue wave could dislodge an anti-Choice fanatic— Florida. Grayson, a progressive former congressman from Orlando, is running for the Senate seat held by extremist Rick Scott. Yesterday, he told me that “Once you start controlling what another person can do with his or her own body, it’s small beans to try to control where they go. In fact, there’s a slippery slope all the way down to imprisoning pregnant women, i.e., controlling them on the outside, not just the inside. Note that the freedom to travel is recognized in the Magna Carta, Blackstone, Thomas Jefferson, the Constitution, and at least two Supreme Court decisions. But they only right that they care about is their ‘right’ to aim and shoot.” Want to see Grayson on the floor of the Senate running rings around the Republicans, the way he used to do in the House. You can help him beat Rick Scott here.

Pervez Agwan is a Texan-- albeit in Houston-- and he's not happy about what he's seeing in Llano. "This is a political scare tactic by the extreme right wing of the Republican party that seeks to further restrict abortion rights and we see right through it," he told me. "Voters are going to recognize this political theatre for what it is and that's going hurt Republicans at the polls." Agwan is running for a new congressional seat and, like Grayson, he can use some help-- but here.

Yesterday, the Washington Post published an opus about what’s unfolding in Llano by Caroline Kitchener, Highways are the next antiabortion target. One Texas town is resisting. She began her story last month at a packed city council meeting when a decision was being made on whether to make Llano the third city in Texas to outlaw so-called “abortion trafficking.” Kitchener wrote that “More than a year after Roe v. Wade was overturned, many conservatives have grown frustrated by the number of people able to circumvent antiabortion laws— with some advocates grasping for even stricter measures they hope will fully eradicate abortion nationwide.” Using the public roads to drive women seeking reproductive healthcare to other states affront their sensibilities. “That frustration is driving a new strategy in heavily conservative cities and counties across Texas. Designed by the architects of the state’s ‘heartbeat’ ban that took effect months before Roe fell, ordinances like the one proposed in Llano— where some 80 percent of voters in the county backed Trump in 2020— make it illegal to transport anyone to get an abortion on roads within the city or county limits. The laws allow any private citizen to sue a person or organization they suspect of violating the ordinance. Antiabortion advocates behind the measure are targeting regions along interstates and in areas with airports, with the goal of blocking off the main arteries out of Texas and keeping pregnant women hemmed within the confines of their antiabortion state. These provisions have already passed in two counties and two cities, creating legal risk for those traveling on major highways including Interstate 20 and Route 84, which head toward New Mexico, where abortion remains legal and new clinics have opened to accommodate Texas women. Several more jurisdictions are expected to vote on the measure in the coming weeks. ‘This really is building a wall to stop abortion trafficking,’ said Mark Lee Dickson, the antiabortion activist behind the effort.”

Having read it as well, western Pennsylvania Congressman Chris Deluzio told me that “Republican obsession with banning abortion and taking away women’s freedom is out of control. And apparently extremists are willing to take away the right to travel on public roads in their mission to ban all abortion. I don’t think folks are going to stand for these right-wing attacks on freedom.” Kenahora

Another Pennsylvania, from the other side of the state, Ashley Ehasz, is running in the Bucks County area for a seat held by anti-Choice incumbent, Brian Fitzpatrick-- if he survives a MAGA primary. Ehasz told me that “What we're seeing in Texas clearly demonstrates the danger anti-choice extremists pose to women and their families. It was not enough for Republican politicians to impose an abortion ban within their own state, now they want to criminalize women who seek abortion access elsewhere. This is why we need to protect reproductive rights at the federal level, and why we need to reject politicians like Mark Houck and Congressman Fitzpatrick, who are waging a war on women’s freedoms.”

This trend started in rural parts of Missouri and Idaho. “But,” wrote Kitchener, “even in the most conservative corners of Texas, efforts to crack down on abortion travel are meeting some resistance— with some local officials, even those deeply supportive of Texas’s strict abortion laws, expressing concern that the ‘trafficking’ efforts go too far and could harm their communities.

Two weeks before the Llano vote, lawmakers in Chandler, Tex., held off passing the ordinance, citing concerns about legal ramifications for the town and how the measure might conflict with existing Texas laws.
“I believe we’re making a mistake if we do this,” said Chandler council member Janeice Lunsford, minutes before she and her colleagues agreed to push the vote to another time. She later told the Washington Post that she felt the state’s abortion ban already did enough to stop abortions in Texas.
Then came the Llano City Council meeting on Aug. 21. Speaking to the crowd, [Laura] Almond was careful to emphasize her antiabortion beliefs.
“I hate abortion,” she said. “I’m a Jesus lover like all of you in here.”
Still, she said, she couldn’t help thinking about the time in college when she picked up a friend from an abortion clinic— and how someone might have tried to punish her under this law.
“It’s overreaching,” she said. “We’re talking about people here.”
About a month earlier, Dickson had arrived in Llano with an urgent warning.
A “baby murdering cartel” was coming for the pregnant women of Central Texas, he recalled telling a group of about 25 Llano citizens in the town library, wearing his signature black blazer and backward baseball cap.
“By trains, planes and automobiles, I say we end abortion trafficking in the state of Texas,” he said.
Dickson brought along a laminated map of his state, black and red Sharpie marking each of the 51 jurisdictions across Texas that had passed ordinances to become what he calls a “sanctuary city for the unborn.”
He hoped Llano would be next.
A director of Right to Life of East Texas, Dickson joined forces with former Texas solicitor general Jonathan Mitchell in 2019, when abortion was still legal in Texas until 22 weeks of pregnancy. Together, the men set out to ban abortion city by city, focusing on conservative strongholds. The Texas ordinances relied on the novel enforcement mechanism that empowers private citizens to sue, creating the model for the statewide “heartbeat ban” that took effect exactly two years ago, on Sept. 1, 2021.
Since Roe fell, triggering a new ban that outlawed almost all abortions in Texas, Dickson and Mitchell have changed their strategy. Along with passing ordinances in conservative border towns in Democrat-led states, where abortion providers may look to open new clinics, the team has zeroed in on those helping women leave Texas for abortions— a practice they call “abortion trafficking.”
By Dickson’s definition, “abortion trafficking” is the act of helping any pregnant woman cross state lines to end her pregnancy, lending her a ride, funding, or another form of support. While the term “trafficking” typically refers to people who are forced, tricked or coerced, Dickson’s definition applies to all people seeking abortions— because, he argues, “the unborn child is always taken against their will.”
The law— which has the public backing of 20 Texas state legislators— is designed to go after abortion funds, organizations that give financial assistance to people seeking abortions, as well as individuals. For example, Dickson said, a husband who doesn’t want his wife to get an abortion could threaten to sue the friend who offers to drive her. Under the ordinance, the woman seeking the abortion would be exempt from any punishment.
Abortion rights advocates say the ordinance effort is merely a ploy to scare people out of seeking the procedure. To date, no one has been sued under the existing “abortion trafficking” laws.
…When Dickson first came to town to drum up interest for his ordinance, Councilwoman Almond was well aware of his endeavors. She’d seen his flier, advertising “the effort to protect Llano residents from abortion across state lines.” Then a friend reached out to ask if Almond and her husband would sit down with Dickson for a meeting.
“I’ve got a lot going on in my life,” Almond said she told her friend. “And right now, that’s just not where my energy is.”
Almond says she was thankful when Roe was overturned. A 57-year-old former elementary school teacher, she voted twice for Trump, and says she plans to vote for him again. Her friends call her a “pistol-packing mama.” Every time she gets a text message, her phone spits out the sound of two gunshots.
…“People get along pretty well here until we have dividing issues like the library— and now this,” Almond said.
Since she heard about the proposed ordinance, Almond said, she’d been wondering whether Llano really needed to further restrict abortion. She worried the term “abortion trafficking” was confusing, creating the impression that many women were being forced to get abortions across state lines against their will.
“It sounds like more of a slave situation,” she said.
It was not clear if some of the proposed ordinance’s most ardent proponents in Llano understood what it would do, with several mischaracterizing the measure during interviews with The Post.
While the language of the draft ordinance explicitly states that it would apply to people transporting “any individual for the purpose of providing or obtaining an elective abortion,” the mayor, Marion Bishop, said the term “abortion trafficking” did not apply to women who were choosing to get abortions “on their own free volition.”
“It would be people who were either coerced or undecided, who found themselves loaded onto a van and headed somewhere,” Bishop said in an interview at the vodka distillery he owns downtown.
Pressed on the contradiction between his statement and the language of the proposal, Bishop acknowledged that what he originally said “may not be totally accurate.”
Still, he said, he continues to support the ordinance, which he views as largely symbolic.
…As the city council moved on to other matters, Dickson ushered the angry crowd out to the porch.
The ordinance was tabled, he reminded his audience— not dead. The city would have another opportunity to consider the proposal as soon as early September.
“Is this the city council of Austin or is this the city council of conservative Llano?” Dickson said. “This is far from over... Show up at their businesses with some signs.”
“I know where Laura works,” offered the wife of a local pastor.
Dickson recalled what happened in Odessa, a far larger city in West Texas that failed to advance an earlier version of a “sanctuary city” ordinance several years earlier. With help from antiabortion residents, he said to the group, some of the council members who opposed the measure were ultimately voted out of office.
“Now Odessa has a 6-1 majority that is in favor of this,” Dickson said.
Odessa passed the ordinance in December.
The next night, Dickson drove 40 minutes to Mason, Tex. to try to convince another small, conservative community to pass the same law.
More than 20 people gathered around plates of pizza and pasta at a restaurant that doubles as a gun store. In the window, next to a sign for “fresh oysters,” someone had painted the message, “Let’s go, Brandon,” an insult aimed at President Biden. On one wall of the restaurant is a confederate flag taller than Dickson; above the bar, a flag for “Trump 2020.”
Dickson chose this location for his next meeting, inviting local pastors and other antiabortion advocates in the area to hear a version of the same speech he delivered a month earlier in Llano.
“Guys, I don’t care if there’s only one person on your city council who wants to pass this,” Dickson said. “If you have a personal relationship with a council member, reach out.”
Mason residents smiled and nodded, digging through their purses for pens to write down Dickson’s email.
Less than 24 hours later, the “abortion trafficking” ordinance was added to the official agenda for the Mason board of county commissioners.
They would take up the matter at their next meeting.

Early voting starts in just a matter of days in Jessica Anderson's race Virginia race for a crucial House of Delegates seat. If she wins, that chamber is likely to flip back to the Democrats. Please consider giving her a hand here. Last night she told me that she couldn't "imagine being pulled over and facing criminal charges for simply driving through a town to enter into another state, where abortion access still exists. That is what Texas is trying to do and it appears Alabama is also eyeing similar legislation. These are the same politicians who have been screaming 'states’ rights,' but now are trying to limit American citizens access to other states that still provide abortion care. While many are distracted by the latest indictments and focusing on the 2024 president race, Virginia is trying to remain the last state in the south that upholds the rule of Roe. Elections for our state General Assembly are this November, 2023, and they couldn’t be more important. We have a governor who has promised to sign ANY abortion ban that across his desk and if he maintains the House and takes the Senate, we will be facing the same fears as Texans! The Republicans do not support freedom, they support total control of our bodily autonomy and even mobility. This is why we need to support candidates who are protectors of reproductive freedom, in every election, this year and the years to come."

UPDATE From Qasim

Qasim Rashid is running for Congress in a blue Chicagoland seat held by a corporate Democrat. He sent me a note regarding today’s post that I want to share with you: “As Democrats we must hold our own accountable to put in the work on the local level and ensure our municipal and state governments reflect our Democratic Party values. When Congressional Democrats go silent on municipal and county level Democratic candidates because they’re afraid of alienating Republican voters, Republican extremists win political power and legislate away our rights.mHaving a ‘D’ next to your name isn't enough— we need leadership that proactively builds the party bench up and down the ballot on the Democratic Party values.”

1 Comment

Sep 02, 2023

I know you wrote this as a "hope" piece for democraps, but it's really just more validation of my diagnosis of the party.

Your pussy democraps are always eager to campaign against the evils that nazis *DO*. But your pussy democraps are always loathe to actually, you know, *UNDO* any of it.

Wherever you've seen nazis taking away freedoms, rights and privileges, you see democraps ... nowhere to be seen. Books get banned. Do democraps file suit? Abortion is affirmed by initiative but gets banned by nazi leges. Do democraps do anything? Voters are purged and oppressed and suppressed. Do democraps do anything? yada yada yada.

And this has been going on for over 50 years.

When the evil is…

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