The Kentucky Paramilitaries and Why We Need MLK Day

I really did want to write this yesterday. But I realized I had to calm down before even attempting to compose my thoughts on the news of recent days, and I confess that I am still not as calm as I’d like, and I think that is the way I’ll remain until I’ve said what needs to be said.

Yesterday was one of the greatest paradoxes I’ve ever witnessed. On the one hand, a national holiday celebrating a landmark, perhaps the landmark, civil rights leader in the last 80 years or so of American history. At some point, maybe, I’ll write a separate post on MLK’s legacy and the battle over it, but that’s now what I want to talk about today. For the purposes of this rant, let’s just say that MLK has a universally popular legacy and is thought of very highly all over the country. People regularly quote the man, and MLK day is a national day of mourning and remembrance where the whole country remembers those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for justice in this country. Everyone in the news media was falling over each other making tributes to the man and his work.

On the other hand, while they were celebrating the civil rights leader, they were giving the most obvious group of racists to be exposed on national media this decade a pass: a bunch of paramilitary “teens” in MAGA hats who came very close to assaulting a Native American man for no other reason than he was there and they had decided to stand in front of him. There are dozens of links to the story and you’d have to be living under an immovable rock not to have read or watched about it in the news, so I won’t waste time linking to the actual news event here.

I will instead focus on what actually happened, the piss poor excuse for journalism that justified what these paramilitaries did, and what the MAGA hat has come to represent. It is no coincidence that groups of people wearing said hats appear when they do: during (usually progressive) demonstrations as a sort of counter protest intimidation force. The indigenous peoples’ march, the first of its kind, had been planned for months, and, especially considering the march for life the boys had been bused to was at the same location (the National Mall, a historic location for protests and another twist of irony regarding this story I will return to later), there’s little chance they would not have known about the first indigenous peoples march taking place.

There’s also little chance the paramilitaries (by that I mean the boys, but I frankly don’t think they deserve to be called boys after behaving the way they did) were even attending the life for march at the time the incident took place. Like most protests, both the indigenous peoples’ march and the march disseminated itineraries and lists of events to those attending well in advance of the actual rallies. The agenda for the indigenous peoples’ march clearly shows the main rally starting at 11, wrapping up by 4, and everyone heading home by 6 at the latest. The march for life also had an itinerary of events. According to their schedule, their march started at 1 in the afternoon and finished at 3. In other words, the MAGA people, who were still present for an incident at 4, had been loitering around the mall for at least an hour or so after the march for life ended.

There’s also the fact that the youth event they were supposed to be attending wasn’t even at the national mall, and yet somehow the “boys” were at the mall. The separate march for life youth rally didn’t even take place on the same day (it was the 17th) and didn’t take place at the National Mall. The youth rally is event where students from across the country who are so politically inclined attend to listen to speakers and sign up for things. The youth rally was the event specifically created for students like the Covington High students, and yet they were still at the march at 4pm on the 18th, a day after the youth rally and more than an hour after the main event ended. By 4, there was only one reason for anyone to be at the National Mall: to watch or participate in the indigenous peoples’ march.

To sum up what we can deduce so far: the paramilitaries were, most likely, not at the event that was the reason for their trip, as the youth rally was the day before. They were not still at the main march, because that had ended at 3. They were still outside because of the indigenous peoples’ march; there was no other reason for them to be there.

Now we come to why I’m calling them paramilitaries, not “misguided youths” or whatever. It is because of the hats; wearing them publicly at a political event is an intentional choice. Anyone who does so is clearly conscious of what the hat symbolizes and is at least aware of, if not a participant in, the activities carried out by people who wear them. It is a pattern that has been replicated throughout history when dictators or wannabe dictators seek to destroy democratic institutions ans disrupt society by encouraging and escalating political violence. Donald Trump has followed that trend. First, by branding his most loyal supporters with an unofficial “uniform” that was designed to last far past the 2016 presidential campaign (the hats). Then, by encouraging violence against protesters and political opponents. Even Politifact rates several claims that the president has encouraged violence at his rallies to be true. The hats are sold or given away at every one of these rallies, without exception.

Sometimes these groups of supporters, over the course of their radicalization, become better organized into true paramilitary groups, as was the case with the SA and Nicaragua’s Dignity Battalions. Sometimes they are little more than roving bands of armed thugs, like the blackshirts, who are later legitimized into a “national militia” or some such. At first, of course, all the blackshirts did was attend rallies where Mussolini encouraged violence and then, of their own accord, practiced that violence, in incidents ranging from harassment to armed robbery to assault and eventually murder. The MAGA people aren’t so organized as that. Yet. But so far they have followed the blueprint. They have attended rallies where violence has been encouraged. They have, as an aggregate group, engaged in that violence. They have harassed and intimidated their political opponents. All that’s missing is a little more organization, a little more legitimacy.

The president just announced this afternoon that the paramilitaries were invited to the White House. That’s a decent amount of legitimacy right there.

And this is why we need MLK day and the legacy of Dr. King, a man who not only fought for racial justice but against authoritarian tendencies he observed in the governments of southern states towards his people. King, and hundreds of thousands of his contemporaries, were forced to deal with the same kind of armed mobs, the same kinds of terrorists, as Mussolini’s, Noriega’s, or Hitler’s opponents. It is to that legacy people wanting to end this MAGA nonsense must turn. It is more than a slogan, it is the beginning of a paramilitary organization meant to do as much damage as possible to the normal order of American life. Dr. King’s career has a few things to teach us about to combat this creeping authoritarianism, and if we want to end it we must listen.

The Nation of Islam/Womens’ March Connection

So there was a hell of a piece in tablet magazine this week about antisemitism in the womens’ march movement. I was highly skeptical when I started reading it. But unfortunately I think they’re on to something.

Tablet leaned on multiple sources to document incidents that any reasonable person would label as antisemitic within the march’s national “leadership,” so much as the organization had any national leadership. One incident in particular focused on two of the march’s founding members attacking another one (who was Jewish) over “her people” hoarding all their wealth and presumably controlling society or whatever. This was swept under the rug, though I would argue unintentionally so, by the growing current that transformed the womens’ march from a single moment of protest into a national brand.

Tablet details another incident, March 11th of this year, when one of the march’s organizers showered Louis Farrakhan with praise. Farrakhan, of course, is the head of Nation of Islam. Let me be exceptionally clear about this: The Nation of Islam is a hate group. The SPLC defines it as a hate group and notes that it is very good at raising money, something it turned out the women’s march was also very good at.

Tablet takes a deep dive into how the women’s march raised money and what sort of questionable ethics were involved. Part of this, in my opinion, can be blamed on how fast the movement grew and the relative inexperience of the activists in fundraising law. The rules on coordination between 501c3 and c4 groups and campaigns are really complicated, and I’m not sure that the women at the head of the movement can be condemned as criminals for a misstep in that area.

But what they can be condemned for is their continued reliance on Farrakhan. One thing Tablet demonostatss beyond doubt is that the women’s march raised a lot of money that simply could not be accounted for via individual donations. Money that was given to them by organizations Farrakhan supported by speaking at their rallies and making donations in the name of the Nation if Islam.

There is also something particularly disturbing in the way the women’s march activists pushed back on these allegations. If you scroll down to the bottom of the aforementioned tablet article or a number of other articles on this subject, you’ll notice that there are a lot of corrections on minor details, like exsctly how much the activists drew from donor funds as a salary (which I’m not necessarily knocking, btw, as long as donors are told up front about it it’s perfectly ethical to draw a modest salary for what amounts to more than a full time job). But what stands out is what’s absent from the corrections. There is no dispute, apparently, from these activists that they attended rallied held by Farrakhan, that they listened to him while he told his audience, as he does regularly, that Jews are the spawn of of Satan, and that they either agreed or did not feel disgusted enough to leave. That is unacceptable for two reasons. The first is the obvious, but the second is that the women’s march cashed in on the “resistance” thing after Trump was elected. Millions of people donated to what they thought was a genuine progressive resistance. As it turns out, they were also doing something else without knowing it: creating a mouthpiece for hate.

Oh look, Tim Canova is whining again.

We all remember Tim Canova, right? He was once a darling of progressives because he was considered a “real Democrat,” and for a while he had everyone fooled with that. He of course is most famous for challenging Debbie Wasserman Schultz in that cycle’s primary. Back then people were so down for him that Bernie Sanders was offering his supporters the opportunity to split donations between his campaign and Tim’s. That led to Canova raising more money from small donors than anyone else running for Congress as of August of that year. Despite losing the primary, the sheer amount of money Tim was able to raise would have secured him a future in the Democratic party and probably would have strengthened the party as a whole. That is, if Tim had stayed in the Democratic party. Or even stayed sane.

But, unlike Bernie Sanders, Tim didn’t take losing very well. Despite losing his 2016 primary by fourteen points, he remains adamant that the results of that election were somehow rigged. Now, despite all the enthusiasm for his bid, turnout wasn’t exactly high, so he sued the Broward county SOE, who we all know has her own problems, for destroying the 2016 primary ballots after only a year as opposed to twenty-two months as mandated by law. If I were him and I actually suspected foul play, I would of course have demanded to see the ballots sooner, but he was apparently content with waiting. And he even won his lawsuit, because the Broward SOE office accidentally but very definitely destroyed those primary ballots. It’s possible, granted a huge outside possibility, that upwards of 8,000 ballots that probably didn’t exist in the first place were destroyed, though it is far more likely, given that the outcome was nowhere near close and there was little to no reporting of rampant voter fraud in that particular race, that the ballots were lost due to incompetence and probably still exist in a filing cabinet somewhere (probably next to the one with all the Gore votes).

If this were Tim’s only instance of crazy, I’d give him a pass. Losing an election sucks, and there is every reason to believe the Broward people cannot count ballots no matter how they are designed. If Bernie Sanders still supported him, maybe I’d give Tim a pass. But Sanders hasn’t since last year, when he literally said “I have no idea about Tim Canova, I honestly don’t.” That about sums it up.

Maybe it was that dismissal, like a kiss from the Godfather, that finally sent Tim over the edge. This past spring he left the party, announcing it during an…interesting speech where he bashed the Broward Democratic party (fine, they kind of deserve it), before taking a sharp left turn into crazytown. “I have watched as my party has come to resemble a battered spousal relationship,” the progressive who seemed to care deeply about spousal abuse told an audience an April.

Between Sander’s dismissal and Tim’s departure from the Democratic party, the man just fell off the wagon. According to the Sun-Sentinel Canova started following and believing in a whole flock of discredited conspiracy theories: the Seth Rich murder, the idea that the whole Russian hacking thing is a false flag by the DNC, the idea that the 2016 primary was “rigged” (while DWS may have  rigged things if she needed to, she clearly didn’t need to, the primary wasn’t even close), and the idea that the DWS campaign hacked into his personal computer. Hos own supporters, most of whom are ardent progressive activists with deep ties to the local area, started to turn against him.

So it should be no surprise that Tim lost his 2018 race against DWS by an ever larger margin than he did in 2016. No surprise to anyone, that is, except for him. Now he wants to challenge those results as well and pile shame on Brenda Snipes, the state’s current target of opportunity.

Tim won about five percent of the vote this time around, to DWS’s 59 percent. Tim believes the only possible explanation for this must be DNC meddling and/or Brenda Snipes. Somehow. Really I think Tim just wants his face in the papers. He acts like he’s entitled to a seat in Congress, no matter what voters say.

Keep whining, Tim. Maybe someday you’ll get there.

Probably not though.


The “Consultant Class” Files: Part 1

The Florida Democratic Party is in a bad way.

2018 was supposed to be the year of the comeback for Democrats. And for many across the country it was. Democrats won damn near forty (40!) seats in the House, despite demographic segregation and Congressional maps being segregated to hell. They picked up seven governor’s mansions. They took control of six state legislatures. These weren’t all just instances of taking back territory lost in 2010; they won the governor’s race in Kansas for crying out loud. The conventional wisdom regarding modern Kansas is that even Dorothy is a Republican (despite her own well-documented experience as an illegal foreign refugee).

But then, even Kansas is not Florida. As the election drew to a close the FDP was expecting some measure of power. Both Gillum and Nelson were leading by close but not typically Florida close margins in at least some polls. Trump was and is somewhat unpopular. Rick Scott, so they told the electorate, was the face of evil, and they were confident people agreed. There was an environmental crisis in the form of red tide, and surely voters would blame that on Republicans.

And yet despite all that everything came crashing down. It turned out the whole show was Florida close and yet again it did not break Democrats’ way. I will get into why in another series, but let us for now just say that Democrats in Florida keep losing and they don’t seem to know the reason.

Enter the Florida Squeeze, a high quality blog and my personal go-to source for intra Democratic party drama in Florida. Dave Trotter wrote an article recently that slammed what he called the “Florida Democratic Cosa Nostra,” describing the party as really just a cabal of hipster consultants in it for the money that could care less if they win because hey, at the end of the day the bank still accepts their clients’ checks.

This immediately made me wonder: who the hell are these people? When they order at Starbucks, would I recognize them by mispronounced name? Or, more realistically, would I be able to identify them by looking at which Florida Democrats have prospered amongst the destruction?

Now I’m not well versed on which consultants qualify for “consultant class” status, but I can tell you which consultants I would look at first if I wanted to (either conveniently or honestly) blame someone. That’s what this series is about, folks. Evil Democrat hipster consultants.

My first candidate would be Christian Ulvert and company at Edge Communications, a consulting firm that has among its listed clients Andrew Gillum as well as more “establishment” Dems like Dan Gelber (Ulvert managed Gelber’s unsuccessful attorney general campaign) and Dave Aronberg. Ulvert is not only head of a consulting firm, but a former FDP political director. Last year, when Terrie Rizzo became chair of the party, Ulvert supported her (he was running Phillip Levine’s campaign at the time, another expedition that did not go so well).

Edge Communications also has a record that’s concentrated in the Miami area, and Miami-Dade has been a sore spot among Democrats for years as they consistently overestimate the solid blue area’s turnout and consistently fail to improve that turnout every election cycle. So Ulvert, while not the most controversial pick on my list, would be my first candidate for who belongs in the “consultant class” bucket.

Ulvert touches all the bases as far as Trotter’s definition of the consultant class. Miami oriented, head of a firm with a penchant for selecting losing candidates who “have potential” at the start, and someone who’s seen most of the revolving door of FDP leadership. The question is, did Ulvert learn from 2018? Democrats in Florida can only hope.

In part 2 of the series, we’ll take a look at the next set of insiders to make the cut.

Our Mission

Florida plays an incredibly central part in what goes on in the world. Yes, I am loathe in some ways to admit it. But it does.

US politics is often determined by what happens in Florida. Not just in terms of elections; Florida is the quintessential “swing state” but it’s also something else. It’s nearly surrounded by water shared and accessed by tens of millions of people who live in other states and countries. How Florida treats the water around it is a big deal to the whole hemisphere.

There’s the whole climate change thing. Florida is a case study for what most of the rest of the coastal world can expect.

There’s the political grooming thing. Especially for Republicans, people who cut their teeth in Florida politics often find themselves on the national stage. Which frankly is terrifying.

There’s the way the economy is structured. If current trends keep up tourism will be what an increasing number of state economies rely on. Where are they gonna turn to learn how to do it? Florida.

So what? So, understanding what the hell is happening in this half-flooded sometimes hellscape sometimes paradise isn’t just nice. It’s essential, for understanding how the world is changing right now.

On Hanging Chad’s, Chad (and associates, maybe eventually) tries to break down Florida news and politics into digestible and less soggy chunks. Some people will call us lefties. Some people will call us corporatist. They might even use the n-word (neoliberal, obviously). But we will never be owned by, directed by, intimidated by, or otherwise influenced by any political party, interest group, consultancy firm, secret cabal of elites, or whatever else. And we make no apologies for that.