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Former presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton eulogize civil rights icon at Ebenezer Baptist Church
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
ATLANTA (CFP) — Three former U.S. presidents and more than 50 U.S. House colleagues gathered in Atlanta Thursday to say a final farewell to U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who represented the city for more than 30 years in Congress.
From the pulpit of Ebeneezer Baptist Church, once pastored by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., former President Barack Obama called Lewis “perhaps [King’s] finest disciple.”
Lewis’s life redeemed “that most American of ideas — the idea that any of us, ordinary people without rank or wealth or title or fame, can somehow point out the imperfections of this nation and come together and challenge the status quo and decide that it is within our power to remake this country that we love,” Obama said.
“He believed that in all of us there exists the capacity for great courage, and in all of us, there is a longing to do what’s right,” Obama said. “He knew that non-violent protest is patriotic, a way to raise public awareness and to put the spotlight on injustice and make the powers that be uncomfortable.”
“What a gift John Lewis was. We are all so lucky to have had him walk with us for a while and show us the way.”
Former President George W. Bush said Lewis “believed in the Lord, he believed in humanity, and he believed in America.”
“His lesson for us is that we must all keep ourselves to hearing the call of love, the call of service, and the call to sacrifice for others,” Bush said.
Bush noted that while he and Lewis often disagreed politically, “in the America John Lewis fought for, and the America I believe in, differences of opinion are inevitable elements and evidence of democracy in action.”
Joining Obama and Bush to speak at the funeral service were former President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who grew emotional when she presented his family with the flag that was flying over the Capitol on the night that Lewis died.
“When this flag flew there, it said good-bye. It waved good-bye to John, our friend, our mentor, our colleague, this beautiful man we had the privilege of serving with,” said Pelosi, who served with Lewis in Congress for 33 years.
“Every time he stood up to speak [in the House], we knew that he was going to take us to a higher place of our understanding, of what our responsibilities were and what our opportunities were,” Pelosi said. “When he spoke, people listened. When he led, people followed.”
Not attending Thursday’s event was President Donald Trump, whose impeachment Lewis had vigorously supported last year. Trump also did not join he crowds who paid tribute to Lewis when his casket was displayed at the U.S. Capitol.
The funeral was the culmination of nearly a week of events honoring Lewis, including a memorial service in his hometown of Troy, Alabama, and lying in state at both the Alabama and Georgia state capitols.
The crowd inside the church for the private service was limited due to coronavirus, and mourners wore masks. The service was broadcast on a television screen outside of Ebenezer, where crowds gathered in the summer heat.
Lewis, 80, died on July 24 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
During his long and illustrious life, Lewis, who grew up on a farm in rural Alabama during the Jim Crow era, had a first-hand presence at some of the most pivotal moments of American history.
In 1960, as a student at Fisk University, he participated in protests to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville, and, a year later, became of the original “freedom riders,” risking his life to desegregate buses in the South.
By 1963, he had risen to a leadership position in the civil rights movement, as president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and, at just 23, was the youngest person to address the historic March on Washington, led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
During the summer of 1964, he went to Mississippi to register black voters, part of the “Freedom Summer” to break the power of segregation in its most redoubtable citadel.
In 1965, baton-wielding state troopers fractured Lewis’s skull as as he tried to lead marchers over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, a shocking scene captured on national television that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act.
A campaign is now underway to rename the bridge for Lewis.
In 1968, he was in Los Angeles working for the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy when Kennedy was gunned down after winning the California primary.
Lewis had eventually extended his activism into politics, winning a seat in the U.S. House in 1986 that he held for more than three decades, becoming known as the “conscience of Congress” — opposing military action, supporting gay rights, leading a sit-in for gun safety.
Through all the beatings and tragedies, and the twists and turns of political life, Lewis never wavered from the philosophy of non-violence — and never stopped advocating for equality. He made his last public appearance in June at the dedication of a “Black Lives Matter” mural in Washington, the latest incarnation of the cause to which he had dedicated his adult life.
In his eulogy, Obama exhorted the audience to honor Lewis’s legacy by working to “revitalize” the Voting Rights Act and fighting against restrictions on voting access.
“Even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting, by closing polling locations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision — even undermining the postal service in an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick,” he said.
Georgia Democrats have selected State Senator Nikema Williams to replace Lewis on the November ballot and take his place in Congress representing the 5th District, which includes much of the city of Atlanta and suburbs to the west and south.
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U.S. Reps. Val Demings of Florida and Sylvia Garcia of Texas among group of 7 managers
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Two Southern U.S. House Democrats — Val Demings of Florida and Sylvia Garcia of Texas — have been selected to present the case for impeaching President Donald Trump in his Senate trial, which begins next week.
The selections were announced Wednesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as the House approved a resolution to send over two articles of impeachment to the Senate accusing Trump of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.
At a news conference where she unveiled the seven impeachment managers, Pelosi said the “emphasis is on litigators, the emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom, the emphasis is on making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution, to seek the truth for the American people.”
Demings, 62, who represents an Orlando area district in the House, is the only non-lawyer among the managers. However, she has a background in law enforcement, serving 27 years as a police officer in Orlando, where she worked her way up to chief before retiring in 2011. She was elected to Congress in 2016.
In a statement, Demings said she was “honored to have the opportunity to help defend our republic in this incredible moment in history.”
“I hope that every American who believes in democracy will take a stand,” she said. “The president has been given an incredible responsibility and opportunity to serve the American people. Instead, he has abandoned his oath of office and the Constitution, choosing to put his interest before the national interest.”
Garcia, 69, who represents a Houston-based district, is one of just two freshmen House members selected as a manager. She is a former municipal judge in Houston.
In a tweet, Garcia said she was “honored” to be named as a manager.
“The Constitution will be our guide,” she said. “We won’t waver in our commitment to democracy. And we’ll present the truth to the American people.”
The impeachment articles allege that Trump withheld military aide from Ukraine in an effort to pressure Ukrainian officials to launch investigations into a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and then obstructed efforts by Congress to investigate those allegations.
The president has insisted that he did nothing improper in urging Ukraine to investigate possible corruption.
While the prospects for an impeachment conviction in the Republican-controlled Senate would be appear dim, Demings said she has “not written off the Senate.”
“Each senator still has the power to do the right thing,” she said in her statement. “I know that as each senator considers whether to side with justice or corruption, the voices of the American people will matter.”
Schiff chairs the House Intelligence Committee, which took the lead in investigating the Ukrainian controversy, and Nadler chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which drew up the articles of impeachment. Crow joins Garcia as the only freshmen legislators among the group.
Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the Senate trial, which will operate under rules passed by the Senate. A two-thirds majority — 67 senators — is required to convict Trump and remove him from office, something that has never happened before in American history.
Trump is just the third president in history to be impeached by the House, following Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998; neither was convicted by the Senate. The House was preparing to impeach Richard Nixon before he resigned in 1974.
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Trump accelerates Republican shift in counties named for Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
(CFP) — Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee loom large as icons of the Southern Confederacy, so much so that 11 Southern counties and one Louisiana parish bear their names. But if these lions of the South are aware of what is happening in their namesake counties today, they may be rotating in their graves.
Changes in presidential voting in these counties over the past 40 years illustrate just how far the Black Republicans against which Lee and Davis fought are now transcendent—and the alarming (for Democrats) degree to which white Southerners have forsaken their traditional political roots.
Of course, the South’s march toward the GOP is not news. Today, the term “Solid South” has an entirely different connotation than it did during the days of FDR or Lyndon Johnson. However, these namesake counties do provide a window into how these shifts in party preference have occurred over time and the role that race played in them.
The 2016 presidential results also show that the Republicanization of the South is accelerating in these counties that bear the mark of Southern heritage, which bodes ill for future Democratic prospects.
In 1976, when Democrat Jimmy Carter became the first Southerner to win the White House since Zachary Taylor in 1848, he carried nine of the 12 Davis and Lee counties. By 1992, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush were splitting them six-to-six.
By 2000, Republican George W. Bush had flipped nine of the 12 namesake counties his way; his average share of the total votes cast for the two major party candidates in those counties that year was an impressive 64 percent. But in 2016, Trump trumped the younger Bush, carrying those same nine counties with an average of 70 percent of the two-party vote.
In 1976, Republican President Gerald Ford’s share of the two-party vote topped 50 percent in just three namesake counties (in Florida, Alabama, and Kentucky). But by 2016, Trump’s share of the two-party vote was more than 50 percent in nine counties and parishes; above 60 percent in eight; above 70 percent in four; and above a whopping 80 percent in two (Georgia and Kentucky).
The most dramatic changes were in Jeff Davis County, Georgia, where native Georgian Carter carried 79 percent of the vote in 1976 and Trump won 81 percent in 2016, and Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana, where Carter won 62 percent and Trump 75 percent. However, even in majority black Lee County, Arkansas, Trump’s 16-point loss in 2016 was less than half of Ford’s 38-point defeat.
In addition to Lee County, Arkansas, the only namesake counties Trump lost in 2016 were Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi, and Lee County, South Carolina, which are also majority black. However, even in these three counties, Trump carried a larger share of the two-party vote in 2016 than Mitt Romney did in 2012.
In fact, Trump improved on Romney’s result in 11 of the 12 namesake counties, save only Jeff Davis County, Texas, where Trump had to settle for merely matching Romney’s total.
The results in these namesake counties over time also illustrate the role race has played in the political realignment of the South.
In all seven of the overwhelmingly white namesake counties, the Republican share of the two-party vote was higher in 2016 than in 1976, by an average of 29 percent. Trump did better than Romney by an average of 4 percent.
By contrast, in majority-black Lee counties in Mississippi and South Carolina, the Republican two-party share fell by an average 2.5 percent from 1976 to 2016, but Trump outperformed Romney by the same 2.5 percent. These results indicate that the white Southern shift to the Republicans appears stronger than the corresponding black shift to the Democrats.
This is borne out by the results in Lee County, Arkansas, which has the smallest African-American population of any of the majority-black namesake counties (55 percent). There, the Republican share of the two-party vote actually climbed 11 percent between 1976 and 2016, and Trump beat Romney’s total by 5 percent.
Two of the namesake counties—Lee County, Florida, and Jeff Davis County, Texas—are outliers in that they have significant Latino populations. The Republican share of the two-party vote in both of those counties was higher in 2016 than it was in 1976, but Trump’s results were down from the numbers put up in 2000 and 2004 by George W. Bush, who, for a Republican, ran strongly with Latino voters.
The results in the namesake counties also illustrate the mountain which Democrats need to climb if they are to reduce Republican hegemony in the South.
The Democratic base once included small towns and rural areas across the Southern landscape, as well as urban areas. In 2016, Democrats still held the cities (with newfound and welcome signs of life in suburban Atlanta and Houston) and the mostly small rural counties with majority black populations, such as the namesake counties in Arkansas, Mississippi and South Carolina. Democrats also do well in college towns such as Athens, Georgia, and Gainesville, Florida.
But Democrats’ failure to compete for the votes of small town and rural white voters is what is killing them electorally, as the results in the Davis and Lee namesake counties without black majorities vividly illustrates.
Only one of these namesake counties is urban—Lee County, Florida, which includes Fort Myers—and Lee County, Alabama, contains Auburn University. The rest of these counties and parishes are all rural, white areas where Messrs. Davis and Lee are no doubt remembered fondly and Jimmy Carter ran reasonably well—and where Hillary Clinton couldn’t get elected dog catcher if she handed out $20 bills at the polling booth.
As a barometer of the past, these namesake counties illustrate how far Democrats have fallen in their former strongholds. But if Trump’s improved results over Romney’s are a barometer of the future, the bottom may not yet have been reached.
New York Times reports Trump in “dire risk” of losing the Peach State
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
The Times attributed to its October 12 report to people briefed on the polls who spoke on condition of anonymity. The newspaper also reported that Clinton’s campaign has concluded that Georgia is winnable, although her camp has made no move so far to put resources into trying to capture the Peach State.
The Times did not give any specific polling numbers for the race or indicate whether that polling took place before or after video surfaced on October 7 in which Trump made braggadocious comments about being allowed to grab women’s genitals because of his celebrity.
The last public poll in Georgia, conducted by WSB-TV/Landmark on September 20-21, showed Trump at 47 percent and Clinton at 43 percent, which was within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage votes. That means that from a statistical perspective, the race was a tie.
A Republican presidential candidate has not taken Georgia in 24 years, since Clinton’s husband, Bill, carried the state back in 1992. Mitt Romney won it by 8 points in 2012.
In addition to Georgia, three other Southern states are also in play — Virginia, Florida and North Carolina. These four states are the largest in the South outside of Texas, with a combined 73 electoral votes, about a quarter of what is needed to capture the presidency.
The latest state polls show Clinton with a strong lead in Virginia, with races in Florida and North Carolina within the margin of error.
No Democrat has captured all four of these states since Harry Truman back in 1948.
Probe focuses on campaign contributions from a Chinese businessman who also gave to the Clinton Foundation
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
RICHMOND (CFP) — Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe says he was shocked to discover from a news report that he is under investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department over $120,000 in campaign contributions from a Chinese businessman who also gave money to the Clinton Foundation.
But speaking to reporters May 24, a day after the news broke, McAuliffe insisted that contributions from the donor, Wang Wenliang, were legal and that he had been “fully vetted” by the governor’s campaign staff.
He also insisted that the investigation has “nothing to do” with the Clinton Foundation, even though Wang had also given money to the foundation and McAuliffe sits on the board of one of its subsidiaries.
“I didn’t bring the donor in. I didn’t bring him into the Clinton Foundation. I’m not even sure I’ve ever met the person,” McAuliffe said.
The governor was also asked about the more than 100 donors common to his 2013 gubernatorial campaign and foundation, and whether he used his position with the Clinton Foundation to solicit campaign contributions.
McAuliffe explained that given his close relationship with the Clinton family, it would not be surprising to find donors who had given to both the campaign and the foundation.
“I think we’ve traveled in the same circles,” McAuliffe said. “I’ve traveled the globe with President Clinton, and we have a lot of the same friends.
News of the federal investigation was first reported by CNN. which attributed its information to “U.S. officials briefed on the probe.” It centers on $120,000 in contributions to McAuliffe’s campaign by Wang, according to the network.
The reason for the FBI”s scrutiny remains unclear. While foreign nationals are prohibited from giving money to U.S. political campaigns, McAuliffe said that would not apply to Wang because he has been a permanent resident of the United States since 2007, and green-card holders can contribute to campaigns.
That would seem to point to the possibility that a relationship between the McAuliffe campaign and the Clinton Foundation is the focus of the probe. According to some news reports, the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server has expanded to the foundation.
McAuliffe is a longtime associate of Bill and Hillary Clinton, even loaning them money to buy a house after they left the White House in 2001. He was the co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and both Clintons campaigned for him when he ran for governor.
The governor is on the board of the Clinton Global Initiative, the international outreach arm of the Clinton Foundation, which, since its founding in 1997, has raised more than $2 billion.
Wang is the head of the China Rilin Construction Group. Forbes magazine put his net worth at more than $1 billion.