Sunday, February 2, 2020

Last Call For Dancing With Who Brought You

Democratic candidates in Iowa are chasing those elusive Midwestern working-class whites, and black women in the Hawkeye State are saying the field is taking the black vote for granted.  Again.

Blow dryers hum. Electric razors buzz. Steam rolls off strands of hair as they glide through a hot flat iron. This is the scene, on a brisk Saturday morning, at Tranzitions Salon & Beauty Bar in Des Moines, Iowa. A place where black women convene to talk beauty, business and, sometimes, politics.

The Hawkeye State is preparing for what the Iowa Democratic Party predicts will be record turnout at this year’s presidential nominating caucus on Monday.

But, some black women say they may sit this one out.

“I'm not sure if I’ll caucus this year,” 63-year old Cheryl Barnes told NBC News. “Because I'm not sure about the candidates yet.”

Brandy McCracken, a 42-year-old Democrat, echoed that sentiment. “It will basically come down to me finding time to caucus — if there's someone that interests me.”

These women are not alone in their indecision. The latest Iowa poll shows only 40 percent of likely caucusgoers have picked a candidate. However, what may distinguish this group is why they remain largely undecided.

While black women, including Barnes and McCracken, turned out in droves to help secure a caucus win for Barack Obama in 2008, some say this time around they feel left out of the special treatment that comes with being a voter in the state up first in the presidential nominating process.

"They're reaching out more to the rural areas of Iowa than they are in Des Moines to me,” said 61-year-old Kim McCracken-Smith. “And in rural Iowa, there's no black people.”

Obama’s historic win in Iowa in 2008 came with his managing to pick up key delegates in rural Iowa while also winning counties in the state where voters of color are concentrated.

African Americans make up only about about 4 percent of the state's population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But with such a large field of candidates heading into caucus night, community activists say every vote this year will matter.

“Those are the kind of percentages that get you over the hump when it’s close, and it’s going to be close in a lot of places,” Izaah Knox, executive director of Urban Dreams, a community organization in Des Moines, told NBC News.

While campaigns have worked to replicate Obama’s diverse coalition of voters — with many hiring outreach directors tasked with targeting specific communities — that hasn’t been enough to win over some black caucusgoers.

Some potential caucusgoers said the outreach they’ve received has seemed rote and impersonal.

“I’ve just been getting these generic text messages and calls that I know are just the standard they’re reading off of the paper,” TranZitions salon owner Tyechia Daye said. “Come and see us — if you want our votes.”

It's weird that with every candidate still in the race saying they need every vote and every delegate in order to get through the first four contests to Super Tuesday a month from now, how this is happening and how black voters in red state primaries are being ignored.

Then again, I live in Kentucky, I know exactly what this feels like.  Oh wait, Obama came here three times in 2008.  Booker and Harris did visit black Iowans too, but Booker and Harris were run out of the race before a single vote was cast.

We notice stuff like this, guys.  Just saying.

Impeachment Reached, Con't

Mitch McConnell never had to stop Mitt Romney and Susan Collins from straying in order to enable Trump's complete victory.  He just had to stop every other Republican senator from doing so, and he did.

Trump’s acquittal was never in question in the Republican-controlled Senate, but the uncertainty about whether to call witnesses — as had been done in each of the previous 15 impeachment trials — created last-minute drama amid new revelations about Trump’s move to strong-arm Ukraine into investigating his domestic political rivals.

In the end, McConnell held his conference together, arguing that witnesses would drag the trial out for weeks and delay other Senate work. Several Republicans acknowledged that the president did use nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine as leverage to benefit himself politically, calling it inappropriate, but argued it wasn’t grounds to oust him from office.

“What was, I think, the most persuasive was just the open-ended consequences of starting down that path, and particularly the delays inherent in litigation that would ensue in the middle of the trial,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.).

McConnell was among the first to argue that Republicans should avoid calling witnesses despite Trump’s clamor for the whistleblower whose report triggered the House impeachment probe, former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, to testify. The leader warned in a mid-December lunch that a protracted witness fight would be dangerous for both parties.

“Mutually assured destruction,” he told them.

In he end, he told Trump to let him handle it and he did.

Meanwhile, McConnell was working to ensure Trump and the White House trusted him to handle the trial strategy as he dealt with a mercurial president who had his own ideas about the proceedings. In one phone call shortly before Christmas, McConnell bluntly told Trump that while the president was getting a lot of feedback about how the trial should be conducted, he knew the Senate better than anybody who had been advising the president and, most importantly, how to make his members comfortable.

McConnell told Trump that he needed to trust him, according to a person familiar with the conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly. Trump responded that he did.

The administration mostly left the wavering senators alone — namely out of McConnell’s insistence. He warned Trump in the fall not to alienate moderates lest he make the situation worse, according to Republicans.

“The White House has not asked for calls,” said one senior GOP official close to the moderate senators. “They’ve not asked for meetings. They’ve not texted.”

As I've said before the Constitution was ready to handle Trump.  It was not ready to handle a Senate majority leader as corrupt and as immoral as Mitch McConnell.

Sunday Long Read: The Best Big Game Big Show

I don't have any real desire to watch the Superb Owl this year, so here's Dan Evans at The Ringer giving us the story of the best haltfime show ever put on: Prince in Miami in 2007.

On February 4, 2007, heavy rain fell over Miami—and for those planning the Super Bowl XLI halftime show, so did a sense of dread. It’s one thing to play a football game in a storm. It’s another to put on an intricately staged concert in one.

“It was the most scared I was in my life,” says executive producer Charles Coplin, then the NFL’s head of programming. “And I’m sure I wasn’t alone.”

The man scheduled to perform was nervous, too. Yes, even Prince saw the potential for disaster. “People are like, ‘He gets nervous?’” says his musical director and keyboardist, Morris Hayes. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, he’s not nervous for himself. He’s nervous for us.’ He’s trying to make sure that we’re in the right places at the right parts. What’s gonna happen when it starts raining and the floor’s slick?”

By that point, the Super Bowl halftime show was in dire need of the Purple One’s energy. Over the course of 40 years, the event had gone from a marching band showcase to an Up With People residency, to a Disnified pageant with occasional drop-ins by pop stars like Michael Jackson, to an MTV-produced, superficially edgy spectacle that bottomed out in 2004 when Justin Timberlake infamously exposed Janet Jackson’s breast to a worldwide audience of 144.4 million. A course correction followed, as the NFL turned to baby boomer–friendly acts Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones. And while they may have been rock legends with countercultural roots, by the aughts they’d become safe entertainment.

Prince was different. Even after decades of fame, the sex symbol hadn’t toned down his genre-defying music or his envelope-pushing persona. Just three years prior, on the night that he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” stole the show from a handful of less-otherworldly legends. Unlike his big-game predecessors, Prince refused to trot out a handful of his hits and call it a night. For the intermission, the icon designed a unique 12-minute set. After all, he wasn’t about to allow himself to be overshadowed by the biggest damn sporting event of the year.

“It was one of those instances where you dread something might happen and then when it does,” says executive producer Don Mischer, “suddenly it turns around and almost becomes a blessing.”

The story of the greatest Super Bowl halftime show of all time starts not on that rainy South Florida evening, but with a sales pitch by late producer David Saltz at Prince’s house in Los Angeles …

I guarantee you the story of Prince's legendary performance that night 13 years ago will be better than anything you'll see at this year's version.

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