Stacey Abrams, the New American Majority, and the Politics of Becky

This political season white women are probably feeling under attack and undervalued. Other than a not guilty plea entered by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in a sexual assault charge, the #MeToo movement, driven mostly by white female feminists and entertainment celebrities, appears on hiatus from major media coverage.

White women couldn’t even get a break in Alabama’s special election to fill the U.S. senate seat vacated by current U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions when the media and Democrats gave Alabama’s black female electorate credit for the victory of Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore, a former Alabama supreme court jurist who was accused of lewd sexual misconduct involving teenage girls over 30 years ago. While this victory should have been chalked up to the #MeToo movement, white female voters in Alabama decided to ignore the #MeToo bandwagon. According to USA Today, 31% of voters in that special election were white women. Of that amount, 34% voted for Jones while 63% voted for Judge Moore. While 17% of voters were black women, 98% of those voters gave Doug Jones the nod.

Meanwhile in the neighboring state of Georgia, the question is will white women allow black voters, especially black women voters, take credit for another potentially huge victory for Democrats in the deep South? Early polls cited in Heavy.com show that women overall are favoring Democrat Stacey Abrams over Republican Brian Kemp. In a WXIA/Survey USA poll, Mr. Kemp has a two-point lead over Ms. Abrams, but in a Mason-Dixon poll taken last February, Ms. Abrams had a three-point lead over Mr. Kemp. Liberals nation-wide are hoping that the election will be the death knell for the white working class vote and signal the emergence of a “New American Majority.” The following quote may shed some light on what Ms. Abrams run really represents:

“If Abrams can win the general election and become the first black woman governor in U.S. History, in a Southern state that sits in the heart of the old Confederacy, it will be a powerful symbol of the capacity of black women to be the face — and not just the backbone or helpmate — of American politics. This might prove the most crucial outcome of an Abrams’ victory. Since 2016, the Democratic Party has had an ongoing debate about whether to try to win over white working-class voters or focus on the base of the New American Majority. A definitive Abrams win in the general election could settle that dispute for the 2020 cycle.” Heavy.com

The above quote comes as no surprise to me. I have suspected this campaign as an initiative by advocacy groups such as Democracy in Color, based on the west coast, which is lending support to Ms. Abrams campaign, as an attempt to provide further political empowerment to ethnic minorities. Like a significant number of members of the African Diaspora living in America, I have grown suspect of groups that lump a group of mostly unempowered black people with other groups that share neither lineage or policy goals with blacks. As usual, blacks are being shoved to the front of the political line in order to garner traction for a movement that more than likely will garner benefits for women, Hispanics, and Asians first with blacks, as usual, picking up the crumbs.

Blacks will fall in formation behind the black political and cultural elite and likely give Ms. Abrams the 90-plus percentage vote that their peers gave to Doug Jones in Alabama. I don’t suspect the current #WalkAway movement will have much impact in dissuading black voters to not fall in line with the Democrats this election cycle. If anything, movements like Atlanta’s “Black Slate” will do their best to urge blacks to deliver a historic one-two political punch by adding an Abrams victory to that earned by Keisha Lance-Bottoms in Atlanta’s mayoral race last fall.

If blacks vote near unanimously for Ms. Abrams, I expect white women to hold the key to a Brian Kemp victory. Unlike the Alabama U.S. senate race, I suspect the “peculiarities” of southern culture to raise their heads, the most prominent being race, specifically the undocumented competition between white and black women. As the race draws closer, I believe the pettiness of “white woman-black woman” competition will play a factor. How significant, I can’t tell right now. Polling won’t pick up this competition, but for those of us either having been born in the south, or like me, having lived here for decades, we expect that this competition will insert itself into the decision matrix of some voters.

If Ms. Abrams allows herself to recognize this, she will implore her west coast help to target conservative or moderate white women; selling them on the benefits of a progressive platform and the need to be on what liberals consider to be the right side of history in the selection of a America’s first black woman governor. Ms. Abrams will also have to quell the fears of working class whites who do not take kindly to the perception that minorities, particularly black people, have been enjoying economic gains at the expense of white people. That may be a tough sell. Ms. Abrams does not strike the optics, i.e. well educated, black, natural hairstyle, of someone that relate to white working-class Georgia.

With just over twelve weeks to go, Ms. Abrams has her work cut out for her.

Is the Georgia GOP embarking on a coordinated transportation policy or just a airport power grab?

Georgia state senator Burt Jones wants the state of Georgia to take over the operation of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He has sponsored a resolution that forms a committee to study the feasibility of the State of Georgia taking control of the world’s busiest airport. The rationale for the study and a takeover include the vitality that Hartsfield-Jackson provides to the traveling national and international public; the role the airport plays in the economic development of the state; and the increase in the public welfare, national security, and economic stability such a transfer could bring to Georgians.

I have lived in Atlanta for ten years and like thousands of this city’s residents have flown numerous times from Hartsfield-Jackson International for business and pleasure. Given Atlanta’s role as a headquarters town for a number of Fortune 500 companies, host of a major freight train terminal, a movie making and entertainment hub, and the capital of the largest state east of Mississippi River in terms of land size, I am not surprised that it is a lever in Georgia’s economic growth.

When you combine airport, airline, security, concession, and state and federal activities, Hartsfield-Jackson International plays host to the 63,000 people that make these activities happen. Delta, Georgia’s largest private employer, puts 33,000 people to work statewide and claims an economic impact on the state of $43.5 billion. Hartsfield-Jackson International claims an impact of $34.8 billion on the metro Atlanta economy.

Delta also claims to contribute $200 million a year toward Hartsfield-Jackson International’s operation expenses and that its direct flights out of Atlanta supports $11 billion in foreign direct investment. This foreign direct investment has led to the creation of 42,000 jobs throughout the state.

By law, Mr Jones can make his power grab.  Under the Georgia Constitution, cities have the authority to provide certain services including terminal and docking services such as those provided by an airport. This power is further expressed in state statutes where cities can acquire, construct, maintain, and control airport facilities. The State, however, can enact laws relative to the authority cities have to provide services including, by my reading, airport services.  The General Assembly, by general law, can regulate, restrict, or limit Atlanta’s authority to provide these services. The General Assembly, however, cannot withdraw these powers.

This is where Mr Jones may run into trouble. First, he should explain to the public how the city of Atlanta is failing to meet the State’s public welfare via the way it operates the airport. He should also be made to explain how transferring operations of the airport to the State will increase national security. On the economic front, will State operation of Hartsfield-Jackson International increase the number of employees in Georgia? Will foreign direct investment increase as a result of Georgia taken over operations?

Would Georgia taking control of Hartsfield-Jackson International be constitutional? Under the constitution, Atlanta’s authority to acquire, maintain, and operate an airport cannot be withdrawn. Although the State can regulate and limit this authority, how far can it go in its regulation before it crosses that constitutional line in the sand?

Finally, from the legal to the political, does Mr Jones want to inadvertently escalate tensions between Delta and the State? Delta has already lost a $50 million per year fuel tax exemption because it took a stance on another political issue, the sale of semi-automatic weapons. Is Delta willing to swap out a seemingly amicable working relationship with the city of Atlanta for a potentially hostile working relationship with a landlord that jacked up its rent?

Rather than deal day in and day out with a new and hostile landlord, why wouldn’t Delta exercise its options to move its headquarters elsewhere? It could argue that the State’s takeover was a force de majuere resulting in voiding its 20-year lease agreement. Even if it didn’t move its headquarters wholesale, it could drastically reduce its exposure to Atlanta, including subletting significant number of gates and moving employees to other hubs.

And let’s not forget Amazon who may view Georgia’s political play makers as immature and creating a level of business uncertainty that makes Atlanta and Georgia less welcoming.

Atlanta’s ninety-four percent have no leadership

On the occasions that I ride MARTA, I am always saddened by what I see in the ridership. It is mostly black, overweight, loud, low to middle income in dress and carriage. The body language of the ridership transmits defeat and a lack of control over its resources. Hell. We have no resources.

When blacks engage each other on the train, bus, or the grocery aisles, the conversation tends to center on food prices and domestic turmoil. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter have only served to increase the noise, giving a platform for ratchetness in text and in video.

On social media, it seems like blacks are interested in becoming video stars, drinking the Kool-Aid that Atlanta’s “Black Hollywood” narrative transmits. It is not uncommon now to see a bunch of twenty-somethings walking around the West End posing in front of cameras and smartphones shooting videos to be posted on Instagram or Facebook.

But when I visit Peachtree Center I see much less swag and more of “playing it safe, gotta keep this job” demeanor from the few blacks that I see there versus whites and Asians who carry themselves with more confidence likely due to their much greater representation in much higher paying jobs. If Atlanta is the “Black Mecca”, then its tribal chiefs are doing a poor job of representing it.

I say poor job because Atlanta’s black elite have forgotten the basic rule of leadership: you are only as valid as the prosperity of the people around you. Assuming that Atlanta’s black wealth is reflected in national statistics, then blacks are in pretty bad shape. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 57.6% of blacks own an interest earning account, while 78% of their white counterparts and 78.5% of Asians own such an account. Fifty eight percent of Hispanics own an interest earning account.

Blacks are not as diversified as whites and Asians in terms of participation in the equity markets. Just over six percent of blacks own stock or mutual fund shares, according to U.S. Census data, while 25.2% of whites and 26% of Asians own stocks or mutual funds. Hispanics come in at 5.5% of their population investing directly in stocks or mutual funds.

Blacks have not gotten into the game of owning their federal or local governments’ debt. Three percent of blacks own U.S. government bonds while 0.5% own municipal bonds. Ten percent of whites own U.S. government bonds while three percent of whites own municipal bonds. Other ethnic groups are in the single digits as well when it comes to owning public debt. Four and one-half percent of Asians own U.S. government bonds while just one percent of Asians own municipal bonds. A little over two percent of Hispanics own U.S. government bonds while 0.3% of their population own municipal bonds.

Even with their numerical majority (which is waning with each passing year), black Atlanta couldn’t influence a political outcome without blowing its basic house budget. One is naive about American politics if they believe the vote alone can sustain any level of political power.

Decreased political power is a boat with a big hole in it, rudderless, with a stalling engine and a navigator that cannot read a compass. For 44 years, the Atlanta black political elite have benefited from enjoying a political largess that is increasingly scarce. Rather than dominance, the political elite appears willing to settle on being the minority pivotal vote. Will the Atlanta black political establishment fare well at its future deal maker role and will new pluralities in the future be willing to pay the bribe?

 

Casey Cagle and entertainment politics

Casey Cagle is tired of attacks on conservatism and wants to make Delta Air Lines the whipping boy for a brand of conservatism that quite frankly does nothing for the masses of Georgians that expect their government to provide an environment that fosters economic growth and public safety. Mr Cagle, who announced earlier this week that he would hamper the shepherding of a bill that would reintroduce a policy of preferential tax treatment for the world’s largest airline, is practicing what I call “entertainment politics.”

Whereas “real politics” applies the various rules of persuasion for moving resources from one group to another group, entertainment politics speaks purely to the emotions of the policy maker and the policy maker’s constituents. In Mr Casey’s case, he did not take too kindly Delta Air Lines’ decision to discontinue a discount issued to members of the National Rifle Association for travel to their national convention. Delta, after being called out as a sponsor of the NRA in the wake of the recent shooting at a Florida high school, decided to quickly dampen any more negative publicity by putting the discount and its association with the NRA on ice. This move got Mr Casey and other conservatives all up in their feelings.

Given that Mr Casey, Georgia’s lieutenant governor since 2007, has thrown his hat in the ring for the governorship, this bold move may be just a play to seal the votes from the social conservative wing of the party. It is bold for five reasons.

First, Mr Cagle put himself way out there. He can’t take back his threat against Delta. Should he win the governorship, he will have to follow through. Delta will face a similar dilemma. To go back on its stance will create bad optics.

Second, whoever wins the Democratic nomination will most likely not get a significant amount of the conservative, gun lobby vote anyway. Mr Cagle did not need to take this action in order to protect his voting bloc from a left wing attack.

Third, Delta has options to move. New York City, Birmingham, Alabama, and Northern Virginia have sent overtures to the airline to move. Mr Cagle may be betting that Delta does not want to incur the legal liability that would result from vacating his lease.  Under section 18.03 of the agreement between the city of Atlanta and Delta, there is no specific “termination fee” described. Besides rent and taxes owed, Delta would have to pay the City’s expenses for taking over the south terminal and other properties plus other fees determined by the city. However, under contract law, the city will have the burden of mitigating Delta’s termination by looking for another tenant.  Delta, under those circumstances, may be willing to take the hit in order to fly off to greener pastures.     

In addition, Delta can argue that Mr Cagle’s action creates a force majeure (unforeseen circumstance) that cancels the contract. The circumstances are unforeseen because Delta did not expect that taken a moral stance on school shootings would be met with such an oppressive move as opposing a tax preference.

Lastly, if Georgia stays a “Red State” (and I see no indication that status will change), then the opposition to a tax preference renewal may continue for years. Rising rates may make the purchase of fuel increasingly expensive making the tax preference all the more important in the next few years. Delta may decide to cut and run.

I believe Delta has more leverage. In the short run, if they stay it will be because their profits were sufficient enough to absorb the loss of the preference. The longer run is another issue. If Mr Cagle backs down, he will likely lose the nomination. Even if he backs down and is able to squeak out a primary win, would he be able to withstand a media onslaught that describes him as a policy maker whose poor judgment may cost Atlanta a major employer and cause businesses to retrench?

Will @ATLairport’s power outage impact its run at .@Amazon?

Atlanta is in the running for Amazon’s second headquarters. According to Amazon’s request for proposals from cities across North America, the company expects to hire 50,000 people as a direct result of constructing headquarters equivalent to those in Seattle. Amazon estimates capital expenditures of some $5 billion and on average that its new hires will earn approximately $100,000 annually in compensation.

Amazon has a location preference for metropolitan areas of at least one million people; a stable and business friendly environment; urban or suburban areas with the potential to attract strong technical talent; and communities that think big and creatively.

Access to an international airport ( under 45 minute drive) as well as access to major highways, subways, rail, and buses are also at the core of Amazon’s preferences. Yesterday’s power outage at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport raises issues of redundancy and reliability for an electrical system that powers the world’s busiest airport located in a global gateway city.

So far there has been no public expression of concern from Amazon about how this debacle could impact Atlanta’s attempts to persuade Amazon to move here. There are no specific Georgia Power tariffs spelling out any terms and conditions for service that are particular to Hartsfield-Jackson International.

Politically, this event should also raise issues about how resilient the city truly is if one of its key factors for economic growth and commerce goes offline for so long.

West End Atlanta is a low value information commodity

Atlanta’s West End has no political power and appears to mirror the stagnant thinking of its representation on its city council. In the nine years that I have lived in the West End, I have yet to see how the power to “get what you want, when you want it, from who you want it from” has been applied to help its current citizens.

West End Atlanta should be the southwest version of Buckhead, especially given its proximity to City Hall, the downtown district, a MARTA transit station, and the airport. Instead, it’s the home of too many fast food restaurants, above average crime, and a high level of poverty. It doesn’t surprise me that West End’s city council member, Cleta Winslow, does not give the media interviews.  She would rightly be called to task about the state of poverty in her district. Not only the poverty, but the stagnation in mindset and lethargy in body language, the manifestation that stems from accepting less. It is very negative energy.

Blacks in West End give me the impression that they are just hanging around waiting to die.

If the 30310 zip code is going to improve, it won’t be as a result of current political leadership. After 23 years, Ms Winslow is merely a caretaker, or should I say undertaker. Individuals, particularly individuals of African American descent, are going to have to do this on their own.

One approach is to get more young, black producers to buy into the neighborhood. We need engineers and technologists to support and promote the attempts I see in the neighborhood to provide urban farming. The West End needs a self-contained political economy based on self-reliance.

Another, more important approach is to develop a tribal aspect to the West End’s social ordering. The West End needs to go from just a proclamation that “We here”, to an affirmation that, “We are here to stay. Let’s work.” The West End’s lack of progressiveness comes from a fear of being cohesive. This fear is a common thread running through most Black Americans. There is no conqueror mentality, just a “keep on, keeping on” mantra that adds to the lethargy of the West End’s inhabitants.

This attitude has made it easier for whites to gentrify the West End. It has been a slow and steady process. It is no shocker for me now to see mostly smiling white couples out walking their dogs or jogging along the Beltline while pushing a baby carriage. They are here, with conqueror mentality in tow.

In my title I asserted that the West End represents a low value information commodity. The West End Atlanta is low information value not simply because of the level of poverty, but because of the poor mindset and lack of cohesion. The most valuable information from the 30310 is that the area is wide open for plunder.

Atlanta the city-state … and alkaline water

Atlanta is growing, expecting to sit at the core of a metropolitan statistical areas boasting a population of 9.0 million residents over the next twenty years. I saw something at the Whole Foods in Midtown during Hurricane Irma that made me question the resilience of the city. While customers raided the shelves for bottled water, they left a lot of alkaline water on the shelves. These are the very customers that swear by the health benefits of alkaline water, but in this instance they were foregoing health for the cheaper water. Shouldn’t health be a consistent part of life?

It just seemed a little hypocritical to me that residents of a city sitting over a thousand feet above sea level and relatively inland would go forego their values regarding health because of a storm that was not expected to bring any where near the damage expected by our neighbors to the south. But there the shelves were; not one bottle of water with the exception of $3.99 bottles of alkaline water.

The 21st century Atlantan is interesting to observe. No, more like slightly amusing. The body language of the people in the core city reflects not a care in the world. I often wonder if these people have jobs much less a care in the world. They look more like displaced mid-westerners trying to make Atlanta proper look and feel like Manhattan.  I guess this is the type of swag you should expect from citizens that occupy an alpha-city.

But it looks more to me like a city that has no character. Yes, the jobs are coming here. Almost 80,000 were created in Atlanta in 2016, but I see a blandness. The city is so transient that the people with some skin in the cultural game, mainly those that were born here, appear to be outnumbered by those of us who were not. This is nothing new. I heard this complaint back in the mid 1980s when I first lived here. The resentment of people who were born here that believed they were being foreclosed from opportunities because out of town people moving to the Peach City were blessed and highly favored by employers.

They are probably right. I know very few people who were born here. Mary Norwood, a candidate for Atlanta mayor wasn’t born here. Cleta Winslow, a member of the Atlanta city council representing my district, wasn’t born here. I have high school and law school classmates that live in the area, none of whom are from here.

Southern charm is being pushed out by Northern and Midwestern blandness.