Oprah, Pence offer competing visions of ‘Georgia values’
By BILL BARROW and JEFF MARTIN
Friday, November 2
MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) — In a rousing speech in the Republican-leaning suburbs of Atlanta, Oprah Winfrey urged voters on Thursday to make history by backing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in next week’s election.
Winfrey called Abrams a “changemaker” who represents the values of all Georgians.
“I am here today because Stacey Abrams cares about the things that matter,” she said to a mostly female audience north of downtown Atlanta.
Seventy-five miles (120 kilometers) north, Vice President Mike Pence stood alongside Abrams’ opponent, Brian Kemp, in Dalton, and mocked the billionaire media icon who grew up in Mississippi as just another liberal outsider trying to impose on Republican-run Georgia.
“Stacey Abrams is being bankrolled by Hollywood liberals,” Pence said.
Pence drew boos from the crowd when he mentioned that “Oprah is in town” and noted that actor Will Ferrell was recently in Georgia for Democrats.
“I’d like to remind Stacey and Oprah and Will Ferrell, I’m kind of a big deal, too,” Pence said, adding “a message for all Stacey Abrams’ liberal Hollywood friends: This ain’t Hollywood. This is Georgia.”
The competing scenes — from the candidates, to the audiences, to the headliner guests — underscore the choice Georgia voters face Tuesday in one of the nation’s premier midterm matchups. After Thursday’s dueling outsiders, former President Barack Obama will follow on Friday for Abrams. President Donald Trump will appear with Kemp on Sunday and previewed his argument on Thursday.
“I’ve always liked Oprah,” he told reporters at the White House. “Oprah’s good, but the woman that she’s supporting is not qualified to be the governor of Georgia by any stretch of the imagination.” Trump did not detail why he found Abrams unqualified.
More than 1.5 million of the state’s almost 7 million registered voters have cast ballots already.
Abrams, a Yale-educated lawyer who served a decade in the Georgia Legislature, would be the first black female governor in American history. She’s sought the post as an unapologetic liberal trying to draw new voters to the polls and prove that Georgia’s growth and diversity make it a legitimate two-party battleground.
She touts her experience working with Republicans as a state legislative leader, but she doesn’t back down on her promises to expand Medicaid insurance, prioritize public education and push for tighter gun restrictions.
Kemp is a staunch conservative who has embraced Trump and the administration’s hard-line on immigration. He wields guns in his ads and lambastes Abrams as a tool of “socialists” and “billionaires” who “want to turn Georgia into California.”
Both candidates have taken to describing the race as a battle for “the soul of our state.”
For her part, Winfrey sought to cut through the party-line framing.
The entertainment icon, who rarely makes political endorsements, drew cheers when she said she’s a registered independent who was not in Georgia at anyone’s request.
“I paid to come here myself, and I approved this message,” Winfrey said, explaining that she tracked down Abrams’ cellphone number and called her to say she wanted to offer assistance in the final days of the campaign.
She added a note to the throng of media gathered for the event, urging against any reboot of recent speculation that she might run for president in 2020.
“I’m not here because I’m making some grandstand for myself. I don’t want to run. I’m not testing the waters,” she said.
Touting the Democratic nominee’s pitch for Medicaid expansion, “common-sense gun control,” environmental regulations and “keeping families together, Winfrey said Abrams offers “the values that matter to Georgians all over this state.”
“Democracy is not just about our individual rights and concerns and our individual protections,” Winfrey said, “but rather it lives and thrives in making sure that everybody is lifted by the community.”
Winfrey did not mention Pence or the frequent GOP broadsides about “Hollywood” outsiders. But after her speech, in a sit-down interview with Abrams — reminiscent of the 25-year television run of her daytime television show — she noted they were “just two women from Mississippi,” where Abrams spent most of her childhood before moving to Georgia.
As a black woman, Winfrey noted her kinship to two groups historically denied ballot access in the United States. She recalled generations of black Americans who faced “lynching … oppression … suppression,” and declared that “their blood has seeped into my DNA” and forced her to the polls.
Then she encouraged women of all races — “sisters … not just ‘sistahs,’” she joked — to remember that they would have been “just a piece of property” with no ballot barely a century ago.
The pitches from Pence and Winfrey clearly fit Abrams’ and Kemp’s respective strategies.
Kemp is trying to extend the Republican domination in Georgia, which hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor since 1998. He’s banking on running up wide margins outside metro Atlanta and holding most of the GOP votes closer to the city. Goosing a GOP base that holds Trump and Pence in high regard is key to the approach.
Abrams is looking to maximize turnout among nonwhites, liberal urban whites and just enough whites everywhere else, including a smattering of moderates and suburban Republicans who are disenchanted with Trump — a considerable overlap with the fan base that propelled Winfrey to her billionaire icon status.
Martin reported from Dalton, Ga. Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville contributed to this report from Washington.
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics
Follow Barrow and Martin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP and https://twitter.com/JeffMartin9 .
What’s next for Germany after Angela Merkel
November 1, 2018
James M. Skidmore
Director, Waterloo Centre for German Studies, University of Waterloo
James M. Skidmore does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Waterloo provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation CA.
After Germany’s recent state government elections in Hesse, in which the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered double-digit losses, German media proclaimed the results amounted to a Denkzettel for Merkel. Denkzettel is one of those curious compound nouns that make the German language what it is. It literally means “think note,” but what it amounts to is a warning.
And it’s a warning Merkel took seriously. The following day she announced that she wouldn’t stand for her party’s leadership at their December conference, throwing open the race to succeed her.
She plans to remain chancellor until 2021, but it’s anyone’s guess if she’ll last that long. Alan Posener, writing in The Guardian, claims that “by this time next year at the very latest, she’ll be out of that job, too.”
So that’s it. The long Merkel era — she became Germany’s chancellor in 2005 — is at an end. But is it the end of one person’s dominance of the political scene, or does it forebode more fundamental changes to German society?
The rise of the far right
It may have been a state election, but it’s clear the voters were passing judgment on the political situation in Berlin and the infighting of a governing coalition made up by the CDU/CSU/SPD, three of the oldest and most mainstream German political parties.
The most obvious beneficiary of voters’ ire has been the far-right party Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, or AfD). Once ignored as a fringe party of xenophobic nationalists, the AfD has drawn votes away from the less extreme right with its clear, if antagonistic, messaging on immigrants and the European project.
A second beneficiary of the inertia in Berlin has been the Green party. Often characterized in the media as leftist, it is actually more centrist in many of its policies, and it has proven itself to be a reliable coalition partner on state and national levels.
Its positions are almost diametrically opposed to those of the AfD, and yet it, too, is enjoying a bump in the polls.
Many view these developments as evidence that Germany isn’t safe from the recent wave of political disruption rolling over western democracies. Yet while this rearrangement of Germany’s political order may seem sudden, it has been a while in the making.
When we look back on the Merkel era, we see that the German version of the current voter dissatisfaction has its roots in some of the actions taken by Merkel and her government.
The European debt crisis of the early 2010s did Merkel no favours. Protesters in Greece weren’t shy about depicting Merkel with a Hitler moustache after Germany led the European Union in demanding severe austerity measures from Greece in return for loans to prop up the country.
A man holds a poster during a May 2013 protest in Athens. The sign has a picture of Angela Merkel, made to look like Adolf Hitler and says: ‘Greece drinks the poison’ and the other ‘201 euros‚ my pension.’ (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Merkel also paid the price at home. The AfD came into being in the spring of 2013 and garnered a surprising 4.7 per cent of the vote in the federal election that September. The party had a simple economic message: Germany — and all of Europe — should abandon the Euro — otherwise, Germany would have to continue propping up the entire European financial system.
The AfD’s support would only grow as the result of Europe’s refugee crisis in 2015. Merkel made a bold move, opening Germany’s borders to Syrian refugees with a robust “Wir schaffen das!” (“We can do this!”) that was met with enthusiastic support. Time magazine named her “Person of the Year.”
The euphoria was short-lived, however. As the German Willkommenskultur (welcome culture) began to crumble, most notably after mass sexual assaults attributed to migrants in Cologne and elsewhere on New Year’s Eve in 2015, the AfD shifted its focus to immigration issues.
Merkel shifted, too, though more slowly, and in the run-up to the federal election of 2017 she began musing about the need for a burka ban. Other CDU and CSU politicians have tried to outmanoeuvre the AfD by taking ever more forceful stands on immigration. But this rightward movement has done little to stave off the AfD’s increasing popularity.
The federal government’s inability to deal resolutely with recent violent neo-Nazi protests in the eastern German city of Chemnitz left many voters even more despondent. Merkel wanted the chief of the German domestic intelligence service fired for playing down reports that the protesters had chased migrants through the streets.
Protesters at a far-right demonstration in Chemnitz, Germany in Aug. 2018 where anti-migrant violence flared this summer. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
Her Interior Minister and sharp critic Horst Seehofer of the CSU, however, supported the embattled chief, giving him a ministry appointment and pay raise. A Deutschlandtrend poll at the time revealed the depth of voter dissatisfaction: The AfD had become the second most popular party in Germany, ahead of even the SPD.
Merkel’s legacy will be a mixed one. There’s no doubt she’s dominated Germany’s political culture during her tenure as chancellor, sidelining most party rivals with ease. But she has also punted decisions down the field in the hope that they might just go away altogether. Her steady-as-you-go mentality has been criticized as an aversion to decision-making.
Imperfect though she may be, Merkel has struck many observers as the last best hope for stemming the tide of populism sweeping Europe and threatening its institutions.
German Christian Democratic Party, CDU, chairwoman and Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a news conference after a party’s leaders meeting at the headquarters the in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
At the same time, her exit from the national stage lays bare the fissures in Germany’s political stability for which her government must accept some of the blame.
Germany’s post-war stature is largely due to a consensus among mainstream political parties on two fundamental points.
The first is the acceptance that the nation must atone for the crimes of the Third Reich. The second is the realization that, for all its economic benefits, the most important reason for integration with Europe is its role in preventing Germany and Europe from slipping back into the abyss of totalitarianism.
Germany’s politicians will have to redouble their efforts to maintain this hard-won stability. That it can no longer be taken for granted is the real Denkzettel posed by Merkel’s departure.
Opinion: Another News Option for Conservatives
By Benjamin Parker
On Tuesday, millions of Americans are going to go to the polls. Choosing the next leaders of our country is a sacred civic ritual. The country faces serious challenges at home and abroad, and our leaders are sure to face unforeseen crises. Elections are a priceless gift and the solemn duty of responsible citizens, determining not only the direction of the world’s pre-eminent nation but also the fate of democracy and the hope for self-government worldwide.
But you wouldn’t know it by following the news.
Watching news today, it’s no wonder our politics is so broken. Half the media spends its time consumed in faux outrage over mundane Republican policy proposals, and the other half spends its time brown-nosing President Trump. Just look at The Boston Globe’s credulous coverage of Elizabeth Warren’s DNA report, or the Kitchen Cabinet of sycophants that passes for a prime time lineup on Fox News. Someone should remind them that the point of the news media is to inform citizens and voters, not to raise our blood pressure.
On the Right, a “news” guest spews anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about George Soros, a man who, having fled Nazism in his country of birth, has lived long enough to see violent anti-Semitism resurgent in the country that offered him shelter. Anti-Semites and others in the “backwaters of American life,” as Ronald Reagan put it, were for so long excommunicated from the Republican Party and the conservative tradition, but no longer. Now, as the president labels himself a nationalist, and tells his supporters to “use that word,” bigots of all stripes emerge from the shadows. To Tucker Carlson, even the Roma community in Pennsylvania was a cause for national concern, though Roma constitute 0.3 percent of the national population.
The Left has gone just as nuts. Yascha Mounk, a lecturer at Harvard and a contributor to Slate, was told he couldn’t refer to the mass murder of Jews as racist because, in effect, Jews were too white to be victims of racism, according to a tweet.
Occasionally, the liberal-dominated media seem to have a slight edge in quality, since their bias, while monolithic and infuriating, doesn’t assume quite as much stupidity and pliability from their audience. This all changes whenever the Great White Hope Michael Avenatti grabs the headlines, which seems to be about once every five minutes (or half as much as he’d like).
Worst of all, as Yuval Levin pointed out, the dumbed-down, hyper-partisan aura of cable news is being imported to Congress, whose members would rather generate sound bites than legislation and would rather grandstand than solve problems. They get their practice chest-beating and demagoguing on the floors of the House and Senate, honing their skills for the real prize: a contract from a major network.
Believe it or not, both Joe Scarborough and Jason Chaffetz used to write our laws.
Conservatives used to have refuges where they could escape from the unrelenting bias of the mainstream media. Talk radio and Fox News stood as sanctuaries for advocates of limited government, individual liberty, robust civil society, strong defense, and strict adherence to the Constitution.
Now, those corrupted temples contribute as much to the tribalization of American politics as their counterparts on the Left. For every Don Lemon there’s a Sean Hannity and for every Mother Jones there’s a Breitbart.
With media so polarized, where can noble flag-bearers of pre-schism conservatism turn?
At The Bulwark, a new website devoted to aggregating the best of conservative commentary and analysis without tribalism or sloganeering, principled, center-right thinkers and writers develop a positive agenda for a more prosperous, just and virtuous country.
The Bulwark was founded by seasoned veterans of the conservative movement and Republican politics, including Bill Kristol, Mona Charen, Charlie Sykes and Linda Chavez. Every day, the site is updated with the best news and commentary from around the country for a scrupulous, sane audience. It rejects the politics of identity — white indentitarian, intersectional or otherwise.
Citizenship is an important part of life — far more important than partisan affiliation. One of the most important acts of citizenship is voting, and good citizens make sure to keep themselves informed about the affairs of the country and the world, so that when it comes time to choose their leaders, they’re prepared to make a wise choice. Clearly, cable news isn’t going to help. Now there’s another option.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Benjamin Parker is editor of The Bulwark. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.