Reorganization in December, 2015

The Call to Caucus will be posted on this web page. If you are a resident of Bristol, Virginia, and are a Democrat, please come out to join us.

We will be meeting on December 14th at the Bristol Virginia Courthouse as usual, with the Membership meeting at 6:00 p.m. followed immediately by the regular meeting. New members will be admitted, and new officers elected.

Watch for the Call to Caucus, which will be posted next week, and join us for this exciting year in 2016!

Find your polling place and vote

by Sarah Williams

Where do I go to vote?

Who should I vote for? Hopefully you have done your homework and understand the ballot! Here in Bristol I am recommending:

  • U.S. Senate – Senator Mark R. Warner, who will be with us at the Washington County Potluck, Saturday Nov. 1, at 5:00 p.m.! Come to Abingdon High School, 601-727 Thompson Drive in Abingdon, bring food, eat with us, cheer our Senator on, and vote for him on Nov. 4th.
  • House of Representatives – I can usually choose a candidate, but in this race there is nobody that I consider a good representative of the Ninth District. Griffith has not continued the initiatives that Rick Boucher had going for us, he did not take care of Glade after the tornado, and he has not looked after the interest of the Ninth in jobs, infrastructure, and health care. Carr has nothing to run on except that he thinks that Griffith is too liberal and not as dedicated to the extreme right social agenda. So I might just write in Rick Boucher, as I have heard other Democrats are doing. And I will set aside money from my Christmas fund to support a Democrat to run in two years. Step up, folks! We need someone to continue the Boucher tradition of service in the Ninth.
  • Proposed Constitutional Amendment – Yes. Of course yes.
  • Clerk of Court – Kelly Flannagan Duffy for reasons too numerous to mention. If you have been paying attention, you know the reasons already. If not, check out the link. Or you can come tonight at 7:00 p.m. to the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, 20 Volunteer Pkwy, Bristol TN, and meet Kelly in person. Actually, do both. This is important.

And that is the whole ballot, folks! November 4, 2014. Make a difference – do your homework and vote!

The reality we have

By Sarah Williams

Today I received a question from a constituent about the debates by our state-wide candidates here in Virginia:

When do they face-off, in a objective neutral debate, before the voters, on neutral turf, no screening of supporters other than simple security measures, no frisking or illicit search and seizure, in front of typical Virginia voters, no packed audiences prejudiced to either political spectrum, no reporters and commentators?

Personally I think this is a bit much to ask, but it is a fair question. Our reality is that the candidate’s message is mediated by the influence of money and powerful groups. The Chamber of Commerce is perhaps the most powerful group. As for money, Citizens United made big business, including energy and banking, the greatest influence in money both directly and through lobbyists.

Money and powerful groups influence voters as well as candidates. In Virginia and elsewhere, voters are manipulated to be more concerned with the deficit than with their own quality of life or the future of their children. Many actually fear that the country is broke when it is not, and to help the country, they lower their expectations in food, housing, education, and wages. Others fear the wrath of God because President Obama is a Muslim and not every citizen is a Christian. So a typical voter cannot be defined by any shared measurable reality like income, family size and type, gender, employment, or age. The electorate is divided along lines drawn by religious and political rhetoric, designed to generate anxiety and move people psychologically rather than rationally.

Publicly-funded elections would solve some problems of influence on the candidate’s message, and later the elected official’s legislative agenda. Manipulation of the electorate will be more difficult to address, and it is hardly possible to envision how we might get to publicly-funded elections without some awakening in the electorate to a shared reality.

Whatever happened to the swing districts

In an article titled As Swing Districts Dwindle, Can a Divided House Stand?(Dec. 27, 2012) Nate Silver describes the loss of swing districts, which he links to the continuing gridlock:

In 1992, there were 103 members of the House of Representatives elected from what might be called swing districts: those in which the margin in the presidential race was within five percentage points of the national result. But based on an analysis of this year’s presidential returns, I estimate that there are only 35 such Congressional districts remaining, barely a third of the total 20 years ago.

Swing districts have fallen to political redistricting for party advantage, as Silver points out. In the case of our Ninth District voters, the GOP has been successful in a kind of emotional gerrymandering, dividing people along religious and economic lines using fear of decline in coal on the economic front and supposed “Christian family values” on the social front.

In the 2012 election, Democratic challenger Anthony Flaccavento ran against Morgan Griffith, the Tea Party Republican who unseated Rick Boucher, and lost to Griffith on the same issues: coal, abortion, and same-sex marriage. GOP voters are not informed on these issues,they are emotionally committed to their position. At the polls, GOP partisans held up photos of the Billy Graham “vote your Christian values” ad. At the location where I was handing out sample ballots marked for Democrats, many Republican voters exited the restricted area proclaiming their votes for Romney, Allen, and/or Griffith, and they were greeted with high-fives and “Praise the Lord!” from the folks who were handing out literature and sample ballots for Republicans.

Still, it is up to the voters. It would be impossible for a district with so many seniors, students, low-income people, and people who go to RAM clinics for health care to vote Republican if people were motivated by information instead of emotion. Yet for several years, our Ninth District has bought the lie that the EPA is holding back coal, channeled their anger against federal government, and voted for people who do not offer any solutions. They voted their anger at the EPA and turned down information on coal depletion in the region, the incursions of cheap natural gas into the market, and the need for something to replace the coal economy for our grandchildren.

Voters can’t seem to understand that we should elect very smart people of good conscience and intent who know what the problems are, people who will look for and find solutions. The electorate continuously nominates and votes for people who are uninformed or duplicitous enough to make absolute promises not to harm the local sacred cow, or perhaps worse, the person who “seems” the most Christian.

Our legislature is currently over 90% professed Christian, and yet they want to cut necessary social aid programs in the service of rich corporate barons. They want to lower wages, and make sure that nobody eats unless they work for whatever pay the employer offers them. It escapes me how this makes sense to Christians, and in fact several religious leaders have pointed out the disconnect.

In the Ninth District Virginia in 2012, Anthony Flaccavento — who actually is a Christian — was telling people about complexity and the real problems facing the district, and proposing reasibabke new solutions that are sustainable. They voted for Morgan Griffith, who was saying Coal is king, no new taxes, don’t raise the minimum wage for restaurant workers because it will cost jobs, and Christian family values will save us from abortion and gay marriage. In doing so, the majority of voters in the Ninth District voted against their own best interests and against the best interests of their neighbors and their cities, towns, and counties.

Just what about coal are you for?

We desperately need Anthony Flaccavento in the Ninth CD Virginia – he is actually for the coal miners who live and work here, and not just for the Wall Street face of coal. He is campaigning with around a third of the money his opponent has, and his opponent is trying — by means of lots of green — to paint himself as the friend of coal. I was personally in the “packed house in Abingdon” where Anthony clearly owned the issue of coal in southwest Virginia. If you were there, or if you are keeping up, you are probably wondering what part of coal Anthony’s opponent Morgan Griffith is “for.”

These two letters about Anthony Flaccavento, Rick Boucher, Morgan Griffith, and Coal will clarify the issue:

Dear Southwest Virginia Voters,

In 1989, against all odds, Douglas Wilder became the first Black Southern Governor since Reconstruction by campaigning on Southwestern Virginia’s back roads, visiting coal mines, shaking miners’ hands and listening to miners who later voted for a Black man from Richmond.

In 2010, a Salem man living outside the Fightin’ Ninth District ran for the Ninth. Armed with Big Coal’s Big financial fuel and a Big Lie that 28-year Congressman Boucher would shut down the coal mines forever, he won, and immediately began campaigning for reelection, perpetually claiming that Democrats will regulate coal out of business.

Voting thirty-three times against black lung and widow’s benefits assured in the Affordable Healthcare Act, this so-called “friend of coal” is no friend of coalminers. Does he mean coal—corporate profits? Or coal– the livelihood of miners and their families and the well-being of towns, streams and hillsides where miners live? Has this “friend of coal” descended into mines and grasped the sacrifices of those who mine the coal?

In a packed Abingdon auditorium of 600 onlookers of the first 9th District debate were scores of UMW jacket-clad men—some with children on their laps, who want a straighter answer. Congressman Griffith’s opponent, Anthony Flaccavento, certainly has it–a working plan detailing each step of preparing for developing a better future in Southwest Virginia with good new jobs for coalminers and their families as coal winds down. Flaccavento is NOT anti-coal. He is profoundly PRO-coalminer!

We’re from Salem, hometown of Morgan Griffith, but we know that Griffith pushes coal to the exclusion of preparing for the future, which is now. Griffith’s strategy has bought him a lot of big signs and filled his coffers with easy money for his one-note message, but it will leave the coalminers behind while plants are now already switching to cheaper natural gas.

Anthony Flaccavento, traveling tirelessly through the “Fightin’ 9th, knows and explains how his model of transitioning tobacco farmers can work on a broader basis to prepare without delay alternative jobs for a thriving future in the coal-extracted landscapes. Voting for Flaccavento is buying ourselves insurance.

Anthony Flaccavento will represent us and the people of the Fightin’ Ninth in a way that will demonstrate to our gridlocked 11%-approved Congress how to return our Democracy to the people. Be wise for American voters have a critical job to due on election day: Clean out the do-nothing House in Congress on election day: Hire Anthony Flaccavento to work for the PEOPLE of the 9th. -Cynthia Munley & Spike Harrison, Salem

Economic sustainability in the coalfields is right approach

I grew up in the Anthracite coal region of Northeastern Pennsylvania 70 years ago. Anthracite is pretty much a dead industry now, and the decline of the industry was no picnic. In there mad scramble to extract coal, companies “robbed the pillars” of mine shafts, mined right under homes, deposited mountains of culm which then caught on fire and burned for decades, and endangered residents throughout the area. Within a 2-block area from my home, there were 5 major mine cave-ins, including the first floor of the home next door. My memory is seared by the lack of effective regulation of coal companies, a lack which Morgan Griffith, incumbent 9th District congressman, is trying to repeat for Southwest Virginia.

Griffith’s opponent is quite a contrast. Abingdon’s Anthony Flaccavento–citizen-farmer, small businessman, economic development consultant, the spark plug for farmers markets throughout the area, to mention only a few of his accomplishments–promises a better approach to economic sustainability, built on the realization that coal is not forever and must be transitioned from, that black lung disease incurred by miners who helped energize the country deserves public help, and that bottom-up economic development via small business will invigorate regions of Southwest Virginia.

Mr. Griffith knows one approach to the region’s problems: “Deregulation” ad nauseum, to the point of endangering drinking water and undermining the future of coal miners by not helping them transition to economic activity of the future. Anthony Flaccavento, on the other hand, helped tobacco farmers transition to the growing niche market of organic produce.

Vote for you interests, vote for Flaccavento. -Frank Munley, Salem

Ryan Lies

by Bernard Via III
August 30, 2012

Last night’s speech by Paul Ryan was amazing. In the middle of his speech he pointed out a small town in his district that had a GM plant. He said Obama came to that town and promised to keep that plant open. In actuality, that plant closed under George W. Bush — so Ryan lied. If not for Obama, all GM plants would be shuttered. Ryan told a boldfaced lie and he knew it. If he has to lie, he is hiding the true agenda.

Five Supreme Court Justices opened this campaign to being bought by large corporations. Money is power — we will have to wait to see how well money works in this election to manipulate the American people and cause them to believe lies.