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TPC Exclusive: What it's like to be an African American Democrat at a GOP presidential debate


I have a friend who is a well-known Democratic political consultant/operative who attended the CNN Republican presidential debate in Jacksonville, Florida. It's important to note that he has worked-- successfully-- with both GOP and Democratic clients.

He agreed to give me a blow-by-blow description of his experience, and some of what he told me is eye-popping, yet at the same time, sadly unsurprising.

Here is his account, nearly verbatim, on what it was like to be an African American Democrat at a GOP presidential debate. My first question was simply, "How did you feel?" He takes it from there:

I felt totally out of place.

Then he took me through the evening from beginning to end, starting at the entrance to the university:

Coming in, at the entrance to the University of North Florida, I saw 400-500 Ron Paul supporters with banners, flags, waving. It was interesting because every car ignored them, they wanted to get away from them. I met them, spoke to them, most were about 18-30 years old. I shook their hands, took pictures. It was pretty cool.

Then I went to the parking lot, there was really tight security, and I had to show them my letter from CNN in order to get in. As I went to the auditorium, I heard chants, I saw steel barricades, then I saw the Occupy protesters. Nobody stopped to talk to them, I was the only one. I was the only on who spoke to either group, the Occupy people and the Paul supporters.

North East Florida is for Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney, there were not many Rick Santorum supporters, except after the debate, there were more because he did pretty well. Romney was on his game, I think it was his best performance.

We had to submit our questions ahead of time. Mine was, "What would you do to get the Latino vote, and would you support DREAM Act?" But instead, they gave me  topics to choose from. They wouldn't let me change my question unless I stuck to one of two topics given to me: Jobs, or the space program. I wanted to change my question to, "Why do you disrespect to office of president? You never say "President Obama, only "Obama" or "Barack Obama." They wouldn't let me, so I didn't submit anything else. 

[Laffy Note: We discussed this at length, and it clearly bothered my friend and became a theme throughout our conversation. I didn't include every detail here, but it is a major issue for both of us. In fact, it bothered him so much, this happened:]

I tweeted to the candidates during the debate, "It's PRESIDENT Obama."

I chatted with Former State Attorney General Bill McCollum, J.C. Watts, others, including all of the former mayoral candidates in Jacksonville. I knew a lot of people, I'd worked with many of them.

I asked what it was like to be an African American in this particular venue:

There were not even a dozen minorities, maybe half of the minorities that were there were Hispanics, six maybe.

I'm in a suit, I was getting looks, like, "Hey who is this guy? Why is he here?" I heard some people ask ushers if they knew who I was.

Describe the looks you got:

They snubbed their nose up at me. I wasn't offended, I've dealt with it my entire life. I'm always the one black guy surrounded by white folks in the arena of politics. More like, "Yeah, you guys are curious now, aren't you?"

I was interviewed by the University paper, and they asked if I was a Democrat or a Republican. I said, "Democrat." They said, "What are you doing HERE?"

Then he switched gears, his emotions went from, "I'm used to that" to "I'm pissed":

I blew a gasket, I lost it, I had to move from downstairs [preferred seating] to upstairs, I couldn't stomach it!

Everyone was sitting down, and the mayor of Jacksonville, a friend of mine, Alvin Brown, and I were talking... he was sitting a couple of rows ahead of me.

A CNN producer comes over, he was telling us when to applaud, gave us the two minute warning just before the debate started, he introduced the president of University of North Florida, the former Jacksonville mayor, a Republican, John Delaney, who was a Democrat, but switched to GOP before he got elected.

He thanks sponsors, everyone, talks about how Jacksonville was in the spotlight, and says, "I'm going to introduce Jacksonville's own chairman of the Republican party in Florida, Lenny Curry." Curry comes on, to applause, and he says, "We're here for the debate, we're gonna take Obama out, and make him a one term president."

That's not the part that got me so mad.

Then he goes on to say, "I'd like to introduce local dignitaries... Congressmen, a senator, a few other state Senators, but NOT Mayor of Jacksonville! He ignores the Mayor of that city, his city!! The mayor, Alvin Brown, my friend, had to sign off on this debate. He's an African American Democratic mayor, the first in the history of Jacksonville... !!! And he doesn't introduce him, he doesn't acknowledge him, that he's even present!

So I got up, that's it, are you kidding me?! The MAYOR of this city. What is it that you don't like? The fact that he's a Democrat, or black, or both? That's what made me mad. I got out of my seat and went upstairs.

On the way up, the debate had started, had to wait eight minutes for a break to sit down.

I saw one seat at the top, and I started to sit by a lady who looks up and says the seat is taken. There were no other seats I could take without climbing over people, so I stood and watched for about 30 minutes, including commercial breaks, and still nobody sat in that seat. So I finally sat there, no problem.  The lady said, "I guess he's not coming."

His take on the debate itself:

Romney never answered any real questions unless he went after Newt. Newt missed the boat on many questions, he was all over the map. Nothing of substance was discussed. Santorum did well, had some substance, and he went after Romney. Ron Paul didn't get much attention.

I asked him what he overheard after the debate was over, what snatches of conversation he might have caught, what he noticed going on around him:

There were comments in hallways about President Obama.  Gingrich and Romney supporters talked about Bain, argued a little. The Romney supporter said, "That movie is full of lies." Then one of them said, "We shouldn't be fighting like this, we just gotta get that black guy out of office." I was surprised the N word didn't fly.

Some people looked at Donna Brazile like she didn't belong. At the end, most women went googoo over Anderson Cooper. He's openly gay, ladies. They said things like, "I'd love me some silver fox. He's so fine."

I saw one Hispanic running for Congress, who was wearing a Ron Paul button. He's running against Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

You could tell the Romney crowd by way they dressed...  You know those sweater vests that Santorum wears? The Romney supporters wore them. Sweater vests for Romney. Right out of a catalog.

Newt's crowd was nicely dressed, but not like the high income Romney crowd who all wore Rolex and Movado watches.

I was in the garage afterwards for about a half hour, and I noticed all the cars with Romney stickers were luxury SUVs, $80,000 Mercedes and BMWs.  The Jeep Cherokees had Newt Gingrich stickers. The Paul stickers were on Suburus, Suzukis, everything else.

The whole night was weird, kind of uncomfortable. These people do not see the world the way we do, their values are so different from ours. It's like an alternate universe.

I said I feel like that just watching it on TV.

Being there is way worse.

It wasn't like a John Kerry v Bush debate, not like Democratic debates either. I've been to those. I worked with Chris Shays, Lowell Weicker, the moderate GOP, but they're all gone. They all like to quote Ronald Reagan now, but when he was president, Republicans still had respect for others. I used to call them the Alex P. Keatons of the world. They could sit down, have good old fashioned discussion of policy with you. Now? There's no attempt to do that. You can't.

It aggravates me that they won't call Obama "President." I couldn't stand W, he was the biggest idiot buffoon on the planet, but at a public function, I'd always refer to "President Bush." We must respect the office. That bothers me.

Class warfare is all they want, they created it, and income inequality. It was a different world before.

Anybody who's Hispanic, gay, African American, Latino, any minority, has absolutely no business being a Republican supporter. And they wonder why Jeb hasn't endorsed...? It's because of their stance on Latinos. He's married to a Latina.

We wrapped up the conversation after that, but what an experience, what a story, more informative than anything we see and hear from the usual sources. Thank you, my Democratic operative friend.  Hopefully your insights will open a few eyes.


Elizabeth Warren raises $1.2 million in one day for Senate bid


Dear Scott Brown,

You can try to criticize Elizabeth Warren, you can even try to pretend you're just like her in some ways, but you won't succeed.

See, there is only one Elizabeth, there is only one person running to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate who has consistently fought to protect consumers by fighting to launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who has stood up for the 99% while being mocked and smeared by your party, and that is Elizabeth.

There is only one person with common sense, natural charisma, and high standards, who is as professional and communicative as she is caring, whose platform and party stand for financial equality, who sides with everyday Americans, not corporate interests. That person is Elizabeth.

She will never be "Wall Street's favorite Senator."

Need confirmation? Read what The Hill is reporting:

[Elizabeth] Warren raised about $1,194,000 on Thursday in what her campaign called a grassroots money drive that signaled overwhelming enthusiasm for her campaign.

“Today the message is clear: We have the grassroots momentum and enthusiasm to take the ‘People’s Seat’ back from Wall Street and other powerful interests,” Warren said in a statement. “I am grateful for this show of support and will keep working my heart out for the small businesses and middle class families who deserve someone on their side in the Senate.”



You can donate here.

Speaking of money bombs...

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Elizabeth Warren Raises Massive $5.7 Million in 4th Quarter


I love that headline from Roll Call. Love, love, love.

Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren, the presumptive Democratic Senate nominee in Massachusetts, raked in a whopping $5.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, a campaign source confirmed.

Guess how much Scott Brown pulled in. Give up? $3.2 million.

Brown ended 2011 with about $12.8 million in cash on hand. Warren had more than $6 million in the bank.

And as I wrote these very words, I got the following email. Enjoy! And please donate to Elizabeth's campaign here.

Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts 


We just completed our year-end fundraising tally, and wow -- I'm overwhelmed by the support our campaign has earned over these last few months.

In the last quarter of 2011, we raised $5.7 million -- with an average contribution of about $64.

The dollars and cents are important, but here's the statistic that really makes me proud: now approximately 23,000 people in Massachusetts are contributing to our campaign to help us stand up to Wall Street and the big banks and level the playing field for middle class families.

In fact, there's so much enthusiasm from Massachusetts supporters that when Seth from our campaign office plotted all our in-state donations on an interactive map, it crashed the computer program.

You won't believe what it looked like. Click here to see where our contributions are coming from and share it on Facebook or Twitter:

23,000 Grassroots Massachusetts Contributors

With Wall Street lining up against this campaign, willing to pay any price to block our success, we knew all along that it was going to take a strong, grassroots effort to win.

And that's what our grassroots army has helped us build. Thanks to our strong showing, we were able to respond vigorously to the multi-million-dollar attack ads from Karl Rove and his anonymous Wall Street funders.

The attacks aren't over, and we know there's still a lot of work ahead of us. Scott Brown announced this week that he has a war chest of $12.8 million. But it's great to know we're in this together. I like having you on my side.

Thank you for being part of this,

Elizabeth Warren


Graph: Unemployment rate since 1989 by president. Hint: Advantage Dems.



A picture's worth 1,000 (plus)... votes.

Yes, I'm five.

H/t: @jkarsh


196 House Democrats sign letter opposing voter suppression, disenfranchisement, voter I.D. laws


Yesterday I posted a video of Rachel Maddow giving us a ray of sunshine, a smidgen of hope, saying that “There are signs of life” in the Democratic party.

The House Dems are moving on reversing the efforts of the GOP, mostly via state legislators, to systematically implement voter suppression, voter I.D. laws, essentially pushing for a single party rule. Now Democratic lawmakers are coming together to persuade state officials to take terrible laws intended to reduce the number of Democratic votes as seriously as they do.

It looks like they're having some success. Think Progress:

A massive 196 House Democrats — nearly their entire caucus — signed a letter to state election officials asking them to “put partisan considerations aside and serve as advocates for enfranchisement” during this unfortunate era of voter disenfranchising state laws...

These Congress members want one thing: To restore the basic right to vote.

Nor are voter ID laws the only Republican assault on our right to choose our own leaders. Republican lawmakers have gutted public financing laws that allow candidates without major corporate or other wealth backers to still compete in elections — even as Republican Supreme Court justices open the floodgates for corporations to buy elections. Republican officials have made it harder to register to vote, harder to vote early, and they have declared war on the landmark Voting Rights Act. Pennsylvania Republicans have even proposed rigging the Electoral College to help ensure that a Republican becomes president in 2013.

As you can see, the GOP has done everything they can to take a basic right away from eligible Americans. It's reassuring to see Democrats fight for democracy, while America watches Republicans fight against it.


Democrats "aren't giving up on their push to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act"


Proud to be a Dem time*:

Roll Call: They may not have the votes for passage, but Senate Democrats say they aren't giving up on their push to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Dianne Feinstein, whose bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act has 30 co-sponsors, says they won't give up, even if a repeal takes years to accomplish. Hey, look how long it took to dump Don't Ask Don't Tell.

But, as usual, The Boehner is a spoil sport:

In February, President Barack Obama said DOMA was unconstitutional and instructed the Justice Department not to defend it in court. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), following a party-line vote by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, took steps to defend the law in court cases


*The blog title quote comes from the Roll Call piece.


New Healthcare rights, thanks to the Democrats. Not GOP, DEMOCRATS.


My buddy Jeff Stein e-mailed me the following:

Major new health reform benefits take effect today to help keep health insurance companies accountable, lower health care costs, guarantee more health care choices, and enhance the quality of health care for all Americans.

Starting today, insurers will be required to:

  • Keep you covered when you get sick: Simple mistakes or typos will no longer be grounds for insurance companies to cancel your insurance.
  • Cover kids with pre-existing conditions: Your kids can no longer be denied health coverage just because they have a pre-existing condition like hay fever, asthma, or previous sports injuries. This protection extends to all plans, except "grandfathered" plans in the individual market.
  • Allow young adults to stay on their parents' plan up to age 26: Even if their first few jobs don't provide health benefits, your kids can still remain covered by your insurance.
  • Remove lifetime limits: You will no longer need to worry about your health insurer limiting the amount of coverage available through their plan if you face an expensive medical condition. This will help Americans who develop chronic conditions from taking drastic measures to avoid medical bankruptcy.
  • Phase out annual limits: Many plans include annual dollar limits on how much medical coverage can be obtained per year. On all non-"grandfathered" plans in the individual market, these limits will be phased out over the next three years.

For any insurance plan that goes into effect after September 23, 2010, your insurance company must:

Many other new benefits of the law have already taken effect, including rebate checks for seniors in the donut hole and tax credits for small businesses. Keep watching, as more rights, protections and benefits for Americans are on the way now through 2014.

To learn more about how health care reform is helping you, visit

(The 10 major new health reform benefits take effect today was also cross-posted on the House Democrats blog.)

Let's get this around, since apparently our Congress members aren't the most effective communicators.