The real lessons of Robin Kelly’s victory, over her opponents and the NRA

Robin Kelly portrait

Robin Kelly, victorious

After Robin Kelly’s dominant victory in Tuesday night’s Democratic primary to fill ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s vacant House seat, there’s been a lot of very facile analysis about what this race means and doesn’t mean. On the one hand, skepticism is good: Far too often, pundits over-read meaningless special elections. But on the flip-side, acting overly dismissive of what message the results send is equally wrong-headed. That’s why it’s important to set the record straight.

The most reductionist, naïve view frames Kelly’s win as “black anti-gun candidate defeats white pro-gun candidate in black district beset by gun violence.” Yes, when described that way, it sure sounds like a nothingburger of a race. But that simplistic take elides so much and is so misleading as to be utterly false.

Here’s how things actually played out.

After Jackson resigned, a large number of potential candidates crowded into the Democratic primary, which was going to be for all the marbles. (In this dark blue district, the general election is only a formality.) Under ordinary circumstances, you’d expect a liberal black politician to emerge victorious, just given the demographics of the seat and the kind of people who have held it in the past (like, well, Jackson).

But there was an important wrinkle here: In a large, multi-way primary, the ultimate winner would likely scrape by with a narrow plurality, perhaps as low as 30 percent of the vote or even less. Head below the fold as we explore what exactly this wrinkle meant, and how it would ultimately affect the trajectory of this entire race.

Tom Tomorrow, Herblock Award winner

Snapshot of This Modern World cartoon strip

Daily Kos boasts the best political cartoonists in the biz, bar none. Objectively so!

Dan Perkins, pen name Tom Tomorrow, was named the winner of the 2013 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning.

Perkins is the creator of the weekly political cartoon, This Modern World, which appears in approximately 80 papers, mostly altweeklies. He is the editor of the comics section he created in April 2011 on Daily Kos. His cartoons have been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, U.S. News & World Report and The Economist. He lives outside of New Haven, Connecticut with his wife and their son.

The prize is awarded annually by The Herb Block Foundation for “distinguished examples of editorial cartooning that exemplify the courageous independent standard set by Herblock.” The winner receives a $15,000 after-tax cash prize and a sterling silver Tiffany trophy. Perkins will receive the prize April 25th in a ceremony held at the Library of Congress.

Dan/Tom is a pioneer of the alt-political cartooning. This honor has been long overdue.

Saturday Nutpick-a-palooza: Birth of a new feature! (maybe)

Black and white photo of abandoned insane asylum

Future home of 210 million Americans.

Last week I retired Saturday Hate mail-a-palooza. Turns out conservatives are so dejected over their electoral and demographic impotence that they’re tuning out.

In its stead, I’m testing a new feature—the Saturday Nutpick-a-palooza. For those of you who don’t know, “nutpicking” is the art of finding stupid things people say on internet comment boards. And boy, conservatives deliver a treasure trove of material to work with. So head below the fold for this pilot edition, and let me know if I should pick up the series.

Saturday hate mail-a-palooza: End of a series

Romney supporters crying at Boston HQ on election night as results are announced.

Obama’s reelection broke them.

With two weeks of thin gruel, I’ve started to worry that the wingnuts are simply too demoralized and turned off by politics to ever pick up the pace again. It’s not just my hate mail, it’s Fox News ratings (down to a 12-year low in January), it’s the unexpected string of Republican capitulations since the election, it’s the fact that House Speaker John Boehner hasn’t been able to pass anything of worth with a majority of his own caucus, it’s the fact that conservatives are directing their fire at each other, rather than liberals, it’s all the gay marrying, the pot, the “demographic winter” (as the racists call it). Heck, even my twitter trolls are quiet of late.

Apparently, the people who used to send me hate mails are now sending them to Karl Rove and Haley Barbour instead. Or they’re too depressed to find they are the fringe minority, from the White House, to the marriage equality initiatives, to the loss of so many poster boys like Richard Mourdock and Todd Akins. Whatever the reason, I can’t have a hate mail feature without content.

So instead of a weekly edition, I’ll publish whenever I have enough material to publish. If Republicans ever get their shit together enough to start hating on liberals again, I can always return to weekly publishing. But I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m not rooting for that to happen.

So no poll today. This week’s offerings, below the fold, are meager. But they are what they are, and if that’s the price we pay for Fox News’ worst ratings in 12 years, well then, that’s a price I’m more than happy to pay!

Saturday hate mail-a-palooza:

Tea Party rally, sign says "You ram it down our throats in 2010, we'll kick your ass in 2012"

The haters, during more optimistic times.

Today isn’t a volume play. As far as I can tell, conservatives are tuning out as they realize that 1) America hates their guts, 2) America doesn’t hate gay people anymore, 3) brown people are taking over the joint, 4) brown people hate conservatives even more than other Americans, and 5) it’s more fun for them to hate on Karl Rove.

We’re seeing this tuning out not just in my hate mail, but also in Fox News’ ratings, in Clear Channel’s troubles, in the GOP establishment’s weekly proclamations of “reinvention”, only to go back to the status quo.

Just think if you were a conservative (and oxymoron, I know), you would have suffered the devastating blow of hating Romney, then pretending to love Romney, to thinking Romney was an easy victor, to losing the White House to the Kenyan Socialist Muslim, to losing seats in the Senate including darlings Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, to seeing the popularity of the Tea Party movement crater, to watching House Republicans cave on the debt ceiling, to now watching Republicans talk about legalizing nasty brown people!

Is it any wonder they’re tuning out? So today’s big question is whether the limited goods below the fold make up in quality, what they lack in quantity.

Saturday hate mail-a-palooza: America isn’t what they think America is

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's million-dollar-a-year executive vice president who is the chief strategist behind the organization's aggressive political strategy.

NRA head honcho Wayne LaPierre, whose obstinance on gun regulations is worse than any petty hater.

Goal ThermometerA bunch of people hate liberals, edscan has delusions of grandeur, blah blah blah. You guys who come here for your weekly fix of hate know where to get the goods (below the fold).

But we can’t do much about these haters except laugh at them, but we can do something about the assholes at the NRA standing in the way of sensible gun regulations. So if you are angry at the state of our gun laws and want to do something about it, deny the GOP’s the 1/435th of a vote they’re expecting in the IL-02 special election. We have a great candidate in Robin Kelly. Let’s send a message that the NRA badge of approval is no longer a winner outside of rural districts.

Everyone who wants to see the NRA go down should chip in at least $3 to help make them radioactive.

Daily Kos’s candidate endorsement questionnaire, 2013-14

Daily Kos’s 2012 fundraising totals

Whenever Daily Kos considers a candidate endorsement for our fundraising efforts, we ask the campaign to fill out our short questionnaire. It’s not intended to be a comprehensive dossier—if we insisted on asking 50 questions, we wouldn’t get many responses. Rather, our aim is to focus on a handful of issues of key importance to the Daily Kos community, to help give us a feel for the people we’re thinking about endorsing.

Consequently, there are plenty of important issues that don’t appear on our questionnaire. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important to us. To be absolutely clear: We evaluate all candidates holistically and make choices based on all the public information available to us, not just our questionnaire. For instance, if a given candidate answered our questions with flying colors but has a bad record on, say, environmental issues or reproductive freedom, that is something we would most definitely take into consideration.

For the most part, our questionnaire focuses on questions other groups aren’t asking—or at least, aren’t asking publicly. It can be difficult, for instance, to find out a first-time candidate’s views on the Employee Free Choice Act, but it’s a vital piece of legislation. Similarly, we aren’t aware of any other organizations that ask about the Blue Dog Coalition or the filibuster, so we feel it’s particularly crucial that we highlight the importance of these issues. And we try to make our questions as specific as possible, often by tying them to specific pieces of legislation, in order to minimize the possibility of vague or unsatisfying answers.

We also change our questions slightly from cycle to cycle, as events warrant. For instance, last cycle, we included a question about allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire. Thanks to the fiscal cliff deal, that question was mostly resolved in progressives’ favor, so we consider that a success and have removed the question. We aren’t making many other changes: We’ve decided to focus on Medicare buy-in in our health care question (rather than the public option), and we’re also now asking about same-sex marriage, to send a statement about our values. If we make further alterations, we will of course let the community (and prospective candidates) know.