July 25, 2022 – The 1930s Syphilis Campaign – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 436

On the 50th anniversary of the 1972 revelation of the unethical Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments begun in 1932, Bill and Rachel look back at the huge national push against syphilis in the 1930s United States (before penicillin) and the many strange effects of that campaign.

Links and notes for ep. 436 (PDF): http://arsenalfordemocracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/AFD-Ep-436-Links-and-Notes-The-1930s-Syphilis-Campaign-and-Tuskegee.pdf

Theme music by Stunt Bird

[Unlocked] June 15, 2021 – Alabama Coal Strikes of 1908 and 1920 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 383

Unlocked from our Patreon since the strikes are continuing: There are mine strikes in Alabama right now. Bill and Rachel look back at the racially-integrated Alabama coal strikes of 1908 and 1920.

Links and notes for Ep. 383 (PDF): http://arsenalfordemocracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Bonus-AFD-Ep-383-Links-and-Notes-Racially-Integrated-Alabama-Mine-Strikes-of-1908-1920.pdf

Theme music by Stunt Bird.

[Preview] June 15, 2021 – Alabama Coal Strikes of 1908 and 1920 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 383

Full episode on Patreon: There are mine strikes in Alabama right now. Bill and Rachel look back at the racially-integrated Alabama coal strikes of 1908 and 1920.

Sanders Seeks the South

As the Clinton Campaign continues to essentially refuse to campaign in the American South outside of South Carolina (and maybe Arkansas), despite how many Democratic delegates the Southern states will contribute early in the primary season next year, Bernie Sanders is ramping up efforts there. AL.com News from Alabama reported last weekend:

Earlier in the day, Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, said on “Face the Nation” that his Democratic campaign for president would be a grassroots effort that “will bring more people into the [political] process,” in part by campaigning in areas that Democrats have written off for decades, including the Heart of Dixie. “We’re going to go to Alabama, we’re going to go to Mississippi, we’re going to go to conservative states,” he said.

An organizing meeting/rally in Birmingham, Alabama also drew 300 people that day, without the candidate’s presence. It seemed to tap into exactly that “written off” segment Sanders mentioned:

the 40-year-old Blount County resident is no longer apathetic about politics, now that independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is running for president. Hewitt said Sanders’ platform on income inequality persuaded her to get off the sidelines in 2016.
Stuart said he never volunteered for a campaign before, but has donated to Sanders and plans on giving “a little bit each month.” He said Sanders’ democratic socialist views are aligned with his Christian beliefs.

“I think Jesus was a socialist,” he said, adding that Republicans “talk Christian values and family values, but they don’t do them.”

The Sanders Campaign is also planning major rallies (which he will be attending) in Phoenix, Arizona; Dallas, Texas; and Houston, Texas. Thousands are expected to attend each event.

Dear Alabama, don’t make us come back down there.

Approximately two-thirds of Alabama counties are refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses despite the U.S. Supreme Court confirming the end of the Federal stay on a ruling striking down the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. This refusal is largely based on the state strength of notorious Christian conservative Roy Moore, who is trying to block the Federal ruling:

[Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore] told county judges that a federal judge’s decision striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was not binding on state courts and had caused confusion in the state.

Probate Judge Al Booth in Autauga County said his office will take applications for same sex marriages but won’t issue licenses until he gets clarification.

“I have the man who runs this state’s court system telling me not to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples,” Booth said. “I have the federal judiciary telling me I will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“I want to uphold my oath. But what law do I follow?” he said. “Which constitution do I uphold?”

Uh, here, allow me to help you with that question, your honor. The answer is the U.S. constitution. That’s which thing you uphold when it conflicts with literally any other constitution or law in the United States.

This is based on two very clear principles:
1) The Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.


Let me repeat it so it’s even clearer: “This Constitution […] shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

2) The U.S. Civil War:
We won it. You lost it. That ended the debate. State sovereignty isn’t equal to Federal sovereignty. The end. Be glad we’re magnanimous enough let you keep your weird Confederate motif on your state flag.


Parker Griffith can lose

Once upon a time, in 2008, an Alabama Democrat named Parker Griffith ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), a national party organization tasked with electing more Democrats to the U.S. House, spent over $1 million to help him. He won in November 2008.

Less than a year into office, in December 2009, lured by D.C. Republican leaders making false promises and facing a stiff challenge from a Republican candidate, Congressman Griffith abruptly switched parties and joined the Republican primary. Almost his entire Congressional staff, all the way down to the Washington intern, quit in protest. Key members of his re-election team bailed too.

(The DCCC formally requested their money back, but I don’t think that happened. Incidentally, Parker Griffith’s party switching, followed immediately by the DCCC doubling down on the soon-to-be-failed candidacy of ultra-conservative and dubiously-Democratic Alabama Congressman Bobby Bright, is why I stopped donating to the DCCC. They demonstrated a lack of vetting and a poor assessment of dollar allocation, in my opinion.)

In June 2010, Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks resoundingly won the Republican primary against the newly-Republican incumbent, Parker Griffith, because Republican activists in the district refused to back the D.C. leadership in rewarding the switch. Brooks is now a member of Congress.

Three and a half years later (today), on the last day to do so, Griffith qualified* to run for Governor of Alabama in the … wait for it … Democratic Primary in June.

Should voters trust him?

Look, a lot of southern Democrats switched to the Republican Party starting in the late 1960s. Many had terrible, racist reasons for doing so, but they were longtime incumbents switching parties so they could stand by their convictions, however objectionable. At least that meant voters clearly knew where they stood. But, at any rate, the last big wave of reasonably sincere party-switching by Democrats was in the mid-1990s and most of them were re-elected easily — or even switched after being re-elected.

Parker Griffith was a freshman Congressman who switched parties because he was afraid he would lose. He had no convictions of being a conservative Republican — or else he would have run as one the first time — and he clearly had no convictions of being a Democrat — or he wouldn’t have left. His switch back to the Democrats makes both of those points clearer than ever.

I don’t live in his district or state but I’m still mad at him for switching parties in 2009 and voting against Democratic bills. Alabama Democrats shouldn’t — and probably won’t — trust him in this upcoming primary. He stands for nothing but himself. And who knows who that really is.

Plus, is he even committed to anything — including running for office? As summarized in a tweet by Alabama state government news reporter Mike Cason, despite throwing his hat in the ring…

Parker Griffith says he still has not made up his mind about his election plans. Discussing it with his wife outside Democrats’ office.


*For clarification, qualifying is similar to filing to run except a bit more intensive in Alabama, because “To qualify for elected office in Alabama, candidates must file documents with several entities: the Alabama Democratic Party (or local County Chair), the Alabama Ethics Commission, the Alabama Secretary of State or Probate Judge, and the IRS.”

Alabama GOP rejects Dem traitor

Rep. Parker Griffith (R-AL-05), who switched parties less than a year after he was elected as a Democrat, lost his Republican primary tonight to keep his seat. Republicans hated him to begin with, and he found little love from his district’s GOP once he switched after the Congressional GOP leaders recruited him, so they could get his vote on key bills in the House more easily. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent over one million dollars in 2008 to get him elected and were infuriated when he switched parties, requesting their money back in full. Likewise, his whole staff quit (down to the D.C. office intern!) and his campaign consultants abandoned him, to punish him for his betrayal of the party and his values.

Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks (R) led the Republican field tonight and easily pounded the five-and-a-half-month-Republican congressman, avoiding a top-two runoff. Brooks will now go on to run against state legislative aide and businessman Steven Raby (D) in the general election for the seat. Raby was nominated in the Democratic primary tonight there, as well.

This post originally appeared on Starboard Broadside.