by | Aug 9, 2023 | Editor's Blog

I’ve got two topics on my mind today. The first is the Ohio vote last night that rejected an attempt by Republicans to make adding constitutional amendments more difficult. The election was really another sign that abortion is a potent issue that could threaten Republicans even in areas where they’ve been safe. 

Abortion rights advocates want to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would protect womens’ right to access abortion care. They would only need a majority to win. Republicans wanted to change the state constitution to raise the threshold to sixty percent. Voters rejected the proposal by 14% in a state that Trump won by eight points, 53-45, in 2020. 

While the vote was ostensibly about a political process, the fight was over abortion rights. Early analysis indicates that young people came out in droves while turnout in Republican areas was lackluster at best. In particular, suburban areas voted heavily against the measure. In Stark County, south of Akron, Trump won by 18 points, but voters rejected the amendment by five points. In counties surrounding Cleveland, Toledo, and Akron that voted handily for Trump, the amendment was soundly defeated. In all, fourteen counties that supported Trump voted against the amendment. That should send a shiver up the spines of the Republicans. 

At the same time that voters are sending a very clear message on abortion, Republican candidates are declaring their support for a total ban. In North Carolina, GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Mark Robinson has declared that he supports further restrictions on abortions, including a fetal heartbeat bill. He has said that he supports a total ban with no restrictions but his handlers have forced him to walk that back. 

Abortion is clearly a potent issue for Democrats. It’s energized their younger base and alienated some of the GOP’s more moderate voters. Swing voters clearly side with Democrats by wide margins. If the party can keep the issue in the spotlight heading into 2024, it could yield big dividends next November.

The other show I’ve been watching is the brawl on the dock in Montgomery, Alabama. It’s become a cultural phenomenon in the Black social media community. As one writer noted, “As Elon Musk attempts to remake the social media app, Black Twitter remains undefeated.” 

The fight began when a group of White boaters docked their pontoon boat in the space reserved for a public riverboat called the Harriott II. The paddleboat loaded with passengers had to wait more than half-an-hour to dock because the boaters refused to move. When a Black dockworker moved the pontoon, about five White men attacked him, knocking him down and punching and kicking him. 

Video shows the people on the boat yelling for people to help the dockworker and one young man jumped from the boat and swam to the dock. The situation de-escalated when a man began pulling the boaters off of the dockworker. However, by that time, people on the boat, including the crew, were outraged. When the Harriott II docked, a group of men spilled off of the riverboat and went after the people in the pontoon. The brawl continued with the boaters getting the worst of it. One man was wielding a folding chair, bashing the boaters until police restrained him. 

African American social media influencers have had a ball. They’ve cheered on the dockworker and his allies. They’ve made memes and written songs, including one with the lines, “And we got the first Black man to swim to a fight” and “That chair goin’ down in history.” It’s been hilarious and their schadenfreude at the plight of the boaters has been contagious. 

After decades of watching videos of Black men assaulted and killed at the hands of White assailants or cops, they saw an expression of raw and spontaneous outrage delivering vigilante justice in real time. Both police and the mayor of Montgomery downplayed racial animosity as a cause of the melee. That may be correct but the response certainly had a racial aspect to it. Black Americans cheered the Black avengers who stood up for the besieged dockworker. 

I haven’t parsed it all out yet, but the reaction seems cathartic for younger African Americans. Finally, they had heroes instead of victims. They had video to prove that White bullies instigated the fight by assaulting a man doing his job. And they got the gratification of seeing White thugs being held accountable in a city and state with a long history of one-sided racial injustice.


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