By Elizabeth Beck Neither Sarah nor I have met Troy Anthony Davis. I first met his family in about 2003, which was about 18 years into his death sentence when Sarah and I were working on In the Shadow of Death: Restorative Justice and Death Row Families. At the time, his sisterAdd a Comment
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Troy Davis has been on death row since 1991 for the alleged 1989 murder of a police officer in Savannah, Georgia. Now, key prosecution witnesses have come forward and admitted that their original testimonies were not truthful. On June 23, an evidentiary hearing began, and a ruling on Troy Davis is expected not long after legal briefs are filed on July 7th. Here, Elizabeth Beck* and Sarah Britto** remember the death row sentencing of Troy Davis, the ongoing controversies, and consider what it means to be the man accused of a crime he may not have committed.
As eyewitnesses inside the Savannah courtroom tell a judge that they lied 19 years ago, people are gathering outside wearing tee-shirts that read: “I am Troy Davis.” On the surface, being Troy Davis means that any one of us might find ourselves wrongly accused of a crime we did not commit. For Troy Davis, it began with a life-changing accusation 19 years ago. Following the testimony of nine witnesses and no physical evidence linking him to the crime, it led to his death sentence. A judge is now hearing the recantations of seven of the nine individuals who originally testified against Troy Davis. Can an innocent person be put to death if all procedures are properly followed? What constitutes new evidence? What kind of pressure are witnesses placed under to create state’s evidence? These questions only scratch the surface of what it means to be Troy Davis.
What does it mean to be Troy Davis? Being Troy Davis means saying goodbye to your family three times in two years, before last-minute interventions spare you from the death chamber each time. It means knowing that your sister, Martina Correira, despite her own battle with cancer and chemotherapy, has worked every day for your release and that she has been working alone for most of that time. It means knowing that your mother, Virginia, may have to stand by as your casket is lowered into the ground. Being Troy Davis means constantly worrying and fearing about the impact of your life on your loved ones.
The best-case scenario means that even if you are one day freed and recognized as innocent you will have lost 19 years. You will have to grieve the loss of those years as you relearn the meaning of freedom. You will have to negotiate a new world where computers, SMS texting, and sprawling strip malls are casual aspects of everyday life. Employers may look at you with suspicion and, like many other exonerees, you may be given no monetary compensation. It means that you will always miss the friends executed before you, and anguish over those who will be executed after you are free. Worst-case scenario: you will be executed for a crime you did not commit.
Being Troy Davis means that your life is intimately intertwined with the life and death of Officer Mark Allen MacPhail (whose murder you have been accused of), and the pain and suffering of his family and friends. The trauma of this connection will bind your families together forever. While our legal system attempts to sort through this case and establish the winners and losers, the agony of the process and the toll it takes on all involved parties remains unaddressed. As we think abAdd a Comment
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Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below he looks at health-care reform. See Lim’s previous OUPblogs here.
After attempting a pivot to jobs, the Obama administration has realized that a hanging cadence on health-care will not do. Perhaps they should never have started it, but closure is what the administration now must have. An encore after the strident audacity of hope on health-care reform was temporarily dashed after the election of Scott Brown to the Senate.
In the immediate aftermath of that election, Democrats were in danger of exchanging over-confidence for excessive humility. After Obama’s historic election the year before and Arlen Specter’s party switch, Democrats were overtaken by hubris that Obama’s tune of change could be used to overturn Washington and to compel it toward a Progressive utopia. But just as Democrats were foolhardy to think that 60 votes in the Senate gave them invincible power, they somehow thought after the Massachusetts Senate election that 59 made them completely impotent.
In the media, we hear, conversely, about the conservative comeback in hyperbolic terms. On Saturday, Glenn Beck, not Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney, delivered the keynote speech in the largest annual conservative gathering, the CPAC conference. If Beck’s stardom exceeds that of the winner of the CPAC straw poll this year, Ron Paul, it is because the conservative movement, charged as it is, remains a movement in search of a leader. It is also a movement, as Beck’s criticism of Progressive Republicans in his speech reveals, which is not exactly in sync with the Republican party – the only machine capable of taking down liberal dreams.
And so a Democratic comeback on health-care reform is afoot. With one vote shy of a fillibuster-proof majority, Senator Harry Reid has opened the door to the Budget Reconciliaton process that more Progressive advocates of health-care reform like Governor Howard Dean have been pushing for a while. While it is not clear that there are 50 votes in the Senate for the public option, assuming that Vice-President Biden will cast the 51st, what is clear is that Democrats are much more likely to push through a liberal bill with the veto pivot sliding to the left by ten Senators.
In the White House too, we see a coordinated move to bring Reconciliation back as an option. Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to lay the ground work when he warned that “in time, we’ll see these skyrocketing health care costs become the single largest driver of our federal deficits.” He said this because in order to use Reconciliation, Democrats must show a relationship between health-care reform and balancing the federal budget.
No one in Washington believes that Thursday’s Health-care Summit will magically generate a consensus when in the past year there has been nothing but partisan bickering. If so, the President is not being naive, but signaliAdd a Comment
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JacketFlap tags: Stupak, health reform, Beck, Congress, reroductive health, Limbaugh, Obama, war, weapons, Republicans, Nelson, abortion, Add a tag
I wish that by some shift in solar winds or magnetic fields, Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak and Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson could have their hormones scrambled and change into women. It’s not that I’m eager to join into sisterhood with these two but it would be instructive for them to feel in their feminized gut what it’s like to have a pair of men using their legislative clout to restrict women’s reproductive health services. It’s difficult to understand what motivates men like Stupak and Nelson. Maybe they’re so angry nature didn’t give them the biological equipment to become pregnant and give birth that they’re out to get revenge by efforts to control women’s bodies. Maybe they just hate women. There’s surely a lot of that sentiment among men throughout the world. The Taliban, radical Islamists, fundamentalist Christians—they’re all the same in their anti-woman attitudes. Whatever their twisted motivation, Stupak and Nelson are among a cadre of fanatical men who lead the anti-choice brigade. If these men are enabled by a spineless Congress to succeed in their ultimate goal of banning abortion under the ruse of “health reform,” American women’s health will be pushed back to the era of coat-hanger abortions. Since I don’t believe in magic, I know there’s not even the freakiest chance that Stupak and Nelson will change into women. So my back-up wish is that they change into frogs. Forever. With no chance of becoming princes!
My second wish is for more members of Congress who will serve the people who elected them rather than the lobbyists that dump bribe money into their campaign coffers. We have some terrific Congresspersons who do stand up for the American people and who passionately care for our Constitution rather than the corporations but we need more. So I wish that in the upcoming 2010 elections, all the corporate fascists and cultural Neanderthals will be kicked out of office and more enlightened candidates elected.
I wish for a Republican party that is a true opposition party rather than a demolition party. Since Barack Obama was elected, Republicans seem to have only one item on their agenda – destroying his Presidency. There was a time when overt efforts to bring down a Presidency would have been considered treason. Today it’s just business as usual for a Republican party dominated by white right-wing fanatics and led by a venomous ex-vice-president and hate-mongering spokespersons like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Democracy needs an intelligent opposition party; right now, we don’t have one. The “party of no” is just that. All negatives, lies and fear manipulation. Nothing positive or coherent or intelligent.
On the cusp of a new decade, I wish for an end to war. I wish leaders of the world’s nations would recognize the terrible waste of war – the killings, raping, ecological destruction – so much needless suffering and misery. With commitment and leadership, economies could be profitably based on efforts that nourish life rather than on technologies that hasten death and philosophies that turn human beings into weapons of mass destruction. The human lifespan is pitifully short but it’s all we have – less than nine decades to discover and fulfill our potential, realize our hopes and dreams, raise families, and leave the planet a better place than the one we inherited. Subjugating that precious lifespan to death and destruction is the most obscene crime against nature imaginable.
Finally I wish for a powerful global movement of citizen activists that will work on all fronts – the arts, science, education, technology, politics, religion – to transform societies from death promoters to life supporters. Each individual in her/his own way CAN help to make a difference. We CAN empower each other.
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JacketFlap tags: A-Featured, Law, Politics, conservative movement, Glenn Beck, libertarians, Michael Steele, neoconservatives, Republican party, Tea Party Movement, conservative, movement, Glenn, Beck, Michael, Steele neoconservatives, Republican, party, Tea, Add a tag
Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below he looks at the Republican Party. See his previous OUPblogs here.
A political movement is not the same as the party that claims to represent it. And the disconnect between the Republican party and the conservative movement is sharper today than it has ever been since the heyday of the Reagan revolution. Consider the rising star of Glenn Bleck – as if one Rush Limbaugh isn’t enough – and the marginalization of Michael Steele, who wasn’t even invited to speak at last weekend’s march in Washington and who was denied the opportunity to speak at a Chicago Tea party in April. The angry voices in town-halls and the national mall are not evidence that the Republican party has found its voice, but that it hasn’t. When citizens feel that elected officials don’t speak for us, we take up arms ourselves (sometimes, literally).
The Reagan coalition is fraying, because the libertarian faction of the conservative movement has had enough of sitting at the back of the movement’s bus. For too long, they bought Ronald Reagan’s and George Bush’s argument that expensive and deficit-increasing wars are a necessary evil to combat a greater evil, but the bailout of the big banks last Fall was the last straw for them. If Irving Kristol once said that neoconservatives are converted liberals (like Ronald Reagan himself) who had been “mugged by reality,” Tea Partiers are conservatives who have woken up to the fact that neoconseratives are no different from pre-Vietnam-era liberals chasing after utopian
The reason why Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are the heroes of the movement, and Michael Steele is persona non grata, is because fiscal conservatives no longer trust the Republican party who for too long has placed their agenda on the backburner. This, in turn, has been brought on by the fact that neoconservatives have lost their privileged status within the movement because of the delegitimation of the adventure in Iraq and the onset of the economic recession. While the end of the Cold War vindicated neoconservatism, the events of September 11 gave it a new lease of life. Together, these two contingent facts of history contributed considerably to the longevity of the Reagan revolution, even as the botched and expensive adventure in Iraq put a screeching halt on the neoconservative ascendancy.
Americans today face a crisis in their pocketbooks and not with foreign nations. Tax-and-spend liberals are a worthy enemy, but they are nowhere as scary or as unifying as the “Evil Empire” or the “Axis of Evil.”
This is why Republican public officials are doing a lot of soul searching these days as they try to make sense of the disconnect between their ideology and party that has been brought on by neoconservatism’s decline. The lack of coordination and indeed the widening chasm between the party and the movement can be evidenced in Arlen Specter’s cross-over to the Democratic aisle, Senator George Voinovich’s complaint that his party was being “taken over by Southerners,” and in Olympia Snowe’s and Susan Collins’ overtures to Barack Obama.
Most people will agree that we know exactly what Barack Obama is up to, politically. The right-wing talk-show hosts will be the first to tell us. But we really do not know what the Republican party stands for or who could possibly lead it in 2012. This is because the party has lost its synthesizing logic and lacks a unifying hero. This weekend, a straw poll conducted at the Values Voters Summit put Mike Huckabee on top, with 28 percent of the vote, because the straw pollers are Values Voters, who constitute yet another faction within the conservative movement. But what was more telling is that even though Sarah Palin did not even turn up for the event, she nevertheless garnered the same endorsement as Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Mike Pence, at 12% each. This is conservatism in
search of a leader.
Because it is parties that win elections and not movements, Republican members of congress should not be taking any comfort from the passionate protests of the Tea Partiers. Instead, they should be embarrassed about the fact that they have been trying to play catch up with a movement that has lost hope in its elected officials. More importantly, the Republican party must find a new way to unite the neoconservative, libertarian, and traditionalist factions of the movement to have any chance of standing up against a president and party, who in 2010, could well be riding the wave of an economic recovery to electoral success.Add a Comment