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raceAhead: Alabama Votes

It’s voting day in Alabama. But you knew that.

Rather than focus on the oddities of this one contest, it seems more emotionally productive to pull back the lens and look at how the demographics of both political candidates and the working voter base are changing.

Despite notable differences in their resumes and reputations, Alabama’s Doug Jones and Roy Moore are both white men close in age, who, with similar cultural histories are demographically more alike than they are different. But familiar, “old guard” candidates across the country — I’m referring more to their traditional profiles, not necessarily their ages — are facing challenges from an increasingly diverse crop of first-time politicians who are entering local races fired and up and ready to go.

A good example is councilmember Raquel Castañeda-López, from Detroit’s 6th district, who was just re-elected to a four-year term last month.

Castañeda-López grew up poor, in the district she represents. One of her bigger wins to date is the creation a city-based identification card called Detroit ID, which gives citizens fourteen and older an officially recognized ID regardless of immigration or housing status, gender identification or criminal record. It helps residents get access to city services, get a library card, visit cultural institutions, open a bank account, and even offers shopping and dining discounts from supportive local businesses. Castañeda-López was the first Detroiter to get one. “This is really about the government removing barriers to make sure that we truly are serving the most marginalized community and people in the city of Detroit. It really is about seeing each other as human beings and honoring our dignity as human beings,” she told The Detroit News.

This optimistic piece from Curbed describes the ascendance of people like Castañeda-López, part of a cohort that is diverse, skeptical of traditional power, and by virtue of their outsider status, more naturally oriented to providing solutions for their communities than accruing political capital. And yes, many of them are younger:

The shift in governing styles by a more diverse, digitally native generation, comfortable crowdfunding municipal projects or holding a press conference on Facebook Live, has already begun. Millennial mayors across the country—Erin Stewart in New Britain, Connecticut; Pete Buttigieg in South Bend, Indiana; Michael Tubbs in Stockton, California; and Svante Myrick in Ithaca, New York—have been elected (and re-elected), becoming political up-and-comers viewed as the future of their parties.

But to be truly different, all new entrants to local government will need to do the work that actually needs to be done.

Here’s an update from Danica Roem, the newly elected Delegate from Virginia’s Prince Williams’ County. The openly transgender candidate ran on infrastructure reform. Turns out, she was serious. She let her pancakes get cold over a breakfast meeting to discuss her plans when she takes office. “They’re telling me at 6 o’clock in the morning, they’re sitting in bumper to bumper on 66, coming up to the 495 spur,” Roem told a reporter from WTOP. “If you have to be on 66 at 5 in the morning (to avoid paying a toll) that becomes a quality of life issue.” She’s about to fight for $300 million to improve roads and provide more transportation options. She didn’t mention her sex life – or yours – once.

If you’re willing to tackle stuff this dull with this kind of energy, then you’re probably in it for the right reasons.

But if politicians are changing, it’s also worth noting that a huge swath of voters already have.

A new research brief from the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress shows that the symbol of working-class pride, the male, white factory worker, is no longer an accurate representation of either the workforce or their economic needs. (Actually, he never was.)

The working class is increasingly racially diverse, almost half female, and more than three-quarters work in service jobs, not manufacturing.

According to the latest data, non-Hispanic white people make up 64 percent of the overall adult population but just 59 percent of the working class, whereas 75 years ago, those percentages were nearly equal. African American workers make up 14 percent of today’s working class, and Hispanic workers make up 21 percent.

People of color are on track to become the majority of working class workers by 2032.

The new working class typically have less desirable jobs than in previous generations, and many struggle to achieve full-time employment. And low-wage women are particularly vulnerable to harassment and worse. As this analysis from CityLab points out, the decline of unions hasn’t helped. “A janitor working at a large multinational company today has much lower wages, career growth, and job security than a similarly situated janitor did when unions were stronger. That’s because companies have shifted how they view—and compensate—such labor, as union have been weakened. Service jobs in domestic work—child care that women workers typically do—are particularly devalued and even more precarious.”

And yet, these workers are currently 43% of adults in the U.S., many of whom I assume would enthusiastically vote if they could get valid ID, locate a convenient polling station or best of all, find a candidate who cared about their quality of life issues in all their dull complexity.

Let’s hope the new guard is prepared to do just that.

On Point

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee dies suddenlyLee died early this morning and the city is still reeling from the news. London Breed, the President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has become acting mayor, according to the city charter. Breed also sounds extraordinary. In addition to being the first African American woman to helm the city, she is a lifelong Californian who grew up in poverty and has spent her career in government focusing on issues of affordable housing, health services, the environment, the arts and the lives of children. Click through to get to know her a bit.Fortune

Ruling: Military will accept transgender recruits
Federal Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly upheld an earlier decision to block President Trump’s ban on transgender troops yesterday, and the Pentagon has confirmed that it will continue to allow transgender troops to enlist as of January 1. Trump’s decision, issued by memorandum last August, triggered an immediate legal firestorm. Last October, Kollar-Kotelly found “that trans members of the military have a strong case that the president’s ban would violate their Fifth Amendment rights.”

First Round Capital: State of Startups Report
The now annual survey of founders of early stage venture-backed companies offers a pretty good pulse of what these ambitious firms are actually experiencing. But this year, a record 869 founders weighed in on two conversations that are dominating the tech industry: diversity and sexual harassment. The results are predictably stark. More than half of all founders have had experience with sexual harassment, 78% of female founders and 48% of men. But more than twice as many women as men thought that the issue is still underreported. Two-thirds of women said that their gender was a barrier to fundraising, but only 42% of respondents identified diversity as a concern. There lots of other insights on raising capital, investor relationships and leadership challenges. (Most start-uppers wait too long to fire people, evidently.)
First Round Capital

Police kill civilians more than we think
VICE examined data from the 50 largest local police departments in the U.S. and found police officers may be shooting citizens more than twice as often as previously believed. The examination included both fatal and non-fatal incidents, including times when officers shot and missed. Click through for the data and additional interviews, but here’s a snapshot: 20% of people were unarmed, 55% were black (28% higher than an investigation by The Washington Post for the same communities), and St. Louis continues to outpace the nation with the most shooting events per capita. But while police shootings remain relatively rare, departments don’t always keep good records. Only 35 out of 18,000 police departments participate in a federal initiative to collect data on fatal incidents, and many don’t maintain records of non-fatal ones. 

The Woke Leader

Even your tomatoes are racist
According to the USDA, Americans consume some 90 pounds of tomatoes a year, which we know because they are easier to track than bullets, I suppose. But according to this piece from Cracked, the tomatoes we eat don’t taste much better than lead. Why? Because during World War II, a ketchup crazed nation imported temp workers from Mexico in an initiative called the Bracero program, to hand-pick delicious tomatoes that couldn’t be attended to because other able-bodied folks were at war. By the 1950s, the country wanted the Mexican workers gone, so in addition to throwing them out, a clever plant breeder worked for years to create a tomato that was hardy enough to survive being picked by machine. Nerds will love the tomato breeding trial-and-error that followed, but no one likes the result – a thick-skinned, tasteless tomato, designed specifically to eliminate the role of the very people who were once invited in to pick them.

Kendrick Lamar and Gordon Parks, together at last
The hip-hop star continues to dazzle with his multi-layered artistry. “Element.” a song and video from his most recent album,“DAMN.” is also a visual tribute to the work of Gordon Parks, a former LIFE magazine photographer and faithful chronicler of American life and the civil rights era.  Lamar recreates several of Parks’s iconic photos in the video, bringing them to life with dramatic effect. (Lamar shares directing co-credit on the video under the name “Little Homies,” which also includes his brother.) To return the tip of the hat, the Gordon Parks Foundation in upstate New York has just debuted a new exhibit called, “Element.: Gordon Parks and Kendrick Lamar,” an exhibition that further explores Parks’s images and Lamar’s work. Click through for a real treat.

Remembering the journalists who reported on violence, civil rights and the fight for justice
Simeon Booker, the first full-time black reporter at The Washington Post, died Sunday at 99. He was best known for bringing the death of Emmett Till to national attention; it was his shocking article in Jet magazine, complete with a picture of Till’s battered body in an open casket, that galvanized a nation. Roy Reed, who spent much of the Civil Rights Era crisscrossing the South for The New York Times as the self-identified “hick-talking Arkansawyer,” died yesterday at 87. Among other pivotal moments, he covered the Bloody Sunday attack on demonstrators on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He captured the horror in vivid detail, explaining how troopers “tore through a column of Negro demonstrators with tear gas, nightsticks and whips.” Years later, he wrote, “I hope never again to see such hatred in the eyes of men, women and, yes, children.”
New York Times


All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section One, Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. Constitution