The Score: Ranked Choice, Charlottesville Jews, Hemingway’s Cocktails
This week on The Score: Advocates discuss proposed election law reforms. A historian relates the long story of Jewish citizens in Charlottesville. Political scientists look back at JFK and LBJ. Ringing in the festive season with Ernest Hemingway’s favorite cocktails.
Election Law Reform
This year’s congressional elections brought the frustrations of seemingly endless ballot counts and recounts, ridiculously close races that were not determined for weeks, and allegations about both voter suppression and election fraud.
Meanwhile, there are organizations taking a serious, sustained look at potential election law reforms, such as changing campaign finance regulations, revising the way lawmakers draw legislative districts, and ranked choice voting, also known as instant runoff, which for the first time this year determined the outcome in a congressional election (in Maine, as it happens).
Last Sunday in Charlottesville, the local League of Women Voters hosted a panel discussion with two advocates of these and other changes in the way Americans vote. After the forum closed, I asked both speakers about the issues that concern them and the solutions they see for problems.
Sharing the podium with Hudson was newly minted UVA Law School graduate Ryan Snow, who is a legal fellow at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He is a proponent of campaign finance reform, and noted that Virginia is one of only a handful of states that has no limits on contributions to the campaigns of candidates for state or local office. I was a bit more combative with him than I am with other interview subjects, as you’ll see.
On the same general topic of election reform, three years ago at the Virginia Festival of the Book, I spoke with Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, about his book, called City of Rivals: Restoring the Glorious Mess of American Democracy. My conversation with Grumet comes from the archives. It includes a reference to one of those fleeting moments in politics that looks serious at the time but turns out to have little impact on events: President Obama’s suggestion that the United States should make voting mandatory.
Charlottesville Jewish History
When Nazis marched on Charlottesville in August 2017, they chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “Into the ovens.” Members of the city’s Jewish community, which has roots going back to the days of Thomas Jefferson, were understandably distraught and frightened.
At a lecture sponsored by the Albemarle-Charlottesville Historical Society earlier in November, historian Phyllis Leffler outlined the story of Charlottesville’s Jews over the centuries. After the discussion ended, I asked her a few questions about Jewish history in Virginia.
Leffler is the author of Black Leaders on Leadership: Conversations with Julian Bond (2014), Public and Academic History: A Philosophy and Paradigm (1991, with Joseph Brent), and Public History Readings (1990, also with Joseph Brent). Video of her lecture and slide show, and the discussion that followed, can be viewed (in two parts) here and here.
JFK and LBJ
This past week marked the fifty-fifth anniversary of the murder of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. If you haven’t yet heard The Score’s Special Episode about November 22, 1963, be sure to give it a listen.
Five years ago, in the weeks leading up to the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination, the UVA Center for Politics hosted an event launching a new book, The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy. I spoke to the author, Larry Sabato, about JFK’s politics and what would have been his prospects for re-election.
The later segment of our conversation is about the 2013 elections in Virginia, in particular the gubernatorial contest of Ken Cuccinelli, Terry McAuliffe, and Robert Sarvis.
About a year later, the UVA Center for Politics brought Louisiana State University professor Robert Mann to Charlottesville to discuss his book, Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad That Changed American Politics, about the use of advertising techniques in the 1964 presidential election pitting Republican nominee Barry Goldwater against incumbent Democrat Lyndon Johnson. I asked him about the book and the significance of that year’s campaign.
A journalist and historian, Mann is also the author of The Walls of Jericho: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Russell, and the Struggle for Civil Rights (1997) and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Cold War (2002), among other books.
As the holidays approach, a lot of us are thinking about home entertaining and the kinds of food and drink we can serve to party guests. At the 2014 Virginia Festival of the Book, I talked to author Philip Greene about the favorite cocktail recipes of novelist Ernest Hemingway, who drank his way from Paris to to Key West to Havana via the Spanish Civil War. Greene’s book is called To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion.
Next week’s episode of The Score is still a work-in-progress. I hope to have interviews with elected officials, public policy experts, and authors, but the mix is still undetermined. Come back to Bearing Drift in seven days to discover what’s new on The Score.