LOSING THE BASE: In his race for governor of Alabama, Congressman Artur Davis positioned himself far to the right of national Democrats. That earned him lots of plaudits from pundits who portrayed him as a "New South" coalition builder. Then Davis became the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote against legislation addressing the healthcare crisis.
His populist primary foe, Alabama agriculture commissioner Ron Sparks, saw an opening and declared, "I will not let any Democrat in Alabama forget that Artur Davis voted against healthcare reform." Sparks, who is white, won endorsements from the state’s oldest major African-American political group, the Alabama Democratic Conference, as well as from many of the state’s most prominent African-American leaders and labor unions, like the United Mine Workers and the United Auto Workers.
On June 1 he beat Davis by almost a 2-to-1 margin in what the Birmingham News called "one of the more remarkable upsets in Alabama primary history." JOHN NICHOLS
PENCILS UP: For our fifth annual student writing contest, we’re looking for thoughtful student voices to answer this question in 800 words: how has your education been compromised by budget cuts and tuition hikes?
We’ll select five finalists and two winners—one from college, the other from high school. Each will receive a $1,000 prize and a Nation subscription. Finalists will receive $200. The winning essays will be published in the magazine and featured at TheNation.com.
Entries will be accepted through June 30, and a winner will be announced by September 15. The contest is open to all matriculated high school students and undergraduates at US schools, colleges and universities, as well as those receiving high school or college degrees in 2010. E-mail entries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out thenation.com/students to read previous winning essays.
SPEAKING OUT ON ISRAEL: J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby that seeks to get the US more seriously engaged in the Middle East peace process, was quick to decry the deadly attack by Israeli forces on an aid ship as the "shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza." As part of a broader plea for "immediate action" toward a "two-state resolution that protects Israel and frees the Palestinian people," J Street called for an inquiry "to establish responsibility for the violence and bloodshed" and an "immediate end to the blockade of civilian and humanitarian items from entering Gaza, subject to inspection and screening to prevent the import of arms and weapons." That’s a reasonable response. Unfortunately, it didn’t gain much traction in official Washington, where The Hill described the reaction to the attack as "somewhat muted."